The title of this psalm is To the Chief Musician. Set to “Do Not Destroy.” A Psalm of Asaph. A Song. Some suppose the Chief Musician to be the Lord GOD Himself, and others suppose the reference to be a leader of choirs or musicians, such as Heman the singer (1 Chronicles 6:33 and 25:6). The tune Do Not Destroy was also used in the Davidic Psalms 57-59. The author Asaph was the great singer and musician of David and Solomon’s era (1 Chronicles 15:17-19, 16:5-7; 2 Chronicles 29:13). 1 Chronicles 25:1 and 2 Chronicles 29:30 add that Asaph was a prophet in his musical compositions.
A. God’s rebuke of the proud.
1. (1) Thanks to the God who is near.
We give thanks to You, O God, we give thanks!
For Your wondrous works declare that Your name is near.
a. We give thanks: Asaph wrote this from the perspective of the congregation; they together say we give thanks unto God, and the thought is repeated for emphasis. The people of God gladly give thanks unto their God.
i. “We should praise God again and again. Stinted gratitude is ingratitude. For infinite goodness there should be measureless thanks.” (Spurgeon)
b. For Your wondrous works declare that Your name is near: Their gratitude toward God had a basis, a reason. They gave thanks to God not only for His wondrous works, but for what those works proclaimed: that God, in all His character and attributes (Your name), was near to His people.
i. We are grateful for God’s great works among us, but not only for the works themselves. They are constant reminders of the love, goodness, mercy, and wisdom of God toward and among His people. It is also a wonderful thing to know and experience that His name is near.
ii. “The name of God is said to be near, because it had come into public notice, and was in every mind and every tongue – opposed to what is unknown and obscure, which is said to be far remote.” (Venema, cited in Spurgeon)
iii. “The reason for rejoicing lies in the manifest presence of God proclaimed and celebrated in the stories of God’s mighty acts. In remembrance and retelling of the history of salvation lies the comforting affirmation of God’s closeness to his people.” (VanGemeren)
iv. “God’s name is part of His self-giving: a revelation of who He is (Exodus 34:14-15) and an invitation to call upon Him (Acts 2:21).” (Kidner)
2. (2-3) God speaks of His judgment.
“When I choose the proper time,
I will judge uprightly.
The earth and all its inhabitants are dissolved;
I set up its pillars firmly. Selah
a. When I choose the proper time, I will judge uprightly: The previous lines of the psalm were spoken from the perspective of God’s people. These are spoken from the perspective of God Himself. God declares that He will judge, and that He will judge uprightly. As Abraham understood, the Judge of all the earth will do right (Genesis 18:25).
b. When I choose the proper time: In His judgments God reserves the right to choose the proper time. We often feel that we know the proper time for God’s judgments, and we are often troubled because God does not seem to share our perspective. The believer should have a humble trust in the uprightness of God’s judgments and the proper time for them.
i. This “reveals the time and the method of the Divine activity. His time is ‘the set time.’ That is, He acts, never too soon and never too late. It is a great word.” (Morgan)
ii. “If judgment were left in our hands, we would probably let it flash out against anything that displeases us whenever we see it. But God lets evil go unchecked sometimes for a rather long time, knowing that he has appointed a proper time when it will be brought down.” (Boice)
c. The earth and all its inhabitants are dissolved: God declared the great power of His judgments. At His judgments people and things are either dissolved or they are established firmly.
i. “There may be apparent and indeed very real dissolution of all human organization and order; but the true pillars of the earth are God-established and cannot be broken down. This conviction is the citadel of the soul.” (Morgan)
d. Selah: The rightness, the timing, and the power of God’s judgments are all worthy of our deep consideration.
3. (4-5) God speaks to the proud.
“I said to the boastful, ‘Do not deal boastfully,’
And to the wicked, ‘Do not lift up the horn.
Do not lift up your horn on high;
Do not speak with a stiff neck.’”
a. Do not deal boastfully: From the previous lines of the psalm, it is best to regard this as Asaph recording God’s words from His own perspective. In light of His great judgments, God warned the proud (the boastful) to no longer boast and exalt their own strength (lift up the horn).
i. “Lifting one’s horn against heaven is the equivalent of shaking one’s fist in God’s face.” (Boice)
ii. Horn on high: “A metaphor from untamed and stiff-necked oxen, which will not bow their heads to receive the yoke, but lift up their heads and horns to avoid it.” (Poole)
b. Do not speak with a stiff neck: The figure of the stiff neck was taken from the world of agriculture, where ox or cattle might resist the yoke for plowing and other work. God cautioned the proud and wicked not to resist Him in the same way.
i. “Impudence before God is madness. The out-stretched neck of insolent pride is sure to provoke his axe. Those who carry their heads high shall find that they will be lifted yet higher, as Haman was upon the gallows which he had prepared for the righteous man.” (Spurgeon)
B. Reasons for humility.
1. (6-7) Be humble because promotion comes from God.
For exaltation comes neither from the east
Nor from the west nor from the south.
But God is the Judge:
He puts down one,
And exalts another.
a. Exaltation comes neither from the east nor from the west: Asaph hoped to teach the proud ones whom he warned in the previous lines. They should first know that their exaltation, their success and standing did not come from earth and human initiative. They should stop their proud confidence in self.
i. “Ambitionists used to look this way and that way how to advance themselves, but all in vain.” (Trapp)
ii. “The word ‘promotion’ [exaltation] here is used in a very expressive way; it means the desire of sell-advancement, (harim), and would teach us that all our inward schemes, and outward plans, cannot gain for us advancement, unless based upon the fear and love of God.” (Bateman, cited in Spurgeon)
b. But God is the Judge: Every successful person, everyone exalted in some way, should humbly look to God with gratitude. It is God who puts down one, and exalts another. A humble mind and heart is the proper response, instead of boastful words, the celebration of one’s own strength, or resistance against God.
i. “Promotions in any direction, to positions of credit, influence, or consideration, are the gift and the work of God.” (Meyer)
ii. This is not to say that hard work, preparation, good habits, and other human aspects do not contribute to success – they clearly do. Yet even those things are gifts and abilities from God and should be regarded with humility and gratitude toward Him.
iii. “Empires rise and fall at his bidding. A dungeon here, and there a throne, his will assigns. Assyria yields to Babylon, and Babylon, to the Medes. Kings are but puppets in his hand; they serve his purpose when they rise and when they fall.” (Spurgeon)
2. (8-9) Be humble because the wicked will be judged even as the righteous praise.
For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup,
And the wine is red;
It is fully mixed, and He pours it out;
Surely its dregs shall all the wicked of the earth
Drain and drink down.
But I will declare forever,
I will sing praises to the God of Jacob.
a. In the hand of the LORD there is a cup: Asaph here used the cup as a figure of God’s judgment. The idea is that God demonstrates His judgment upon the wicked, and they are forced to drain and drink down the bitter cup.
i. “There is a grim contrast between the images of festivity and hospitality called up by the picture of a host presenting the wine cup to his guests, and the stern compulsion which makes the ‘wicked’ gulp down the nauseous draught held by God to their reluctant lips.” (Maclaren)
ii. “They scoffed his feast of love; they shall be dragged to his table of justice, and made to drink their due deserts.” (Spurgeon)
iii. “They who have drunk so willingly and freely of the cup of sin, shall be forced, whether they will or no, to drink the cup of judgment. And it is not a sip or two shall serve their turns; they must drink all, dregs and all, they shall drink it to the bottom, and yet they shall never come to the bottom; they have loved long draughts, and now they shall have one long enough; there is eternity to the bottom.” (Caryl, cited in Spurgeon)
iv. Fully mixed: “Well mixed is a reference to the spices which might be added for pungency; so New English Bible, ‘hot with spice’.” (Kidner)
b. I will sing praises to the God of Jacob: In contrast to the wicked of the earth, Asaph spoke for the people of God who declare and rejoice in the judgments of God.
3. (10) Be humble because God Himself will bring the wicked low and raise the righteous high.
“All the horns of the wicked I will also cut off,
But the horns of the righteous shall be exalted.”
a. All the horns of the wicked I will also cut off: The symbol of the horn was used earlier in this psalm (Psalm 75:4-5) in the familiar sense as an expression of strength and domination (as with ox or cattle). This psalm ends with another word from God’s own perspective, vowing to put down the proud and wicked one (as earlier in Psalm 75:7).
i. The horns of the wicked: “Their honour and power, which they made an instrument of mischief to oppress good men. A metaphor from horned and mischievous beasts.” (Poole)
b. The horns of the righteous shall be exalted: God’s work of judgment is not only against the proud and wicked; it is also for the righteous. As surely as He will cut off the arrogant pride of the wicked, He will also exalt the strength of the righteous.
i. “All their power and influence, will I cut off; and will exalt and extend the power of the righteous.” (Clarke)
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org