Bonus Content from July 28th (Psalm 76)

Although no questions were raised after Sunday’s sermon, here are a few additional thoughts from Psalm 76.

1.  That our God is “known” in Zion is a reason to prioritize church attendance.

In this series, we’ve been summarizing the biblical references to Zion using this explanation: Zion is God’s people in God’s place enjoying God’s presence.
Psalm 76:2 presents Zion as God’s dwelling place. Of course, we noted that, in a sense, God lives everywhere! However, He doesn’t live everywhere in precisely the same way as He lives in Zion. Zion is His special dwelling place, in part because that’s where He has made Himself known.
So where is Zion today? To answer that question, we ask, “Where do God’s people gather in God’s place to enjoy God’s presence?” And a primary answer to that question is in the church, a local gathering of believers assembled under the lordship of Christ.
As such, the one who wants to know God does well to prioritize attendance in such gathered assembly. Of course, God can be known in other ways (just as He could be known outside Jerusalem’s walls 3000 years ago!). However, He doesn’t make Himself known everywhere in precisely the same way as He does in His church (Mt. 18:20).
2.  God will get His praise, whether we willingly give it or not.
Psalm 76:10 is notoriously difficult to translate and interpret. There are basically two possibilities: that the wrath of man is what brings praise to God, or that God’s wrath toward man is what brings praise to God. Either way, the point may be similar. After all, if God is exercising His wrath toward humanity, it is because humanity has rebelled against Him. In either case, this much is clear: (1) Humans rebel against God. (2) God responds in wrath. (3) That wrath results in praise to Him.
There are at least two important implications of this.
First, nothing will stop God from getting praise. Didn’t Jesus say as much – that the rocks would cry out if human praise was silenced (Lk. 19:40)? Our choice, then, is whether our lives will result in praise to God willingly or unwillingly.
Second, on the last day when God carries out judgment against those who have rejected Him, we who belong to Him will rise up together and praise Him for this demonstration of His justice. It may be hard to imagine ourselves praising God one day for pouring out His wrath on some of those who were close to us on earth, but when we are made new, our sin-free selves will respond to God’s holy wrath in the only way fitting: by praising Him wholeheartedly.
3.  Fight praise with praise; fight fear with fear.
Toward the end of the sermon, we noted that our sinful, finite selves will praise and fear many things even this week. We’ll praise new seasons of shows and our neighbor’s new riding lawn mower and spectacular performances by athletes. We’ll fear that we haven’t saved enough for retirement and that our kids are going off the rails and that property taxes keep going up. But when it comes down to it, there’s really one who’s deserving of our ultimate praise and fear.
The way to fight disordered praise is not to beat ourselves up for praising the wrong things, but rather to ramp up our praise for the one who’s really deserving. Similarly, the way to fight disordered fear is not to try to eliminate all fear from our lives, but rather to ramp up our fear for the one who is rightly feared.
This approach helps to avoid a self-driven, effort-focused program of growth (which will inevitably be unsuccessful). If I’m finding other things more praiseworthy than God, what I need most is not to stop that behavior; it’s to get a bigger view of God that will allow me to see Him as He truly is (Job 42:5-6). If I’m finding other things more fearsome than God, what I need most is not to act bravely; it’s to foster an appropriate fear of God that will outweigh those other fears (1 Pet. 1:17).