Psalm 76 has been classified as a “victory hymn”, describing God as a Mighty Warrior in vivid language. Verse 3 says that “he broke the flashing arrows; the shield, the sword, and the weapons of war”. No weapon can stand against him.
Verse 5 says that enemy soldiers “sank into sleep; all the men of war were unable to use their hands.” They were completely paralyzed. “At your rebuke, O God of Jacob, both rider and horse lay stunned,” we read in verse 6.
No one can stand before him (verse 7), and so the earth waits in fearful silence while he speaks (verse 8).
What is our proper response to this awesome Warrior? His people should fear and worship him, and all nations should bring gifts to him (v 11).
Psalm 76 is one of the Psalms of Asaph. The original Asaph ministered at the tabernacle in the time of King David. His descendants continued in that role. It's not possible to link this psalm definitively to a specific military triumph of Israel. We might think, for example, of Judah's amazing deliverance from Sennacherib and the powerful Assyrian army described in 2 Kings 19 and Isa 37.
There are at least two connections between Psalm 76 and this week's Seder in Gen 44:18-46:27. One is the emphasis at the beginning of the Psalm on God's presence at Zion, in the territory of Judah. Gen 44 chronicles how Judah emerged as a leader among the sons of Israel.
There is also an interesting connection with verse 10, which begins, “Surely the wrath of man shall praise you.” One way to read this statement is that God is so powerful that he can take our sinful and rebellious actions and use them for his glory, to further his own plan.
Joseph points out an example of this in Gen 45 when he reveals his identity to his brothers. He tells them in Gen 45:5-8,
“And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God.”
Joseph’s brothers had intended to harm him by selling him into slavery. But God turned their wrath, their sinful intentions, in a positive direction to save lives and bless the world through their family.
We see the ultimate example of Psalm 76:10 at the cross. Jesus was put to death unjustly, but this was all part of his plan of salvation (Acts 2:22-39).
We are reminded of another familiar verse, Rom 8:28, where Paul writes, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
Joseph remained strong in faith and did not give up hope when he faced enslavement and imprisonment. He saw a bigger picture and was able to recognize an opportunity to do good and further God’s purposes.
Joseph’s example reminds us to continue our efforts to find ways to spread God’s love during a time of trial. We know that God will turn the wrath of man to his glory, and we would like to participate in what God is doing.