Musings of a Follower

Thoughts on life, culture, politics, and following Christ in the 21st century

Living in Shaky Times

If this post is a blessing to you, read more in my book Selah – Pauses for Life: Exploring the Selahs of the Psalms available at Xulon Press. It is also available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Apple iBooks.

Background: Daniel 5,7; 2 Chronicles 36

To the chief musician, Altaschith, a psalm or song of Asaph.

1Unto thee, O God, do we give thanks, unto thee do we give thanks: for that thy name is near thy wondrous works declare. 

 2When I shall receive the congregation I will judge uprightly.

3The earth and all the inhabitants thereof are dissolved: I bear up the pillars of it. Selah.

4I said unto the fools, Deal not foolishly: and to the wicked, Lift not up the horn:

5Lift not up your horn on high: speak not with a stiff neck.

6For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south.

7But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another.

Psalm 75:2-7

            This thanksgiving psalm is attributed to Asaph and lies amid a cluster of ten psalms (Psalms 73 – 83) attributed to him or, possibly, his descendants.  As mentioned earlier, Asaph was one of the leaders of three groups of temple singers established by David (1 Chronicles 15:19).  He was a worship leader and was in charge of the music as the ark came into Jerusalem. Second Chronicles then traces his family’s continuing role in leading worship through the reign of Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20:14), Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 29:13), and Josiah (2 Chronicles 35:15). In 2 Chronicles 29:30, we see a hint that a collection of psalms by Asaph existed during Hezekiah’s reign.  It is even recorded that there were members of the Asaph guild of singers among the recently returned Jewish exiles to Jerusalem (Ezra 2:41; Nehemiah 7:44). [1] 

Although there are no definite direct historical references in the Asaph psalms that would date them with certainty, there are a number of datable references to indicate Asaph’s psalms were written over a period of Israel’s history that included exile. This particular cluster (Psalm 73 – 83) of Asaph psalms seemed to be shaped by concerns that came about after the fall of Jerusalem.[2] The perspective of Psalm 75 gives us the impression that it was written after the exile or was looking forward to a time after it.  This exilic to post-exilic, perspective is the one we will take as we approach the Selahs that fall in this cluster. 

In the superscription of Psalm 75, we see the word Altaschith – “Do Not Destroy” – which is probably the tune of the song to which it was set. It could also be a command to the chief musician to preserve the psalm. It also fits the attitude of the Israelites as they came out of captivity which destroyed their temple and way of life but not their identity. 

The past sixty to seventy years of captivity had shaken Israel to the core.  As they were seeing the Babylonian empire weakening and finally falling, the Jewish nation also saw God’s promise through Jeremiah was still strong and unwavering (Jeremiah 25:10 – 14; 29:10 – 14).  The wonder of seeing the mighty empire brought to its knees overwhelmed their hearts with thankfulness. The events caused them to declare that His name was indeed very near and had always been near to them, even during the exile. 

After Israel’s thanksgiving, God breaks into the psalm:

“At the set time that I appoint I will judge with equity.

When the earth totters, and all its inhabitants, it is I who keep steady its pillars. Selah 

I say to the boastful, ‘Do not boast,’ and to the wicked, Do not lift up your horn;

do not lift up your horn on high, or speak with haughty neck.’”

For not from the east or from the west and not from the wilderness comes lifting up,

but it is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another.

Psalm 75: 2-7 (ESV)

God tells us here that He is the one who sets the time of judgment, and the judgment will be just.  God does not respect any man or nation – His judgment is according to His law alone.  Nebuchadnezzar and his successors thought they were calling the shots as they invaded Judah and pillaged Jerusalem and the Temple.  They did not realize that they were simply pawns in the hands of God as He worked out His purposes. When He was finished with them they were “sacrificed” in order to pursue His righteous plan.

That brings us to our Selah – “When the earth totters, and those who dwell on it, it is I who hold up its pillars.” We are living in a world that is increasingly shaky.  Half the world seems to have gone crazy. Institutions that were once considered solid and strong seem to be tottering. 

In the midst of all this chaos, we need to remember God is still holding up the pillars. 

The same can be said of our personal lives – which may be tottering on the edge of bankruptcy, losing our job, or some other personal calamity.  In those times we need to remember all is not lost – God is still holding up the pillars!

It was the same with Israel.  The once mighty kingdom had been humbled, its treasury looted, and its citizens enslaved because they had forsaken the Lord.  In this psalm the Lord speaks to the nations He used to bring that judgment to pass.  He warns the boastful not to boast, and the wicked not to blow their horns or look down on Israel as they flaunted their wickedness and idolatry.  Even today, the power brokers of the world do not hold their authority because they have more votes, money, military force, or charisma.  They hold their positions for one reason alone – God is using them to drive His people back to Himself.  Once their purpose is fulfilled, God may remove them if Heso desires. It is that simple.

Pause for a moment at this Selah.  We live in “tottering times.” Our nation seems to be tottering economically and politically.  The whole world has been through the trauma of the Covid crisis as it upended people’s lives – their careers, life-savings, travel plans, schooling, and families.  Maybe you are one of those people. Please remember this – as unstable as your life may be, if you know Him, God is still bearing up its pillars of your life.  

The arrogance and militancy of those who reject God and His ways seem to grow by the day.  They boast of their rebellion on their Twitter accounts, podcasts, and Facebook pages.  They flaunt their wickedness in movies, TV, false news narratives, magazines, billboards, and all over the internet. They rejoice as they “cancel” the righteous voices in society and paint innocent people as “haters.”  Many of these people hold powerful spots in our nation and are attempting to “frame mischief by a law” by forcing their will onto our daily conduct and speech (Psalm 94:20: 119:126).  As they double down on their lies, and we peacefully resist them, we must remember they are there only for a season. What they do to us, as heart-breaking or infuriating as it may be, will give us opportunities – great and small – to show the wisdom of God’s ways and demonstrate His love in action. As we intentionally live as He commands, we open the door for God to work in many powerful ways.  Remember – this psalm is set to the tune of Altaschith – “Do Not Destroy.” No matter how fierce the forces of destruction were against the nation of Israel, or might be against us, He wants us to remember we will not be destroyed. We will still be His.

[1] Firth, D. G. (2008). Asaph and Sons of Korah. In T. Longman III & P. Enns (Eds.), Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry & Writings (p. 24,25). Downers Grove, IL; Nottingham, England: IVP Academic; Inter-Varsity Press.

[2] Ibid.

Was this post a blessing to you? Read more in my book Selah – Pauses for Life: Exploring the Selahs of the Psalms available at Xulon Press. It is also available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Apple iBooks.

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