The Wondrous Power of God (Psalm 76)
The Wondrous Power of God
In Cuba baseball rules, except when Fidel Castro, Cuba’s former dictator, would go up to bat.
During an exhibition game against Venezuela, the Cuban dictator grabbed an aluminum bat and walked to the plate. Not to be outdone, the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, went to the pitcher’s mound.
The first pitch didn’t even reach the plate. Castro kept his bat on his shoulder. The next pitch was over the plate, and Castro swung and missed. A couple more balls and an attempted bunt later, the two heads of state were locked in a full count. Castro watched the 3–2 pitch sail through the middle of the strike zone and listened as the umpire called him out.
“No,” Castro said. “That was a ball.” He took first base. No one argued. Chavez said nothing. The opposing team said nothing, and the umpire said nothing. Later Castro joked, “Today just wasn’t Chavez’s day.”
It’s hard to get a batter out when he has the power to overrule the umpire’s calls. In God’s economy, dictators can’t do that. Everyone will face God’s ultimate judgment, whose word will be final.
—Jim Wilson, “Fidel Castro Plays Baseball,”
Humans in general, perhaps even we as Christians sometimes, underestimate God’s power. On one hand, we underestimate the power God has to judge. Too many people sin because they believe they can get away with it and they don’t fear God’s power to judge. I suspect that you and I would sin less if we feared God more than, perhaps, we do.
On the other side of the coin of God’s power, I think we would worry less if we understood better the power of God. Nothing has the ability to stop God from doing what God desires to do. Castro might overrule his umpire’s calls but no one can overrule God, not even Satan. So we would worry less and have a stronger faith if we were constantly reminded that “God’s got this.”
Let’s study a psalm together, written by Asaph, about the “Wondrous Power of God…”
GOD’S POWER IS EVERYWHERE - 76:1-3:
God is present and He is known. “In Judah” would refer to the southern parts of Israel; “In Israel” would include northern parts of Israel. “Salem” refers to their capital city, “Jerusalem.” “Zion” also refers to Jerusalem, being the mountain peak on which the city was built. “Dwelling place” refers to the temple which Solomon had built in Jerusalem.
So, God is present all over the country, from north to south, including the capital city and the “church” building - the meeting place.
It was from there, the meeting place, where God broke the flaming arrows. He broke the shield. He broke the sword. He broke the weapons of war. God is all-powerful.
When the Arameans were threatening Israel in 2 Kings 6, they invaded and surrounded the city of Dothan. Dothan just happened to be where a prophet of God lived, named Elisha. Elisha’s servant was afraid of the Arameans and he asked his master, “What shall we do?” Elisha responded with an answer of faith based on the power of God: “Do not fear, those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed to God to strike the Arameans blind. And God did, straight from heaven (6:18).
God’s power is everywhere. We are never out of reach of God’s power to answer our prayers. David said in Psalm 139:7-8: “Where can I go from your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, You are there.”
Speaking of Sheol, the world of the unseen spirits, that is the place the spirit of Jesus went once He was crucified. But God the Father’s power reaches even into the unseen world. In fulfillment of Psalm 16, God reached into the unseen world and He brought His Son back into the physical world. God did not abandon His Son’s soul to hades nor did God allow His Son’s body to undergo decay (Acts 2:27).
God’s power is in the north. It’s in the south. It’s in the east. It’s in the west. It’s in the visible world. It’s in the invisible world. Jesus said, “He who lives and believes in Me will never die” (John 11:26).
God’s wondrous power is everywhere!
GOD’S POWER MUST BE FEARED - 76:4-7:
God is resplendent in His power. He is “more majestic” than the mountains of prey.
God’s power enables Him to plunder the stouthearted. He causes them to sink into the deep. God makes the warriors impotent; they cannot use their hands.
Through the simple rebuke of God, He causes the cavalry to be cast into the deep sleep.
For this reason, man’s response is to fear God. Asaph is emphatic: “You, even You, are to be feared.” Why? Because when God is angry, no one can stand in His presence.
I remind you of the exodus, when Moses led half a million Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. The army of Pharaoh was large; it was powerful. It was fearful. The Israelites left Egypt in a hurry because Pharaoh was mourning the death of his firstborn. But then Pharaoh hardened his heart yet again and he led his army out after those slaves once more.
Then Israel found itself wedged between a rock and a hard place. They had come to the Red Sea and they could not pass. But behind them was the Egyptian army coming at them in a fury! The account is found in Exodus 14:10ff. Israel was frightened. They cried out to Jehovah God. Unfortunately, their first response in fear was to criticize Moses! They said they never wanted to leave Egypt in the first place! Human beings are so fickle! Israel forgot they cried to the Lord because of their slavery back in 2:24-25.
Well, God’s power is wondrous and it is to be feared. Moses told Israel the same thing Elisha told his servant: “Do not fear!” Moses said, “Stand by and see the salvation of the Lord which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever! The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent” (14:13-14).
We all know the story… God told Moses to hold his staff out over the water, which Moses did. The waters separated and Moses and Israel walked across on dry land, by the wondrous power of God. But God’s power is to be feared! The Egyptians took up the pursuit, and all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots and his horsemen went in after them into the midst of the sea (14:23). God caused the army of Egypt to become confused and caused their chariot wheels to swerve and the chariots drove with difficulty.
Then God told Moses to stretch his hand out over the Red Sea again and the sea returned to its normal state and the waters covered the chariots and the horsemen, the entire army, and not one of them remained (14:26-28). Then Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore.
The wondrous power of God is to be feared. Some forty-years later, the inhabitants of the land of Canaan still feared the power of Jehovah God because they remembered what they had heard about God, Israel, the Red Sea, and the Egyptian army (Joshua 2:9-10).
God’s power is to be feared. God does not tell jokes. He utters commands. He does not make suggestions. He issues threats. Jesus said, “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28).
God’s power is to be feared.
HUMILITY IS MAN’S RESPONSE TO GOD’S POWER - 76:8-9:
Judgment from God was heard; He judges from heaven and people heard His judgment. So, the earth feared and was still. Even the earth feared God and stood still in His presence. When God arose to judge, to save all the humble of the earth. What should man’s response be to God’s power? Humility.
I’ve told this joke before but I’ll tell it again because it is powerful and it sends a powerful message. An atheist challenges God to a contest. The atheist says he can make a better world than God did. So, God takes up the challenge. The atheist bends over and grabs a handful of dirt. God says, “No. You have to make your own dirt.”
God’s power ought to strike deep humility into our hearts. The book of Job begins and ends with Job’s humility towards God. I think that’s a key reason why Job was able to maintain his faith in God through all that he went through. Job did not understand the “why.” But he did not allow his life and his faith to get side-tracked trying to find the answers to the “whys.” He just clung to what he knew to be true about God’s righteous nature.
When Satan destroyed all Job’s flocks and cattle and murdered Job’s children, Job responded with humility to the power of God: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord” (1:21).
Job then endures three rounds of mainly false accusations by men who were supposed to be his friends. But, their theology was wrong and they would not change their theology. Then God appears on the scene, but God doesn’t exactly set the record straight. That is, God does not explain that Job was being tortured by Satan because Satan did not believe God was worthy of Job’s commitment unless God gave Job stuff. So, God allowed Satan to take away Job’s stuff to show that Job’s faith was still committed to God, even as he was still seeking understanding.
When God appeared on the scene, he throws - I have counted - 63 questions at Job to show Job, to impress on Job, that Job does not know diddly. When God illustrates His power, His wondrous power to Job, Job responds the only way a human really can respond: with humility. “I am insignificant,” Job says in 40:4. “What can I reply to you?” Job said, “I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.”
God’s power demands humility on our part. We are, like Job says, insignificant. The apostle Peter tells Christians, “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time” (1 Peter 4:6).
God’s wondrous power demands humility on our part. Be humble enough to do what He says. Be humble enough to trust what He says.
GOD’S POWER CAN EXHIBIT GOD’S WRATH - 76:10:
Man’s wrath will praise God; it will honor God, if man’s wrath is expressed in righteous ways. God Himself “girds” Himself with wrath, the “remnant” of wrath.
While the “wrath” of God is not mentioned in Genesis 6-7, we certainly see His power. We’re talking about the destructive flood of Noah’s day. In Genesis 7:18, 19, 20, and 24, the Bible says the waters “prevailed” over the earth. That word “prevailed” is a military term. It is the verb form of the noun “warrior.” So God engaged in combat with the world and He prevailed, He overwhelmed the world through the waters of the flood.
God’s power can exhibit God’s wrath. From one end of the Bible, we jump to the other end. The book of Revelation concludes with God’s wrath expressed against Satan and all those who followed Satan. The devil is thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and false prophet are also, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever (Rev. 20:10).
God’s power can and will exhibit His wrath.
GOD’S POWER DEMANDS ALLEGIANCE FROM US - 76:11-12:
What should man’s response be to God’s power? Swearing an oath of allegiance to the God of heaven. Make vows to the Lord our God and then fulfill those vows. Be faithful, committed, and dedicated to Jehovah God.
Man is to bring gifts to God, to the One who is to be feared because of His great power. Offer gifts to God out of a thankful heart.
God and His power are to be feared. The kings of the earth fear God. He can and will cut off princes.
There really is no other response to God’s power than to submit to Him. In Matthew 14, we have the occasion where Jesus sends His apostles across the Sea of Galilee when a storm begins. That’s the occasion when Jesus walks to them on the water. When Jesus calms the storm, the text says those who were in the boat worshipped Jesus, confessing, “You are certainly God’s Son!” (Matt. 14:33).
When we see expressions of God’s power, it demands allegiance from us. He has the power to answer our prayers. He has the power to resolve our worries and anxieties. He has the power to save us. He has the power to condemn us. That’s why we owe Him our allegiance.
Take home message: Let us offer to God acceptable service with reverence and awe.