The horns of the wicked — Psalm 75:10

Psalm 75 — Psalms of Asaph

The words at the end of this psalm are reflected in the words of Mary in what is now known as the Magnificat,

Asaph said:

I will sing praise to the God of Jacob,
who says, ‘I will cut off the horns of all the wicked,
    but the horns of the righteous shall be lifted up.’

Mary said:

He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble. Luke 1:51–52

A weightlifter
Free image from snappygoat,com

Asaph had a long career. Appointed by David as one of the chief musicians in the Temple, and still serving under Solomon. Asaph’s role was prophetic, his job was to listen to the prayers concerns and laments of the people, and to give God’s relpy. The Psalms of Asaph, Psalms 50 and 73–83 are both communal laments and words of prophesy

Psalm 75

For the director of music. To the tune of ‘Do Not Destroy’. A psalm of Asaph. A song.

We praise you, God,
    we praise you, for your Name is near;
    people tell of your wonderful deeds.

You say, ‘I choose the appointed time;
    it is I who judge with equity.
When the earth and all its people quake,
    it is I who hold its pillars firm.
To the arrogant I say, “Boast no more,”
    and to the wicked, “Do not lift up your horns.
Do not lift your horns against heaven;
    do not speak so defiantly.”’

No one from the east or the west
    or from the desert can exalt themselves.
It is God who judges:
    he brings one down, he exalts another.
In the hand of the Lord is a cup
    full of foaming wine mixed with spices;
he pours it out, and all the wicked of the earth
    drink it down to its very dregs.

As for me, I will declare this for ever;
    I will sing praise to the God of Jacob,
10 who says, ‘I will cut off the horns of all the wicked,
    but the horns of the righteous shall be lifted up.’

Psalm 75 NIV UK

You can tell a lot by the order things are compiled. In the 1960s and ’70s there was the phenomenon of the concept album, which ranged from a loose collection of songs on a theme, such as the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band through to a complete rock opera telling a story, like The Who’s rock opera Tommy. David Bowie’s The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars had a story line which was only written after the songs were written and the running order on the album was already decided. Deliberate or not, there is a story in the order that songs are compiled.

We tend to sing the Psalms separately. Any story in the order of these ancient liturgical songs is lost. Last year I looked at the Songs of Ascent, those songs of the pilgrims on the way to the Jerusalem Temple which taken in order tell the story of the pilgrimage. Here in Asaph’s psalms the order may be accidental, but there is a story here. Being autistic I have a tendency to see patterns in things, all my blogs on the Bible are an autistic person’s guide as I cannot separate myself from the condition, it’s the way I am.

There is a stark contrast between this psalm and the previous one. The last one asked if God had deserted Israel for ever, this one is a resounding hymn of praise, it starts with “We praise you, God,” then repeats it. It is also a song containing apocalyptic imagery, wine as a symbol of God’s judgement is one and the horns of the wicked raised towards God is used in the book of Revelation in the dragon, the beast from the sea and the beast from the land having various numbers of horns. It may be early in the development of apocalyptic style as other concepts such as angels, dreams and significant numbers are not found here.

The first three psalms in this section tell a story:
Psalm 73: Why does good stuff happen to bad people
Psalm 74: Has God abandoned us forever? (Bad stuff happens to good people)
Psalm 75: God is the judge

Psalm 75 answers the previous two.
To the bad people who get the money and fame they were seeking, they have got nothing compared to what God’s people will inherit and God will judge them.
God has not abandoned his people but will judge in favour of those who follow him.

As to those who lift their horns to God, who use their earthly power to oppose God, God says their power will be cut off. The mighty will be brought down and the humble lifted up. Which brings us full circle, back to Mary’s prayer. Mary declares that God being on earth in the child she is carrying means that the mighty are already brought down and the humble already brought low on her child.

Jesus is Lord, the mighty are already cast down and the poor already lifted up, even if it does mot look like it. It has always been so in God’s kingdom. Our task is to bring the values of God’s kingdom to Earth.

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