In this week’s commentary on the Psalms, we return to the venerable Robert Hawker who had such a pleasant way of revealing Christ in his expositions. It is fitting for this Sunday’s reading that we should begin with the first verse of the 75th psalm which reads: “Unto thee, O God, do we give thanks, unto thee do we give thanks: for that thy name is near thy wondrous works declare.”
This verse follows upon the dire and desperate plea of Judah in Psalm 74. The 74th psalm was written soon after the destruction of the temple by the Babylonians. As we noticed last week, the most troubling aspect of the destruction was God’s refusal to come to their aid. There were many in Judah that thought the temple was indestructible which led them to flee there for what they thought was certain refuge. Their hopes were dashed because God would not stay the hand of chastisement due to Judah’s rejection of His prophets and their warnings of repentance. Israel was abandoned without a prophet (74:9) and their outlook was most dismal.
The end of the psalm saw increasing hope as they plead for God to arise and claim His people again (74:19-23). Thus we see the tone of Psalm 75 changes and thanks are given for God’s wonderful works. Notice particularly the change in speakers between verses 1 and 2. The first verse is the cry of the congregation. We might well compare this to the righteous in America that wonder if our cause is lost. Is it possible to save America from the inevitable destruction that looms (Ps. 9:17)? We have systematically destroyed the moral fiber of our people until the conscience is seared (1 Timothy 4:2).
In the second verse the speaker changes. Now, the one speaking is Christ who promises to restore just judgment. As Hawker notes, “Who but Christ supported the whole fabric of our nature, when sin had dissolved all its powers? Reader, is it not always blessed to look to Jesus?” Mark well the words of Robert Hawker. There is no hope for recovery in this country or any other except through Christ. Has it ever been any different? Was there any time we upheld ourselves? How could we when sin dissolved our powers? It is God that puts up one and takes down another (75:7). Left to ourselves, we would be as godless as the Communists of the Cold War. Government will never answer our problems. It is God that has always suppressed our forays into the worst of our depravity. Thus the psalmist speaks of the only righteous government—the government of Jesus Christ.
Today, we pause to give thanks that as Christians we live under the New Covenant. There has always been a covenant of grace, but never as fully understood as in this dispensation of the Christian church. We have the unequivocal promise of God’s favor. No matter what should happen, we are God’s people that shall never experience captivity again. We are citizens of His heavenly kingdom and have escaped the bondage of sin.
We gather to give thanks for temporal provision, but more importantly for the spiritual benefits of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. The righteous are always and only God’s people. Therefore, verse 10 says the horns of the righteous shall be exalted. What better reason to give thanks and sing praises to the God of Jacob?
Pastor V. Mark Smith