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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 7–12
Verses 7–12

This glorious victory with which God had graced and blessed his church is here made to speak three things:—

I. Terror to God’s enemies (Ps. 76:7-9): “Thou, even thou, art to be feared; thy majesty is to be reverenced, thy sovereignty to be submitted to, and thy justice to be dreaded by those that have offended thee.” Let all the world learn by this event to stand in awe of the great God. 1. Let all be afraid of his wrath against the daring impiety of sinners: Who may stand in thy sight from the minute that thou art angry? If God be a consuming fire, how can chaff and stubble stand before him, though his anger be kindled but a little? Ps. 2:12. 2. Let all be afraid of his jealousy for oppressed innocency and the injured cause of his own people: “Thou didst cause judgment to be heard from heaven, then when thou didst arise to save all the meek of the earth (Ps. 76:8, 9); and then the earth feared and was still, waiting what would be the issue of those glorious appearances of thine.” Note, (1.) God’s people are the meek of the earth (Zech. 2:3), the quiet in the land (Ps. 35:20), that can bear any wrong, but do none. (2.) Though the meek of the earth are by their meekness exposed to injury, yet God will, sooner or later, appear for their salvation, and plead their cause. (3.) When God comes to save all the meek of the earth, he will cause judgment to be heard from heaven; he will make the world know that he is angry at the oppressors of his people, and takes what is done against them as done against himself. The righteous God long seems to keep silence, yet, sooner or later, he will make judgment to be heard. (4.) When God is speaking judgment from heaven it is time for the earth to compose itself into an awful and reverent silence: The earth feared and was still, as silence is made by proclamation when the court sits. Be still and know that I am God, Ps. 46:10. Be silent, O all flesh! before the Lord, for he is raised up to judgment, Zech. 2:13. Those that suppose this psalm to have been penned upon the occasion of the routing of Sennacherib’s army take it for granted that the descent of the destroying angel, who did the execution, was accompanied with thunder, by which God caused judgment to be heard from heaven, and that the earth feared (that is, there was an earthquake), but it was soon over. But this is altogether uncertain.

II. Comfort to God’s people, Ps. 76:10. We live in a very angry provoking world; we often feel much, and are apt to fear more, from the wrath of man, which seems boundless. But this is a great comfort to us, 1. That as far as God permits the wrath of man to break forth at any time he will make it turn to his praise, will bring honour to himself and serve his own purposes by it: Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee, not only by the checks given to it, when it shall be forced to confess its own impotency, but even by the liberty given to it for a time. The hardships which God’s people suffer by the wrath of their enemies are made to redound to the glory of God and his grace; and the more the heathen rage and plot against the Lord and his anointed the more will God be praised for setting his King upon his holy hill of Zion in spite of them, Ps. 2:1, 6. When the heavenly hosts make this the matter of their thanksgiving-song that God has taken to himself his great power and has reigned, though the nations were angry (Rev. 11:17, 18), then the wrath of man adds lustre to the praises of God. 2. That what will not turn to his praise shall not be suffered to break out: The remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain. Men must never permit sin, because they cannot check it when they will; but God can. He can set bounds to the wrath of man, as he does to the raging sea. Hitherto it shall come and no further; here shall its proud waves be stayed. God restrained the remainder of Sennacherib’s rage, for he put a hook in his nose and a bridle in his jaws (Isa. 37:29); and, though he permitted him to talk big, he restrained him from doing what he designed.

III. Duty to all, Ps. 76:11, 12. Let all submit themselves to this great God and become his loyal subjects. Observe, 1. The duty required of us all, all that are about him, that have any dependence upon him or any occasion to approach to him; and who is there that has not? We are therefore every one of us commanded to do our homage to the King of kings: Vow and pay; that is, take an oath of allegiance to him and make conscience of keeping it. Vow to be his, and pay what you vow. Bind your souls with a bond to him (for that is the nature of a vow), and then live up to the obligations you have laid upon yourselves; for better it is not to vow than to vow and not to pay. And, having taken him for our King, let us bring presents to him, as subjects to their sovereign, 1 Sam. 10:27. Send you the lamb to the ruler of the land, Isa. 16:1. Not that God needs any present we can bring, or can be benefited by it; but thus we must give him honour and own that we have our all from him. Our prayers and praises, and especially our hearts, are the presents we should bring to the Lord our God. 2. The reasons to enforce this duty: Render to all their due, fear to whom fear is due; and is it not due to God? Yes; (1.) He ought to be feared: He is the fear (so the word is); his name is glorious and fearful,; and he is the proper object of our fear; with him is terrible majesty. The God of Abraham is called the fear of Isaac (Gen. 31:42), and we are commanded to make him our fear, Isa. 8:13. When we bring presents to him we must have an eye to him as greatly to be feared; for he is terrible in his holy places. (2.) He will be feared, even by those who think it their own sole prerogative to be feared (Ps. 76:12): He shall cut off the spirit of princes; he shall slip it off as easily as we slip off a flower from the stalk or a bunch of grapes from the vine; so the word signifies. He can dispirit those that are most daring and make them heartless; for he is, or will be, terrible to the kings of the earth; and sooner or later, if they be not so wise as to submit themselves to him, he will force them to call in vain to rocks and mountains to fall on them and hide them from his wrath, Rev. 6:16. Since there is no contending with God, it is as much our wisdom as it is our duty to submit to him.