When the Earth Melts
Text: Psalm 75
To the Chief Musician. Set to “Do Not Destroy.” A Psalm of Asaph. A Song.
We give thanks to You, O God, we give thanks!
For Your wondrous works declare that Your name is near.
“When I choose the proper time,
I will judge uprightly.
The earth and all its inhabitants are dissolved;
I set up its pillars firmly.
Late Tuesday night we all learned an enormous, mystifying, stupefying truth. Donald Trump is God’s will for America.
Now, we laugh, but it’s true isn’t it. Don’t misunderstand me. Prior to the election we could not have and should not have said that Donald Trump was God’s choice candidate. We did not know this, and we could not know it beforehand. It had not been revealed to us. And by saying that God chose Trump, I am also not saying that this means that you should have voted for Trump or that Trump will now do good things. Trump said a great many terrible and disturbing things while campaigning for the presidency, and from his public record, we are very justified in saying that he is a wicked man. He must still be told to repent.
Yet, for all of this, the fact remains. God did this. It was His will that Donald Trump be elected as the president of the United States of America, and in this act, God has revealed His judgment, His wisdom, and His glory. God has defied the odds. He has shown us that we are not in control. The greatest human minds were confounded. The commentators were silenced. The court astrologers and chief eunuchs were all put to flight. The powers that be have been shaken. We must not fail to notice this. God has just done something wondrous in our midst. We must humble ourselves before His great and terrible works.
Now, Psalm 75 is not about Donald Trump, at least not in a direct way. Psalm 75 is about God’s judgment. But what makes it relevant is that it states that God’s judgment can come at surprising times and in surprising ways. It shows that God’s judgment overpowers the strong. God is in control. And it shows us what we should do when confronted with God’s judgment. We must humble ourselves and then give thanks. When the earth melts, we must draw near to God.
God Is In Control
We are not told what the occasion for Psalm 75 was. It may have been written about a specific incident, a military battle perhaps, or it may have been a general statement about God’s judgment. As you read through it, it has a certain literary form. Verse 1 opens with a statement of thanks and praise. Then verses 2-5 are written from God’s perspective, with Him being the speaker. Verses 6-9 respond with more praise, exploring the greatness of God’s judgment. Verse 10 concludes the psalm, and it is again in God’s own voice, stating His intentions in His judgment.
What’s presupposed throughout the whole psalm is the simple idea that God is in control. Even though the boastful and wicked appear to be running things on earth, God can give them warnings based upon the fact that they are only temporarily empowered. At any moment, God can intervene and turn things upside down.
“When I choose the proper time, I will judge uprightly. The earth and all its inhabitants are dissolved; I set up its pillars firmly” (Ps. 75:2-3). Literally it says, the earth and its inhabitants melt. The earth melts away before the face of God.
This is worth pondering because ordinarily things seem so stable. We get comfortable with the way things are. We assume that things will always be what they’ve always been. But God reserves the right to step in. He can bring change. He can bring fear. He can bring judgment.
Notice verse 7. “God is the judge.” The reason we should be fearful, the reason we should take notice, is precisely because it is God we dealing with.
Now, some of you are probably saying, “Tone it down there Jonathan Edwards. Do we really need to be scared to death here?” This is a good question. We need to have a balanced view of God. According to the gospel, God is on our side. In Christ, we are accepted by Him and beloved by Him.
God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together…. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Eph. 2:4-9)
Indeed, we “who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:13). But this is in no way inconsistent with the other truth that God is the creator, sustainer, governor, and judge of all things. Indeed, God continues to be great and powerful, even, and He promises to shake up the world. As the 12th chapter of Hebrews puts it:
He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.” Now this, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire. (Heb. 12:26-29)
God’s Judgment Should Humble the Proud
So given the fact that God is God, and that He is in control of all things, what should we do? The first thing we should do is humble ourselves.
I said to the boastful, “Do not deal boastfully,” and to the wicked, “Do not lift up the horn. Do not lift up your horn on high; Do not speak with a stiff neck.” For exaltation comes neither from the east Nor from the west nor from the south. But God is the Judge: He puts down one, and exalts another. (Ps. 75:4-7)
Since God is the judge, all men are made equal. We all stand equally before Him, and we are all equally powerless. Those who thought they knew what would happen last week have been proved wrong. This can happen again. It will. Therefore, you have no ground to boast or be proud. God wants us to doubt ourselves. He wants us to be weak in a way. He wants us to be dependent on Him.
This is a consistent theme throughout the Bible. Samuel’s mother, Hannah, composed a song after discovering that she was going to have a child. In that song she said:
Talk no more so very proudly;
Let no arrogance come from your mouth,
For the Lord is the God of knowledge;
And by Him actions are weighed.
“The bows of the mighty men are broken,
And those who stumbled are girded with strength.
Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread,
And the hungry have ceased to hunger.
Even the barren has borne seven,
And she who has many children has become feeble.
“The Lord kills and makes alive;
He brings down to the grave and brings up.
The Lord makes poor and makes rich;
He brings low and lifts up.
He raises the poor from the dust
And lifts the beggar from the ash heap,
To set them among princes
And make them inherit the throne of glory.
“For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s,
And He has set the world upon them. (1 Sam. 2:3-8)
Mary, the mother of Jesus, said something very similar when she received news that she was going to have a child:
He has shown strength with His arm;
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
And exalted the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
And the rich He has sent away empty. (Luke 1:51-53)
Again, since God is the one in control, the strong, the rich, and the mighty of this earth are not in control. Their power is always temporary, and it can be taken from them in a moment. It can be taken from us. All that we have is a gift.
We must remember this and remain humble. We must continue to pray, to ask God for His blessing. We must look to Him to fill our needs. We must look to Him for our security, safety, and peace.
I saw a strange reaction to the election results from many moderate commentators who I believe otherwise have much to offer. They said something like this, “Now that you people have won, you need to listen up and cater to my demands.” What a bizarre thing to say. That’s not how things work. When you’re wrong, you should stop for a minute and ponder that you were, in fact, wrong. You don’t need to keep being haughty. It’s a time to start with yourself, look at why you made the mistakes you did and what you have learned. God wants us to learn humility from these dramatic events.
We Must Give Thanks
A Donald Trump presidency gives us many opportunities, many challenges, and many obligations. We will, as always, have to submit to him as our lawfully elected governing power. We must see all political power as having an ordination by God, and we must honor it. For some of us this will be harder than it is for others. But remember, the previous administration was also challenging for other people. And there will be more administrations to challenge more people. We must be obedient to God’s word.
We must also be vigilant to pray for our government. We must ask for God to guide and direct it. And we must also call out wickedness in the government, as we see it. These obligations are the same now as they ever were. We must do this humbly and fairly.
But most of all, we are called to give thanks. To do this, we do not have to say that we like any particular idea or feature of our government. We do not have to even say that we thing it’s doing a good thing. We simply have to thank God because He has acted in our midst and He has manifested His judgment. “We give thanks to You, O God, we give thanks! For Your wondrous works declare that Your name is near” (Psalm 75:1).
We must thank the Lord for His judgment. That might sound strange but it is true. We thank God for humbling us, because if He didn’t, we would not become humble. And we thank God because we know His judgment is righteous and that He will complete His judgment on all the earth:
God is the Judge:
He puts down one,
And exalts another.
For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup,
And the wine is red;
It is fully mixed, and He pours it out;
Surely its dregs shall all the wicked of the earth
Drain and drink down. (Psalm 75:7-8)
Kingdoms rise and kingdoms fall. God cuts off the spirit of princes. Sometimes God gives us wicked rulers. Sometimes God causes us to lose. And sometimes God gives us opportunity in unlikely places. Our duty is to trust Him. See His hand at work, be humble, and give thanks.
We are promised at the end of Psalm 75 that the wicked will not be exalted. They will not triumph. God’s timing is not ours. We do not know how soon that will be. But that it is a promise throughout the Scriptures. By the end of human history, every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. So as we are humbled, let us also be hopeful. God has promised us the end of history.
So this morning, let us remind ourselves of these basic truths. God is control. Nothing comes to pass except that which He has ordained. Though His will is mysterious and can bring us chastisement and affliction, God promises that this is all for our good. The wicked will be put down and the righteous will be exalted. God has already done this through the work of His son.
Our duty at times like these is to see God. Humble ourselves and see His wisdom. Give thanks.
Look around for the good you can do. There’s as much work to do as ever. But look at yourself as well. Make sure that your judgment and your perception is taking God’s role into account. If we can always see God in His works of judgment, then we will be blessed.
God has shown His judgment in our midst. It is great and awful. Let us give thanks to Him.
Let us pray.