This psalm was composed to celebrate a divine deliverance of Israel from invasion by foreign armies. The deliverance was so comprehensive than the enemy was totally defeated (vv. 4-6). Yet the victory was won without any participation by the Israelites. It is not surprising therefore that the Scottish Reformer Robert Bruce gave out this psalm to be sung at the Market Cross in Edinburgh in 1588 when news came through of the divine destruction of the Spanish Armada. On that occasion, too, the Lord’s cause was in great danger, yet he intervened and overthrew the invading army.
The defeat of the enemy took place very near to God’s dwelling-place in Jerusalem (vv. 1-3). Perhaps the enemy had imagined that the closer they got to the city the nearer they were to victory. Yet the opposite was the case. The closer they got to God’s location the nearer they were to total defeat. This is a reminder that we cannot judge a situation by how near the opponents of Christianity seem to be to defeating the Lord’s cause. It took Israel’s enemies weeks of preparation to advance close to the city; it took the Lord one moment to destroy them. The lesson for us is obvious. God defends his cause and defeats his opponents at the moment of his choosing.
The reality is that when God’s anger is roused he will defeat all who are attacking his cause (vv. 7-9). Sometimes we can give the impression that we are facing more powerful spiritual enemies than our forefathers. I doubt if that is the case. The problem we have is coping with a God who does not seem to be rousing himself to deal with the situation. One activity by his people which often causes the Lord to act is earnest prayer.
The attitude that should mark us is fear of God (vv. 10-12). There will be such fear once he acts in judgement. But we should reverence him at all times, even when he seems to be doing nothing about a situation. We show reverence by keeping the commitments we have made to him and by bringing to him our gifts (another word for tithes).