Psalm 75: Horns Against Heaven

Read Psalm 75.

Years ago, I took a business trip to Charlotte, North Carolina. For the life of me, I can’t remember where I was working at the time or what the trip was for, but I do remember one incident with the rental car company.

It was one of those off-site places, where they pick you up in a shuttle bus from baggage claim and drive you to the facility. I boarded the bus with my luggage and took my seat. The driver asked if everyone had their voucher. I did not. All I had was the reservation number printed out. So, as uncomfortable as it was, I spoke up—in front of all the other people on the bus. The driver questioned me, asking if I had the right rental car company and whether I had a reservation. I assured him I did and began digging through my carry-on to find the reservation number.

Then it happened. Another passenger on the bus, noticing that the driver wasn’t moving the bus out of the pick-up lane because he was talking to me, shouted in my direction: “Figure it out when we get there!” I didn’t know what to say, and neither did the driver. Everyone on the bus was silent. It was awkward. After what seemed like an eternity, the driver slowly pulled the bus away from the airport, and in ten long minutes, we were at the rental place.

The vouchers were actually not required, but if you checked in ahead of time, they allowed you to get into a special line that was supposed to move more quickly. However, as I was one of only a few people without a voucher, my line was short.

And then it happened again. As I was about to step up to the counter, the same guy who yelled at me on the bus stepped out of the voucher line and barged in front of me. Normally, I would have said something, but the guy seemed unhinged—and he was at least six foot eight. That’s when I noticed his bag. It had the logo of a professional wrestling league. When I got to my hotel later that evening, I looked it up. Sure enough, that bully was a professional wrestler.

A lot of people think brute strength is all you need to make your way in this world. And strength comes in many forms—physical size, platform, the dollar amount in your bank account, or even having the biggest pickup truck on the highway—but strength, like everything else we “own” in this life, is a gift from God. He wants us to use it for His glory and the good of others, not to shove our way to the front of the line.

This is one of the messages of Psalm 75. Asaph warns, “Do not lift your horns against heaven; do not speak so defiantly.” It’s a strange turn of phrase to modern ears. What are these “horns” that we’re being told not to raise against heaven?

For many species in the wild, strength can be measured by the length and breadth of a beast’s horns. Horns are an indication of long life, since an animal with impressive horns had to survive long enough to produce them. And they can be used as a weapon, allowing the creature to fend off attackers, take a shot at its prey, or compete for the best mate in the herd.

So, what more macho symbol could there be in the ancient world than a set of killer horns? It’s why kings often wore crowns that included animal horns. Such was a way of telling the world not to mess with you—not unlike a ridiculous lift kit, a light bar, and a bass-infused stereo on the aforementioned pickup truck.

Strength in the kingdom looks different than what you might expect. Jesus talked not about an eye for an eye, but a cheek for a slap: “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also” (Matthew 5:39). That might sound like weakness, not strength, but picture the scene. Someone hits you on the cheek, and you didn’t strike back but turn your other cheek to them, as if to say, “Go ahead. Hit me again. I’m not moving, and you will not change me.” It’s not violent. It’s dignified. It loves the other person enough not to hurt them in a split-second act of vengeance. But no, it’s not weak.

This is the kind of strength God is looking for—strength received as a gift and given right back to the service of God. He promises, “I will cut off the horns of the wicked, but the horns of the righteous will be lifted up” (Psalm 75:10).

What’s this all about?

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