- Note to music leader: use stringed instruments. A psalm of Asaph, and a song.1
The end of war
- 1 God made himself known in Judah.2
Israel thinks he’s great.
- 2 His home is here in Jerusalem.
It’s a house with a view from Mount Zion.3
- 3 He destroyed flaming arrows of war,
The shield, the sword, and the armory.
God is breathtaking
- 4 You take our breath away.
There’s more majesty in you
Than in mountains rich in game.
- 5 Brave warriors were plundered and stripped.
And left lying asleep in their death.
There was no one raising a hand of objection.
- 6 At your command,
with just a strong word, God of Jacob,
Horses and riders drop dead.
- 7 You are someone to be taken seriously.
Who could withstand the force of your anger?
- 8 From heaven you called down judgment.
The earth froze silent with fear.
- 9 God stood to announce his decision,
To rescue the needy of the earth.
Scariest people scared of God
- 10 When you dress yourself in anger,
Even the fiercest fear you with praise.
- 11 Promise your devotion to God and keep your promise.
Bring gifts to the one you take seriously.
- 12 He will break the will of rulers.
Kings all over the world
Will give him the respect he has earned.
The subtitle wasn’t part of the original psalm. And the possible byline “of Asaph,” isn’t necessarily a byline. The vague phrase could mean the song was written by Asaph, about Asaph, or was inspired by Asaph. Asaph led a musical family in the tribe of Levi, one of the 12 tribes that made up the original nation of Israel. Levite families worked as priests and worship leaders and worship assistants for the Jewish nation. Asaph was a leader of worship music during the time of King David (1 Chronicles 16:5). His family carried on the musical tradition, showing up five centuries later, when a Jewish man named Nehemiah, in the 500s BC, helped rebuild Jerusalem after Babylonian invaders from what is now Iraq leveled Jerusalem in 586 BC.
Israel split in two after King Solomon died. The northern half became known as Israel. Most of the 12 tribes were in the northland. The southern half took the name of the dominate tribe, Judah. Jerusalem was their capital.
Jerusalem was built on a ridge sometimes called Mount Zion. “Zion” is a term of endearment, and another name for Jerusalem. It’s a bit like “The Big Apple” for New York City, “The City of Love” for Paris.
The word in the original language of Hebrew is selah. Bible scholars haven’t figured out what it means yet, so all we can do is guess. It could mean “pause for effect,” “instrumental interlude,” or “choir singing ‘Amen.’” We’re offering a guess instead of selah. Though selah might be the better way to go because it’s always correct, it’s also always incomprehensible. “Instruments” has a good chance of being wrong, but at least we convey the idea that the Hebrew word behind it probably has something to do with enhancing the song.