Weds 13 December - Psalm 68
1 May God arise, may his enemies be scattered;
may his foes flee before him.
2 May you blow them away like smoke—
as wax melts before the fire,
may the wicked perish before God.
3 But may the righteous be glad
and rejoice before God;
may they be happy and joyful.
4 Sing to God, sing in praise of his name,
extol him who rides on the cloudsb]">[b];
rejoice before him—his name is the Lord.
5 A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling.
6 God sets the lonely in families,c]">[c]
he leads out the prisoners with singing;
but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.
7 When you, God, went out before your people,
when you marched through the wilderness,d]">[d]
8 the earth shook, the heavens poured down rain,
before God, the One of Sinai,
before God, the God of Israel.
9 You gave abundant showers, O God;
you refreshed your weary inheritance.
10 Your people settled in it,
and from your bounty, God, you provided for the poor.
11 The Lord announces the word,
and the women who proclaim it are a mighty throng:
12 “Kings and armies flee in haste;
the women at home divide the plunder.
13 Even while you sleep among the sheep pens,e]">[e]
the wings of my dove are sheathed with silver,
its feathers with shining gold.”
14 When the Almightyf]">[f] scattered the kings in the land,
it was like snow fallen on Mount Zalmon.
15 Mount Bashan, majestic mountain,
Mount Bashan, rugged mountain,
16 why gaze in envy, you rugged mountain,
at the mountain where God chooses to reign,
where the Lord himself will dwell forever?
17 The chariots of God are tens of thousands
and thousands of thousands;
the Lord has come from Sinai into his sanctuary.g]">[g]
18 When you ascended on high,
you took many captives;
you received gifts from people,
even fromh]">[h] the rebellious—
that you,i]">[i] Lord God, might dwell there.
19 Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior,
who daily bears our burdens.
20 Our God is a God who saves;
from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death.
21 Surely God will crush the heads of his enemies,
the hairy crowns of those who go on in their sins.
22 The Lord says, “I will bring them from Bashan;
I will bring them from the depths of the sea,
23 that your feet may wade in the blood of your foes,
while the tongues of your dogs have their share.”
24 Your procession, God, has come into view,
the procession of my God and King into the sanctuary.
25 In front are the singers, after them the musicians;
with them are the young women playing the timbrels.
26 Praise God in the great congregation;
praise the Lord in the assembly of Israel.
27 There is the little tribe of Benjamin, leading them,
there the great throng of Judah’s princes,
and there the princes of Zebulun and of Naphtali.
28 Summon your power, Godj]">[j];
show us your strength, our God, as you have done before.
29 Because of your temple at Jerusalem
kings will bring you gifts.
30 Rebuke the beast among the reeds,
the herd of bulls among the calves of the nations.
Humbled, may the beast bring bars of silver.
Scatter the nations who delight in war.
31 Envoys will come from Egypt;
Cushk]">[k] will submit herself to God.
32 Sing to God, you kingdoms of the earth,
sing praise to the Lord,
33 to him who rides across the highest heavens, the ancient heavens,
who thunders with mighty voice.
34 Proclaim the power of God,
whose majesty is over Israel,
whose power is in the heavens.
35 You, God, are awesome in your sanctuary;
the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people.
Praise be to God!
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Meditation on Psalm 68
As is usual practice, I read the psalm and try to get the outline. Then I will consult various commentaries before putting my thoughts into the final meditation. All the way along this journey, I will be praying for God to speak to me in order to pass on encouragements and challenges as we continue our faith journey.
Not quite so straightforward with this psalm.
Mchael Wilcock (The Message of the Psalms 1-72) offers the following introduction. ‘You may get to know the psalm and may try to understand it and yet still find that its problems do not evaporate. If it seems a difficult psalm at the outset, that impression will be confirmed, not dispelled as you go along.’
Having given some pointers, he then concludes his introduction by writing, ‘such pointers do not alter the fact that Psalm 68 bristles with problems. How can it be user-friendly when we repeatedly trip over its mystifying details.’
Philip Church, in his notes in Scripture Union’s ‘Encounter with God, says, ‘the details are complex and it is hard to see how the stanzas fit together.’
And, finally, by way of introduction, Adam Clarke writes, ‘I know not how to undertake a comment on this psalm. It is the most difficult in the whole Psalter.’
Well, there you have it – what chance do we have?!
As we read the psalm through, we are aware that God is very involved in the lives of people – past, present and future.
We are aware that this God is our God.
In Psalm 63 we focused on David affirming, ‘You, God, are my God.’
Psalm 68 celebrates the march of God’s people from Mount Sinai (under Moses) to Mount Zion (under David). This latter part of the journey is recorded in 2 Samuel 6:12-19.
The psalm also looks forward to the day when the people of God will march into glory.
- OUR TRIUMPHANT GOD Verses 1-3
David has faced enemies from all sides – e.g. individuals such as Goliath, Saul, Absalom; and tribes such as the Philistines. In each situation he has known the protection of God and the assurance of victory, even when he went his own way.
Here, he is confident of God’s ultimate victory over his enemies. Again, it seems harsh as he prays for his enemies to be 'scattered', ‘to flee’, ‘blown away’, ‘perish’.
But we know from our own experiences that our enemy, the devil, is, as Peter puts it, ‘prowling round like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.’ (1 Peter 5:8)
We, too, need to be reassured of the ultimate victory which Jesus has won through His death and resurrection. We know, from reading through the book of Revelation, that Satan is on borrowed time and that one day he and his entourage will be finally defeated – ‘blown away’ to use David’s words. (Revelation 20:7-10)
In contrast, David is rejoicing that the righteous …
- can be glad
- can rejoice before God
- can be happy
- can be joyful
How am I doing on that ‘list’?
- OUR CARING GOD Verses 4-6
Because God is triumphant, we can sing praises to Him; we can extol Him (glorify Him, give Him His rightful place of honour above all others); we can rejoice before Him.
I am reminded of the chorus, written by Michael W Smith.
‘Our God is an awesome God,
He reigns from heaven above;
with wisdom, power and love,
our God is an awesome God.’
And yet, our God cares about us. He has compassion on those in need – the fatherless, the widows, the lonely, the prisoners.
As another chorus puts it …
‘Our God is a great big God…
And He holds us in His hands…
He’s known me and He loves me
Since before the world began;
How wonderful to be a part of God’s amazing plan.’
Our God cares about each one of us – youngest to oldest and everyone in between. Our triumphant God is our caring God.
- OUR RESCUING GOD Veres 7-10
David now looks back in history to the exodus from Egypt when the people of God were rescued from 400 years of bondage and slavery in Egypt.
Although Moses was chosen to lead the people out of Egypt towards the Promised Land, it was God who was in control. ‘God went out before His people.’ God is still with His people today around the world.
Here is a reference to God’s power as ‘the earth shook’. This takes us back to Mount Sinai when ‘the LORD descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace and the whole mountain trembled violently.’ (Exodus 19:18)
Although we don’t read about rain in the Exodus account, we read in Judges 5:4 that rain is closely associated with quaking of the earth as evidence of the majesty and power of God. The previous verses in Exodus 19:16 refer to ‘on the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain…’
This rain became a source of refreshment and another example of God’s provision in His rescue plan.
- OUR VICTORIOUS GOD Verses 11-14
Here we are reminded of the word of the LORD that He spoke to Moses and to Joshua about the victories that would be gained as the LORD fought for His people. Read Exodus 23:22-23; 27-28 and 31. Read Deuteronomy 7:10-24 and 11:23-25. Read Joshua 1:2-6.
Not one of the words the LORD spoke would be negated. Not one of His promises would be broken. So the people could rejoice in all that the LORD said He would do but they must also remember that He would bring judgment on them if they disobeyed.
For every victory there would be celebration. In the days the psalmist is speaking of, the men would be out on the battlefield and the women would be at home. They would lead the celebrations. Another translation says, ‘great was the company of those who proclaim it.’
The celebrations were based on the fact that God had defeated the kings of the nations before Israel met them in battle.
Remember Rahab in Joshua 2. She said to the two spies, “I know that the LORD has given you this land and a great fear of you has fallen on us so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you.”
Our God is still victorious and will be to eternity and beyond.
- OUR SOVEREIGN GOD Verses 15-18
Kings and Queens come and go, as we well know from the death of Queen Elizabeth ll. The new king will determine where his ‘dwelling place will be’. He might choose the grandest of places as so many down through the centuries have chosen.
Not so, God.
He could have chosen many of the mountains – e.g. ‘the majestic and rugged mountain of Bashan’.
But He chose Mount Zion which made the other mountains envious. This was not a temporary ‘home’ until He found something bigger and better. This would be His dwelling place ‘forever’.
Mount Zion would be the seat of His rule, making it the ‘highest mountain’.
As the victorious King, He would take captives and those rebellious people who would have to submit to His rule.
He received ‘gifts’ – i.e. honour and praise from the people.
Paul quotes this verse in Ephesians 4:8-13. There is one significant change between the psalm and what Paul wrote.
The psalm says, ‘you received gifts from men’.
Paul writes, ‘you gave gifts to men.’
In the context of Paul’s letter, he is reminding the Ephesians (and, therefore, us) that Jesus, having ascended to heaven after His death and resurrection, sent His Holy Spirit to anoint and empower His people to be His witnesses.
- OUR SAVING GOD Verses 19-23
David bursts out in praise as he thinks about who God is and all He has done, is doing and will do.
Our God knows and understands our burdens but He does more than that – He ‘carries, He bears our burdens.’
He is our Saviour.
He enables us to escape from death.
He will one day give us total victory over our enemies.
David Guzik says, ‘in describing God’s victory, David uses an image from Genesis 3:15, where God promised that the Messiah would strike a fatal head wound against Satan. The victory would be total, with God’s people walking as winners over the field of battle – ‘that your feet may wade in the blood of your foes.’
- OUR PRAISEWORTHY GOD Verses 24-27
The ark of God is on its way from Sinai to Zion and this is a focus for great celebrations.
The King is coming into His sanctuary.
There is music and singing.
There is a great congregation.
The smallest tribe, Benjamin, is there.
There is the largest tribe, Judah, there.
There are the other tribes, represented by Zebulun and Naphtali.
God is the focus of praise and worship.
So should He be in our churches.
- OUR PRAYER-HEARING GOD Verses 28-31
God has answered prayers before and David, confident in that, prays that He will answer prayers again – ‘as you have done before’.
Kings of other nations will bring gifts to God, the King.
David longs for peace so he asks that the ‘nations who delight in war’ will be scattered.
David singles out Egypt as representative of the enemy nations, praying that they would submit to God.
As we look around the global scene today, we should be praying for peace.
We should be praying across the nations that their rulers will submit to God.
- OUR GREAT GOD Verses 32-35
David ends with a reminder of who our God is.
He reminds us all that God is King over all the nations. We know, from our New Testament, that one day ‘at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father’. Philippians 2:10-11
Our God is powerful.
Our God is majestic.
Our God is awesome.
Our God gives power and strength to His people.
No wonder we sometimes sing, ‘How great Thou art’.