Psalm 68 (ESV)
68 To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. A Song.
1 God shall arise, his enemies shall be scattered;
and those who hate him shall flee before him!
2 As smoke is driven away, so you shall drive them away;
as wax melts before fire,
so the wicked shall perish before God!
3 But the righteous shall be glad;
they shall exult before God;
they shall be jubilant with joy!
4 Sing to God, sing praises to his name;
lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts;
his name is the Lord;
exult before him!
5 Father of the fatherless and protector of widows
is God in his holy habitation.
6 God settles the solitary in a home;
he leads out the prisoners to prosperity,
but the rebellious dwell in a parched land.
7 O God, when you went out before your people,
when you marched through the wilderness, Selah
8 the earth quaked, the heavens poured down rain,
before God, the One of Sinai,
before God, the God of Israel.
9 Rain in abundance, O God, you shed abroad;
you restored your inheritance as it languished;
10 your flock found a dwelling in it;
in your goodness, O God, you provided for the needy.
11 The Lord gives the word;
the women who announce the news are a great host:
12 “The kings of the armies—they flee, they flee!”
The women at home divide the spoil—
13 though you men lie among the sheepfolds—
the wings of a dove covered with silver,
its pinions with shimmering gold.
14 When the Almighty scatters kings there,
let snow fall on Zalmon.
15 O mountain of God, mountain of Bashan;
O many-peaked mountain, mountain of Bashan!
16 Why do you look with hatred, O many-peaked mountain,
at the mount that God desired for his abode,
yes, where the Lord will dwell forever?
17 The chariots of God are twice ten thousand,
thousands upon thousands;
the Lord is among them; Sinai is now in the sanctuary.
18 You ascended on high,
leading a host of captives in your train
and receiving gifts among men,
even among the rebellious, that the Lord God may dwell there.
19 Blessed be the Lord,
who daily bears us up;
God is our salvation. Selah
20 Our God is a God of salvation,
and to God, the Lord, belong deliverances from death.
21 But God will strike the heads of his enemies,
the hairy crown of him who walks in his guilty ways.
22 The Lord said,
“I will bring them back from Bashan,
I will bring them back from the depths of the sea,
23 that you may strike your feet in their blood,
that the tongues of your dogs may have their portion from the foe.”
24 Your procession is seen, O God,
the procession of my God, my King, into the sanctuary—
25 the singers in front, the musicians last,
between them virgins playing tambourines:
26 “Bless God in the great congregation,
the Lord, O you who are of Israel’s fountain!”
27 There is Benjamin, the least of them, in the lead,
the princes of Judah in their throng,
the princes of Zebulun, the princes of Naphtali.
28 Summon your power, O God,
the power, O God, by which you have worked for us.
29 Because of your temple at Jerusalem
kings shall bear gifts to you.
30 Rebuke the beasts that dwell among the reeds,
the herd of bulls with the calves of the peoples.
Trample underfoot those who lust after tribute;
scatter the peoples who delight in war.
31 Nobles shall come from Egypt;
Cush shall hasten to stretch out her hands to God.
32 O kingdoms of the earth, sing to God;
sing praises to the Lord, Selah
33 to him who rides in the heavens, the ancient heavens;
behold, he sends out his voice, his mighty voice.
34 Ascribe power to God,
whose majesty is over Israel,
and whose power is in the skies.
35 Awesome is God from his sanctuary;
the God of Israel—he is the one who gives power and strength to his people.
Blessed be God!
I wonder, when we read Psalms like this, if we feel we are reading a story about an ancient people.
Is this distant to us in time and space?
A far away country.
A military spirit that does not seem fitting for Christians.
Beloved, this Psalm is for you and me.
Let’s look first at what the Psalm proclaims and then zoom out so that we might see how comforting this is to us.
The question I want to pose for you to meditate on throughout is this: “Do you need a Divine Warrior?”
The psalm begins in verses 1-3 with a prayer similar to when the ark of the covenant went ahead of God’s people in the desert wanderings.
The ark was the symbol of God’s presence and protection and served as the symbolic throne of the Divine Warrior.
It signified that God Himself was with His people and would fight for and protect them.
In God’s presence, no foe can stand.
The opposition to God is compared to smoke and to wax.
God manifested Himself in smoke and fire.
Even though this display of God was awesome, it does not fill the righteous with dread because He is mighty for them.
Verses 4-6 represents the praise of God’s people that He has vindicated them.
They are victorious because of him.
The community of God’s people comes together to celebrate the awesome acts of the Lord performed on their behalf.
This God is all that Israel needs.
This God cares for the outcast – the fatherless, the widow, the orphan, the downtrodden.
He is powerful to save and hears the cry of those without power.
Verses 7-18 intensifies the praises of God’s people toward God.
It’s the people of God coming together to boast of and celebrate the majesty of their Divine Warrior as they consider how He has been faithful and powerful to deliver them in every place.
They recall His faithfulness and power in the Exodus.
In the wilderness wanderings.
In His thundering at Sinai where He gave a Law to His people.
They praise Him for the conquest of Canaan and how His enemies fled before Him.
In all these cases, God plundered His enemies both in Egypt and in Canaan and gave gifts to His people to provide for them as their enemies fled before His might.
They praise Him for establishing a Kingdom in Jerusalem – Mount Zion.
Mount Bashan, the Golan heights, is a majestic mountain range.
To the eyes it is majestic and beautiful.
It was the place where the Canaanites – the enemies of God’s people – erected their worship.
It represented the height of man’s power.
The enemies of God looked with disdain on Jerusalem – little more than a hill.
But its majesty could not be seen by human eyes but only by those who belonged to Yahweh for He established His presence and Kingdom there.
In verses 19-20 the comfort of God’s people renews their praise.
He is the Lord who promises deliverance and victor. He comes with hosts of angels.
He sets in motion the history of redemption because our God is a God who saves.
In verses 21-23, the people celebrate as they believe the Lord will avenge not only the enemy of the past but all future enemies.
The Psalm uses graphic imagery to demonstrate how complete God’s victory will be.
Verses 24-27 become personal.
It shifts to the personal pronoun as each individual believer sees with eyes of faith the Lord coming back in victory.
He comes back in procession – in a parade of victory into the sanctuary for the worshiper to follow and thank Him personally for his deliverance.
In verses 28-31 the people pray that the Lord will continue to demonstrate his power and strength, even today, and that He would defeat His enemies.
It prays that all the nations of the earth will come to worship and pay homage to Him.
It ominously threatens those who will refuse to bow the knee.
Verses 32-35 conclude the Psalm with a hymn.
The kingdom of the Lord extends to all nations and the nations must one day submit to Him.
The Lord calls upon the nations to come to Him and acknowledge Him as Lord.
It’s a glorious Psalm.
What an awesome God, but…
This may still seem a bit distant so let’s look at how this Psalm is cited in the New Testament in Ephesians 4 and make some observations.
Ephesians 4:1–16 (ESV)
4 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it says,
“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men.”
9 (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Paul cites Psalm 68:18 and makes an application that is critical for us to see.
You see, as I was preparing to preach this Psalm I wracked my brain on how I might apply this truth to your life.
And then I started meditating on the grief and pain that sin and death cause us.
And I thought: “Oh how we need the Divine Warrior!”
You see, we often miss an important truth about whose side we’re on.
We often miss an important truth that we are, by nature, children of wrath.
We read of the people of God calling for the Divine Warrior to fight against His enemies and we never stop to ask whether we were ever against the Lord and we were on the wrong side of that Divine battle.
We tend to depersonalize sin and evil and death and the terrible things of this world.
We see the effects of the Fall all around us and then wonder why somebody else puts us through all these things.
We don’t really believe that we were caught up with Adam in that first rebellion, do we?
We see the effects of the Curse all around us and we think of other men as God’s enemies – the bad people.
They are God’s enemies.
We were never like them.
We forget that all of us sinned in Adam and became the enemies of the Divine Warrior.
You see, I want you to consider the majesty and wonder of what Psalm 68 is communicating through the eyes of Ephesians 4.
Psalm 68 is a cosmic celebration of Christ coming as the Divine Warrior.
Yes, beloved, a Warrior.
The exact kind of Warrior we need.
There we were, arrayed in the battle-gear of the enemy, arrayed against our Creator.
But He looked down with love and pity for us.
He came down from heaven and became Man for us.
Mankind, in slavery to sin and death, put the Son of God to death.
But the enemies of God did not realize this was precisely how God’s power would be magnified.
Even as He died, the Son of God put the power of sin and death on the Cross with Him.
O blessed exchange!
O wondrous grace!
We, who deserved wrath and death and judgment for our sin – He took it for us!
He rose again and we were brought from death to life.
You see, as Christ descended and ascended, He freed us from bondage.
We who were slaves to sin fought against Him.
But He lovingly took off the chains.
He clothed us in His righteousness to be on HIS side!
We who were once on the side of God’s enemies are now among the throng of those praising the Divine Warrior.
We call to the nations: “Look to Christ, to Whom all authority in heaven and earth belong!”
He made us into a body to be made one in unity by the gifts He has given us in Apostles and Prophets to give us the Word.
Pastors and teachers to lead us to the unity of the faith.
Christ perfecting His Bride by the gifts He has brought back from His victory.
We are no longer slaves to sin but alive in Christ and a Body being transformed by the Man Who is now on high fighting forever for those Whom He loves.
Paul reminds us, in 1 Cor 15, that the last enemy that Christ will destroy is death itself.
We’ve become too cozy with death in this culture.
We talk of death as passing on and give people no room to mourn or to express real grief.
Death is an enemy, beloved.
It is the consequence of the Curse.
We should hate it.
It should cause us to recoil because it is an enemy but we do not recoil in abject fear.
Because here where the Psalm gives hope.
Here is where our Divine Warrior, Christ Jesus comforts us.
He has already demonstrated, by His Resurrection, that we will rise again.
Three years ago I spoke at the funeral of my mother-in-law.
She was there for Sonya and me for the birth of our five children.
Within the year of Christian’s birth she had a stroke and died from cancer that ravaged her body.
O, how I hate death!
I hate it for what it has taken.
I hate it because it is our mortal enemy.
But then I remembered Jesus at the tomb of Lazarus.
He, like us, was acquainted with our frame.
He wept as He saw the devastation that death brought a family.
And then He went to the tomb.
He had compassion but He brought so much more.
After all, what good is a Savior Who can only show compassion?
We need Him to do something about this enemy!
Jesus stood before the tomb with rage at death.
And by the power of God He raised the dead to life.
That’s what we need, beloved.
We distract ourselves with many things in this life and then the death of a loved one reminds us that all is not right in the world.
It’s times like these that the power of Christ, our Divine Warrior comforts us.
We realize that He is not a bystander to our fears and to our grief.
He experienced the terrors of God’s wrath and was under the power of death for our sake.
But, beloved, death could not hold our Savior!
And because death was defeated by Christ we know it won’t have the last word.
And so I say to death: I hate you.
I hate you, enemy of God.
You take from us the things we most care about in life.
You have caused us to drench our pillow with tears.
Be on alert, though – enjoy my pain while you can.
Because my Divine Warrior has come and He will come again.
And you DON’T STAND A CHANCE!
O Death, where is your victory?
O Death, where is your sting?!
Fear not, Christ is on our side.
Let us Pray.