VERSE OF THE DAY
Psalm 68:4-5 (New Living Translation)
Sing praises to God and to his name! Sing loud praises to him who rides the clouds. His name is the Lord— rejoice in his presence! Father to the fatherless, defender of widows— this is God, whose dwelling is holy.
Sing in joyful praise to the name of God loud jubilee and praise his name. For he rides in the clouds his name is to be honored in praise his name is The Lord rejoice in his presence. Lord is father to the fatherless, defender of widows for he is God who dwelling is holy in his presence
Sing to God, sing praise to his name, extol him who rides on the clouds — his name is the Lord — and rejoice before him. A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.
Related Topics: God, Name, Lord, Praise, Holy, Rejoice, Heaven, Worship, All Topics…
Thoughts on Today’s Verse…
I can’t help but think of what James, Jesus’ brother said: “Pure religion, undefiled before God the Father is this: keep oneself undefiled and care for orphans and widows in their distress.” Jesus showed clearly this was the Father’s heart in his ministry. Now it is up to us to continue it!
Father, may my life, my compassion and my ministry reflect your heart for those who need care and protection and love. Give me eyes to see this need more clearly and a heart to responded more certainly so that your love may be demonstrated through me. In the precious name of Jesus I pray. Amen.
The Thoughts and Prayer on Today’s Verse are written by Phil Ware. You can email questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Psalm 68 – The Victorious Procession of God to Zion
The title of this psalm is To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David. A Song. Most commentators believe this psalm is connected with the coming of the ark of the covenant into Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6), celebrating not only that event, but also the faithfulness of God to give Israel victory over her enemies, and to make Jerusalem secure enough to bring the ark into the city.
George Horne described how this psalm was assigned to Pentecost in the Anglican liturgy, no doubt because it describes gifts given upon ascension and is quoted in Ephesians 4. “This beautiful, sublime, and comprehensive, but very difficult Psalm, is one of those which the church has appointed to be used on Whitsunday.”
The composition of this psalm makes it a challenge for commentators, both from the Hebrew and in translation. Adam Clarke wrote, “I know not how to undertake a comment on this psalm: it is the most difficult in the whole Psalter.”
A. The God of triumph.
1. (1-3) God triumphs over His enemies.
Let God arise,
Let His enemies be scattered;
Let those also who hate Him flee before Him.
As smoke is driven away,
So drive them away;
As wax melts before the fire,
So let the wicked perish at the presence of God.
But let the righteous be glad;
Let them rejoice before God;
Yes, let them rejoice exceedingly.
a. Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered: Using the phrasing of Numbers 10:35, David proclaimed the triumph of God over all His enemies. When God goes forth, no opponent can stand against Him. They are all scattered. Since Moses said those words when the ark of the covenant led Israel from Mount Sinai, David knew it was appropriate to say the same words as the ark came to Jerusalem, its resting place.
i. As David brought the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6), he made a dramatic historical connection. To relate it to American history, it would be like a modern American President beginning a speech with the phrase, Four score and seven years ago – which would immediately be recognized as the first few words of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, originally spoken in 1863.
ii. Numbers 10 describes the departure of Israel from Mount Sinai toward the Promised Land. As they marched, the ark of the covenant led the way. So it was, whenever the ark set out, that Moses said: “Rise up, O LORD! Let Your enemies be scattered, and let those who hate You flee before You.” (Numbers 10:35)
iii. The idea was simple, both with Moses in the exodus and David with Israel in the land. It expressed the confidence and the need of God’s people: “God, go before us and take care of our enemies. It’s too dangerous ahead without You.” This spirit of confident dependence is appropriate for every believer.
iv. This is also a fitting prayer by which to remember the glory and strength of the resurrected Jesus. When Jesus rose up, all His enemies scattered. None dared oppose Him. If we are set in Jesus, they scatter before us also because all our victory is found in His resurrected glory.
v. Let those also who hate Him flee before Him: “Athanasius telleth us that evil spirits may be put to flight by the psalm; and that Antony, the hermit, fought against the devil with this verse, and worsted him.” (Trapp)
b. As smoke is driven away, so drive them away: God’s enemies have no ability to stand against Him, shown by the images of vanishing smoke and melting wax. David prayed that the wicked would perish just as easily.
i. “Wax is hard by itself, but put it to the fire, how soft it is. Wicked men are haughty till they come into contact with the Lord, and then they faint for fear; their hearts melt like wax when they feel the power of his anger.” (Spurgeon)
ii. Ephesians 6:10-18 is the great New Testament passage on spiritual conflict and how God equips the believer for success in that conflict. A repeated theme in that passage is the idea of standing against spiritual attack and opposition (that you may be able to stand…that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand…stand therefore). What David described here with vanishing smoke and melting wax is the exact opposite of standing in the sense Ephesians 6 meant it.
c. But let the righteous be glad: What is disaster and calamity for the wicked is gladness and extra rejoicing for the righteous. We can’t help but be glad in God’s victory.
2. (4-6) Singing praise to the God of triumph.
Sing to God, sing praises to His name;
Extol Him who rides on the clouds,
By His name YAH,
And rejoice before Him.
A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows,
Is God in His holy habitation.
God sets the solitary in families;
He brings out those who are bound into prosperity;
But the rebellious dwell in a dry land.
a. Sing to God, sing praises to His name: There is an aspect of this that is the simple repetition and parallelism of Hebrew poetry. Yet there is a slightly more developed thought in the phrase sing praises to His name, having the idea of praising God with knowledge of His character, and knowing Him personally.
b. Extol Him who rides on the clouds, by His name YAH, and rejoice before Him: David gave us two specific reasons to rejoice in God. He rides on the clouds, in victory and triumph over all the earth. Also, He has revealed Himself to humanity in the name Yahweh, showing His love and loyalty to His people.
i. Extol Him: “The root s-l-l [extol] usually denotes the act of constructing a road or highway (cf. Isaiah 57:14; 62:10), but is used here metaphorically with the sense of ‘lift up’ or ‘extol.’” (VanGemeren)
ii. Who rides on the clouds: “By the ascription ‘who rides on the clouds,’ the psalmist contrasts the all-sufficiency of the God of Israel with the powers of Baal whom the Canaanites worshipped as ‘the Rider on the clouds.’” (VanGemeren)
iii. “The name JAH [YAH] is an abbreviation of the name Jehovah; it is not a diminution of that name, but an intensified word, containing in it the essence of the longer, august title. It only occurs here in our version of Scripture, except in connection with other words such as Hallelujah.” (Spurgeon)
iv. “Yah, probably a contraction of the word Yehovah; at least so the ancient versions understood it. It is used but in a few places in the sacred writings. It might be translated The Self-existent.” (Clarke)
c. A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows: God’s greatness isn’t only defined by military-like triumphs. It is also seen in His compassionate concern and care for the weak and needy. The name Yahweh is connected to God as the Becoming One (Exodus 3:13-14), the God who becomes what His people need. The fatherless need a father; Yahweh is there. The widows need a defender; God is there.
i. “He is the God who acts on behalf of those who look for protection and vindication: the fatherless, the widows, the lonely (NEB [New English Bible], ‘the friendless’), and the exiles (‘prisoners’) [those who are bound].” (VanGemeren)
ii. “The kings and other rulers of this world do not act like this. They surround themselves with the noblest and richest of their lands, those who can enhance their glory and strengthen their power. The highest glory of God is that he cares for the miserable and surrounds himself with them.” (Boice)
iii. “Does not James 1:27, refer to this verse, for we have ‘the fatherless,’ ‘the widow,’ and then the ‘holiness,’ of the God we serve?” (Bonar, cited in Spurgeon)
d. God sets the solitary in families: God sees those who live without a close family connection and cares to provide them with families. They may be without husband or wife, without father or mother, or without brother or sister nearby; God cares and has family connections among His people for the solitary.
i. Since this is God’s will for the solitary, they should look for and cultivate such relationships.
e. He brings out those who are bound into prosperity; but the rebellious dwell in a dry land: God can help even those who in their poverty have been subjected to some kind of bondage or servitude; God can bring them into prosperity. This is not a promised blessing for the rebellious.
i. “The most oppressed in Egypt were chained and imprisoned, but the divine Emancipator brought them all forth into perfect liberty. He who did this of old continues his gracious work.” (Spurgeon)
B. God wins the battle for His people.
1. (7-10) The mighty presence of God with Israel in the wilderness.
O God, when You went out before Your people,
When You marched through the wilderness, Selah
The earth shook;
The heavens also dropped rain at the presence of God;
Sinai itself was moved at the presence of God, the God of Israel.
You, O God, sent a plentiful rain,
Whereby You confirmed Your inheritance,
When it was weary.
Your congregation dwelt in it;
You, O God, provided from Your goodness for the poor.
a. O God, when You went out before Your people: Having introduced the idea in the first line of the psalm, David continued his thoughts on God’s presence with and care for Israel through the wilderness on the way to Canaan. You went out before Your people emphasizes the idea that God was with Israel; He did not abandon them despite the many ways they provoked Him.
i. Marched through the wilderness: “We may speak, if we will, of the ‘wanderings of the children of Israel,’ but we must not think them purposeless strayings; they were in reality a well-arranged and well considered march.” (Spurgeon)
b. The earth shook: As God was with Israel in the wilderness, they were protected. His might was on their side. No other nation could defeat them when they walked with God.
c. The heavens also dropped rain at the presence of God: As God was with Israel in the wilderness they were provided for. They would never suffer hunger or thirst as they walked in God’s presence.
i. As part of that provision, God sent them a plentiful rain in a needy time. This care for them was a way God confirmed the special place Israel had in His heart and plan. They were His inheritance.
ii. “Send a plentiful rain; either, 1. In the wilderness, where they oft wanted water, and were by God’s extraordinary care supplied with it. Or rather, 2. In the land of Canaan, which he calls God’s inheritance in the next words.” (Poole)
d. Sinai itself was moved at the presence of God: As God was with Israel in the wilderness, they experienced the revelation of His power and glory. Mighty mountains shook at the very presence of God.
i. “Verse 8 quotes the allusion to Sinai from the Song of Deborah, Judges 5:4f.” (Kidner)
2. (11-14) Proclaiming God’s victory over the kings.
The Lord gave the word;
Great was the company of those who proclaimed it:
“Kings of armies flee, they flee,
And she who remains at home divides the spoil.
Though you lie down among the sheepfolds,
You will be like the wings of a dove covered with silver,
And her feathers with yellow gold.”
When the Almighty scattered kings in it,
It was white as snow in Zalmon.
a. Kings of armies flee, they flee, and she who remains at home divides the spoil: This was the word of victory that God gave, the word of triumph that was proclaimed by a great company of people. The message was that God has won a great victory over mighty enemies (kings), and His people, even His weak people, benefited even though they did not directly fight (she who remains at home divides the spoil).
i. This is the message of the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ. God won a great victory through the Person and work of Jesus Christ, and His people gain everything through that victory in a battle they did not directly fight. This is the message that we as a great company are to proclaim.
ii. “The words in the original are very significant, and do note two things. First, the word which you read ‘company,’ in the Hebrew it is ‘army…great was the army of preachers.’ An army of preachers is a great matter; nay, it is a great matter to have seven or eight good preachers in a great army; but to have a whole army of preachers that is glorious.” (Bridge, cited in Spurgeon)
iii. Great was the company: “The Hebrew word is of the feminine gender, because it was the manner of the Hebrews, that when the men returned victorious from the battle, the women went out to meet them with songs of triumph.” (Poole)
iv. The text tells us a great…company of women proclaimed the good news of God’s victory. It is significant that God chose women to be the first messengers of the good news of the victory of Jesus’ resurrection (Matthew 28:1-10, Luke 24:1-10). The New Testament says that women should not be in positions of doctrinal authority (1 Timothy 2:9-14), but they certainly can and should proclaim the good news of God’s victory in Jesus Christ.
v. She who remains at home divides the spoil: “Thus, in the spiritual war, apostles, confessors, and martyrs went out to the battle, fought and conquered…the benefits of victory extended to thousands and millions, who, without being exposed to their conflicts and torments, have enjoyed the fruit of their labours.” (Horne)
b. You will be like the wings of a dove covered with silver: The people of God come from humble circumstances (they lie down among the sheepfolds), but they share in God’s great victory over their enemies and are graced with great blessings and gifts.
i. “The wings of a dove, flashing silver and gold, have been taken to refer to Israel basking in prosperity (Delitzsch), to the enemy in flight (Briggs), to the glory of the Lord manifested at the battle (Weiser), or even to a particular trophy seized from the enemy (cf. New English Bible); but could it not depict the women of Psalm 68:12b preening themselves in their new finery, peacocking around, as we might have put it?” (Kidner)
c. It was white as snow in Zalmon: Zalmon is another name for Mount Ebal in central Israel, which many would consider more of a high hill than an actual mountain. The meaning of this line is not entirely clear and has been the source of much speculation.
i. “According to Judges 9:48, Zalmon (‘the Dark One’) is one of the mountains by Shechem.” (VanGemeren)
ii. “Whether the rout of kings there was caused by a blizzard, or whether the battlefield was ‘snowed’ with weapons and garments (or, later, with bones), or the fleeing armies compared to snowflakes, we cannot tell.” (Kidner)
iii. “Others take the point of comparison to be the change from trouble to joy which follows the foe’s defeat, and is likened to the change of the dark hillside to a gleaming snow field.” (Maclaren)
3. (15-18) Victory on the mountains.
A mountain of God is the mountain of Bashan;
A mountain of many peaks is the mountain of Bashan.
Why do you fume with envy, you mountains of many peaks?
This is the mountain which God desires to dwell in;
Yes, the LORD will dwell in it forever.
The chariots of God are twenty thousand,
Even thousands of thousands;
The Lord is among them as in Sinai, in the Holy Place.
You have ascended on high,
You have led captivity captive;
You have received gifts among men,
Even from the rebellious,
That the LORD God might dwell there.
a. A mountain of God is the mountain of Bashan: Bashan was farther north in Israel, in the region of what today is called the Golan Heights. Bashan was an impressive mountain, even a mountain of God and part of Israel’s heritage. Yet it and the other mountains seem to fume with envy when they see how God has favored Zion.
i. “In comparison with these, Mount Zion was the merest hill: yet Zion, as if to their baleful envy, was God’s choice.” (Kidner)
b. This is the mountain which God desires to dwell in: God chose Jerusalem even though there were higher and more spectacular mountains. Yet as He often chooses the weak to confound the strong and the foolish to mystify the wise, He chose Zion over Bashan.
i. “This low, little, barren hill of Zion; and God’s election maketh the difference, as it did of Aaron’s rod from the rest, and doth still of the church from the rest of the world. The Lamb Christ is on Mount Zion.” (Trapp)
c. The chariots of God are twenty thousands: By God’s command (Deuteronomy 17:16), ancient Israel never had many chariots. They were still protected because God fought for Israel and He had power greater than thousands of thousands of chariots.
i. “The presence of God is the strength of the church; all power is ours when God is ours. Twenty thousand chariots shall bear the gospel to the ends of the earth; and myriads of agencies shall work for its success.” (Spurgeon)
d. You have ascended on high, You have led captivity captive: David had in mind God’s victory over the people and what happened after the battle was over. After the battle was over, God dealt with His enemies (led captivity captive) and He received gifts of tribute and submission from them. This was an even greater confirmation of God’s ownership of the land (that the LORD God might dwell there).
i. “The expression is emphatical. He has conquered and triumphed over all the powers which held us in captivity, so that captivity itself is taken captive.” (Newton, cited in Spurgeon)
ii. With the direct leading of the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Paul quoted Psalm 68:18 and applied it to Jesus, keeping the context but changing one key word. Paul quoted, When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men (Ephesians 4:8). Paul applied this to the ascension of Jesus into heaven and His sending of the power and the gifts of the Holy Spirit to His Church. The one word Paul changed by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit was received gifts to gave gifts.
C. Praise to the God who wins the battle for His people.
1. (19-23) God’s rescue in battle and victory over the enemy.
Blessed be the Lord,
Who daily loads us with benefits,
The God of our salvation! Selah
Our God is the God of salvation;
And to GOD the Lord belong escapes from death.
But God will wound the head of His enemies,
The hairy scalp of the one who still goes on in his trespasses.
The Lord said, “I will bring back from Bashan,
I will bring them back from the depths of the sea,
That your foot may crush them in blood,
And the tongues of your dogs may have their portion from your enemies.”
a. Blessed be the Lord, who daily loads us with benefits: It is undeniably true that God daily gives benefits to His people. Yet many think the sense of this verse is more accurately translated, Blessed be the Lord, who daily beareth our burden (Revised Standard Version).
b. Our God is the God of salvation; and to GOD the Lord belong escapes from death: This psalm speaks much of the ark coming to Jerusalem, but that only happened after David defeated Israel’s surrounding enemies. David thought of how God rescued him in those conflicts. In doing so He used the somewhat uncommon but wonderful phrasing of Yahweh Adonai (GOD the Lord).
c. God will wound the head of His enemies: In describing God’s victory, David used 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 foot may crush them in blood).
i. “The hairy scalp, i.e. his most fierce and terrible enemies. For in ancient times many people used to wear long and shaggy hair, that their looks might be more terrible to their enemies.” (Poole)
2. (24-27) The procession of the ark.
They have seen Your procession, O God,
The procession of my God, my King, into the sanctuary.
The singers went before, the players on instruments followed after;
Among them were the maidens playing timbrels.
Bless God in the congregations,
The Lord, from the fountain of Israel.
There is little Benjamin, their leader,
The princes of Judah and their company,
The princes of Zebulun and the princes of Naphtali.
a. The procession of my God, my King, into the sanctuary: After the great triumph over their enemies, David and Israel could bring the ark of the covenant into Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6). This was not David’s parade, but Your procession, O God. Honor went to Him.
i. “As the ark, the throne of the invisible God, leads the procession up to its resting place, its progress is a victory march completing the exodus.” (Kidner)
ii. From the fountain of Israel: “Reuchlin was wont to say, that the Latins drank out of cisterns, the Greeks out of ponds, but the Hebrews out of the fountain itself.” (Trapp)
b. There is little Benjamin, their leader: In the procession of the ark, the small tribe of Benjamin had a prominent role. This showed wonderful grace on David’s part because his predecessor King Saul was from the tribe of Benjamin, and many kings of David’s day would refuse to give them any honor at all.
i. “Little Benjamin. That tribe is called little, partly because it was the youngest, as being descended from Jacob’s youngest son Benjamin; and principally because it was exceedingly diminished, and almost extinguished, under the judges.” (Poole)
ii. “The fact that there are only four tribes may be explained by the principle of poetic selectivity.” (VanGemeren)
3. (28-31) Confidence for future victories.
Your God has commanded your strength;
Strengthen, O God, what You have done for us.
Because of Your temple at Jerusalem,
Kings will bring presents to You.
Rebuke the beasts of the reeds,
The herd of bulls with the calves of the peoples,
Till everyone submits himself with pieces of silver.
Scatter the peoples who delight in war.
Envoys will come out of Egypt;
Ethiopia will quickly stretch out her hands to God.
a. Strengthen, O God, what You have done for us: David was grateful for the wonderful victory but also knew that many challenges were still ahead. He prayed that God would pour strength into the victory of the past, using it as a foundation for what He would do in the future.
b. Because of Your temple at Jerusalem, kings will bring presents to You: David was confident that in the end, God and His covenant people would survive and thrive despite their enemies among the nations. In the end others would come in tribute to Israel, not the other way around.
i. Ultimately, this speaks of “A time still in the future when Jesus will actually reign on earth, the millennium, though there is certainly a kind of fulfillment now through Christians’ obedience to the Great Commission and the resulting advance of worldwide Christianity.” (Boice)
c. Rebuke the beasts of the reeds: Since reeds were often associated with the Nile River, David prayed that God would keep them safe against the Egyptians and Ethiopians. He asked God to do that until they, like all the nations, come in submitted tribute to Jerusalem (till everyone submits himself with pieces of silver…envoys will come out of Egypt).
i. “The ‘beast’ and the ‘bulls’ denote the oppressors, troublers, and seducers of the nations. They must come to an end, as the nations that have loved warfare and tribute will be ‘humbled’ and despoiled.” (VanGemeren)
ii. “Egypt, Ethiopia: he names only these, as the great and ancient enemies of God, and of his people, and as a most wicked, and idolatrous, and incorrigible sort of men; see Jeremiah 13:23, Amos 9:7; but by them he synecdochically understands all other nations and people of the like character.” (Poole)
iii. “Old foes shall be new friends. Solomon shall find a spouse in Pharaoh’s house. Christ shall gather a people from the realms of sin. Great sinners shall yield themselves to the sceptre of grace, and great men shall become good men, by coming to God.” (Spurgeon)
4. (32-35) All the kingdoms of the earth praise the God of Israel.
Sing to God, you kingdoms of the earth;
Oh, sing praises to the Lord, Selah
To Him who rides on the heaven of heavens, which were of old!
Indeed, He sends out His voice, a mighty voice.
Ascribe strength to God;
His excellence is over Israel,
And His strength is in the clouds.
O God, You are more awesome than Your holy places.
The God of Israel is He who gives strength and power to His people.
Blessed be God!
a. Sing to God, you kingdoms of the earth: Knowing the ultimate victory of God, David invited the nations to worship Him now. It was far better for them to do it now out of a willing, surrendered heart than to do it later as conquered enemies of God.
i. “We have too much sinning against God, but cannot have too much singing to God.” (Spurgeon)
ii. The heaven of heavens, which were of old: “This Hebrew word [of old] answers to olam, which looks not only backward to time past; but forward to the future.” (Poole)
b. Ascribe strength to God; His excellence over Israel: The nations would only benefit from recognizing and surrendering to God’s strength and noting His rule over Israel.
c. O God, You are more awesome than Your holy places: David thought of the land of Israel as God’s holy place, belonging to Him in a special way. Yet David had the sophistication to understand that God was greater than any holy place, whether it be land, a mountain, or a temple.
d. The God of Israel is He who gives strength and power to His people: The God who is actively involved in the life and victory of His people is worthy of praise.
i. This psalm has been much loved by generals and soldiers: “To the Crusaders, setting out for the recovery of the Holy Land; to Savonarola and his monks, as they marched to the ‘Trial of Fire’ in the Piazza at Florence; to the Huguenots, who called it ‘The song of battles’; to Cromwell, at Dunbar, as the sun rose on the mists of the morning and he charged Leslie’s army.” (Kirkpatrick, cited in Morgan)
ii. Whatever victory they may have won and inspiration they received from this psalm, their victories did not last. The lasting victory still waits for the Messiah’s great kingdom.
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – email@example.com
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Matthew Henry :: Commentary on Psalms 68
This is a most excellent psalm, but in many places the genuine sense is not easy to come at; for in this, as in some other scriptures, there are things dark and hard to be understood. It does not appear when, or upon what occasion, David penned this psalm; but probably it was when, God having given him rest from all his enemies round about, he brought the ark (which was both the token of God’s presence and a type of Christ’s mediation) from the house of Obed-edom to the tent he had pitched for it in Zion; for the first words are the prayer which Moses used at the removing of the ark, Num. 10:35. From this he is led, by the Spirit of prophecy, to speak glorious things concerning the Messiah, his ascension into heaven, and the setting up of his kingdom in the world.
• I. He begins with prayer, both against God’s enemies (v. 1, 2) and for his people (v. 3).
• II. He proceeds to praise, which takes up the rest of the psalm, calling upon all to praise God (v. 4, 26, 32) and suggesting many things as matter for praise.
• 1. The greatness and goodness of God (v. 4-6).
• 2. The wonderful works God had wrought for his people formerly, bringing them through the wilderness (v. 7, 8), settling them in Canaan (v. 9, 10), giving them victory over their enemies (v. 11, 12), and delivering them out of the hands of their oppressors (v. 13, 14).
• 3. The special presence of God in his church (v. 15-17).
• 4. The ascension of Christ (v. 18) and the salvation of his people by him (v. 19, 20).
• 5. The victories which Christ would obtain over his enemies, and the favours he would bestow upon his church (v. 21-28).
• 6. The enlargement of the church by the accession of the Gentiles to it (v. 29-31). And so he concludes the psalm with an awful acknowledgment of the glory and grace of God (v. 32-35).
With all these great things we should endeavour to be duly affected in singing this psalm.
To the chief musician. A psalm or song of David.
In these verses,
• I. David prays that God would appear in his glory,
• 1. For the confusion of his enemies (v. 1, 2): “Let God arise, as a judge to pass sentence upon them, as a general to take the field and do execution upon them; and let them be scattered, and flee before him, as unable to keep their ground, much less to make head against him. Let God arise, as the sun when he goes forth in his strength; and the children of darkness shall be scattered, as the shadows of the evening flee before the rising sun. Let them be driven away as smoke by the wind, which ascends as if it would eclipse the sun, but is presently dispelled, and there appears to remainder of it. Let them melt as wax before the fire, which is quickly dissolved.” Thus does David comment upon Moses’s prayer, and not only repeat it with application to himself and his own times, but enlarge upon it, to direct us how to make use of scripture-prayers. Nay, it looks further, to the Redeemer’s victory over the enemies of this kingdom, for he was the angel of the covenant, that guided Israel through the wilderness. Note,
• (1.) There are, and have been, and ever will be, such as are enemies to God and hate him, that join in with the old serpent against the kingdom of God among men and against the seed of the woman.
• (2.) They are the wicked, and none but the wicked, that are enemies to God, the children of the wicked one.
• (3.) Though we are to pray for our enemies as such, yet we are to pray against God’s enemies as such, against their enmity to him and all their attempts upon his kingdom.
• (4.) If God but arise, all his impenitent and implacable enemies, that will not repent to give him glory, will certainly and speedily be scattered, and driven away, and made to perish at his presence; for none ever hardened his heart against God and prospered. The day of judgment will be the day of the complete and final perdition of ungodly men (2 Pt. 3:7), who shall melt like wax before that flaming fire in which the Lord shall then appear, 2 Th. 1:8.
• 2. For the comfort and joy of his own people (v. 3): “Let the righteous be glad, that are now in sorrow; let them rejoice before God in his favourable presence. God is the joy of his people; let them rejoice whenever they come before God, yea, let them exceedingly rejoice, let them rejoice with gladness.” Note, Those who rejoice in God have reason to rejoice with exceeding joy; and this joy we ought to wish to all the saints, for it belongs to them. Light is sown for the righteous.
• II. He praises God for his glorious appearances, and calls upon us to praise him, to sing to his name, and extol him,
• 1. As a great God, infinitely great (v. 4): He rides upon the heavens, by his name JAH. He is the spring of all the motions of the heavenly bodies, directs and manages them, as he that rides in the chariot sets it a-going, has a supreme command of the influences of heaven; he rides upon the heavens for the help of his people (Deu. 33:26), so swiftly, so strongly, and so much above the reach of opposition. He rules these by his name Jah, or Jehovah, a self-existent self-sufficient being; the fountain of all being, power, motion, and perfection; this is his name for ever. When we thus extol God we must rejoice before him. Holy joy in God will very well consist with that reverence and godly fear wherewith we ought to worship him.
• 2. As a gracious God, a God of mercy and tender compassion. He is great, but he despises not any, no, not the meanest; nay, being a God of great power, he uses his power for the relief of those that are distressed, v. 5, 6. The fatherless, the widows, the solitary, find him a God all-sufficient to them. Observe how much God’s goodness is his glory. He that rides on the heavens by his name Jah, one would think should immediately have been adored as King of kings and Lord of lords, and the sovereign director of all the affairs of states and nations; he is so, but this he rather glories in, that he is a Father of the fatherless. Though God be high, yet has he respect unto the lowly. Happy are those that have an interest in such a God as this. He that rides upon the heavens is a Father worth having; thrice happy are the people whose God is the Lord.
• (1.) When families are bereaved of their head God takes care of them, and is himself their head; and the widows and the fatherless children shall find that in him which they have lost in the relation that is removed, and infinitely more and better. He is a Father of the fatherless, to pity them, to bless them, to teach them, to provide for them, to portion them. He will preserve them alive (Jer. 49:11), and with him they shall find mercy, Hos. 14:3. They have liberty to call him Father, and to plead their relation to him as their guardian, Ps. 146:9; 10:14, 18. He is a judge or patron of the widows, to give them counsel and to redress their grievances, to own them and plead their cause, Prov. 22:23. He has an ear open to all their complaints and a hand open to all their wants. He is so in his holy habitation, which may be understood either of the habitation of his glory in heaven (there he has prepared his throne of judgment, which the fatherless and widow have free recourse to, and are taken under the protection of, Ps. 9:4, 7), or of the habitation of his grace on earth; and so it is a direction to the widows and fatherless how to apply to God; let them go to his holy habitation, to his word and ordinances; there they may find him and find comfort in him.
• (2.) When families are to be built up he is the founder of them: God sets the solitary in families, brings those into comfortable relations that were lonely, gives those a convenient settlement that were unsettled (Ps. 113:9); he makes those dwell at home that were forced to seek for relief abroad (so Dr. Hammond), putting those that were destitute into a way of getting their livelihood, which is a very good way for man’s charity, as it is of God’s bounty.
• 3. As a righteous God,
• (1.) In relieving the oppressed. He brings out those that are bound with chains, and sets those at liberty who were unjustly imprisoned and brought into servitude. No chains can detain those whom God will make free.
• (2.) In reckoning with the oppressors: The rebellious dwell in a dry land and have no comfort in that which they have got by fraud and injury. The best land will be a dry land to those that by their rebellion have forfeited the blessing of God, which is the juice and fatness of all our enjoyments. The Israelites were brought out of Egypt into the wilderness, but were there better provided for than the Egyptians themselves, whose land, if Nilus failed them, as it sometimes did, was a dry land.
The psalmist here, having occasion to give God thanks for the great things he had done for him and his people of late, takes occasion thence to praise him for what he had done for their fathers in the days of old. Fresh mercies should put us in mind of former mercies and revive our grateful sense of them. Let it never be forgotten,
• I. That God himself was the guide of Israel through the wilderness; when he had brought them out of their chains he did not leave them in the dry land, but he himself went before them in a march through the wilderness, v. 7. It was not a journey, but a march, for they went as soldiers, as an army with banners. The Egyptians promised themselves that the wilderness had shut them in, but they were deceived; God’s Israel, having him for their leader, marched through the wilderness and were not lost in it. Note, If God bring his people into a wilderness, he will be sure to go before them in it and bring them out of it. Cant. 8:5.
• II. That he manifested his glorious presence with them at Mount Sinai, v. 8. Never did any people see the glory of God, nor hear his voice, as Israel did, Deu. 4:32, 33. Never had any people such an excellent law given them, so expounded, so enforced. Then the earth shook, and the neighbouring countries, it is likely, felt the shock; terrible thunders there were, accompanied no doubt with thunder-showers, in which the heavens seemed to drop; while the divine doctrine dropped as the rain, Deu. 32:2. Sinai itself, that vast mountain, that long ridge of mountains, was moved at the presence of God; see Jdg. 5:4, 5; Deu. 33:2; Hab. 3:3. This terrible appearance of the Divine Majesty, as it would possess them with a fear and dread of him, so it would encourage their faith in him and dependence upon him. Whatever mountains of difficulty lay in the way of their happy settlement, he that could move Sinai itself could remove them, could get over them.
• III. That he provided very comfortably for them both in the wilderness and in Canaan (v. 9, 10): Thou didst send a plentiful rain and hast prepared of thy goodness for the poor. This may refer,
• 1. To the victualling of their camp with manna in the wilderness, which was rained upon them, as were also the quails (Ps. 78:24, 27), and it might be fitly called a rain of liberality or munificence, for it was a memorable instance of the divine bounty. This confirmed the camp of Israel (here called God’s inheritance, because he had chosen them to be a peculiar treasure to himself) when it was weary and ready to perish: this confirmed their faith, and was a standing proof of God’s power and goodness. Even in the wilderness God found a comfortable dwelling for Israel, which was his congregation. Or,
• 2. To the seasonable supplies granted them in Canaan, that land flowing with mild and honey, which is said to drink water of the rain of heaven, Deu. 11:11. When sometimes that fruitful land was ready to be turned into barrenness, for the iniquity of those that dwelt therein, God, in judgment, remembered mercy, and sent them a plentiful rain, which refreshed it again, so that the congregation of Israel dwelt therein, and there was provision enough, even to satisfy their poor with bread. This looks further to the spiritual provision made for God’s Israel; the Spirit of grace and the gospel of grace are the plentiful rain with which God confirms his inheritance, and from which their fruit is found, Isa. 45:8. Christ himself is this rain, Ps. 72:6. He shall come as showers that water the earth.
• IV. That he often gave them victory over their enemies; armies, and kings of armies, appeared against them, from their first coming into Canaan, and all along in the times of the judges, till David’s days, but, first or last, they gained their point against them, v. 11, 12, 14. Observe here,
• 1. That God was their commander-in-chief: The Lord gave the word, as general of their armies. He raised up judges for them, gave them their commissions and instructions, and assured them of success. God spoke in his holiness, and then Gilead is mine.
• 2. That they had prophets, as God’s messengers, to make known his mind to them. God gave them his word (the word of the Lord came unto them) and then great was the company of the preachers-prophets and prophetesses, for the word is feminine. When God has messages to send he will not want messengers. Or perhaps it may allude to the women’s joining in the triumph when the victory was obtained, as was usual (Ex. 15:20, 1 Sa. 18:7), in which they took notice of the word of God, triumphing in that as much as in his works.
• 3. That their enemies were defeated, and put to confusion: Kings of armies did flee, did flee with the greatest terror and precipitation imaginable, did not fight and flee, but flee and flee, retired without striking a stroke; they fled apace, fled and never rallied again.
• 4. That they were enriched with the plunder of the field: She that tarried at home divided the spoil. Not only the men, the soldiers that abode by the stuff, who were, by a statute of distributions, to share the prey (1 Sa. 30:24), but even the women that tarried at home had a share, which intimates the abundance of spoil that should be taken.
• 5. That these great things which God did for them were sanctified to them and contributed to their reformation (v. 14): When the Almighty scattered kings for her (for the church) she was white as snow in Salmon, purified and refined by the mercies of God; when the host went forth against the enemy they kept themselves from every wicked thing, and so the host returned victorious, and Israel by the victory were confirmed in their purity and piety. This account of Israel’s victories is applicable to the victories obtained by the exalted Redeemer for those that are his, over death and hell. By the resurrection of Christ our spiritual enemies were made to flee, their power was broken, and they were for ever disabled to hurt any of God’s people. This victory was first notified by the women (the she-publishers) to the disciples (Mt. 28:7) and by them it was preached to all the world, while believers that tarry at home, that did not themselves contribute any thing towards it, enjoy the benefit of it, and divide the spoil.
• V. That from a low and despised condition they had been advanced to splendour and prosperity. When they were bond-slaves in Egypt, and afterwards when they were oppressed sometimes by one potent neighbour and sometimes by another, they did, as it were, lie among the pots or rubbish, as despised broken vessels, or as vessels in which there was no pleasure-they were black, and dirty, and discoloured. But God, at length, delivered them from the pots (Ps. 81:6), and in David’s time they were in a fair way to be one of the most prosperous kingdoms in the world, amiable in the eyes of all about them, like the wings of a dove covered with silver, v. 13. “And so,” says Dr. Hammond, “under Christ’s kingdom, the heathen idolaters that were brought to the basest and most despicable condition of any creatures, worshipping wood and stone, and given up to the vilest lusts, should from that detestable condition be advanced to the service of Christ, and the practice of all Christian virtues, the greatest inward beauties in the world.” It may be applied also to the deliverance of the church out of a suffering state and the comforts of particular believers after their despondencies.
David, having given God praise for what he had done for Israel in general, as the God of Israel (v. 8), here comes to give him praise as Zion’s God in a special manner; compare Ps. 9:11. Sing praises to the Lord who dwelleth in Zion, for which reason Zion is called the hill of God.
• I. He compares it with the hill of Bashan and other high and fruitful hills, and prefers it before them, v. 15, 16. It is true, Zion was but little and low in comparison with them, and was not covered over with flocks and herds as they were, yet, upon this account, it has the pre-eminence above them all, that it is the hill of God, the hill which he desires to dwell in, and where he chooses to manifest the tokens of his peculiar presence, Ps. 132:13, 14. Note, It is much more honourable to be holy to God than to be high and great in the world. “Why leap you, you high hills? Why do you insult over poor Zion, and boast of your own height? This is the hill which God has chosen, and therefore though you exceed it in bulk, and be first-rates, yet, because on this the royal flag is hoisted, you must all strike sail to it.” Zion was especially honourable because it was a type of the gospel church, which is therefore called Mount Zion (Heb. 12:22), and this is intimated here, when he said, The Lord will dwell in it for ever, which must have its accomplishment in the gospel Zion. There is no kingdom in the world comparable to the kingdom of the Redeemer, no city comparable to that which is incorporated by the gospel charter, for there God dwells and will dwell for ever.
• II. He compares it with Mount Sinai, of which he had spoken (v. 8), and shows that it has the Shechinah or divine presence in it as really, though not as sensibly, as Sinai itself had, v. 17. Angels are the chariots of God, his chariots of war, which he make use of against his enemies, his chariots of conveyance, which he sends for his friends, as he did for Elijah (and Lazarus is said to be carried by the angels), his chariots of state, in the midst of which he shows his glory and power. They are vastly numerous: Twenty thousands, even thousands multiplied. There is an innumerable company of angels in the heavenly Jerusalem, Heb. 12:22. The enemies David fought with had chariots (2 Sa. 8:4), but what were they, for number or strength, to the chariots of God? While David had these on his side he needed not to fear those that trusted in chariots and horses, Ps. 20:7. God appeared on Mount Sinai, attended with myriads of angels, by whose dispensation the law was given, Acts 7:53. He comes with ten thousands of saints, Deu. 33:2. And still in Zion God manifests his glory, and is really present, with a numerous retinue of his heavenly hosts, signified by the cherubim between which God is said to dwell. So that, as some read the last words of the verse, Sinai is in the sanctuary; that is, the sanctuary was to Israel instead of Mount Sinai, whence they received divine oracles. Our Lord Jesus has these chariots at command. When the first-begotten was brought into the world it was with this charge, Let all the angels of God worship him (Heb. 1:6); they attended him upon all occasions, and he is now among them, angels, principalities, and powers, being made subject to him, 1 Pt. 3:22. And it is intimated in the New Testament that the angels are present in the solemn religious assemblies of Christians, 1 Co. 11:10. Let the woman have a veil on her head because of the angels; and see Eph. 3:10.
• III. The glory of Mount Zion was the King whom God set on that holy hill (Ps. 2:6), who came to the daughter of Zion, Mt. 21:5. Of his ascension the psalmist here speaks, and to it his language is expressly applied (Eph. 4:8): Thou hast ascended on high (v. 18); compare Ps. 47:5, 6. Christ’s ascending on high is here spoken of as a thing past, so sure was it; and spoken of to his honour, so great was it. It may include his whole exalted state, but points especially at his ascension into heaven to the right hand of the Father, which was as much our advantage as his advancement. For,
• 1. He then triumphed over the gates of hell. He led captivity captive; that is, he led his captives in triumph, as great conquerors used to do, making a show of them openly, Col. 2:15. He led those captive who had led us captive, and who, if he had not interposed, would have held us captive for ever. Nay, he led captivity itself captive, having quite broken the power of sin and Satan. As he was the death of death, so he was the captivity of captivity, Hos. 13:14. This intimates the complete victory which Jesus Christ obtained over our spiritual enemies; it was such that through him we also are more than conquerors, that is, triumphers, Rom. 8:37.
• 2. He then opened the gates of heaven to all believers: Thou hast received gifts for men. He gave gifts to men, so the apostle reads it, Eph. 4:8. For he received that he might give; on his head the anointing of the Spirit was poured, that from him it might descend to the skirts of his garments. And he gave what he had received; having received power to give eternal life, he bestows it upon as many as were given him, Jn. 17:2. Thou hast received gifts for men, not for angels; fallen angels were not to be made saints, nor standing angels made gospel ministers, Heb. 2:5. Not for Jews only, but for all men; whoever will may reap the benefit of these gifts. The apostle tells us what these gifts were (Eph. 4:11), prophets, apostles, evangelists, pastors and teachers, the institution of a gospel ministry and the qualification of men for it, both which are to be valued as the gifts of heaven and the fruits of Christ’s ascension. Thou hast received gifts in man (so the margin), that is, in the human nature which Christ was pleased to clothe himself with, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God. In him, as Mediator, all fulness dwells, that from his fulness we might receive. To magnify the kindness and love of Christ to us in receiving these gifts for us, the psalmist observes,
• (1.) The forfeiture we had made of them. He received them for the rebellious also, for those that had been rebellious; so all the children of men had been in their fallen state. Perhaps it is especially meant of the Gentiles, that had been enemies in their minds by wicked works, Col. 1:21. For them these gifts are received, to them they are given, that they might lay down their arms, that their enmity might be slain, and that they might return to their allegiance. This magnifies the grace of Christ exceedingly that through him rebels are, upon their submission, not only pardoned, but preferred. They have commissions given them under Christ, which some say, in our law, amounts to the reversing of an attainder. Christ came to a rebellious world, not to condemn it, but that through him it might be saved.
• (2.) The favour designed us in them: He received gifts for the rebellious, that the Lord God might dwell among them, that he might set up a church in a rebellious world, in which he would dwell by his word and ordinances, as of old in the sanctuary, that he might set up his throne, and Christ might dwell in the hearts of particular persons that had been rebellious. The gracious intention of Christ’s undertaking was to rear up the tabernacle of God among men, that he might dwell with them and they might themselves be living temples to his praise, Eze. 37:27.
• IV. The glory of Zion’s King is that he is a Saviour and benefactor to all his willing people and a consuming fire to all those that persist in rebellion against him, v. 19-21. We have here good and evil, life and death, the blessing and the curse, set before us, like that (Mk. 16:16), He that believes shall be saved; he that believes not shall be damned.
• 1. Those that take God for their God, and so give up themselves to him to be his people, shall be loaded with his benefits, and to them he will be a God of salvation. If in sincerity we avouch God to be our God, and seek to him as such,
• (1.) He will continually do us good and furnish us with occasion for praise. Having mentioned the gifts Christ received for us (v. 18), fitly does he subjoin, in the next words, Blessed be the Lord; for it is owing to the mediation of Christ that we live, and live comfortably, and are daily loaded with benefits. So many, so weighty, are the gifts of God’s bounty to us that he may be truly said to load us with them; he pours out blessings till there is no room to receive them, Mal. 3:10. So constant are they, and so unwearied is he in doing us good, that he daily loads us with them, according as the necessity of every day requires.
• (2.) He will at length be unto us the God of salvation, of everlasting salvation, the salvation of God, which he will show to those that order their conversation aright (Ps. 50:23), the salvation of the soul. He that daily loads us with benefits will not put us off with present things for a portion, but will be the God of our salvation; and what he gives us now he gives as the God of salvation, pursuant to the great design of our salvation. He is our God, and therefore he will be the God of eternal salvation to us; for that only will answer the vast extent of his covenant-relation to us as our God. But has he power to complete this salvation? Yes, certainly; for unto God the Lord belong the issues from death. The keys of hell and death are put into the hand of the Lord Jesus, Rev. 1:18. He, having made an escape from death himself in his resurrection, has both authority and power to rescue those that are his from the dominion of death, by altering the property of it to them when they die and giving them a complete victory over it when they shall rise again; for the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. And to those that shall thus for ever escape death, and shall find such an outlet from it as not to be hurt of the second death, to them surely deliverances from temporal death are mercies indeed and come from God as the God of their salvation. 2 Co. 1:10.
• 2. Those that persist in their enmity to him will certainly be ruined (v. 21): God shall wound the head of his enemies,-of Satan the old serpent (of whom it was by the first promise foretold that the seed of the woman should break his head, Gen. 3:15),-of all the powers of the nations, whether Jews or Gentiles, that oppose him and his kingdom among men (Ps. 110:6, He shall wound the heads over many countries),-of all those, whoever they are, that will not have him to reign over them, for those he accounts his enemies, and they shall be brought forth and slain before him, Lu. 19:27. He will wound the hairy scalp of such a one as goeth on still in his trespasses. Note, Those who go on still in their trespasses, and hate to be reformed, God looks upon as his enemies and will treat them accordingly. In calling the head the hairy scalp perhaps there is an allusion to Absalom, whose bushy hair was his halter. Or it denotes either the most fierce and barbarous of his enemies, who let their hair grow, to make themselves look the more frightful, or the most fine and delicate of his enemies, who are nice about their hair: neither the one nor the other can secure themselves from the fatal wounds which divine justice will give to the heads of those that go on in their sins.
In these verses we have three things:-
• I. The gracious promise which God makes of the redemption of his people, and their victory over his and their enemies (v. 22, 23): The Lord said, in his own gracious purpose and promise, “I will do great things for my people, as the God of their salvation,” v. 20. God will not fail the expectations of those who by faith take him for their God. It is promised,
• 1. That he will set them in safety from their danger, as he had done formerly: “I will again bring them from the depths of the sea,” as he did Israel when he brought them out of the slavery of Egypt into the ease and liberty of the wilderness; “and I will again bring them from Bashan,” as he did Israel when he brought them from their wants and wanderings in the wilderness into the fulness and settlement of the land of Canaan; for the land of Bashan was on the other side Jordan, where they had wars with Sihon and Og, and whence their next removal was into Canaan. Note, The former appearances of God’s power and goodness for his people should encourage their faith and hope in him for the future, that what he has done he will do again. He will set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people (Isa. 11:11); and we may perhaps see repeated all the wonders which our fathers told us of. But this is not all:
• 2. That he will make them victorious over their enemies (v. 23): That thy feet may be dipped, as thou passest along, in the blood of thy enemies, shed like water in great abundance, and the tongue of thy dogs may lap in the same. Dogs licked the blood of Ahab; and, in the destruction of the anti-christian generation, we read of blood up to the horses’ bridles, Rev. 14:20. The victories with which God blessed David’s forces over the enemies of Israel are here prophesied of, but as types of Christ’s victory over death and the grave for himself and for all believers, in his resurrection (and theirs by virtue of his) out of the earth, and of the destruction of the enemies of Christ and his church, who shall have blood given them to drink, for they are worthy.
• II. The welcome entertainment which God’s own people shall give to these glorious discoveries of his grace, both in his word and in his works. Has he spoken in his holiness? Has he said he will bring again from Bashan? What then is required of us in return to this?
• 1. That we observe his motions (v. 24): “They have seen, thy people have seen, thy goings, O God! While others regard not the work of the Lord, nor the operation of his hands, they have seen the goings of my God, my King, in the sanctuary.” See here,
• (1.) How an active faith appropriates God; he is God and King; but that is not all, he is my God and my King. Those who thus take him for theirs may see him, in all his outgoings, acting as their God, as their King, for their good, and in answer to their prayers.
• (2.) Where God’s most remarkable outgoings are, even in the sanctuary, in and by his word and ordinances, and among his people in the gospel church especially, in and by which is made known the manifold wisdom of God. These outgoings of his in the sanctuary far outshine the outgoings of the morning and the evening, and more loudly proclaim his eternal power and godhead.
• (3.) What is our duty in reference to these outgoings, which is to observe them. This is the finger of God. Surely God is with us of a truth.
• 2. That we give him glory in the most devout and solemn manner. When we see his goings in his sanctuary,
• (1.) Let those that are immediately employed in the service of the temple praise him, v. 25. It was expected that the Levites, some of whom were singers and others players on instruments, who had the nearest views of his outgoings in his sanctuary, should lead in his praises. And, it being a day of extraordinary triumph, among them were damsels playing with timbrels, to complete the concert. “Thus (says Dr. Hammond) when Christ has gone up to heaven the apostles shall celebrate and publish it to all the world, and even the women that were witnesses of it shall affectionately join with them in divulging it.”
• (2.) Let all the people of Israel in their solemn religious assembly give glory to God: Bless God, not only in temples, but in the synagogues, or schools of the prophets, or wherever there is a congregation of those that come forth from the fountain of Israel, that are of the seed of Jacob, let them concur in blessing God. Public mercies, which we jointly share in, call for public thanksgivings, which all should join in. “Thus (says Dr. Hammond) all Christians shall be obliged solemnly to magnify the name of the Messiah, and, to that end, frequently to assemble together in congregations.” And,
• (3.) Let those among them who, upon any account, are the most eminent, and make a figure, go before the rest in praising God, v. 27. There was little Benjamin (that was the royal tribe in Saul’s time) with their rulers, the princes of Judah (that was the royal tribe in David’s time), and their council, their captains or leaders. In the beginning of David’s reign there had been long war between Judah and Benjamin, but now they both join in praises for success against the common enemy. But why are the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali particularly mentioned? Perhaps because those tribes, lying towards the north, lay most exposed to the incursions of the Syrians, and other neighbours that molested them, and therefore should be in a particular manner thankful for these victories over them. Dr. Hammond gives another reason, That these were the two learned tribes. Naphtali giveth goodly words (Gen. 49:21) and Zebulun had those that handle the pen of the writer, Jdg. 5:14. These shall join in praising God, their princes especially. It is much for the honour of God when those that are above others in dignity, power, and reputation, go before them in the worship of God and are forward in using their influence and interest for the advancing of any service that is to be done to him. Dr. Hammond notes hence that the kingdom of the Messiah should, at length, be submitted to by all the potentates and learned men in the world.
• 3. That we seek unto him, and depend upon him, for the perfecting of what he has begun, v. 28. In the former part of the verse the psalmist speaks to Israel: “Thy God has commanded thy strength; that is, whatever is done for thee, or whatever strength thou hast to help thyself, it comes from God, his power and grace, and the word which he has commanded; thou hast no reason to fear while thou hast strength of God’s commanding, and no reason to boast while thou hast no strength but what is of his commanding.” In the latter part he speaks to God, encouraged by his experiences: “Strengthen, O God! that which thou hast wrought for us. Lord, confirm what thou hast commanded, perform what thou hast promised, and bring to a happy end that good work which thou hast so gloriously begun.” What God has wrought he will strengthen; where he has given true grace he will give more grace. Some make this whole verse to be a believer’s address to the Messiah, whom David calls God, as he had done, Ps. 45:6, 8. “Thy God” (God the Father) “has commanded thy strength, has made thee strong for himself, as the man of his right hand (Ps. 80:17), has treasured up strength in thee for us; therefore we pray that thou, O God the Son! wilt strengthen what thou hast wrought for us, wilt accomplish thy undertaking for us by finishing thy good work in us.”
• III. The powerful invitation and inducement which would hereby be given to those that are without to come in and join themselves to the church, v. 29-31. This was in part fulfilled by the accession of many proselytes to the Jewish religion in the days of David and Solomon; but it was to have its full accomplishment in the conversion of the Gentile nations to the faith of Christ, and the making of them fellow-heirs, and of the same body, with the seed of Israel, Eph. 3:6.
• 1. Some shall submit for fear (v. 30): “The company of spearmen, that stand it out against Christ and his gospel, that are not willing to be ruled by him, that persecute the preachers and professors of his name, that are furious and outrageous as a multitude of bulls, fat and wanton as the calves of the people” (which is a description of those Jews and Gentiles that opposed the gospel of Christ and did what they could to prevent the setting up of his kingdom in the world), “Lord, rebuke them, abate their pride, assuage their malice, and confound their devices, till, conquered by the convictions of their consciences and the many checks of providence, they be every one of them brought, at length, to submit themselves with pieces of silver, as being glad to make their peace with the church upon any terms.” Even Judas submitted himself with pieces of silver when he returned them with this confession, I have betrayed innocent blood. And see Rev. 3:9. Many, by being rebuked, have been happily saved from being ruined. But as for those that will not submit, notwithstanding these rebukes, he prays for their dispersion, which amounts to a prophecy of it: Scatter thou the people that delight in war, who take such a pleasure in opposing Christ that they will never be reconciled to him. This may refer to the unbelieving Jews, who delighted in making war upon the holy seed, and would not submit themselves, and were therefore scattered over the face of the earth. David had himself been a man of war, but could appeal to God that he never delighted in war and bloodshed for its own sake; as for those that did, and therefore would not submit to the fairest terms of peace, he does not doubt but God would scatter them. Those are lost to all the sacred principles of humanity, as well as Christianity, that can delight in war and take a pleasure in contention let them expect that, sooner or later, they shall have enough of it, Isa. 33:1; Rev. 13:10.
• 2. Others shall submit willingly (v. 29, 31): Because of thy temple at Jerusalem (this David speaks of in faith, for the temple of Jerusalem was not built in his time, only the materials and model were prepared) kings shall bring presents unto thee; rich presents shall be brought, such as are fit for kings to bring; even kings themselves, that stand much upon the punctilios of honour and prerogative, shall court the favour of Christ at a great expense. There is that in God’s temple, that beauty and benefit in the service of God and in communion with him, and in the gospel of Christ which went forth from Jerusalem, that is enough to invite kings themselves to bring presents to God, to present themselves to him as living sacrifices, and with themselves the best performances. He mentions Egypt and Ethiopia, two countries out of which subjects and suppliants were least to be expected (v. 31): Princes shall come out of Egypt as ambassadors to seek God’s favour and submit to him; and they shall be accepted, for the Lord of hosts shall thereupon bless them, saying, Blessed by Egypt my people, Isa. 19:25. Even Ethiopia, that had stretched out her hands against God’s Israel (2 Chr. 14:9), should now stretch out her hands unto God, in prayer, in presents, and to take hold on him, and that soon. Agree with thy adversary quickly. Out of all nations some shall be gathered in to Christ and be owned by him.
The psalmist, having prayed for and prophesied of the conversion of the Gentiles, here invites them to come in and join with the devout Israelites in praising God, intimating that their accession to the church would be the matter of their joy and praise (v. 32): Let the kingdoms of the earth sing praises to the Lord; they all ought to do it, and, when they become the kingdoms of the Lord and of his Christ, they will do it. God is here proposed to them as the proper object of praise upon several accounts:
• I. Because of his supreme and sovereign dominion: He rides upon the heavens of heavens which were of old (v. 33); compare v. 4. He has from the beginning, nay from before all time, prepared his throne; he sits on the circuit of heaven, guides all the motions of the heavenly bodies; and from the highest heavens, which are the residence of his glory, he dispenses the influences of his power and goodness to this lower world.
• II. Because of his awful and terrible majesty: He sends out his voice, and that a mighty voice. This may refer either generally to the thunder, which is called the voice of the Lord and is said to be powerful and full of majesty (Ps. 29:3, 4), or in particular to that thunder in which God spoke to Israel at Mount Sinai.
• III. Because of his mighty power: Ascribe you strength unto God (v. 34); acknowledge him to be a God of such irresistible power that it is folly to contend with him and wisdom to submit to him; acknowledge that he has power sufficient both to protect his faithful subjects and to destroy his stubborn adversaries; and give him the glory of all the instances of his omnipotence. Thine is the kingdom and power, and therefore thine is the glory. We must acknowledge his power,
• 1. In the kingdom of grace: His excellency is over Israel; he shows his sovereign care in protecting and governing his church; that is the excellency of his power, which is employed for the good of his people.
• 2. In the kingdom of providence: His strength is in the clouds, whence comes the thunder of his power, the small rain, and the great rain of his strength. Though God has his strength in the clouds, yet he condescends to gather his Israel under the shadow of his wings, Deu. 33:26.
• IV. Because of the glory of his sanctuary and the wonders wrought there (v. 35): O God! thou art terrible out of thy holy places. God is to be admired and adored with reverence and godly fear by all those that attend him in his holy places, that receive his oracles, that observe his operations according to them, and that pay their homage to him. He displays that out of his holy places which declares aloud that he will be sanctified in those that come nigh unto him. Out of heaven, his holy place above, he does, and will, show himself a terrible God. Nor is any attribute of God more dreadful to sinners than his holiness.
• V. Because of the grace bestowed upon his people: The God of Israel is he that gives strength and power unto his people, which the gods of the nations, that were vanity and a lie, could not give to their worshippers; how should they help them, when they could not help themselves? All Israel’s strength against their enemies came from God; they owned they had no might of their own, 2 Chr. 20:12. And all our sufficiency for our spiritual work and warfare is from the grace of God. It is through Christ strengthening us that we can do all things, and not otherwise; and therefore he must have the glory of all we do (Ps. 115:1) and our humble thanks for enabling us to do it and accepting the work of his own hands in us. If it be the God of Israel that vies strength and power unto his people, they ought to say, Blessed be God. If all be from him, let all be to him.
A Bible Devotion from Psalm 68
God Sets the Lonely in Families
4 Sing to God, sing praise to his name, extol him who rides on the clouds”his name is the LORD”and rejoice before him. 5 A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. . . 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. . . . 32 Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth, sing praise to the LORD, 33 to him who rides the ancient skies above, who thunders with mighty voice. 34 Proclaim the power of God, whose majesty is over Israel, whose power is in the skies. 35 You are awesome, O God, in your sanctuary; the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people. Praise be to God!
Psalm 68:4-5, 19-20, and 32-3, KJV
What is God really like? What kind of a God do we have? Psalm 68:5 tells us that He is a father to the fatherless and a defender of widows. Verse 6 says He sets the lonely in families! (I like the way that is phrased.) He also leads forth the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land. He daily bears our burdens (19), and He is a God who saves (20). He rides the ancient skies above and thunders with a mighty voice (33); His power is in the skies.(34) God is awesome; the God of Israel gives power and strength to His people (35).
When I was a child I was afraid of thunder and lightening. One stormy night, however, my sister and I lay at the foot of our beds and watched the lightning strike again and again, and listened to the constant booming of the thunder. Right then, even as a small child, I knew I would never be afraid of thunder and lightening again, because as I watched the storms roll and twist, I knew that I was looking right at God’s power being manifest in the storm! Every bolt of lightening was ordered by His command; every crack of thunder echoed His mighty voice. Here was something man could not do; he was helpless before the face of God.
Just think of what a mighty God we have! He rules over the skies and seas; He dwells among the mountain grandeur, and yet, He is never too busy to meet our needs. He’s a father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, and he even sets the lonely in families! He rules the heavens and earth, and yet knows when a single hair falls from our head.
Pray today that you would live this day in praise to such a Majestic and yet Personal God who is right there beside you no matter what you are doing.
Next: Psalm 69 – Those Who Love God Will Dwell in Zion
What does psalm 68 say?
Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered: let them also that hate him flee before him. As smoke is driven away, so let them be driven away: as wax melteth before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the face of those who love God and who are signified by the sign of the cross.
What does it mean for God to arise?
In the Bible, we have about 23 Bible verses talking about God Arising. To arise, means “to be stirred up, to be awake and to prepare for action”. It is against this background that the Psalmist found himself in a critical situation, he had to say to God to arise for him and His people based on His eternal love.Jun 5, 2016