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This psalm is possibly a psalm to accompany the transport of the ark of the covenant to its new home on Mt. Zion. In the song it reenacts the great victories of God, and appropriately became the battle hymn of the Covenanters and the Huguenots. The reach of this psalm is high, although some of the passages are obscure.
“Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered: Let them also that hate him flee before him. As smoke is driven away, so drive them away: As wax melteth before the fire, So let the wicked perish at the presence of God . . .” (Psalm 68:1-35).
Summary of the Text
Let God scatter His enemies (v. 1). Let their destruction be total (v. 2). In contrast, let the righteous be glad (v. 3). Extol the Lord (v. 4). God defends the defenseless (v. 5), and He blesses the lonely (v. 6). When God went before His people, the earth was moved (vv. 7-8). God blesses the earth with rain (v. 9). God is good to the poor (v. 10). God gives the word, and God creates a company great enough to publish that word (v. 11). Armies flee from Him (v. 12), and the spoil is rich (v. 13). God’s victory over the kings is thorough (vv. 14-15). God has chosen His dwelling place (v. 16). A myriad of angelic chariots is around Him (v. 17). A prophecy of the Ascension is next (v. 18). Bless the Lord, who loads us up with benefits (v. 19). God is the saving God (v. 20). God strikes the scalp of His adversaries (v. 21), and will bring His people to victory (vv. 22-23). They have seen the Lord’s processional (v. 24), and the musicians with Him (v. 25). The Lord should be blessed in all the congregations (v. 26). The invitation ranges from Benjamin to Judah to Zebulun to Naphtale (v. 27). God strengthens what He has given (v. 28). Kings will bring tribute to the Temple (v. 29). Those who love war will be repulsed (v. 30). Kings will come from all over (v. 31). All the kingdoms are invited to praise the one who rides the heaven of heavens (vv. 32-33). Ascribe excellency to Him (v. 34), and the God of Israel is the one who gives strength and power (v. 35).
No Trace of Smoke Left
When God moves, what He intends is what happens. When God refrains from moving, the distress this causes is what He intends. We, down in the midst of it, plead with Him to stir Himself. All it would take to put everything right is just one nod from Him. If He were to rise up for battle, what then? Smoke blows away, and no trace is left (v. 2). Like wax before the fire, the enemies of God prove that they are a puff of air in His presence. We are therefore pleading with God to accomplish His purposes in the world—and this is not seeking for an accommodation.
Father of the Fatherless
Spurgeon says that God is the President of Orphanages. In verse 5, we see what kind of warrior the Lord is. He fights, and He fights to victory, but He fights in order to accomplish the work of peace. He is a judge. His name is Jah Elohim, and He rises to defend. He is father to the fatherless (v. 5), and a
judge of widows (v. 5). What does the victorious warrior do? He puts the lonely into families (v. 6). He is a liberator. He fights, He scatters, He scatters His enemies like smoke (v. 2). But those who are scattered are described another way—they are the ones who delight in war (v. 30).
The Lord Gave the Word
When the Lord gave the word (v. 11), this is likely the word that tells His armies to get ready for battle. That word spread through the camp like fire—there is an eagerness for battle, and it is the right kind of eagerness. This is not bloodlust, but rather righteousness-lust. And that desire to see God’s great vindication is shared by the women. They are the ones who rejoice in the spoil when the battle is over (v. 12).
Ascended on High
This verse of the psalm is quoted by the apostle Paul in Ephesians 4:8, and he applies it to the Ascension of the Lord Jesus into Heaven. We can tell from this that the entire psalm is messianic and typological. God destroyed the enemies of Israel on the field of battle. He destroyed them in worship as the ark of the covenant was carried from the house of Obed-edom to the Tabernacle of David on Mt. Zion. And He destroyed them finally and completely when the Lord Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven in order to receive universal dominion, and power, and glory, and majesty.
Loaded with Benefits
One time when we were dealing with a particular challenge, my son said this to my wife: “Baskets of fruit are heavy.” God does not parcel out His benefits with a tea-spoon. Blessed be the Lord God, who daily loads us with benefits (v. 19). The fact that we miss so much of this is more a testimony to our ingratitude than it is a tribute to His stinginess. We stagger around underneath the things that God has given us, and we do this every day.
The Singers Went Before
Music glorifies the Word, and not the other way around. The psalmist had seen the “processional” of the Lord God in the sanctuary. The singers went first, and the instrumentalists followed afterward. The Word has priority, and this priority is seen two ways. One is that the vocalists go first; the music (both vocal music and instrumental music) are servants. But secondly, the lyrics, the words, are royalty and they require servants. They require such help; they need it, and are worthy of it.
So the Word by itself needs to be glorified—it calls out for something else. The singers need reinforcements—but the instruments are to carry the lyrics, not bury them. But at the same time— important note—if your singing sometimes reaches the decibel level of a plaintive cough of a sheep on a distant hillside, don’t blame the instruments for burying you. That’s your fault.