PSALM 69: A DESPERATE CRY FOR SALVATION TO THE GOD OF THE BIBLE

PSALM 69:

A DESPERATE CRY FOR SALVATION TO THE GOD OF THE BIBLE

(A Psalm that explores how we can pray to the God of the bible for salvation or deliverance in all aspects of life and he will hear us and save us)

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INTRODUCTION

When I was a young Christian in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s I along with many other young Christian friends was fascinated and encouraged by the stories of a man we all knew as Brother Andrew who through his book God’s Smuggler told of how he took bibles and other Christian literature into countries where they were banned and where Christians were persecuted for their faith in Christ.

Brother Andrew or Andrew Van de Bijl was born in the Netherlands in 1928 and bravely started taking bibles into Poland in 1955, The Soviet Union in 1957, China in 1960 and countries in the Middle East in the 1970’s. He often drove a small Volkswagen Beatle that later became the symbol of “Open Doors”, the organization he founded.

Brother Andrew trusted in the saving God of the Bible in the face of those who opposed him and he was able to tell of how God actually saved him or kept him safe on many occasions in his ministry and mission to the many dangerous anti – Christian countries he visited.

The God Brother Andrew trusted in is the same God David, the writer of Psalm 69 trusted in and like Brother Andrew he faced great opposition and persecution from people who opposed God. More and more we are hearing today of growing opposition to Christians and the Christian faith not only in countries where Christianity is outlawed but in countries like USA, Australia and The United Kingdom which have been called up to recently a Christian country. The media is reporting on both physical and social attacks on Christian believers by extreme Muslims, atheists and many other people.

It seems that the days of the Christian faith being generally accepted and respected in the western world are over and more and more Christians face danger and persecution for their faith in Christ.

Psalm 69 and other parts of the bible has a lot to say to us about how to face this persecution and I hope you will find encouragement and teaching on this from this Psalm talk.

We believe David wrote Psalm 69 because his name appears in the Hebrew Heading, which is almost as old as the actual text of the Psalms. No direct mention is given to when he wrote it but a lot of the ideas in the Psalm seem to point to the Rebellion of Absalom found in 2 Samuel 15 – 18.

Some commentators have suggested Jeremiah as the possible author but even though the level of opposition Jeremiah faced matches the wording of the Psalm and some references in the book of Jeremiah as well there is no reason to believe that the Hebrew heading is incorrect and that Jeremiah simply is a brilliant illustration of the kind of persecution David faced.

The Psalm also offers us insight into the persecution Jesus faced as well although unlike Psalm 22 it is not Messianic prophetic Psalm. Some of the verses in the Psalm have been cited and used by many New Testament writers, like John 15: 25, Romans 15: 3, 11: 9 – 10, Acts 1: 20 and Matthew 23: 28.

Leupold explains the connection of David and Jesus in the Psalm this way,

“David, the writer, becomes a typical example of the things that are experienced by all who are truly zealous for the Lords house. What David experienced Christ may have experienced in certain obvious instances, for he is David’s greater counterpart”.

In my explanation and application of this Psalm I have not only looked at Salvation or Deliverance from the perspective of salvation from physical enemies but also salvation from spiritual enemies like sin and the Devils evil forces which I think is backed up by Paul’s teaching in Ephesians 6: 12,

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”.

And, Hebrews 12: 4,

“In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood”.

I am reminded here of a story I read years ago of a famous English Bishop in the 19th century travelling on a train who was approached by a female Salvation Army officer and asked, “Are you Saved”? His answer was threefold, “I am saved, being saved and will be saved”. This is the correct biblical answer to that question.

We are saved by the shedding of Jesus blood on the cross from sins condemnation, death, but once we take hold of this and believe in Jesus we are being saved by his continual work of regeneration or being made like Christ by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Finally we will be saved when we are all glorified in Christ after our deaths or by his certain return to earth.

With this in mind my breakdown for the Psalm is:

  1. A DESPERATE CRY FOR SALVATION (1 – 12)
  2. A DESPERATE CRY FOR GOD’S LOVE TO SAVE HIM (13 – 21)
  3. A CRY FOR GOD TO JUDGE HIS ENEMIES (22 – 28)
  4. A WORD OF PRAISE FOR GOD’S SALVATION (29 – 36)
  1. A DESPERATE CRY FOR SALVATION (1 – 6)

I have divided this first section into two parts:

  1. The actual desperate call (1 – 3)
  2. Why he needed to make a desperate call (4 – 12)
  3. The actual desperate call (1 – 3)

Verses 1 – 3 are a beautiful piece of poetry that express David’s desperate and dangerous situation he was in probably when he was on the run form his rebellious son Absalom. For many weeks during this period he faced almost certain death from Absalom and his large army and even had to hide out in the wilderness of western Judea with most of his large family and many of his friends.

David cries in verses 1 and 2,

“Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me”.

David uses the poetic image of physical drowning to describe how he feels. The feeling of drowning seems to be a feeling many people with some kind of depression feel and I found on the net many stories of people facing or having faced depression speaking of feeling this way.

David is saying four things about his situation from these verses:

  1. His life is in great danger – vs. 1, “Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my necks”
  2. He feels there is no escape – vs. 2, “I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold”.
  3. The problems he face are deep and very difficult, vs. 2b, “I have come into the deep waters”
  4. He cannot stop the coming danger he faces, 2b, “The floods engulf me”.

However in such a desperate situation David knows only God can save him thus he prays, “Save me, O God”.

The image of drowning and the cry, “Save me, O God” reminds me of the story of Jesus walking on the water on Lake Galilee in Matthew 14 and how Peter stepped out and walked on the water for a bit but once he took his eyes off Jesus and looked at the wind he began to sink. We read this in Matthew 14: 30 and 31,

“But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me”. Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.”.

This is a great picture of both being saved from physical harm and being saved spiritually. Peter could do nothing to save himself as he was helpless and drowning and all he could do was look to Jesus and cry out, “Lord save me”. Jesus of course reached out and saved the drowning Peter. Also Jesus reaches out or has reached down from heaven to save us by dying for our sins on the cross.

Paul speaks in a number of places in his letters to the Churches about how we are powerless to save ourselves and only God can save us by reaching down from heaven to save us through the death and resurrection of his Son. Listen to Paul speaking about this in Romans 5: 6 – 8,

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”.

In the next chapter of Romans Paul answers the question: “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? Romans 6: 1

He answers this question with the image of baptism being like coming up from a drowning death to new life in Christ in Romans 6: 2 – 4,

“By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?  Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life”.

Paul completes his argument with these words in Romans 6: 8 – 12,

“Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires”.

So in a way the image of drowning or even death should be an image that reminds us that Jesus has saved us and lifted us up from death or from the miry clay of sin so that we can live a new life no longer lost in the depths of sin and darkness.

In verse 3 David speaks no longer in images but simply declares,

“I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God”.

These words reveal yet again how desperate David felt at the time of writing and it does fit well in the time of Absalom rebellion where he faced great danger and the fact that his own beloved son had turned on him would have been for David a great emotional strain. Family can hurt us far more than strangers when they turn on us for some reason or another. David describes hear great emotional pain and turmoil, Wayne Jackson says this;

“His throat is parched and his vision fails as he waits for Jehovah’s deliverance. While circumstances may appear desperate, nonetheless he will wait for the Creator to respond to his needs. All of God’s children need to learn “Rest” in Jehovah and wait patiently for him”.

 Jackson goes on to quote Psalm 37: 7, which says;

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes”.

  1. Why he needed to make a desperate call (4 – 12)

David now spells out in the next 9 verses why he needed to make such a desperate call to God to save him. I have come up with four reasons given here:

  1. Hated without reason (4)
  2. Persecuted because he is a forgiven sinner (5 – 6)
  3. Scorned by family and friends (7- 8)
  4. Insulted because of his commitment to God (9 – 12)

Lets now look at each of these four reasons in detail:

  1. Hated without reason (4)

David faced great opposition throughout most of his life for simply being true to his calling of being the Lord’s anointed king and remaining faithful in service to his Lord. We have seen that this is a major theme that runs through the Psalms in the first two books of Psalms and that this theme is aptly described in Psalm 2: 2,

“The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his anointed One”.

 David is God’s anointed one or king and David’s opposition we have seen did not just come from outside Israel but it came from within Israel as well and even form within his very own family in the person of his eldest son Absalom.

Verse 4 simply says,

“Those who hate me without reason outnumber the hairs of my head; many are my enemies without cause, those who seek to destroy me. I am forced to restore what I did not steal”.

 During the rebellion of Absalom most of Israel turned on David and treated him as a state traitor worthy of death. This was not a new experience for David as in his early years before he rose to the throne of Israel he experienced the same thing at the hands of the jealous King Saul. David was a loyal servant of Saul yet he was treated as a traitor who wanted to overthrow king Saul.

Likewise Absalom spread lies about his father and ran a campaign of conspiracy against his father illustrated well by his deeds and words in 2 Samuel 15: 2 – 4,

“He would get up early and stand by the side of the road leading to the city gate. Whenever anyone came with a complaint to be placed before the king for a decision, Absalom would call out to him, “What town are you from?” He would answer, “Your servant is from one of the tribes of Israel.” Then Absalom would say to him, “Look, your claims are valid and proper, but there is no representative of the king to hear you.” And Absalom would add, “If only I were appointed judge in the land! Then everyone who has a complaint or case could come to me and I would see that they receive justice.”

So Absalom led a rebellion against his father and his Fathers rule and the words of verse 4 read,

“Those who hate me without reason outnumber the hairs of my head; many are my enemies without cause, those who seek to destroy me”.

 What then do the words, “I am forced to restore what I did not steal” mean?

Adam Clarke advocates that this a kind of “proverbial expression, like such as these, “Those who suffered the wrong, pay the costs.” “Kings sin, and the people are punished.” “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.”

 This proverbial expression which could have been well-known by the people of David’s day is saying that David was forced to give up his crown during the Absalom rebellion even though it rightfully belonged to him. Also during both the Saul affair and the Absalom rebellion David was forced to surrender his good name for that of a traitor and liar, which he certainly was not.

This verse is quoted by John in his Gospel in John 15: 25,

“But this is to fulfil what is written in their law; they hated me without reason”.

 David’s treatment as the Lord’s Anointed by the enemies of God as outlined in Psalm 2: 2 mirrors the same treacherous treatment the greater anointed King, Jesus Christ received at the hands of the enemies of God which include Satan and all his followers in his earthly ministry which led to his death on the cross. I will quote again what I quoted in this Psalm Talk introduction how Leupold explained the connection of David and Jesus in this Psalm,

“David, the writer, becomes a typical example of the things that are experienced by all who are truly zealous for the Lords house. What David experienced Christ may have experienced in certain obvious instances, for he is David’s greater counterpart”.

  1. Persecuted because he is a forgiven sinner (5 – 6)

David then gives us another strange but real painful taunt his enemies threw at him which led to his desperate cry for salvation to God. It is found in verses 5 and 6,

“You know my folly, O God, my guilt is not hidden from you. May those who hope in you not be disgraced because of me, O Lord, the Lord Almighty; may those who seek you not be put to shame because of me, O God of Israel”.

 David did not and could not deny his many sins especially if this is written after his sins of adultery and murder in the Bathsheba affair. These sins had a direct connection with the Absalom rebellion as it was predicted by the prophet Nathan as a result of David’s sins in 2 Samuel 12: 11 – 12,

“This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’”

This prophecy of Nathan was for filled by Absalom and David would have been painfully aware of this. Verse 5 seems to imply that not only was David aware of his sins but so to were his enemies who used them to persecute him and those of Israel who still supported him.

God forgave David through his amazing grace, which David will refer to in verse 16 of this Psalm. It is often true of great sinners today that even though God can forgive them other people cannot forgive or forget the sin they have committed.

As painful as the taunt of David’s enemies about his past sins David’s concern seems to be for his people, obviously the people in Israel who remained loyal to him like those we read about in 2 Samuel 15 who fled with David when he was under the threat of death from his son Absalom and those who came to his assistance while he was on the run from Absalom.

Verse 6 reveals this concern David has for these people owing to the implications of his past sins which help create the Absalom rebellion,

“May those who hope in you not be disgraced because of me, O Lord, the Lord Almighty; may those who seek you not be put to shame because of me”.

 The sins of prominent Christians today can and do have an impact on the Church of Jesus Christ and many non-believers say they do not believe in God because of some kind of known sin they experienced or knew about at the hands of a professing Christian. This is not an acceptable reason for not honouring God in a persons life but it is used by Satan and his forces to hamstring the progress of the Christian Gospel in our world today.

  1. Scorned by family and friends (7- 8)

In verses 7 and 8 David speaks of another painful reason for his desperate cry to God to save him in his current time of difficulty. This is opposition and even scorn caused by his enemies, which include members of his own family, these verses say,

“For I endure scorn for your sake, and shame covers my face. I am a stranger to my brothers, an alien to my own mother’s sons”.

 So those hitting out against him with scorn and a number of translations use the word “insults” or “taunts” for scorn even comes from members of his own family. He uses the family connection of brothers. We are not told in he 2 Samuel texts that David’s actual brothers turned on him during the Absalom rebellion. However family opposition that included scorn or taunts and insults came from his very own son and even Bathsheba’s grandfather Ahithophel, a former trusted adviser of David turned on David and sided with Absalom and certainly sought David’s demise at the hands of Absalom.

The taunts of family members would have been very painful for David and Jesus warns us that by being followers of him we can expect opposition from members of our family who obviously do not share our commitment to him. We see this in a passage like Matthew 10: 34 – 38,

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.

For I have come to part asunder a man from his father, and a daughter from her mother, and a newly married wife from her mother-in-law—

And a man’s foes will be they of his own household.

He who loves [and takes more pleasure in] father or mother more than [in] Me is not worthy of me; and he who loves [and takes more pleasure in] son or daughter more than [in] me is not worthy of me;

And he who does not take up his cross and follow Me, cleave steadfastly to Me, conforming wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying also] is not worthy of Me”.

I personally continue to experience the pain that is caused by family opposition from non converted family members and I continue to pray for my unconverted family and friends and offer words of advice with love from time to time to help them find faith in Christ for themselves.

  1. Insulted because of his commitment to God (9 – 12)

Finally we come to the crux of all the opposition David faced that led to his desperate cry for Salvation or deliverance from his painful situation. Verses 9 – 11 spell out all the outward signs of genuine commitment to the God of the bible in David’s time and verse 12 speaks of some of the types of people who was being given scorn and ridicule.

The outward signs David indulged in are:

  1. Zeal for the house of God (vs. 9)
  2. Earnest prayer (vs. 10 / 11)

The two ends of society are mentioned to illustrate the social scope of his attackers:

  1. The city leaders at the gate (vs. 12a)
  2. The towns drunks (vs. 12b)

Lets look at each of these more closely.

  1. Zeal for the house of God (vs. 9)

In David’s time in Old Testament times the centre of worship was the sanctuary, which in Solomon’s time became the Temple and in both times this would have been known as God’s house. Here the symbols of God’s agreement or covenant dwelt in the form of the Ark of the Covenant in the special secluded place called, “The Holy of Holies”. The Ark contained the two tablets of stone that contained had the 10 commandments written by God himself, the rod of Aaron and a piece of mamma the special food God provided for Israel in the wilderness wanderings.

David loved this place and went to a lot of trouble to set up and for this zeal or enthusiasm his enemies insulted him. Verse 9 reads like this,

“For zeal for your house consumes me, and insults of those who insult you fall on me”.

 David would have been separated from this special place of worship during the many weeks of the Absalom rebellion and how that would have effected him is well described by a Son of Korah who was probably with him at that time when he wrote Psalms 42 and 43. Psalm 42 verse 4 says,

“These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng”.

David did not hold back expressing his love for God’s house and the worship he too would have been involved in there and for this his enemies made fun of him and insulted him. Maybe they might say something like,

“Look a this self-confessed adulterer and murderer who raves on about God’s house with his many songs and fanatical dancing, well he has got what he deserves his Son Absalom is now the rightful king of Israel and soon he will be dead and gone”.

Insults like this are not hard to imagine during the time of the Absalom rebellion when David was on the run again and was sleeping rough in the desert area of western Judea and waited for what would have looked like certain death at the hands of his son Absalom.

This verse also is quoted in the New Testament particularly in connection with Jesus clearing of the temple money changes and animal sellers in John 2: 17. Wayne Jackson writes,

“No one has ever rivalled Jesus in his zeal for the cause of God”.

  1. Earnest prayer (vs. 10)

In Old Testament terms weeping, fasting and wearing sackcloth were signs of a person engaged in earnest prayer yet David says in verse’s 10 and 11,

“When I weep and fast I must endure scorn; when I put on sackcloth, people make sport of me”.

 David faced ridicule and scorn when he practiced his sincere faith in God and these false accusations of hypocrisy is the basis of other Psalms like Psalm 26. Psalm 35: 13 – 16 spells out the kind treatment David got from those who opposed him when he practised earnest prayer for others,

“Ruthless witnesses come forward; they question me on things I know nothing about. They repay me evil for good and leave my soul forlorn. Yet when they were ill, I put on sackcloth and humbled myself with fasting. When my prayers returned to me unanswered, I went about mourning as though for my friend or brother. I bowed my head in grief as though weeping for my mother. But when I stumbled, they gathered in glee; attackers gathered against me when I was unaware. They slandered me without ceasing. Like the ungodly they maliciously mocked; they gnashed their teeth at me”.

 When David was on the run from his son Absalom he would have been ridiculed by the majority of Israel that sided with Absalom. They would have interpreted David’s love of the cause of God, worship and earnest prayer as nothing more than hypocrisy and treated it with scorn and ridicule.

Here again is another parallel with David and Jesus for we read in Matthew 12: 24 how the Pharisees treated the powerful prayer and acts of Jesus when drove out demons,

“But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, ‘It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demands, that this fellow drives out demons”.

 Jesus was constantly ridiculed with scorn by the religious leaders of his day just a David was treated by his enemies.

David then tells us in verse 12 about the social widespread of these attackers. What he says in verse 12 represent the two ends of society which illustrate the social scope these attackers, they are:

  1. The city leaders at the gate (vs. 12a)
  2. The towns drunks (vs. 12b)
  1. The city leaders at the gate (vs. 12a)

The first part of verse 12 reads like this,

“Those who sit at the gate mock me”.

 Those who sit at the gate are nothing less than the leading men of the city who regularly sat at the gate of the city to discuss and make important decisions for the life of the city, Leopold writes this about the city gate,

“Where men congregated for the serious business of court trials and the like”.

 So some of these city leaders mocked David particularly when he had to flee the city of Jerusalem during the Absalom rebellion.

  1. The towns drunks (vs. 12b)

Then at the other end of society were the city drunks, who David speaks about in the second half of verse 12,

“And I am the song of the drunkards”.

 Leopold says the town drunks, “composed ditties about him” and of course these ditties were not full a flattery but were full of malice and contempt for David. It is bad enough that upright men of the city mocked David but when the town drunks turned on him also it would have been doubly painful and again add to the reasons why David made this desperate cry to God to save him.

  1. A DESPERATE CRY FOR GOD’S LOVE TO SAVE HIM (13 – 21)

In the second section of this Psalm David chooses to repeat his cry for salvation or deliverance form his terrible plight but this time he appeals to a special and unique attribute of the God of the bible, his love.

No other religion other than the religions that come from the bible speaks so clearly of a God of Love. Muslims speak of God’s mercy but do not believe that Allah is a God of love. The Arabic Bible Outreach Ministry that seeks to answer many questions about the difference between Muslim beliefs and those of Christians says this about Muslims actual beliefs about God being a loving God,

The Qur’an calls God “the loving” (Al Wadud), but the meaning is rather different from the Christian idea of God’s love. It implies “approval”; thus the Qur’an says that God loves (approves of) the good, but does not love (approve of) the evil-doers (3, Ali “Imran 29/32, 70/76 etc). The Qur’an speaks much of God’s goodness in creation and in sending prophets, but nowhere says that God loves the world, nor that God loves sinners, nor that “God is love” (cf. John 3; 16; Romans 5: 8 1John 4:8).

 Even though Christians share the Old Testament with Judaism modern Jews do not seem to have a strong or clear view of God being a God of love, It seems it is Christians alone who emphasize this with a clear revelation of God through the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ who revealed how much God loves us by going to the cross to die for our sins.

However David over and over again had a clear view of God as a great God of love and this second section is yet another example of David’s wonderful understanding of God’s love and how it was his only hope in the difficult situations he faced in his life.

I have broken this second section into two parts:

  1. The call for God’s love to save him (13 – 18)
  2. Why he needed to call on God’s love to save him (19 – 21)
  1. The call for God’s love to save him (13 – 18)

 If David is praying this prayer in the time of Absalom rebellion which he knew was a result of his terrible sins years before then the words of verse 13 should give all sinners seeking God’s help and forgiveness hope. David prays,

“But I pray to you, O Lord, in the time of your favour; in your great love, O God, answer me with your sure salvation”.

 Why David repeats his prayer for salvation or deliverance again is probably because he intense nature of the situation he was in when he prayed it. The words,

“In the time of your favour”

 Are explained well by Wayne Jackson when he writes,

“The expression denotes a time that is consistent with God’s good pleasure”.

 David prays something similar in Psalm 31: 15,

“My times are in your hands; deliver me from my enemies and from those who pursue me”.

 We must remember it took some weeks before Absalom and his rebellion was put down so David would have spent a number of weeks praying like we read in Psalm 69 and a number of other Psalms of David which were written in this difficult period of David’s life. David would probably have done a lot of work on this Psalm years after the Absalom rebellion as most authors do when editing and refining their original written works.

 So David calls to God for salvation or deliverance to happen in God’s good time but he does this based on God’s great love his most amazing attribute of all. He prays,

“In your great love, O God, answer me with your sure salvation”.

 David knew he did not deserve God’s help to save him as he was a former sinner, an adulterer and Murderer a fact his enemies made sure he remembered by their vicious verbal taunts. Yet David knew that the God of the Bible that he knew was a God of great love.

As I said before even modern Jews have not got hold of this clear and wonderful concept from the bible and it is bible-believing Christians alone who not only believe this but see it as the basis of their faith in God.

I mentioned that this is clear to bible believing Christians because they know that God loves them through the coming of Jesus to die on the cross for their sins. I like how John put it in 1 John 4: 7 – 10,

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins”.

 David knew that God loved him because he knew that the scriptures taught that his nation was saved from slavery in Egypt only because God loved them. He also knew God’s love because even though he did not deserve God’s love and help over and over again in his life God saved him especially after he had committed the sins of adultery and murder.

Grace or God’s unmerited love for us should be both the basis of our relationship with God and the inspiration by which we live. As Christians face more and more opposition today I believe it is only by the way we love our enemies and pray for them that will defeat them. Our love for some of our enemies will help turn them around to follow God with the same love and devotion we have shown them.

David knew this and that’s why he prayed,

“In your great love, O God, answer me with your sure salvation”.

He goes on to pray in the next two verses very much like he did at the start of this Psalm,

“Rescue me from the mire, do not let me sink; deliver me from those who hate me, from the deep waters, Do not let the floodwaters engulf me or the depths swallow me up or the pit close its mouth over me”.

 I mentioned in my introduction that some commentators believe that this Psalm was not written by David as the Hebrew heading says but rather it was written by the prophet Jeremiah some centuries later. This is because of the verses in this Psalm, which speak of the writer being in a miry pit.

In Jeremiah 38 we have a literal illustration of Jeremiah being lowed into a miry pit or cistern.

Jeremiah suffered this fate because of his faithful proclamation of God’s message to the people of Israel that because of their many sins they would be over – run and defeated by the Babylonians.

A Cushite man named Ebed – Melech went to king Zedekiah and successfully argued for Jeremiah’s release from the miry pit and Jeremiah was saved.

Even though this story fits well with some of the ideas in this Psalm, particularly the verses concerning the writer being in a miry pit I prefer the argument that David did write this Psalm and that the idea of being trapped in a miry or boggy pit is a poetic image that describes how he felt at the time of praying which fit well in the context of when he was on the run from Absalom and facing certain death.

In this situation he would no doubt have felt like he was trapped in a dark pit and was sinking into that bog with no way of getting out.

As I mentioned earlier in this Psalm talk I have read of many people who have suffered from mental depression feeling the same way. They speak of feeling like they are trapped in a dark hole unable to get out. Depression is a complex and involved mental problem and we all can feel some form of depression in our lives owing to difficult circumstances we might face. Some suffer from a more serious form of depression that must be treated by fully qualified professionals and I would advise anyone with this form of depression to seek medical help.

However I am sure, like David we can all go to God for help and deliverance from all forms of depression and like David we can find in the Love of God salvation or deliverance from the emotional miry bog we might have fallen into.

In verses 16 and 17 David returns to the theme of God’s love as the basis for his salvation or deliverance from his enemies, he prays,

“Answer me, O Lord, out of the goodness of your love; in your great mercy turn to me. Do not hide your face from your servant; answer me quickly, for I am in trouble”.

 Note how David says, “out of the goodness of your love; in your great mercy turn to me”.

 No one deserves God’s love as we are all sinners under the judgment of God but because Jesus has paid for our sins on the cross God can and does save us. As I mentioned in my introduction this salvation is threefold reality which means we are saved, being saved and will be saved.

Paul speaks about this 3 way view of our salvation in a passage like 2 Corinthians 5: 17 – 21,

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”.

Being the “righteousness of God” means that as Christian believers we have the assurance that when we die God through Christ will glorify us, which again is a completely unique idea, that only bible believing Christians have.

David wants this great God of love to turn to him (vs. 16b) and in verse 17, “Not hide your face from your servant”. I

In the Old Testament when God turned his face on people they were no longer blessed by him and were under his judgment as Isaiah puts it in Isaiah 59: 2,

“But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear”.

However when God turned his face towards his people he blessed them as we saw in Psalm 67: 1,

“May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us”.

In verse 17 David is asking for God to turn his face to him and bless him with salvation or deliverance and he adds,

“Answer me quickly, for I am in trouble”

Just as we saw in the first section of the Psalm David’s plight is so great he wants God’s help him quickly. He knew he was totally dependent on God’s help and love especially when his rebellious son Absalom forced him out and into the wilderness of western Judea. David at that time was, as the verse puts it, “in trouble”

His final plea to God in this section is verse 18 is,

“Come near and rescue me; redeem me because of my foes”.

He wants God to come near to him and “redeem” or save him from his enemies. Kidner explains the use of the word “redeem” this way,

“Redeem is the verb connected with the duty of a man’s next of kin to stand up for him in trouble”,

Which he points out comes up in verses like Leviticus 25: 25,

“”If one of your countrymen becomes poor and sells some of his property, his nearest relative is to come and redeem what the countryman has sold”.

Kidner goes on to say with this idea in mind a better translation would be, “Set me free”.

As Christians we know that Jesus came to redeem us from the penalty of sin to win our salvation for us as we see in verses like Titus 2: 13 – 14,

While we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people who are his very own, eager to do what is good”.

Jesus knew this was his great mission on earth as he clearly states in Mark 10: 45,

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many”.

David was humanly speaking powerless against his enemies so he needed the great God of love he sought to serve to step in and save him like a poor man who needed his next of kin to redeem a debt he owed.

Likewise we are spiritually poor and cannot pay the debt of our sin and so we need God to pay that debt for us and this has been done by the death and resurrection of his son.

  1. Why he needed to call on God’s love to save him (19 – 21)

 Again as David did in the first section he now spells out why he was in that dark miry pit needing the salvation of God. He speaks of his enemies scorn and says two main things:

  1. The scorn of his enemies (vs. 19)
  2. How that scorn has effected him (vs. 20 and 21)
  1. The scorn of his enemies (vs. 19)

 David makes it clear that the verbal attacks of his enemies are vicious and decisive and in verse 19 he says,

“You know how I am scorned, disgraced and shamed; all my enemies are before you”.

 David describes his verbal attacks by his enemies as scorn, disgrace and shame.

David feels scorn or disdain or even a feeling of being mocked, which he said in the first section, meant that even his sincere practice of his faith was treated as a joke as he was portrayed as a hypocrite. I have felt that kind of painful verbal attack myself being called a hypocrite many years ago by a close family relative as he abused me in a drunken rage.

When someone accuses me of being a hypocrite I usually do not try to defend myself and simply say that we are all hypocrites in some form or another but the difference is I know Jesus has forgiven me and I know I must repay him for that by seeking to not live as a hypocrite but generally seek to love others as he loves me. This is using the non Christians abuse as an opportunity to present the Gospel.

On another occasion when another close relative told me she did not believe in religion because so many who follow it are hypocrites I simply said, “Christians aren’t perfect they are just forgiven”.

David then said his enemies verbal attacks caused him to be disgraced which David certainly would have been during the Absalom rebellion when most of Israel sided with Absalom and caused great disgrace to the good name of David.

The persecution of Christians takes many forms and in the west it often comes in the form of non Christians finding fault in Christians or the Christian church and in doing so bring disgrace to the persons reputation or the good name of the church they are criticising.

When I read or see on TV news reports verbal attacks against a certain Christian or church I don’t believe it unto I check out all the facts as much as I can for often the attack is false or full of many errors that have distorted the truth. However if they are true I say again, “Christians are not perfect they are just forgiven”.

Finally David says in verse 19 these verbal attacks brought great shame to him which in the close nit Old Testament society would have been something that would cause a person much pain and difficulty. David was feeling this pain so he called on God for salvation or deliverance.

We should not be surprised when we face persecution because Jesus warned us it would come when he tells the disciple this in John 15: 18 – 20,

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also”.

In these same chapters of John’s gospel Jesus promises help for all disciples in the form of the Holy Spirit who will help us to testify for Jesus as he says in John 16: 12 – 15,

“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”

  1. How that scorn has effected him (vs. 20 and 21)

In verses 20 David makes it clear in his call to God for salvation or deliverance from his enemies how his enemies taunts or verbal attacks have made him feel he writes,

“Scorn has broken my heart and left me helpless; I looked for sympathy, but there was none, for comforters, but I found none.”

 David was deeply emotionally and spiritually wounded by his enemy’s verbal attacks. He speaks of a broken heart or spirit and when interrogators use personal abuse against their victims they are seeking to break their spirit so they will divulge information or cause their victim to change their beliefs or ideas. Christians right now in many parts of the world are suffering this kind of spirit breaking treatment at the hands of their tormentors and we must continually hold them up to God in prayer.

David and even more The Lord Jesus Christ suffered much verbal abuse for their sincere commitment to God and that verbal abuse must have hurt them deeply.

David says in this verse that the abuse made him feel helpless and when he looked for sympathy and comfort he found none.

In verse 21 we have a famous and in some ways controversial verse as it has some kind of direct reference to Jesus death on the cross. The verse reads,

“They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst”

 In the context of this Psalm this verse is saying as Wayne Jackson quoting a commentator named Kirkpatrick explains,

“They (David’s enemies) aggravated and embittered his sufferings, as though one were to mock a hungry man by offering him bitter and poisonous food, or a thirsty man by giving him sour and undrinkable wine”.

 All this meant David was in deep painful trouble and had to call to God for Salvation or deliverance.

How is this verse connected to what happened to Jesus on the cross?

For those who are not clear I what I am talking about let me quote Matthew 27: 48,

“Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink”.

 The wine offered to Jesus a little earlier in 34 of this passage for quenching his thirst is described this way,

“There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it”.

 So both gall and vinegar wine was offered to Jesus on the cross.

Kidner answers this question well with these words,

“What David offered in metaphor, Jesus was offered in fact”.

 We have seen that the type of verbal abuse and persecution David received from his enemies depicted poetically in this Psalm is similar and even more intensive to the verbal abuse and persecution Jesus suffered for us in his earthly ministry and on the cross.

David did sin badly and so some of the things verbally thrown at him had some fact to them but Jesus never sinned and therefore he suffered even more than the repentant and forgiven David.

  1. A CRY FOR GOD TO JUDGE HIS ENEMIES (22 – 28)

We come now to the most difficult section of the Psalm to interpret and apply because this section is yet again another form of imprecatory prayer (a prayer asking for God’s judgment to come to one’s enemies). I spoken at length on this a number of times throughout my talks on the Psalms and I would now like to quote what I said about these types of prayers in the Psalms and how we as Christians, followers of Jesus Christ should interpret them.

“Note David is praying that God will do this punishment even David knew that God’s was the true agent of judgment and unless he was specifically called by God to carry out judgment on others he was not allowed to do this.

 In the New Testament because of the teaching of Jesus we are to pray for our enemies and also leave the Judgment of God to God alone.

As Jesus taught in Matthew 7: 1 – 5,

 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye”.

However as Christians we do have an obligation to warn others of the great and final judgment of God to come. Jesus actually spoke more about judgment than heaven and even in his model prayer he encourages us to pray for God’s Judgment to come, Matthew 6: 10a,

“Your Kingdom come”

And of course when God’s kingdom comes Jesus will return to conduct the final judgment of God as Jesus declares in Matthew 25: 31 – 33,

 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left”.

So because of the teaching of Jesus and the rest of the New Testaments teaching on how we are to treat those who oppose us and God and what it says about God’s Judgement to come when I come across imprecatory prayer (a prayer asking for God’s judgment to come to one’s enemies) I read this as speaking about the final judgment of God to come when Jesus returns.

Of course God still sends his judgment on people and nations today but as Christians we are not allowed by Jesus to pray for or to bring this about. This is a very real difference between Christianity and Islam. Extreme Muslims believe God wants them to punish and destroy those who do not follow the teachings of the prophet Muhammad. It is clear then that because they believe these teachings are the word of God and to disobey them is to disobey God they can practice “Jihad” or holy war and destroy those who refuse to turn to Allah.

Unfortunately over 1,000 years ago Christians foolishly thought something similar to these extreme Muslims today and they carried out many ruthless and bloody crusades in the Muslim world of that time. Today Christians are suffering at the hands of Holy War from extreme Muslims but Christians must not retaliate with hate and vengeance but rather with prayer and love. I have read that some Christian ministers during the times of the crusades did try to show real love to their enemies the Muslim nations of that time.

I leave my reflections on this with one final warning from Jesus himself about using war and weapons to solve persecution in our world and lives. It comes from Jesus words to Peter on the night he was arrested and Peter used a sword to cut off the ear of one of the arresting officers, Matthew 26: 52,

“Put your sword back in its place, Jesus said to him. ‘For all who draw the sword will die by the sword”.

 Finally I am not saying Christians cannot be involved in military service and even go to war. As a young man I was a Christian pacifist but as I got older I realised more and more that because we are living in a sinful fallen world there is always going to be nations who will try to over fro other nations and we need a strong military defence to both deter and sometimes go to war to defend our nation and our way of life.

This means that those who serve in our armed forces are serving us by keeping our nation safe and I applauded them for that, However I am saying that as Christians we are not to seek revenge but seek peace and we can never justify the killing of God’s enemies as a way of dealing with persecution for our Christian faith. The way of the Gospel is love.

I have broken this third section into two parts:

  1. Turning the Tables to get what they seek to give (22 – 26)
  2. Being blotted out from the book of life ( 27 – 28)
  1. Turning the Tables to get what they seek to give (22 – 27)

 The central idea of David’s imprecatory prayer (a prayer asking for God’s judgment to come to one’s enemies) in this Psalm is found in verse 22, which reads,

“May the table set before them become a snare; may it become retribution and a trap”.

 David I think is praying here that the supposed secure position of his enemies be turned around as though his enemies are seated at a table in a position of power but actually they are actually sitting at the table of retribution or judgment and that table of supposed security is actually a trap that the next five verses spells out.

If this is written in the context of the Absalom rebellion then they are prophetic because Absalom thought he was now invincible when he had taken over Jerusalem and would have had a great dinner celebration once he had taken over his father’s kingdom. However within a matter of weeks the tables turned and he was a defeated man killed in battle and his father was restored to his rightful position as king of Israel.

Let me tell that what happened to Absalom and his followers will happen to all of God’s enemies in the final judgment when Jesus returns. This is what I think Jesus is talking about on the great day of Judgment in Matthew 19: 28 – 30,

“Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first”.

With this in mind we see the kind of things that happened to Absalom as God judged him as David had prayed he would and we will see the kind of things that will happen to all of God’s enemies in the final great judgment to come.

We see the following four things that God would do to Absalom in the next four verses:

  1. Utter defeat (vs. 23)
  2. God’s wrath overtaking them (vs.24)
  3. Becoming homeless (vs.25)
  4. Shown clearly as persecutors of God’s people (vs. 26)
  1. Utter defeat (vs. 23)

 Verse 23 is a powerful poetic image of the kind of thing that happened to Absalom and his followers and may I say again we will see will what ultimately will happen to all of God’s enemies in the final judgment.

The first is a poetic image of utter defeat in verse 23,

“May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see, and their backs broken”

 The first image of utter defeat is that of going blind. It is though they will go about stumbling in the dark an image of helplessness. Spurgeon makes this interesting comment,

“They have loved darkness rather than light and in darkness they shall abide”.

 The next image in this verse of total defeat is that of broken backs. So great is their defeat at the hands of God that they will be smashed down and unable to walk. This is what happened to Absalom and his army. Joab and his men chased Absalom into a forest and his long hair was caught in some trees and as he dangled their Joab struck him dead with three spears. The defeat of Absalom army is described this way in 2 Samuel 18: 6 – 8,

“David’s army marched out of the city to fight Israel, and the battle took place in the forest of Ephraim. There Israel’s troops were routed by David’s men, and the casualties that day were great—twenty thousand men. The battle spread out over the whole countryside, and the forest swallowed up more men that day than the sword”.

 This not a pretty sight a man struck with three spears while dangling from a tree by his hair and a large army smashed on the battle field where there would have been many broken and bleeding bodies lying on the ground. However this young man Absalom and his followers willingly chose to gather and oppose the Lord and the Lords anointed king and as we have seen in many Psalms, Psalm 2: 2 – 6 is the prophecy working its way out on that day,

“The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed, saying, “Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.” The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them.  He rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, “I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.”

The last part of this important prophecy is really only for filled in the Lord Jesus Christ after he rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. In Heaven Jesus is the great anointed king on Zion (a symbol for heaven) and from their one day Jesus will return to defeat and judge all of God’s enemies as we see in a verse like Matthew 25: 41,

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels”.

  1. Becoming homeless (vs.25)

David has been praying that the tables would be turned on his enemies that the dangerous and desperate situation he was currently in because of his enemies verbal and physical attack would turn around and they would be the ones facing a desperate and dangerous situation because God’s judgment would come on them.

Now in verse 25 David prays for another reversal of situations for his enemies and that is instead of him being out in the wilderness with no proper secure shelter his enemies might be the ones who experience this.

Absalom was seemingly secure in the safe and comfortable former lodgings of David in Jerusalem and David was at best in a tent out in the wilderness so David prays,

“May their place be deserted, let them be no one to dwell in their tents”.

Maybe these words of David reflect how he felt as a result of the Absalom rebellion, he felt deserted, a nobody dwelling in a tent out in the wilderness of western Judea. So how his enemies made him feel and the kind of situation he was now in he wanted God through his just judgment to now be the lot of his enemies.

  1. Shown clearly as persecutors of God’s people (vs. 26)

David then spells out clearly why his enemies deserved the judgment of God, he writes,

“For they persecute those you wound and talk about the pain of those you hurt”.

 These words only make sense to me in the context of the Absalom rebellion. I have already indicated in this Psalm talk that the Absalom rebellion was prophesied years before it happened by the Prophet Nathan a result of David’s sins of adultery and murder. We find this prophecy in 2 Samuel 12: 11 – 12,

“This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’”

I mentioned this prophecy when I was seeking to explain what David said back in verse 5,

“You know my folly, O God; my guilt is not hidden from you”.

 So David was suffering some kind of chastisement from God for his past sins during the Absalom rebellion. God had forgiven David’s sins out of his mercy and love to him but David still faced some of the fall out or consequences of his previous sins.

So verse 26 makes sense in this context as Absalom and his followers were verbally attacking David because God was chastising him. The colloquial saying, “Kick a dog while it is down” is a good one to describe what his enemies were doing to him. As he suffered from the results of God’s chastisement they sought to kick him or hurt him while he was in a very vulnerable situation.

As Jesus hung on the cross suffering for our sins he was verbally abused by many. Verse 26 could easily be applied to Jesus. He was being persecuted because God had allowed him to be wounded, suffer pain and hurt because of our many sins. Listen to some of the verbal abuse Jesus received when he was on the cross in Luke 23: 35 – 39,

“The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”

The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”

There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the jews.

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”.

So David is saying that his enemies who verbally attacked him were persecuting him as God was chastising him and for this they deserved God’s judgment to come upon them. Also those who verbally abused Jesus as he was dying on the cross to save us from our sins will also one day face the judgment of God along with those ever since who have abused and persecuted the faithful followers of Jesus.

There is a very interesting reference in the book of Revelation to those who crucified Jesus in Revelation 1: 7 and it is in connection with Jesus second coming,

“Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pieced him; and all the people’s of the earth will mourn because of him, So shall it be! Amen”.

  1. Being blotted out from the book of life (27 – 28)

The final part of David’s imprecatory prayer (a prayer asking for God’s judgment to come to one’s enemies) concerns the eternal destiny of his enemies. David first speaks of this in verse 27 when he says,

“Charge them with crime upon crime; do not let them share in your salvation”.

 As I have often said when dealing with imprecatory prayers Jesus commands we do the opposite of them. David prays here “do not let them share in your salvation” Jesus says in Matthew 5: 44, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”.

I was looking on the net for the verses that speak of loving your enemies and found them listed by a man named Fritz Clery who in his introduction to the verses says this,

“This topic is something we all struggle with at times. We feel like how can I love someone who keeps sinning against me? They give me no reason to love them. To me this is a reflection of the gospel. Do you give God a reason to love you? A Christian sins before a holy God yet he still pours out his love unto us. There was a time when you were an enemy of God, but Christ loved you and saved you from the wrath of God”.

 I wonder how many early Christians prayed for Saul who became the apostle Paul when he was an unbeliever who persecuted many Christians before he met Jesus on the road to Damascus and turned to Jesus as was saved.

However David is also saying that if a person continues to sin, “crime upon crime” and if, according to the New Testament fails to repent of those sins and believe in Jesus then of course they will not share in God’s salvation.

David makes this point even clearer in his final verse of imprecatory prayer, he writes,

“May they be blotted out of the book of life and not be listed with the righteous”.

 This is even a clearer way of saying, “not share in God’s salvation” for if our name is not in God’s book of life in heaven then we are not saved. The book of life is the name Revelations refers to this book and in Revelation 3: 5 we read this,

“He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot his name from the book of life, but acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels”.

 Again David prays that his enemies be blotted out of the book of life and Jesus would say pray that your enemies or persecutors are found in the book of life because they turn in repentance and faith to him and are saved through your loving witness to them.

  1. A WORD OF PRAISE FOR GOD’S SALVATION (29 – 36)

We come then to the final section of this Psalm, which brings into this Psalm the note of praise that David often strikes in his Psalms usually towards the end of his compositions.

There is one problem with this final section and that is verse 29. Does verse 29 belong to the previous section, which we have seen is an imprecatory prayer (a prayer asking for God’s judgment to come to one’s enemies). If it belongs to the imprecatory prayer then David is saying to God, look at how much I need your judgment God to come on my enemies because,

“I am in pain and distress; may your salvation, O God, protect me”.

 He has just prayed that his enemies be denied God’s salvation owing to their serious crimes against God. Now he wants that Salvation or deliverance to free him from his pain and distress.

Or does verse 29 belong to the last section that deals with praise and if it does it has a powerful message to us because David is saying,,

“I am in pain and distress; may your salvation, O God, protect me”.

And I will praise God’s name in song. This is the major point I have suggested in other Psalm talks that God wants us to praise him in all situations as Paul encourages us to do in 1 Thessalonians 5: 18,

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

 It is easy to be positive about God and acknowledge his help in our lives when everything is going well but to thank God or praise God when in pain and distress when we are being persecuted is a real act of faith in God.

For the rest of this final section I have broken it into two parts:

  1. Personal praise for God’s salvation (30 – 33)
  2. Universal praise for God’s salvation (34 – 36)
  1. Personal praise for God’s salvation (30 – 33)

 I call this a personal praise for God’s salvation because verse 30 reads,

“I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.”

 Note David says he will do this and this Psalm is clear evidence he did do it. David wrote many Psalms, 73 Psalms that we know and even some other Psalms could have been written by him but are not directly attributed to him in the Hebrew Headings. In most of these Psalms a note of praise is struck and most of them seem to be songs,

David we might say was a serious singer of praise and he always seems keen to glorify God even in his most difficult times like his run from his son Absalom who sought to kill him. In Psalm 4, which follows a Psalm that is attributed to the time David ran for his life from his rebellious son, Absalom he wrote these words in verses 7 and 8 of that Psalm,

“You have filled my heart with great joy than when their grain and new wine abound. I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety”.

 David wrote these words of praise to God as he was about to lie down in the cold and dangerous wilderness after he had just declared in verse 6,

“Many are asking, “Who can show us any good?” Let the light of your face shine upon us, O Lord”.

 Now that’s faith to be able to sing a song of praise that glorifies God with thanksgiving in those circumstances.

David goes on to say something he has said before as well in verse 31,

“This will please the Lord more than ox, more than a bull with horns and hoofs”.

 David is saying regular Tabernacle or Temple worship sacrifices do not match songs of praise from the hearts of men and women song in times of stress and difficulty. David first spoke of this in his famous Psalm 51: 16 – 17 spoken as part of his song of repentance for his sins of adultery and murder, he writes,

“You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifice of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise”.

 I think David is speaking about a sacrifice of praise which becomes a major theme in the New Testament for Christians, like Hebrews 13: 15,

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God, a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that confess his name”.

 And Paul says that our whole lives and bodies should be a living sacrifice to God in service, which becomes the basis of our worship of him in Romans 12: 1,

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship”.

 The next two verses of this personal praise for God’s salvation say much the same thing. They contain the hope David has for God’s salvation that his praise is for. The ideas of these two verses come from David’s understanding of both the bible as he knew it at that time and the historical acts of God so far for his people Israel.

With this in mind let’s look at verse 32,

“The poor will see and be glad – you who seek God, may your hearts live!”.

 David knew from God’s word that he had (probably first five books of the bible) God’s stated attitude to the poor or defenseless people like Deuteronomy 10: 18,

“He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the aliens, giving him food and clothing”.

 Israel is commanded by God in the books of the law which they called the Torah, the first five books of the bible to help the poor, people like the fatherless, widows and aliens.

Why?

Well listen to the verses that follow Deuteronomy 10: 18, verses 19 – 20,

“And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. Fear the Lord your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name. He is the one you praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes. Your ancestors who went down into Egypt were seventy in all, and now the Lord your God has made you as numerous as the stars in the sky”.

So David knew the kind of God he was trusting in, a God who saw the poor and wretched captive people of Israel in Egypt and who saved them out of Egypt giving them ultimately the promised land and making them a great nation.

But you might say, but David was not poor he was the King?

This is true but we have seen all through this Psalm his current situation was that of a poor man as he was probably out in the wilderness battling as the deposed king to stay alive and look after the many family and good friends who stayed loyal to him.

Besides in this verse David speaks of more than just the poor he says,

“You who seek God, may your hearts live!”.

 I believe it is the poor in spirit, those who recognize their true position before God as wretched aliens, as the people of Israel were physically in Egypt we all are because of our many sins that David is really thinking of here. He says and if these people seek God, their hearts, the whole being will live or in the context of this Psalm will be saved”.

Just as Jesus says in Matthew 5: 3,

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven”.

 The next verse, verse 33, virtually says the same thing,

“The Lord hears the needy and does not despise his captive people”.

 Note who the needy are here, “his captive people” David is making a direct reference to the Salvation or Deliverance of Israel out of Egypt. Maybe he felt his situation at the time of writing this Psalm was as though he is a captive out in the wilderness of western Judea with the threat of Absalom closing in on him.

As sinners the New Testament sees us as captives or slaves of sin. Listen to the wonderful liberating words of Jesus in John 8: 34 – 36,

 “Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed”.

So David’s personal song of praise is that he looked forward to God’s Salvation or deliverance because his God is a God who loves the poor and needy in spirit who seek him and because of that love for them will save them. David then looked forward with praise for his salvation and deliverance.

As I said in my introduction our salvation has three parts, we are saved from our trespasses and sins and the condemnation they bring by the death and resurrection of Jesus. We are being saved day-by-day and hour-by-hour by the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives turning us into new spiritual beings or making us more like Christ. Finally we will be saved when either we die and go to be with Christ or are caught up alive in the ascension of the second coming of Christ where we will be glorified in Christ.

As Paul writes in Romans 8: 17 – 18,

Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us”.

 For this great threefold work of salvation in us we should always in all circumstances praise God and particularly The Lord Jesus Christ who has made it all possible for us.

  1. Universal praise for God’s salvation (34 – 36)

David then widens the scope of his praise for God and opens this in verse 34 with,

“Let the heaven and earth praise him, the seas and all that move in them”.

 Wayne Jackson describes this praise this way,

“As he concludes, David calls for a universal anthem of praise in tribute to the almighty God, the entire creation in heaven, on earth, and in the sea is to honour the maker of all things”.

 The Apostle John incredible vision of God and heaven sees this type of praise going on all the time in heaven by those who surround the throne of God. In Revelation 5: 11, the praise to God goes like this,

“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being”.

 But why does David suddenly spring into universal praise and why does he call for that in the midst of a time of distress and difficulty caused by his enemy’s persecutions?

Well the next two verses answer that, verses 35 and 36,

“For God will save Zion and rebuild the cities of Judah. Then people will settle there and possess it; the children of his servants will inherit it, and those who love his name will dwell there”.

Now we come to a very tricky part of the Psalm to interpret and it is these verses that have caused some commentators to say that this Psalm was written at a much later date than David’s time. Some commentators say that Jeremiah could have written this Psalm because of the reference to the rebuilding of Judah, which would have happened at the return from Exile by the Jews after being 70 years in Babylon. This then is an example of National Salvation or deliverance.

I go with commentators like Leopold who suggests this as an explanation of the rebuilding of Judah at the time of David, he writes,

“What happened in the uprising of Absalom and the subsequent disasters had apparently done great harm to the nation”.

 When you consider that 2 Samuel 18: 6 – 8, we can see great devastation hit the nation as a result of Absalom rebellion,

“David’s army marched out of the city to fight Israel, and the battle took place in the forest of Ephraim. There Israel’s troops were routed by David’s men, and the casualties that day were great—twenty thousand men. The battle spread out over the whole countryside, and the forest swallowed up more men that day than the sword”.

For a nation the size of Israel of that time 20,000 men is a huge number and when you also consider the fact that does not include all the wounded. So in terms of population alone Judah would have had to rebuilt.

So what is David saying in his time in these last two verses?

David has been praying for personal Salvation or deliverance all through this Psalm owing to the persecution of his enemies and we think this could well be all the enemies David faced during the time of the Absalom rebellion.

He has just looked forward with the eyes of faith and praised God for personal salvation or deliverance from his enemies and now in these last two verses he is praising God for the Nations salvation or deliverance. This is the meaning of the opening words in verse 35,

“For God will save Zion”

 We have seen that Zion is a term used in the bible to represent a number of things and here it is being used to represent the Nation of Israel as it was gathered at Zion and the sanctuary there represented God dwelling with his people.

David foresees the devastation at the conclusion to the Absalom rebellion would cause and asks God to rebuild Judah. The next line,

“Then people will settle there and possess it”.

Is well explained by Albert Barnes when he writes,

“That his people may dwell there according to the ancient promise. The idea is, that he would be the protector of his people, and that all his promises to them would be fulfilled.”.

 Finally verse 36, is yet another poetic picture of the nations salvation,

“The children of his servants will inherit it, and those who love his name will dwell there”.

 In Old Testament terms the for fillment of the possession of the Promised Land is God’s salvation for his people. This can be seen in this verse with the words,

“The children of his servants will inherit it”.

 Also the next phase,

“And those who love his name will dwell there”.

 So David is again praising God for the salvation of his people once again secure and settled in the Promised Land under God’s appointed King.

However how are these verses to be interpreted by Christians who must read these words with the eyes of the New Testament?

Some still think that in some way the nation of Israel as it was before the coming of Christ will be renewed and literally they interpret these words as prophecy to come. Maybe they see the return of Jews to Israel in modern times as this starting to work it way out.

However I do not think this is how the New Testament actually interprets this. Let me share just one passage from the book of Hebrews that demonstrates clearly that the concept of the Nation of Israel and the possession of a literal promised land have been superseded by the coming of Christ and now have a completely different and far more wonderful message of Salvation.

The passage is Hebrews 12: 22 – 24,

“But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel”.

 The historical fact that the Temple in Jerusalem was totally destroyed in AD 70 and the Jews dispersed from Israel for 2,000 years by the Romans surely points to the fact that God has done away with the old order of things and established the new order that is the New Covenant established and built on the death and resurrection of his Son Jesus Christ.

That the new Israel of God is made up of people from all nations, Jews included and the fact that the Jerusalem we look forward to possessing is nothing more than heaven itself.

Revelation 21: 1 – 5 speaks of this new Heavenly Jerusalem to come and should be the grounds for our praise of universal salvation.

“Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

I close my Psalm Talk on this Psalm as I usually do with a poem which is the words of a song I have composed inspired by verses 1 – 18 of this Psalm and a prayer as well.

 SAVE ME OH GOD

(Based on Psalm 69: 1 – 18)

Save me Oh God

From the waters that cover me

Lift me up

From miry clay set me free

For I fallen in deep waters

And a flood engulfs my soul

I’m warn out from calling on you Oh Lord

I long to be made whole.

 

Save me oh God

From my many enemies

Lift me up

From those who seek to destroy me

I know I have sinned and failed you Lord

But through your grace you’ve forgiven me

May those who trust in you Oh Lord

Not suffer because of me.

 

Refrain:

Answer me with your love

Save me Lord Above

Yes Jesus died upon the cross

Yes you’ve saved me Lord with Love

 

Save me Oh God

From the scorn my enemies cause.

Lift me up

To stand on your solid floors.

Sometimes I feel like a stranger

Lost in a world so cold

But love for you consumes me Lord

And makes me feel so bold.

 

Save me Oh God

Answer me through your goodness and love

Lift me up

Through your mercy raise me above.

Do not hide your face from me

Come quickly and rescue me

Redeem my many sins Oh Lord

And give me Liberty.

 

Refrain:

Answer me with your love

Save me Lord Above

Yes Jesus died upon the cross

Yes you’ve saved me Lord with Love

 

By: Jim Wenman

PRAYER:

Father in heaven I thank you for your great Salvation freely given to me through the death and resurrection of your son Jesus Christ. Help me to live out you Salvation in the way I treat others especially those who seek to persecute me. Help me to show love even to my enemies remembering that I once was your enemy needing your salvation also but through your love you redeemed my life and brought me into your eternal kingdom and for this I want to praise you. In Jesus name I pray Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

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PSALM 68: THE PROCESSION OF THE MIGHTY SAVING GOD OF THE BIBLE

PSALM 68 TALK: THE PROCESSION OF THE MIGHTY SAVING GOD OF THE BIBLE

 (A Psalm that explores the Old Testament story of salvation represented by the ark leading God’s chosen people from the desert areas outside of Egypt to the top of God’s holy mountain, Zion in Jerusalem and how that alludes to our salvation from death to eternal life through Jesus death on the cross to his ascension back into heaven)

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide”.

INTRODUCTION

When I was young I grew up in an Anglican church that worshipped with some pomp and ceremony. I was in the church choir as a boy and we dressed in robes covered with a white surprise and we would march or process into the church singing the opening hymn and march or process out of the church during the singing of the final hymn.

This has all changed now and that church and the one I attend now do not wear robes of any sort and there is no processing in and out of the church however there are many Anglican churches who still worship this way and they are usually known as high Anglican churches as opposed to my church which is known as low Anglican.

However in the worship of the ancient Hebrews in bible times processions or marches to and from worship were a vital part of worship in those days. These processions would have been both colourful and noisy as the priests wore elaborate colourful clothing and lots of loud instruments were played like drums, cymbals and ancient trumpets and there was plenty of loud singing.

One of the most important and significant processions recorded in the Old Testament was on the day the Ark of the covenant was taken from the house of a man named Obed – Edom to the city of Jerusalem and up to the top of a large hill there known a Mount Zion where David had erected a large tent called “The Sanctuary” which in Solomon’s day became the Temple, which was built on a near by hill to Zion called Mount Mariah recorded in the bible in 2 Samuel 6 and 1 Chronicles 15: and 16. As we saw from Psalm 24 this great ascension of the ark was the climax of the Old Testament story of the salvation of the people of Israel.

In the New Testament another important ascension takes place namely when Jesus rises from the dead after dying on the cross for our sins and ascends into heaven. One final ascension has not happened yet and this ascension is on the last day when Jesus returns and all believers will rise from the dead and ascend into heaven and all non believers will be judged or their sins and rebellion to the rule of God in their lives.

Psalm 68 seems to be a hymn or song composed by David for the great day of the procession of the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem. This Psalm and Psalm 24 were probably sung on that day with great joy and rejoicing.

As opposed to Psalm 24, Psalm 68 is long and at times very complex and Old Testament scholars point out a number of verses that have proven to be hard to translate. Even with these problems H.C Leupold quotes and commentator named Maclaren who makes this apt assessment of the Psalm,

“This superb hymn is unsurpassed of not unequalled, in grandeurs, lyric fire, and sustained rush of triumphant praise”.

I hope my explanation of what this Psalm has to say to us today comes close to Maclaren assessment of this Psalm.

I have chosen the theme of “Procession” or “The procession of the mighty saving God of the Bible” as it turns out even Paul saw it this when he quoted verse 18 and of this Psalm and what he sees as its application for us as Christian believers in Ephesians 4: 7 – 13,

“But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says:”

 ‘When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.’

 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)

 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ”.

 The Old Testament story of how he saved Israel out of Egypt is a prelude to how he eventually made a way for all people to be saved from the penalty of their sins through the death and resurrection of his Son Jesus Christ.

All through my explanation of this Psalm I will refer to this as the Psalm only makes sense to us as Christian believers with what Christ has done for us in view.

As I have said before the New Testament interprets the Old Testament and the New Testament is better understood by this interpretation of the Old Testament.

My breakdown of this Psalm is:

  1. THE VICTORIOUS PROCESSION OF GOD BEGINS (1 – 6)
  1. THE VICTORIOUS PROCESSION OF GOD GOES FROM DESERT TO THE TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN IN JERUSALEM (7 – 18)
  1. THE VICTORIOUS PROCESSION OF GOD BRINGS US INTO HEVEAN ITSELF (19 – 31)
  1. THE VICTORIOUS PROCESSION OF GOD HAS GREAT UNIVERSAL CONSEQUENCES (32 – 35)
  1. THE VICTORIOUS PRECESSION OF GOD BEGINS (1 – 6)

 We must always remember when interpreting the Psalms that we a dealing with poetry which uses images and ideas that carry with them much meaning and teaching concerning God and his ways. The images in this Psalm come from the concept of the procession of the ark from desert to mountaintop, from captivity in Egypt to the giving of the law at Mount Sinai and then through the wilderness to the Promised Land and eventually to Jerusalem and one of its hills called Mount Zion.

Even though the Psalm never mentions the Ark of the Covenant directly the poetic images of this Psalm all point to it. There are clues we can see that this was written for the arks final journey ascension from the house of a Gentile man called Obed – Edom to up into Jerusalem and finally installed in the Sanctuary on Mount Zion that became the Temple on Mount Mariah a neighboring Hill in Jerusalem of Mount Zion and is now known as The Temple Mount that David bought from a gentile man who used the land as a threshing floor.

The first clue to the idea that this Psalm was a song composed for the procession of the Ark of the Covenant up and into Jerusalem is the Jewish heading, which reads,

“For the director of music. Of David. A psalm. A song”

So this Psalm was written by David and was written to be sung in worship as it was given to the director of music for some obvious momentous occasion during his reign

We will see more and more clues throughout this Psalm to the conclusion that this Psalm was written for the procession of the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem.

I have broken this first section of the Psalm into three parts:

  1. A call for the Ark of the Covenant to start it’s journey (1 – 2)
  2. A call to all in the procession to praise God (3 – 4)
  3. God’s classic provision of deliverance (5 – 6)
  1. A call for the Ark of the Covenant to start it’s journey (1 – 2)

The opening verse of this Psalm reads;

“May God arise, may his enemies be scattered; may his foes flee before him.”

This verse mirrors and echoes the very words Moses spoke each time the Israelites broke camp in the wilderness and commenced being led by God on a great procession through the wilderness following the Ark of the covenant and this is recorded in Numbers 10: 35;

“Whenever the Ark set out, Moses said,

‘Rise up, O Lord! May your enemies be scattered; may your foes flee before you”.

Throughout the Arks procession went in the enemies Israel encountered where defeated.

In the book of Joshua Rahab in the walled city of Jericho told the spies Joshua sent into the city the report of this procession through the wilderness with these words:

“We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordon, whom you completely destroyed”.

Of course this procession of the Ark of the Covenant continued into the Promised Land and it went around the walled city of Jericho 7 days and once the trumpets were sounded God caused the walls to fall down so that the people of Jericho were scattered and destroyed.

The New Testament speaks of Jesus making a way for us into heaven and even uses the concept of him leading a great procession into heaven which Paul refers to in Ephesians 4: 7 – 10 when he quotes verse 18 of this Psalm,

‘When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.’

 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)

 Paul speaks of the procession of Christ into heaven in 2 Corinthians 2: 14 where he probably has the Roman victory processions that took place in Rome when their armies returned for a triumphant victory over an enemy of Rome,

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere”.

 Note that Paul sees this a triumphant march or procession just as it was physically for the Israelites against its enemies so it is for us spiritually against the great spiritual enemies of God which Paul speaks about in Ephesians 6: 10.

 The second verse of the Psalm also has elusions to the procession of the Ark of the Covenant in the wilderness when it reads,

“As smoke is blown away by the wind, may you blow them away; as wax melts before the fire, may the wicked perish before God”,

 This is of course is a poetic description of the victories Israel had over God’s enemies in the wilderness, the conquest of the land and in the time of Judges and Kings up to the writing of this Psalm by David for the procession of the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem.

The enemies of God had no chance of beating the God of heaven and earth and where like smoke blown away by the wind and like a candle burning away by a fire.

But interestingly Numbers 9 speaks of a cloud the tabernacle were the Ark of the Covenant sat covered over it and it was like fire, Numbers 9: 15 – 18,

“On the day the tabernacle, the tent of the covenant law, was set up, the cloud covered it. From evening till morning the cloud above the tabernacle looked like fire. That is how it continued to be; the cloud covered it, and at night it looked like fire. Whenever the cloud lifted from above the tent, the Israelites set out; wherever the cloud settled, the Israelites encamped”.

So when the fire like cloud lifted and was as it were blown away the Ark of the Covenant was packed up and moved leading the procession of the people through the wilderness.

  1. A call to all in the procession to praise God (3 – 4)

Verse 2 finishes with what will happen to those who oppose God and his people and it simply says, “the wicked perish before God” as the enemies of Israel and their God did in the wilderness and in the land of Canaan that became God’s promised land for his people.

So how where the people of God in this victorious procession to act as they followed the Ark of the Covenant?

Verses 3 and 4 answer this question in a most decisive way,

“But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful. Sing to God, sing praise to his name, extol him who rides on the clouds – his name is the Lord – rejoice before him”.

When the actual procession of the Ark of the Covenant actually went up into Jerusalem from the house of Obed – Edom Samuel tells us this in 2 Samuel 6: 12 – 15,

“Now King David was told, “The Lord has blessed the household of Obed-Edom and everything he has, because of the ark of God.” So David went to bring up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with rejoicing. When those who were carrying the ark of the Lord had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf. Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets”.

This is a perfect outworking of how the Psalm says the people are to act when in the procession of the carrying the Ark of the Covenant in Psalm 68. The people and particularly David where:

  1. Glad and rejoiced
  2. Happy and joyful
  3. Full of songs of praise
  4. Rejoiced before the Lord.

Verse 4 and verse 33 reference to “the God who rides on the clouds” and in verse 33 “to him who rides the ancient skies above, who thunders with a mighty voice”, echo’s teaching we saw in Psalm 29 where God’s voice is the power of the thunder storm. The God Baal is said by its followers to be riding his chariot across the sky during a thunder storm but the God of Israel is more powerful than Baal as Psalm 29: 10 and 11 declare,

“The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord is enthroned as King forever.
The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace”.

 Here in Psalm 68 the one who rides on the clouds is not Baal but “The Lord” of heaven and earth who we know from Psalm 29: 10 also,

“Sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord is enthroned as King forever”.

 We read again the end of verse 4 says,

“Rejoice before him”

 Paul taught in a number of places that the Christian life should be lived in an attitude of praise and rejoicing as he teaches in Philippians 4: 4,

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”

 In 1 Thessalonians 5: 16 – 18 Paul makes it even clearer how we are to live the Christian life which I see is being part of God’s great procession to heaven following Christ,

Rejoice always, pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”.

  1. God’s classic provision of deliverance (5 – 6)

My title for verses 5 to 6, “God’s classic provision of deliverance” is inspired by these words of Derek Kidner,

“”That deliverance was the classic provision for the homeless, liberation for prisoners and chastening for the rebels”.

These two verses aptly describe the people of Israel in bondage in Egypt and how God delivered them from homelessness, imprisonment in Egypt to salvation and then to being lead in a victorious procession to the Promised Land. The verses read then like this,

“”A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun- drenched land”.

So in Egypt owing to the harsh treatment of the Egyptians many Israelites were fatherless, husbandless and certainly all where prisoners as slaves to the Egyptian Pharaoh yet God led Israel forth and as they followed the Ark of the Covenant in the wilderness and into the promised land they could sing of his deliverance but the enemies of God, those who sought to defy him described here as “The Rebellious” where as it were left out to rot and dry in a sun – drenched land.

These verses also aptly describe the mission and ministry of Jesus as Jesus makes it clear in Matthew 9: 12 – 13,

“On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Jesus demonstrated this teaching by his association with tax collectors, prostitutes and even lepers, the social outcasts of his day.

From these kinds of people Jesus called to follow him. The disciples themselves were very ordinary men on the whole who Jesus called and who through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit built the church of Jesus Christ that still continues to this day.

Paul says this about God’s classic provision of deliverance in 1 Corinthians 1: 26 – 30,

“Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption”.

I will let James in the bible have the last word on this in James 1: 27,

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world”.

  1. THE VICTORIOUS PROCESSION OF GOD GOES FROM DESERT TO THE TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN IN JERUSALEM (7 – 18)

 In the second section of this Psalm David decides to describe poetically the procession of the Ark of the Covenant from its creation at Mount Sinai through the desert wilderness and into the Promised Land of Israel and then up to the city of Jerusalem and on to Mount Zion its final resting place. Although it was moved in the time of Solomon when he built the Temple to another hill in Jerusalem called then Mount Mariah, which became known and is still known today as The Temple Mount.

I have broken this second section of the Psalm into 3 parts:

  1. God’s victorious procession through the desert (7 – 10)
  2. God’s victorious procession leads to victory over his enemies (11 – 14)
  3. God’s victorious procession leads to the mountain top of Zion (15 – 18)
  1. God’s victorious procession through the desert (7 – 10)

 The Ark of the Covenant was simply a box that contained the two tablets of stone that God himself wrote the basis of his law the 10 commandments on Mount Sinai in the wilderness outside of Egypt. It also contained samples of Manna (which was the special food God supplied Israel during their wilderness wanderings) and Aarons rod.

The dimensions of this box and how it was to be made and what materials it was to be made of was given by God (see Exodus 25). Even who and how it was to be carried by God set down. How it was to be carried was a fact David discovered to his horror when he first tried to move the Ark of the Covenant in a ad hock way and a man died as a result.

So the early stages of the Procession of the Ark commence this second part of the Psalm. We read in verse 7,

“When you went out before your people, O God, when you marched through the wasteland”.

 This is a clear and direct reference to the wilderness stage of the victorious procession of the Ark of the Covenant, which represented God leading his people through the wilderness at that time.

 When I was in Bible College in the early 1970’s a great debate was taking place about how the story of Israel’s wanderings in the desert and the conquest of the Promised land should be interpreted by Christians today.

Some argued that many Christian teachers and believers had spiritualized these historical events and that this was not the correct way of biblically understanding this part of the scriptures. I for a time thought this was so and avoided using what some call the “Wilderness Experience” as a way of explaining difficult times in the Christian life.

However I have changed or at least modified my position on this. My argument is that if we are to interpret the Old Testament by the New Testament then how does the New Testament interpret “The wilderness experience”?

The answer to this question might surprise you and I offer just one example of a New Testament writer’s interpretation of the wilderness experience of ancient Israel. It comes from the writings of Paul in 1 Corinthians 10: 1 – 14 which reads,

“For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.

Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry. We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes.  And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.

These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!  No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it”.

Paul in this passage uses the wilderness experience of ancient Israel to warn the people of the church of Corinth about turning away from following the Lord and living the way he wants us to live. He is rightly saying the people of Israel in the wilderness generation only suffered the hardship of the wilderness because they had sinned by grumbling against the Lord and turned away from following his laws.

He even states in verse 4 that the rock the people drank from in the wilderness was Christ. This is referring to the incident in Exodus 17 where we have an example of the people of God in the wilderness grumbling and speaking against Moses and their God. This incident and others like the making of Idols to worship when God was giving Moses the law on Mount Sinai in Exodus 20 and the people grumbling and not having faith in God to help them defeat the people of Canaan after the spies report of the land of Canaan led God to say in Exodus 14: 20 – 26 – 35, is the reasons why the people of that time wandered for 40 years in the wilderness and only there children entered the promised land.

 “The Lord said to Moses and Aaron “How long will this wicked community grumble against me? I have heard the complaints of these grumbling Israelites. So tell them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Lord, I will do to you the very thing I heard you say:  In this wilderness your bodies will fall—every one of you twenty years old or more who was counted in the census and who has grumbled against me. Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun.  As for your children that you said would be taken as plunder, I will bring them in to enjoy the land you have rejected. But as for you, your bodies will fall in this wilderness. Your children will be shepherds here for forty years, suffering for your unfaithfulness, until the last of your bodies lies in the wilderness. For forty years—one year for each of the forty days you explored the land—you will suffer for your sins and know what it is like to have me against you.’ I, the Lord, have spoken, and I will surely do these things to this whole wicked community, which has banded together against me. They will meet their end in this wilderness; here they will die.”

 However even though only the people who grumbled against the Lord children will see the promised land along with Caleb and Joshua who had faith in God to help them be victorious in battle this did not stop God going out before them and leading them in a victorious procession through the wilderness as verse 7 declares in Psalm 68.

This then leads me to interpret and apply verse 7 that even if we sin and are chastised by God he is still with us helping us by guiding and guarding us if we turn back to him in faith and repentance.

Verse 8, speaks of the great day God spoke with Moses on the top of the mountain known as Mount Sinai it reads,

“The earth shook, the heavens poured down rain, before God, the God of Israel”.

 Moses went up the mountain on that great day and the people waited at the foot of the mountain and Exodus 19: 16 – 19 describes the events of that day this way,

“On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain.

Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently. As the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him”.

Note how Exodus 19 describes that when God descended on the Mount Sinai there was a great thunderstorm and lightning and verse 8 of Psalm 68 says, “the heavens poured down rain” which is of course another aspect of a thunderstorm.

Spurgeon commenting on this verse and particularly these words in Exodus 19 says this,

“The passage is so sublime, that it would be difficult to find its equal. May the reader’s heart adore the God before whom the unconscious earth and sky act as if they recognised their maker and were moved with a tremor of reverence”.

Verse 9 speaks of God’s ongoing blessing on his people in his great victorious procession through the wilderness or desert. It reads,

“You gave abundant showers, O God; you refreshed your weary inheritance”

 The people for forty years processed behind the Ark of the Covenant through the desert and God provided water, food in the forms of manna and quails and they were always refreshed and blessed even during this time of testing and discipline.

God only disciplines us according to Hebrews 12 because he loves us so even during difficult times we might have because of our sin and disobedience God will still bless us and provide for us. Listen to the excellent words of advice from the writer of the Hebrews in Hebrews 12: 5 – 13,

“And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.  Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness.  No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. Make level paths for your feet, so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed”.

Not that all difficult times in our lives are the result of our sins but they can be caused by the sin of others or are sent by God to test and prove our faith. However we can be assured that for whatever reason we might have a “Wilderness Experience” God will and does not leave us but provides what we need and more as we faithfully follow him in his victorious procession to heaven.

Finally in this first part of the second section is verse 10, which says,

“Your people settle in it, and from your bounty, O God, you provided for the poor”.

 I think that David now jumps from the wilderness to the Promised Land and of course the victorious procession of God moved from the 40 years in the wilderness to the Promised Land. All battles led by Joshua followed the Ark of the Covenant the symbol of God being with his people through his covenantal agreement.

God led the people through the wilderness and into the promised land of Canaan and he guided and protected them in both situations. In the promised land he helped them, “Settle in it”, through many successful battles like the city I Jericho only the small city of Ai turned out to be a initial defeat for Joshua and Israel. Ai was initially a lost battle because of the sin of Achan who tried to take spoil from Jericho disobeying God’s direct orders. Once Achan’s sin was dealt with Joshua led a successful defeat of Ai.

The second half of verse 10,

“From your bounty, O God, you provided for the poor”

 Probably refers to God’s help in defeating the people of Canaan and providing them with all they needed from these victories. Albert Barnes has a slightly different slant on this verse, which is very interesting. He believes the translation should be “tendered the congregations” Translations like the King James 2000 translate this verse like this;

“Your congregation has dwelt therein: you, O God, have provided of your goodness for the poor”.

 If this is a better translation of this verse than Barnes comment on it is very worthwhile, he writes;

“For thy flock considered as poor or wretched. That is, Thou has provided for them they had no resources of their own – when they were a poor, oppressed and afflicted people – wanderers wholly dependent on God”.

 We know from the New Testament that spiritually in ourselves we are poor and have nothing to bring to our salvation. As Paul makes it clear in Ephesians 2: 9 – 10,

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”.

We are spiritually like the people of Israel in the wilderness having come out of Egypt as slaves for 400 years and having spent 40 years wandering the desert we are poor and have nothing to offer for our salvation or deliverance.

However just as Israel were poor “God provided for them” and God in Christ has provided our salvation and all we have to do is turn in repentance and faith to God and accept God’s free gift of salvation.

  1. God’s victorious procession leads to victory over his enemies (11 – 14)

This second part of the second section of the Psalm spells out how God provided victory over his and Israel’s enemies when they joined in the victorious procession of the Ark of the Covenant.

Verse 11 says,

“The Lord announced the word, and great was the company of those who proclaimed it”.

 As Israel came up against enemies in the wilderness and in the land of Canaan when following the Ark of the Covenant they sought his help and over and over again they had victories over their enemies. The idea that Israel’s victories when following their God and this was part of God’s word to the world has come up in other Psalms before this like Psalm 64: 9,

“All mankind will fear; they will proclaim the works of God and ponder what he has done”.

 I commented in my Psalm talk on Psalm 64 about this principle with these words,

“Another good example of this is in Joshua chapter 2 when the Canaanite women who helped the spies said this about how her people reacted to the news of God helping the Israelites out of Egypt and in the wilderness. She says in verse 11,

“When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below”.

 Note how all her fellow Canaanites reacted but it seems only Rahab the lowly prostitute turned that fear of the God of the Israelites into saving faith”.

I have now found that my most popular Psalm talk on my web blog page is Psalm 34, which has the title of, “The power of a God centred Testimony”. This Psalm deals with David’s miraculous escape from the Philistine city of Gath, Goliaths old hometown. In this Psalm David is testifying to how he in verse 4,

“Sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears”.

 We too have a powerful testimony to tell the world of how we have been saved and transformed by believing and putting our faith in what Christ has done for us on the cross.

Verse 12 of Psalm 68 spells out with a bit more detail God’s provision for his people when they were following the victorious procession of the Ark of the Covenant. It reads,

“Kings and armies flee in haste; in the camps men divide the plunder”.

 The first part of this verse is clear as it speaks of the Kings and their armies that opposed the procession of the Ark or the progress of the people of Israel and how they ultimately fled from the battle with the God of heaven and earth as he fought for them.

The second part of this verse has a variety of different translations as the Hebrew words and what they mean is not totally clear. Here is a different translation of this verse that sheds different light on what it might be saying, English Standard version,

“The kings of the armies—they flee, they flee!” The women at home divide the spoil—“

Yes this translation says the women of Israel and the women at home divide the plunder.

This translation introduces us to another key aspect of this Psalm and that is a lot of the verses in it came from the Song of Deborah found in Judges 5 and verses 28 to 30 of that song say this,

“Through the window peered Sisera’s mother; behind the lattice she cried out,
‘Why is his chariot so long in coming? Why is the clatter of his chariots delayed?’
The wisest of her ladies answer her; indeed, she keeps saying to herself, ‘Are they not finding and dividing the spoils: a woman or two for each man, colourful garments as plunder for Sisera, colourful garments embroidered, highly embroidered garments for my neck— all this as plunder”?

The story of Deborah who led successfully the armies of Israel against a Canaanite king named Sisera is an amazing story on a number of fronts. Not to mention the fact that a women in Ancient Israel leading a army is incredible alone when women at that time were nothing more than the goods a chattels of a man. Even in Jesus time women status was much the same and it was only the Gospel message and the coming of the Spirit of God to all believers that has change this as Peter refers to in the first Christian sermon preached on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2: 17 – 18,

“‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions; your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy”.

There are some who take the headship of a man in his home and I would say the church to the extreme by saying that women cannot preach or teach God’s word to mixed audiences where men are present as well. I am not one of them and I believe that women like anyone gifted by God to teach can do so under the leadership of the Holy Spirit and a man who is recognised as the head paster or minister of that church. Even when I preach or teach in the church I too must submit to the same leadership of the churches I visit and preach and teach in.

I must say I respect others both men and women who have a different biblical view on this just as I hope they would respect the view I have on this most controversial teaching in the age we live in.

So back to our verse 12 of Psalm 68, if the translation is correct that women divided the spoil or plunder than this adds to the humiliation of the defeated kings as Sisera found when he was defeated by a women who was part of a long line of people who were part of the great victorious procession of the ark of the Covenant.

Verse 13,

If verse 12 is speculation that it was inspired by the Song of Deborah in Judges 5 than the first part of verse 13 is clearly inspired by verse 16 of Deborah’s song. Let me show you what I mean here is Judges 5: 16,

“Why did you stay among the campfires to hear the whistling for the flocks in the district of Reuben there was much searching of heart”.

And now here is the first part of verse 13 of Psalm 68,

“Even while you sleep among the campfires”

Judges 5: 16 seems to refer to the men of Reuben who stayed back at their camp fires with their flocks of sheep rather than join the army of Israel led by Deborah against the Canaanite king Sisera who was not only defeated by a women but killed by a women who drove a tent peg into the temple of his head while he was sleeping.

So if verse 12 refers to women dividing the spoil or plunder of the defeated Canaanites then the first part of verse 13 refers to the men of Reuben who missed out on the plunder and it was the women of other tribes got the spoil or plunder instead.

The second half of verse 13 seems to be a poetic description of some of that spoil or plunder it reads;

“The wings of my dove are sheathed with silver, its feathers with shinning gold”.

The poetic description chosen to represent the spoil taken from the Canaanites probably continues a women’s perspective as we see from Benson’s explanation of these words in verse 13 of “the wings of my dove”,

“Beautiful and glorious, like the feathers of a dove, which, according to the variety of its postures, and of the light shining upon it, look like silver or gold. He is thought to

refer to the rich garments, or costly tents, which they took from the Midianites, and their other enemies, and which, either because of their various colours, or their being ornamented with silver and gold, resembled the colours of a dove, the feathers of whose wings or body glistered interchangeably, as with silver and gold”.

 Verse 14 returns to the general over- all defeats of the Kings and nations of Canaan when the victorious procession of the Ark of the Covenant moved into the Promised Land. It reads,

“When the almighty scattered the kings in the land, it was like snow fallen on Zalmon”.

 Zalmon seems to be reference to the snow capped mountains near Shechem or even snow capped mountains of Basham north of Israel in modern day Syria today.

 Spurgeon explains the poetic image used here of snow on a mountain and its reference to the victorious precession of the Ark of the Covenant in the conquest of the Promised land with these words,

“The victory was due to the Almighty arm alone; he scattered the haughty ones who came against the people, and he did it as easily as snow is driven from the bleak sides of Zalmon”.

  1. God’s victorious procession leads to the mountain top of Zion (15 – 18)

 The final part of this second section of the Psalm deals with the climax and completion of the victorious precession of the Ark of the Covenant. As I pointed out in my Psalm 24 talk which we believe is another Psalm / Song written fro the ascension of the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem this even marked the climax of the Old Testament story. A story, which began with Abraham being called by God to move from Ur of the Chaldeans to the land of Canaan, promised to his descendants.

The story continues to Joseph leading his people into Egypt and there they eventually became slaves of Pharaoh for 400 years eventual saved by God out of Egypt under the leadership of Moses. The story tells of how God made a Covenant with his people and gave them his law, which is summarised by the 10 commandments, which were written by God on to stone tablets and placed in The Ark of the Covenant.

That Ark of the Covenant was carried in front of the people and led a victorious procession through the 40 years of the wilderness wanderings and into Canaan, the Promised Land promised to Abraham and his descendants. This victorious procession included many great and miraculous victories over the enemies of God and Israel and eventually it led to the great day this Psalm was written for when The Ark of the Covenant was carried up into Jerusalem to its final resting place in the Sanctuary and eventually the Temple in God’s holy city of Jerusalem.

Verses 15 and 16 of Psalm describe this final resting place of the Ark of the Covenant this way,

“The mountains of Bashan are majestic mountains, rugged are the mountains of Bashan. Why gaze in envy, at the mountains, at the mountain where God chooses to reign, where the Lord himself dwell forever?”

 David had just mentioned the mountain named a Zalmon part of a mighty mountain chain north of Jerusalem towards modern day Syria and he now refers to these mountains again making a amazing contrast of God’s choice of the mere hill of Zion compared to these beautiful breathtaking mountains.

To give you an idea of where these mountains are and why the choice of Zion is an amazing and in some way curious choice I would like to quote one modern writers description of the Mountains of Bashan on the internet, he writes,

“Bashan (including the Golan Heights and southern slopes of Mt. Harmon) stands at what was the northern boundary between Judea and the gentile world. Rising some 9200 feet above sea level, it is a beautiful and impressive site. Well watered, fruitful plains, rugged and snow-capped mountains, clearly the type of place you’d expect to find God”.

 All through the bible the choice of God is often both curious and unique and in the case of the mountain he picked out for the special dwelling of his presence on earth in the Sanctuary and eventually temple another example of God’s mysterious choice is evident. David writes like the bigger and more impressive mountains are able to think and gaze down to Zion like a jealous person not happy with the choice of God.

David himself experienced the amazing choice of God who says this through the prophet Samuel when he was the unlikely chosen replacement to King Saul in 1 Samuel 16: 7,

“The Lord does not look at the things man looks at, Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart”.

 God’s choice of whom he sets his love upon is a key subject in the New Testament as well. The most famous New Testament passage on this is Romans 9: 14 – 23,

“What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all!

  For he says to Moses,“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. For Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.

 One of you will say to me: Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?

 What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory”

So God chose the small hill in the city of Jerusalem called Zion as the final resting place of the Ark of the Covenant the physical symbol of God’s abode in heaven now linked with his people Israel through his covenant of grace.

Verse 17 and 18 describe the climax of the victorious procession of the Ark of the Covenant. Verse 17 continues something of the thoughts in verse 16,

“The chariots of God are tens of thousands and thousands of thousands; the Lord has come, from Sinai into his Sanctuary”

 If the mountains of Bashan thought Zion was a poor choice for the place of the Sanctuary of God that housed the Ark of Covenant because it unlike them it was a poor choice for its defence than, get this, David says God’s chariots and his heavenly armies of thousands of thousands will defend it.

The victories through the wilderness and in the taking of the Promised Land are a testimony to God’s power and might alone. From Sinai to Zion God’s victorious procession has moved on unhindered by all kinds of earthy opposition.

Finally the central verse of this Psalm appears in verse 18, which I said in my introduction was quoted by Paul in Ephesians 4: 8. Verse 18 says,

“When you ascended on high, you took many captives; you received gifts from people, even from the rebellious—that you, Lord God, might dwell there”.

This verse also seems to have taken some of its inspiration from the Song of Deborah in Judges 5: 12,

“Wake up, wake up, Deborah! Wake up, wake up, and break out in song! Arise, Barak! Take captive your captives, son of Abinoam”.

Kidner aptly explains what this verse is actually saying with these words,

“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”.

Paul gives us the right Christian interpretation of this verse in Ephesians 4: 7 – 13,

He sees the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus into heaven as God’s great victory over sin and won for us the bounty of our salvation and the gifts of grace so that we can serve him in this life unto we like Jesus ascend ourselves into heaven. Pauls way of saying this is verse 13,

“Until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ”.

When God gave Israel victory over their enemies in the wilderness and into the Promised Land they through there captivity of them received great material gifts or spoil but through Jesus great victory on the cross and the captives he made we receive great spiritual gifts.

Israel received the material gifts to help set up God’s kingdom on earth but we received God’s gifts of service to establish the Kingdom of heaven. The Ark of the Covenant led a victorious procession into the Promise Land and up and into Jerusalem. Jesus leads a great victorious procession of believers up and into heaven, which the Ark of the Covenant only represented.

  1. THE VICTORIOUS PROCESSION OF GOD BRINGS US INTO HEVEAN ITSELF (19 – 31)

 It seems that the climax and end of the Psalm has been reached by verses 17 and 18 but in fact we have only come to the middle of this long and amazing Psalm. For now David wants to help us understand what this great victorious precession will bring to his people Israel.

I have broken this third section of the Psalm into three parts as well:

  1. God’s victorious procession gives us victory over death and our enemies (19 – 23)
  1. Gods’ victorious procession comes into sharp view (24 – 27)
  1. God’s victorious procession leads to the Salvation of the world (28 – 31)
  1. God’s victorious procession gives us victory over death and our enemies (19 – 23)

David now wants his people to sing as they march in this great victorious procession of the Ark of the Covenant of the benefits it brings or more particularly the benefits his salvation brings to his people.

In verse 19 he speaks of the daily practical benefits that God’s Salvation represented by God’s physical evidence of his covenant agreement with his people, which is the Old Testament means of Salvation.

Verse 19 speaks of these practical daily benefits this way,

“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savoir, who daily bears our burdens”

Even in David’s time the benefits of there Salvation in God was not just pie in the sky when they die. Each day God promised to be with them helping them to daily bear their burdens.

Like wise we to are not just following Jesus for the benefits of heaven when we die but Jesus promises to be with us always and in Matthew 11: 28 – 29 he promises to daily help us bear our burdens,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls”.

Throughout the Psalms of David and through the story of his life in 1 and 2 Samuel and the book of 1 Chronicles we see David going to God in prayer as he faced tremendous burdens and over and over again David finds God helping him carry those burdens. In Psalm 55 verse 22, David says this,

“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall”.

In verse 20 David states the supreme example of God’s help in bearing our burdens, the ultimate burden of life for all us, death.

He writes,

“Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death”.

Kidner writes,

“Escape means literally “exit” or “going forth”, and the Christian can reflect with David that while death is apparently a domain with many entrances and no exits, God has made one from which “he brought me forth”.

The victorious procession of the Ark of the Covenant led Israel up into Jerusalem and the earthly representation of heaven on earth the Sanctuary or the Temple but Jesus leads us up and into heaven itself something Old Testament people like David only looked forward to but we look back to how it has been done by God through the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ God’s Son.

At the end of a long passage in 1 Corinthians 15 that deals with the resurrection of the body Paul makes some amazing claims about God’s victory over death for all Christian believers, 1 Corinthians 15 : 54 – 57,

“When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory. “Where, O death is your victory? Where, O death is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ”.

Yes in Christ we have the full assurance of escape from death David only looked forward to by faith.

In the next 3 verses of this first part of the thirds section of this Psalm David goes on to talk about victory over his enemies and because he is the Lord’s anointed King, which we first pick up in Psalm 2, his enemies are God’s enemies also.

Verse 21 says,

“Our God will crush the heads of his enemies, the hairy crowns of those who go on in their sins”.

This verse is saying that God will not only have victory over his enemies he will totally overthrow them poetically portrayed as the crushing of their heads.

Interestingly there is a reference to the crushing of the head of a enemy of Israel in the song of Deborah when Deborah refers to the sticky end of her enemy king, Sisera in Judges 5: 26 – 27,

“Her hand reached for the tent peg, her right hand for the workman’s hammer.
She struck Sisera, she crushed his head, She shattered and pierced his temple.
 At her feet he sank, he fell; there he lay. At her feet he sank, he fell; where he sank, there he fell—dead”.

The strange expression of the hairy crowns is explained well by Kidner when he writes,

“May allude to a practice of leaving the locks unshorn in the hope that wholeness and strength would be thereby preserved”.

God’s enemies can do nothing to stop God’s victory over them a concept explored in the next verse, 22, which says,

“The Lord says, “I will bring them from Bashan; I will bring them from the depths of the sea”.

The enemies of God might flee to the top of great mountains; again David uses Bashan as an illustration of a great mountain. They might even try and hide in the sea and of course Jonah discovered that an ocean is no hiding place from God.

No they can do nothing and go anywhere to avoid God’s judgement of his enemies. Amos puts it this way when speaking of God’s own people, Israel trying to escape his coming judgment in Amos 9: 2 – 3,

“Though they dig down to the depths below, from there my hand will take them.
Though they climb up to the heavens above, from there I will bring them down.
Though they hide themselves on the top of Carmel, there I will hunt them down and seize them. Though they hide from my eyes at the bottom of the sea, there I will command the serpent to bite them”.

The New Testament speaks in a similar way about how all kinds of people on God’s judgment day will try and hide from the coming judgment of God without success, like Revelations 6: 15 – 17,

Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains.

 They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! 17 For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?”

Verse 23 then speaks of what God will do to his enemies once he has found them,

“That you may plunge your feet in blood of your foes, while the tongues of your dogs have their share”.

This is a difficult verse for bible scholars to both translate and interpret but I found that it was Albert Barnes who cleared up both the translation and interpretation for me, he writes,

“A more literal rendering would be, ‘That thou mayest crush – thy foot in blood – the tongue of thy dogs from the enemies, from him’. The idea of ‘dipping’ the foot in blood is not in the passage directly, but the leading thought is that of ‘crushing’ the enemy”.

Concerning the image of the tongues of dogs having their share, Barnes explains,

“The tongues of dogs would be employed in licking up the blood of the enemies”.

This is a gruesome poetic image of the fate of God’s enemies but it seems to suggest both devastation and humiliation which the Judgment of God will bring and did bring in Old testament times as the victorious procession of the Ark of the Covenant met God’s enemies in bloody battle.

  1. Gods’ victorious procession comes into sharp view (24 – 27)

Suddenly in the middle of this third section of the Psalm David seems to be describing the actual victorious procession of the Ark of the Covenant probably as it was on the day the Ark of the Covenant ascended into Jerusalem. It is just like the procession has come round the corner and David is on the roadside describing this great procession.

Why did David put a description of the procession of the Ark of the Covenant in this section of the Psalm?

I think the context of this section answers this question. David has just told us that God’s Salvation, which I think he saw the victorious procession of the Ark of the Covenant, was its earthly representation which had given them victory over death and their enemies and now he wants them to know both physically and spiritually where God’s Salvation will lead them to.

Let me explain, first of all Israel was only saved because God chose to choose them out of his grace to be his special people. To do this he made a covenant agreement with Israel and the agreement was that if they keep his law, summed up by the 10 commandments he would bless them or save them. However if they did not remain faithful to God and showed this by disobeying his law then he would not bless them.

Israel of course throughout the Old Testament failed to keep God’s law and they often were judged by God for this and punished.

However God’s covenant was not a failure because God provided a way for the law to be kept and the sin created by not obeying the law to be paid for. This was all achieved by the coming of Jesus who lived a sinless life and who died on the cross to pay for our sins. So that we could be saved and blessed by God through the grace of God in Christ which is given to us as a gift through faith in him.

Listen to Paul saying exactly this in Romans 3: 21 – 26,

“But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus”.

Back then to Psalm 68, David knew that The Ark of the Covenant represented God’s covenant agreement with his people Israel and that agreement which created Israel’s special relationship with God was what led his people victoriously from Sinai to Zion.

Zion and the Sanctuary and later Temple on it represented Gods heavenly dwelling with his people on earth so to David the sight of the victorious procession of the Ark of the Covenant going up into Jerusalem and onto Mount Zion was a physical representation of God taking him and people into heaven itself.

So as we read David’s description of this great victorious procession of the Ark of the Covenant we will look at it on two levels: The physical or earthly level and two on the spiritual or heavenly level.

I have broken this description into four titles:

  1. The procession that leads us to heaven (vs. 24)
  2. The procession that is full of singing and music (vs. 25)
  3. The procession that is characterised by praise to God (vs.26)
  4. The procession that contains all levels of human society (vs. 27)
  1. The procession that leads us to heaven (vs. 24)

 David cites the victorious procession of the Ark of the Covenant and says this,

“Your procession has come into view O God, the procession of my God and King into the sanctuary:”

 Note that David does not just see a box being carried up into Jerusalem and onto Mount Zion and the sanctuary he sees what that box or Ark represented non other than God his king or Lord.

Even for the Christian earthly symbols are important and Jesus knew this so he gave us two namely Baptism and The Holy Communion. Jesus knew how prone we are as human beings to making earthly things into idols so he made these two earthly symbols things that are difficult to be turned into idols.

However even these two Christ given earthly symbols have been corrupted by Christians throughout the ages and even today. Take the communion or breaking of bread and drinking of wine which Jesus said this about the eating of the broken bread in Luke 22: 19,

“This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me”.

 Some have taken the words of Jesus literally and turn the bread in their communion service into the actual body of Christ rather than a symbol of it and this has lead them to worship the communion elements not the person the elements help us to remember.

Maybe even some of the Jewish people in David’s time and after fell into the same trap and worshipped the box or Ark rather than who and what the Ark represented.

Then David speaks of where this procession leads to, namely, “the sanctuary” which of course was the earthly or physical representation of God’s heavenly dwelling on earth. This means David believed that by following God the King in this life would lead the follower into heaven itself.

David has spoken about this in a number of Psalms before like Psalm 15 verses 1,

“Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your Holy Hill?

 Which is not speaking about just the physical and earthly Holy Hill but heaven itself. We see this more clearly from Psalm 33 verses 13 and 14,

“From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind; from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth”.

 The book of Hebrews uses a lot of Old Testament images and concepts to teach us what Jesus has done is doing and will do for us. Listen to these words from Hebrews 4: 14 – 16 which is about Jesus who is our God and King who leads us into heaven itself but is and will help us on our journey there,

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need”.

  1. The procession that is full of singing and music (vs. 25)

David then describes this procession with the words of verse 25,

“In front are the singers, after them the musicians; with them are the maidens playing tambourines”

 Music was a major feature of the worship of the ancient Hebrews and also characterises worship today of both Jews and Christians.

Music is so important to David as he spent much time composing new songs like this one for worship for his people in the Sanctuary in his day and the Temple from the time of Solomon and beyond.

Music was so important in the early days of the church that Paul has a special command to the church about it and its importance in Ephesians 5: 18 – 20,

“Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”.

 David believed that by being part of God’s great victorious procession we would be led into heaven itself and what is one of the things that will take place there?

Why it is singing and making heavenly music as John saw in his vision of Heaven in the book of Revelation. Listen to this description of heaven in Revelation 5: 8 – 13,

“And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. And they sang a new song, saying:

“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain,
and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign [on the earth.”

 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying:

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise!”

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honour and glory and power, for ever and ever!”

  1. The procession that is characterised by praise to God (vs.26)

We have just seen that in heaven there will be much wonderful singing and music but this singing and music has one great purpose and that is to give great praise to God in heaven. So it is in David’s description of the victorious procession of the Ark of the Covenant. He writes in verse 26,

“Praise God in the great congregation; praise the Lord in the assembly of Israel”.

As Christians gathering together to worship and serve each other we to are the great congregation of the Lord the church of Jesus Christ the assembly of God on earth. What should we do when we come together as this great congregation of God’s people on earth?

David’s answer is, “Praise God” and this is what Paul continually encouraged all the churches he wrote to do as we see from Colossians 3: 15 – 17,

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him”.

  1. The procession that contains all levels of human society (vs. 27)

The final aspect of David’s description of the victorious procession of the Ark of the Covenant is a description of the type of people who took part in it and verse 27 tells us,

“There is the little tribe of Benjamin, leading them, there the great throng of Judah’s princes, and they’re the princes of Zebulon and of Naphtali”.

David now speaks of the types of people in the victorious procession of the Ark of the Covenant as it ascended into Jerusalem and his description covers the full social range of the Nation of Israel of that time.

He starts with an example of what would have been the lower end of Israel society those who were from the smallest tribe of Benjamin, which seems to have been chosen as the people to lead the procession after priests carrying the Ark and the singers and musicians. Kidner suggests why the little tribe of Benjamin might have been chosen to lead the people in the procession, he writes,

“Benjamin may have led the way in memory of the lead it took at Deborah’s battle (Judges 5: 14) or because Jerusalem was within there borders”.

I have a theory too and that is that Benjamin was the tribe the disgraced former king of Israel came from, King Saul and at this stage the prestige of his kingship would have turned very sourer in the minds of the people of the nation at that time. Benjamin truly was now a very lowly tribe not only because of its size. It up to recently through the Kingship of Saul was at the top of the social heap but now through Saul’s disgraced demise was at the bottom of Israel society of that time.

David then speaks of the other end of Israel society the princes or leaders of his own tribe Judah. Judah socially was now in the ascendancy through the recent elevation of David as king. He then speaks of leaders of two northern tribes Zebulun and Naphtali who probably brought up the rear.

So we can see from this description that people from all walks of life and society can and are members of God’s kingdom. As a young man I attended many Christian Conventions help in a place Called Katoomba west of Sydney in what is called The Blue Mountains not far from were I now live in the lower Blue Mountains and when I walked into the main convention hall I was always struck by the large sign at the front of the hall that read, “All one in Christ”.

“All one n Christ” is a term that comes from Pauls letter to the Galatians, Galatians 3: 26 – 28, which reads like this;

“You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”.

I would consider myself all my life as coming from the lower end of society like Benjamin was in David’s day yet at those conventions I fellowship with those who were rich and powerful and who might have come from leading families in the church or society but as the sign said in the eyes of God we are, “All One in Christ”, praise his name!

  1. God’s victorious procession leads to the Salvation of the world (28 – 31)

Just like the victorious procession of the Ark of the covenant ascended up and up into Jerusalem from the plains where it had sat for a few months in a gentiles house of a man named Obed-Edom so this Psalm’s message goes up and up in its scope and grandeur.

In the third and final section of this Psalm the impact of the Ascension of the victorious procession of the Ark of the Covenant and its final resting place on earth is expressed for the world and large. By the time of Solomon David’s son after he had built the temple the prophet words of this third part had been for filled.

Verse 28 seems to be a call to God for God to show again his power and strength,

“Summon your power, O God; show us your strength, O God, as you have done before”.

David is thinking of the implications of the establishment to come soon of God’s Sanctuary and eventually Temple in Jerusalem. From Jerusalem now will be the focus of the witness of the one true God of heaven and earth. David is virtually saying to God bring it on, work your mighty deed oh Lord from Jerusalem.

Indeed this is exactly what happened and even after 70 years of exile Jerusalem was the centre of the witness of God’s salvation for the world.

Finally it is in Jerusalem or just outside it that on another hill Jesus Christ the Son of God was crucified and the sins of the whole world were paid for those who turn in faith to him and what he has done for them. As we see in the prophetic words of John the Baptist early in the ministry of Jesus recorded in John 1: 29,

“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

Before I move to the next verse not David’s words at the end of verse 28,

“”As you have done before”

David was able to always look back and see God at work, which gave him faith in God in both the present and future. We as Christians look back to Jesus and what he did for us and have faith for the day and future as the writer of the book of Hebrews says in Hebrews 2: 9,

“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honour because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone”.

In the next three verses David looks into the future and sees the results of the victorious procession of the Ark of the Covenants final destination in the world.

In verse 29, David sees with the eyes of faith the Jerusalem sanctuary becoming a great temple that was built some years later by his son Solomon and how that Temple that would house the Ark of the Covenant would draw world leaders, Kings and Queens from the known world of that time, it reads,

Because of your temple at Jerusalem kings will bring you gifts”.

This prophecy of David was for filled even in Solomon time and we read in 1 Kings 10: 1 – 10 of a visit of another countries leader coming to Jerusalem and bringing great gifts because of the wise reign of Solomon and the splendour of his palace and the Temple he had built to glorify God.

When the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon and his relationship to the Lord, she came to test Solomon with hard questions. Arriving at Jerusalem with a very great caravan—with camels carrying spices, large quantities of gold, and precious stones—she came to Solomon and talked with him about all that she had on her mind. Solomon answered all her questions; nothing was too hard for the king to explain to her. When the queen of Sheba saw all the wisdom of Solomon and the palace he had built, the food on his table, the seating of his officials, the attending servants in their robes, his cup-bearer, and the burnt offerings he made at the temple of the Lord, she was overwhelmed.

She said to the king, “The report I heard in my own country about your achievements and your wisdom is true. But I did not believe these things until I came and saw with my own eyes. Indeed, not even half was told me; in wisdom and wealth you have far exceeded the report I heard. How happy your people must be! How happy your officials, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom! Praise be to the Lord your God, who has delighted in you and placed you on the throne of Israel. Because of the Lord’s eternal love for Israel, he has made you king to maintain justice and righteousness.”

10 And she gave the king 120 talents of gold, large quantities of spices, and precious stones. Never again were so many spices brought in as those the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon.

11 (Hiram’s ships brought gold from Ophir; and from there they brought great cargoes of almugwood and precious stones. 12 The king used the almugwood to make supports for the temple of the Lord and for the royal palace, and to make harps and lyres for the musicians. So much almugwood has never been imported or seen since that day.)

13 King Solomon gave the queen of Sheba all she desired and asked for, besides what he had given her out of his royal bounty. Then she left and returned with her retinue to her own country.

As I said before Jerusalem and its Temple would play a major role in the ultimate salvation of the world. Jesus ministered in the Temple and was killed just outside of Jerusalem, which on a whole rejected the message and claims of Jesus and contributed to his death.

However we know that Jesus death was not a tragic accident or failure of a mission to earth by God but was his plan and way of achieving Salvation for people of every nation. Interestingly Jesus uses the story of the visit of the Queen of Sheba to condemn the people of Jerusalem who rejected his teaching and claims in Matthew 12: 42,

“The Queen of the south will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here”.

The Queen of Sheba than was a friendly and God-fearing world leader who visited Jerusalem and prayed respect and even worship to the God of Israel but now in verse 30 David deals with Hostile world leaders who also will be forced by God to pay him respect and give him precious gifts probably in the form of bounty.

Verse 30 says,

“Rebuke the beast among the reeds, the herd of bulls among the calves of the nations, Humbled, may it bring bars of silver. Scatter the nations who delight in war”.

Most commentators think that the poetic image of, “the beast among the reeds” is referring to crocodiles which lived in the reeds of the Nile and which represent the nation of Egypt which symbolizes all the enemies of Israel and God because they sought to force Israel into bondage and there king, Pharaoh chose to defy the God of Israel like many other foreign kings would do and fail as God defeated them.

This verse is a rebuke of nations who were acting like dumb cattle in their opposition to God and his anointed King and who would be humbled by God in judgment and forced to acknowledge him as God and pay him tribute an Old Testament way of saying pay him the honour and glory he deserves.

This raises again for me the great theme I have been seeing coming through most of the Psalms in books 1 and 2, that theme first raised in Psalm 2: 2,

“The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One”.

Then in verses 4 and 5 God’s rebuke of these rebellious Kings and the people who followed them appears similar to the rebuke of verse 30 of this Psalm,

“The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. The he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath”.

The in verses 6 and 7 the connection of all this to Jesus and the Christian Gospel is made,

“I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill. I will proclaim the decree of the Lord: He said to me, ‘you are my Son; today I have become your Father”.

These words are the prophetic words of the coming of Jesus God’s Son from Heaven (Zion) who proclaimed the decree or word of the Lord and who will ultimately bring the whole world under his feet when he returns and everyone from every nation will acknowledge him as Lord as we read in Philippians 2: 9 – 11,

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,  in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,  to the glory of God the Father”.

Finally in verse 31, the reference to Egypt and its surrounding area is mad clear,

“Envoys will come from Egypt; Cush will submit herself to God”.

Cush is probably the ancient name for Ethiopia and of course if this is the case the prophecy of this verse was for filled centuries later after the death and resurrection and ascension of Jesus into heaven when we read in Acts 8: 26 – 39 of the conversion of the Ethiopian Eunuch as he rode back to his country reading a scroll containing the book of Isaiah.

This royal envoy from Ethiopia took the Gospel message back to Cush – Ethiopia and led to that country submitting itself to God and even to this day a great Christian church exists in Ethiopia demonstrating the worldwide influence of the victorious procession of Jesus, the New Testament Ark of the Covenant ascension into heaven.

  1. THE VICTORIOUS PROCESSION OF GOD HAS GREAT UNIVERSAL CONSEQUENCES (32 – 35)

 The victorious procession of the Ark of the Covenant and its ascension into Jerusalem comes to its climax and so does the Psalm that was used on the day to help celebrate it. This Psalm was probably used by the ancient Hebrew people as a procession into Jerusalem and into the Temple on the Temple mount as we know that they loved pomp, colourful and noisy processions. Psalms 120 to 134 in the fifth and final book of Psalms are called Songs of Ascent and were used by Jewish pilgrims as they travelled in procession up into Jerusalem and the Temple from the time of Solomon on to the return from exile in Babylon.

So as the pilgrims came up from the desert lowlands of Israel into the hills of Jerusalem they sang songs of worship. Psalm 68 is probably then an early form of a song of ascent first used when the victorious procession of the Ark of the Covenant ascended up into Jerusalem.

So in the final section of this Psalm the worship and praise grows even more and the scope of the significance of the Ark of the Covenant moves further in its worldwide universal significants.

I have broken this final section into two parts:

  1. Mighty world wide praise for a mighty powerful God (verses 32 – 33)
  2. Proclamation of the powerful God of the universe who strengthens his people (34 – 35)
  1. Mighty world wide praise for a mighty powerful God (verses 32 – 33)

 We have noted for some Psalms now that particularly the Psalms attributed to David end on a note of great praise and this Psalm is no exception. In fact this Psalm raises the bar of praise for the mighty powerful God of the universe. Verse 32 and 33 says,

“Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth, sing praise to the Lord, to him who rides the ancient skies above, who thunders with mighty voice.”

 David calls on all the kingdoms of the world to sing a great praise to the Lord and Albert Barnes points out;

“The psalmist sees the conversion of the world to God to be so certain he calls on all nations to join in the song”.

 This world wide universal praise brought about by the ascension of the Ark of the Covenant into God’s earthly Sanctuary and later Temple is soon in the book of revelation as being universal praise of all living beings in heaven the ultimate destination of the Ark of the Covenant which I believe is there a symbol for the ascended Jesus Christ.

We see this in a passage like Revelation 11: 15 – 19,

The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said:

“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah,
and he will reign for ever and ever.” And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying: “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign. The nations were angry, and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your people who revere your name, both great and small—and for destroying those who destroy the earth.” Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a severe hailstorm”.

 Note how this vision of heaven ends with the Temple there opening and exposing the Ark of the Covenant and then there is a great show of power with the description of a thunderstorm. Likewise the second half of verse 33 speaks of God riding the skies heralded by a great thunderstorm. I spoke on this when commenting on verse 3 and how the idea of God riding on top of a thunderstorm is reminiscent of teaching in Psalm 29 when the idea of the God of Baal rides on the thunderstorm was exploited by David to say the true God of heaven and earth is Lord of the thunderstorm and its loud thunder should remind us of the powerful voice of God that made all things.

In the passage from Revelation 11 I just quoted we have another reference to a thunderstorm in heaven. This does not mean we will see thunderstorms in heaven but rather again the mighty power of God is like a mighty thunderstorm on earth. Many animals cringe and children run with terror when a thunderstorm comes overhead but the power and might of God is far greater than any thunderstorm on earth or anywhere even greater than the 300 year old storm that rages on the planet Jupiter.

The writer to the Hebrews says in Hebrews 10: 31,

“It is a dreadful (or fearful) thing to fall into the hands of the living God”.

  1. Proclamation of the powerful God of the universe who strengthens his people (34 – 35)

 The Psalm finishes with call for mission to the world (verse 34) and a final word of praise (verse 35).

In the last Psalm talk on Psalm 67 I spoke on how God made and called the people of Israel for two special reasons. These tow reasons are expressed in God’s word to Moses in Exodus 19: 5 – 6,

“Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”

So it seems for many Israelites or Jews throughout history the first part of this verse was picked up namely, “then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession” as Israel and the Jews often failed to look out to the wider world and instead became elitist and self righteousness. Let me say many Christians have acted the same way as well.

However the second part of Israel’s calling is, “you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation”. Israel was chosen then to take the message of the true God of heaven and earth to the world.

Verse 34 speaks of this mission to the world as well,

“Proclaim the power of God, whose majesty is over Israel, whose power is seen in the skies”.

Note how David wants his people to “Proclaim the power of God” which in the previous verse was made clear. God’s power he writes is seen in two ways:

  1. Whose majesty is over Israel”
  1. “Whose power is seen in the skies”

This is the two ways we know there is a God, the first is the best and greatest way which is God has revealed himself through the people of Israel and out of them comes Jesus who is “The word become flesh and made his dwelling among us” John 1:14.

We know God because he did not stay hidden from us but revealed himself to us through the Jews first in the Old Testament and then finally through Jesus Christ, God become flesh that is the basis of the New Testament. This is the main reason why Christians over the centuries have sought to translate the bible into other languages even languages spoken by a small number of people so they too can read the revelation of God in their own tongue and the proclamation of the Gospel can come to them as well.

Secondly even people who have not got the bible or heard of his revelation to the Jews first and then through the coming of Jesus there is the general revelation of nature itself. This works something like this. When a person looks at the skies and the world around them they see design and order which points to a designer who they figure is someone greater and more powerful than them.

Paul speaks of this in Romans 1: 18 – 23,

“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and they’re foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another”.

I watched the film on Nelson Mandela last night at his character said that if God was there and interested in the world he would not have kept his people in bondage under the control of the minority white population and therefore we need to save ourselves.

What I say is yes, people are in bondage even those minority whites as we are all in bondage to sin. God knows this and has done something about it by sending his son to die for our sins. Later in the movie the Mandela character says people learn to hate but love is what they are born with. The bible says we are born in sin and naturally hate and need to learn love. The love of God expressed in the giving of God’s son on the cross is the way many people have learnt how to really love and this has transformed lives and societies throughout history.

People today want to deny God and the authority of the scriptures to make a better world. I tell you we only have a better world because of the word of God and the Christian message and to give that up will only lead to a world that is more and more caught up in sin and bondage as Mandela bravely fought against all his life.

The last thing Jesus said to his disciples on earth before he ascended into heaven, the second great ascension in the bible was proclaim the Gospel to the entire world. This is recorded for us in Mark 16: 15 – 16,

 “He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.  Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

This command in Mathew’s Gospel is slightly different but is saying the same thing with more depth. He says Jesus says we are to go into all the world and make disciples and then teach them to obey everything I have said.

So as Christians we have a similar calling to the nation of Israel namely to be a kingdom of priests or ministers proclaiming the power of God to the world.

The final verse, 35 raps up this song sung when the victorious Ark of the Covenant processed into Jerusalem and it says,

“You are awesome, O God, in your sanctuary; the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people. Praise be to God”.

Maybe David now sees the Ark of the Covenant in its final resting place, the sanctuary on Mount Zion in Jerusalem and as he sees it there he acknowledges how awesome God is established with his people in Jerusalem symbolized by the Ark of the Covenant in the Sanctuary and later in the Temple.

When Jesus actually died an amazing miracle took place that is loaded with incredible meaning for the world. We read of this miracle in Luke 44 – 46,

“It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit. When he had said this, he breathed his last”.

What is the significance of the curtain in the temple was torn which mark tells us was torn top to bottom?

Well behind that curtain sat the Ark of the Covenant and only once a year was one man allowed to enter, The High Priest to sprinkle blood from a sacrifice.

Now as Jesus died the way for all men and women to enter God’s presence and go to heaven was made open. The writer to the Hebrews has an entire chapter devoted to explaining the significants of this. Hebrews chapter 10 and I will give you the gist of what he says by quoting Hebrews 10: 1 – 14,

The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings
you were not pleased. Then I said, ‘here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—
I have come to do your will, my God.’”

 First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law. Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

 Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,

And since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy”.

So David saw the Ark of the Covenant in the earthly sanctuary in Jerusalem and praised God as being awesome. We see Jesus ascended on high in the heavenly Jerusalem and our praise should be for an awesome saving God.

David completes the Psalm by saying because God is with his people on earth symbolized by the Ark of the Covenant in the Sanctuary in Jerusalem God gives strength to his people.

We can say that because Jesus has died for our sins on the cross rose from the dead and ascended to the heavenly Jerusalem and is with us because he has given us his Holy Spirit then we too have strength and this is the strength of God. As the writer to the Hebrews says in Hebrews 2: 9 – 18,

“But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honour because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters. He says, “I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters;  in the assembly I will sing your praises”.

 And again,

“I will put my trust in him.

And again he says,

“Here am I, and the children God has given me.”

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.  For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants.  For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted”.

With all this in mind we can join with David and say as he says at the end of his, superb hymn which is unsurpassed of not unequalled, in grandeurs, lyric fire, and sustained rush of triumphant praise”. (Maclaren)

 “Praise be to God”.

 I conclude my talk as usual with a poem / song and a prayer.

THE VICTORIOUS PROCESSION OF FAITH

(To the tune of “Onward Christians Soldiers)

 Praise the Lord who leads us

In a victory song.

As we follow Jesus he helps all day long.

Jesus died to save us

Gave his life for me

Join the great procession

That leads to victory

He is with us always

As we walk his way

Jesus is the answer for our world today.

Rise up God and lead us

On faiths journey now

You have gone before us

And given us your power.

We fight mighty forces

That oppose you Lord

Bless us with your power

Remind us of your word.

You are with us always

As we walk your way

Jesus is the answer for our world today.

Lord you rose to glory

To make a way for us

We are week and needy

But you bless us if we trust

Your great strength will give us

The crown of life above

Help us Lord to trust you

And daily know your love.

You are with us always

As we walk your way

Jesus is the answer for our world today.

Lead us Lord in Triumph

As we go your way

Help us Lord to praise you

And find your strength each day.

So we march together

In your victory throng

Help us tell your message

Help us sing your song.

You are with us always

As we walk your way

Jesus is the answer for our world today.

By: Jim Wenman

PRAYER:

 Father above we thank you that you sent your Son to earth to die for our sins on the cross and make us a way to heaven. Help us to always march in the great procession of faith and realise we are not alone for many other believers are marching with us. Help us to proclaim your message of love by what we say and do so that others may join the great procession of faith that leads to be with you in heaven for all eternity. In Jesus name we pray Amen.