Throughout September 2022, I managed to read and reflect – briefly – on a Psalm each day. For December 2022, I attempted to pick up the discipline. I got part-way through that month, and so after a long hiatus, am determined to get going. I’ll read the Psalm, pray, and then ponder a few questions:
- What is this Psalm about?
- What does this Psalm teach about God?
- How does this Psalm connect to God’s people today?
I’ll close the post with a simple prayer, trying to draw the themes together.
On the 6th of November 2023, here’s Psalm 68:
1 May God arise, may his enemies be scattered;
may his foes flee before him.
2 May you blow them away like smoke—
as wax melts before the fire,
may the wicked perish before God.
3 But may the righteous be glad
and rejoice before God;
may they be happy and joyful.
4 Sing to God, sing in praise of his name,
extol him who rides on the clouds;
rejoice before him—his name is the Lord.
5 A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling.
6 God sets the lonely in families,
he leads out the prisoners with singing;
but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.
7 When you, God, went out before your people,
when you marched through the wilderness,
8 the earth shook, the heavens poured down rain,
before God, the One of Sinai,
before God, the God of Israel.
9 You gave abundant showers, O God;
you refreshed your weary inheritance.
10 Your people settled in it,
and from your bounty, God, you provided for the poor.
11 The Lord announces the word,
and the women who proclaim it are a mighty throng:
12 “Kings and armies flee in haste;
the women at home divide the plunder.
13 Even while you sleep among the sheep pens,
the wings of my dove are sheathed with silver,
its feathers with shining gold.”
14 When the Almighty scattered the kings in the land,
it was like snow fallen on Mount Zalmon.
15 Mount Bashan, majestic mountain,
Mount Bashan, rugged mountain,
16 why gaze in envy, you rugged mountain,
at the mountain where God chooses to reign,
where the Lord himself will dwell forever?
17 The chariots of God are tens of thousands
and thousands of thousands;
the Lord has come from Sinai into his sanctuary.
18 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.
19 Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior,
who daily bears our burdens.
20 Our God is a God who saves;
from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death.
21 Surely God will crush the heads of his enemies,
the hairy crowns of those who go on in their sins.
22 The Lord says, “I will bring them from Bashan;
I will bring them from the depths of the sea,
23 that your feet may wade in the blood of your foes,
while the tongues of your dogs have their share.”
24 Your procession, God, has come into view,
the procession of my God and King into the sanctuary.
25 In front are the singers, after them the musicians;
with them are the young women playing the timbrels.
26 Praise God in the great congregation;
praise the Lord in the assembly of Israel.
27 There is the little tribe of Benjamin, leading them,
there the great throng of Judah’s princes,
and there the princes of Zebulun and of Naphtali.
28 Summon your power, God;
show us your strength, our God, as you have done before.
29 Because of your temple at Jerusalem
kings will bring you gifts.
30 Rebuke the beast among the reeds,
the herd of bulls among the calves of the nations.
Humbled, may the beast bring bars of silver.
Scatter the nations who delight in war.
31 Envoys will come from Egypt;
Cush will submit herself to God.
32 Sing to God, you kingdoms of the earth,
sing praise to the Lord,
33 to him who rides across the highest heavens, the ancient heavens,
who thunders with mighty voice.
34 Proclaim the power of God,
whose majesty is over Israel,
whose power is in the heavens.
35 You, God, are awesome in your sanctuary;
the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people.
Praise be to God!
What is this Psalm about?
At 35 verses this is one of the longer Psalms, and it is one that has split the commentators. Some point to Ephesians 4:8-11 for a messianic fulfilment, others see it as merely typological in terms of later understanding. One thing we can be sure of – this Psalm is about, to and for God, and it draws from a range of sources and ideas to conclude ‘Praise be to God!’ (v. 35).
What does this Psalm teach about God?
Over 35 verses, Psalm 68 teaches clearly and assumes a great deal of truth about God. There are beautifully deep and multifaceted truths, like that in verses 5 and six, that God is a father to the fatherless, a defender of widows (in a culture where a widow had lost her defence), and a God who sets people in families. God goes before God’s people (v. 7), provides for the poor (v. 10), is the Almighty who scatters kings (v. 14), and is a Saviour (v. 19) – the God who saves (v. 20). One thing that is repeated (v. 8 and 34/35) is that God is the God of Israel – a specific God to a specific people – and in this is rooted praise and worship.
How does this Psalm connect to God’s people today?
Psalm 68 offers an overwhelming panorama of God’s characteristics and actions – and some of the intimate links between those two things. The disagreement in the commentators over the particular or specific historical context of the Psalm can also serve as a challenge and encouragement – God’s word speaks to us, because of who God is, wherever and however we might find ourselves. The God of Psalm 68 is concerned with the arrangements of world governance, and with the orphans and the poor – no one is too small for God to know and notice, and from his sanctuary flows safety. What a reminder and challenge for us today.
A prayer drawn from Psalm 68
You, God, are awesome in your sanctuary; the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people. Praise be to God! Show me, Lord, how to praise your name where I find myself today. Amen.