Rebuilding the Foundations
This is my commentary on Psalm 68. My focus is always going to be on application today, not necessarily on getting every meaning out of it that the Holy Spirit may have put in it.
As a reminder, look the Psalm up before you get started reading (e.g., here. I only quote the parts that I need to.
Let God arise!
Let his enemies be scattered!
Let them who hate him also flee before him. (v. 1)
This is a psalm by David. In his day, these would be physical enemies. David is praying for thorough destruction for the enemies of God and his people. In verse 2, he prays, "As wax melts before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God."
What we have to learn is to pray like David prayed, and with a pure heart to call upon God to thoroughly destroy our enemies. Our enemies are the lusts of the world, the lusts of the flesh, and the temptations of the devil. We want our victory over "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life" to be thorough and complete (1 Jn. 2:16-17). We know this can happen because we have been delivered from the corruption that is in the world through lust (2 Pet. 1:4), we are dead to sin and alive to God in Jesus (Rom. 6:11), and we have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Gal. 5:24).
Thus, we can pray with David that our enemies be scattered and be melted like wax before a fire.
But let the righteous be glad.
Let them rejoice before God.
Yes, let them rejoice with gladness. (v.3)
The emphasis on rejoicing in Scripture is something we all need to be reminded of. God tells us to rejoice forevermore (1 Thess. 4:16). Through Paul, he tells us to rejoice, and then repeats himself (Php. 4:4). Through Nehemiah, we learn that the joy of the Lord is our strength (Neh. 8:10). Jesus wants his joy to be in us so that our joy can be full (Jn. 15:11).
We do not only rejoice when our enemies are vanquished, but we rejoice in the midst of our trials (Jas. 1:2-4). We even glory in them (Rom. 5:3).
A Father of the fatherless and a defender of widows
is God in his holy habitation. (v.5)
It is impossible to overemphasize God's care for the widows, orphans, and the weak. He calls such care, along with remaining unsoiled by the world, as "true religion" (Jas. 1:27). Taking care of widows and orphans is part of almost all of God's calls to repentance (e.g., Isa. 1:16-17; Jer. 22:3).
Nonetheless, David takes the time to remind us that "the rebellious dwell in a sun-scorched land" (v. 6). God wants us to take care of the weak and needy, but he also wants us to obey him and be separate from the world and its ways (2 Cor. 6:17-7:1)
When I was a young Christian, I realized that I said "praise the Lord" and "hallelujah" (which means "praise the Lord" in Hebrew), but I really did not know how to praise him. I began to turn to the Psalms to learn.
One of the primary ways that the psalmists praised God was by recounting his mighty deeds. Verses 7-14 of this psalm are a great example.
Verse 18 is quoted in Ephesians 4:8, which lets us know, if we do not catch it on our own, that this section of the psalm is a prophecy about Christ. It is not only a prophecy about Christ because it had meaning in David's day as well, but it also prophesies the coming of Jesus. As such, it also gives some information about the coming of Messiah.
First, this passage compares Mt. Zion, where God chose to reign, to the mountains of Bashan (vv. 15-16). God did not choose the mighty Mt. Hermon in the north, but the comparatively miniscule hill of Jerusalem. These verses tell us that the Messiah will choose the humble to overthrow the great (cf. 1 Cor. 1:19-31)
Verse 17 drives this point home. God does not only choose the weak, but he chooses the weak to overthrow the strong. Thus, David tells us that the hill God has chosen are armed with "tens of thousands and thousands of thousands" of chariots. Along with the chariots is the presence of God in the midst of them.
David was faithful to believe that God had empowered Jerusalem with spiritual chariots and his presence. How much more should we rejoice in the glory of God inside the greater temple that is the Church of Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Cor. 3:6-18; 2 Cor. 6:16).
Verse 18-20 are descriptions of New Testament salvation even more than the salvation that David experienced in his time. From the belly of Hades, Jesus rose, leading captivity captive, and he ascended into the heavens, having obtained deliverance from Hades and death for us (Acts 2:25-35; Eph. 4:7-8; 1 Pet. 3:18-20; 4:6). The result is that God "daily bears our burdens" and "is our salvation" (cf. 1 Cor. 1:30). He is our "God of deliverance," and because Jesus overcome death and Hades, "escape from death" belongs to him.
Since we who have believed are purchased by him, we should rejoice over these things because they belong to us who are his household and brothers (Rom. 8:29)
In the New Testament, our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers and spiritual wickedness in high places (Eph. 6:12). We do not shed the blood of men with our swords, but we free them from the chains of sin and the Word of our God brings them to life.
These verses let us see how thoroughly we triumph in Christ through the armor that God has put upon us (cf. also 2 Cor. 10:3-6)
These verses are truly magnificent descriptions of God's glory in his people. In verses 24-25 David calls our attention to the processions that go into the courtyard of the house of God. There are singers, musicians, and tambourines, and the congregation blesses God (with loud voices).
In verses 27-29 we see that the glory of Israel—and the Church is true Israel (Rom. 2:28-29)—is based on the greatness of God despite the smallness of man. "Little Benjamin" leads them (which is a reference to King Saul, who was of the tribe of Benjamin) along with the princes of other tribes. "God has commanded your strength." Truly our strength in the church is only from the Lord.
In verses 30-32 we see that it is because of the Lord that attention comes to his people. It is the temple that brings in gifts from the kings. These gifts represent the children of Zion, those who are called by Jesus Christ, being drawn by the majesty of God upon the temple (Isaiah 60:1-7).
We must not look around at where Christianity has failed. Like Israel, our light shines when we obey God and do good works (Matthew 5:13-16). We have an advantage over fleshly Israel because the law of the Spirit of Life has saved us from the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:2). Under grace, sin has no power over us like it did under the Law of Moses (Rom. 6:14; 8:3-4).
Thus, we can confidently rise up in obedience and expect God to "rebuke the wild animals" and "scatter the nations that delight in war." Our wild animals are the flesh and the nations are the temptation of the world's way of doing things. God will drive these things from us as we rise up and shine. So we can sing to God throughout the kingdoms of the world.
I have been asked before why God needs us to praise him. The answer is that God does not need us to praise him. We are the ones who need to praise him. In praise, we are reminded of his greatness so that we can approach him in humility and faith. We are mighty because of him, not because of us.
But we are very mighty, not just a little bit mighty. Our God "rides the heavens" and "utters ... a great voice." We need to "ascribe strength" to him, not because he needs us to think he is awesome, but because we need to trust in his mighty power. Not only is his strength "in the skies," but his excellency is "over Israel." David was mighty because he trusted the God who is mighty. If we want to be mighty like David and other great men of God, we need to believe God is mighty the way David did.
God is awesome "in his sanctuaries." These are the churches. He is mighty in the churches, for they are his temple.
This point is important. In all the places where the New Testament says our body is a temple, in 1 Corinthians 3:16 and 6:19 and 2 Corinthians 6:16, the "you" and "your" are plural. In 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, he is talking about preachers and teachers and missionaries who build with wood, hay, and stubble. If they preach, teach, or serve so badly that they destroy the temple of God, then God will destroy them. In 1 Corinthians 6:16-20, even though Paul uses a singular application of defiling God's temple (going to a prostitute), it is a still a plural you that is the temple. In 2 Corinthians 6:16 through 7:1, again the references to the temple of God all involve a plural you, not a singular you. It is the churches that are the temples of God, not us as individuals.
God is mighty in you and me, yes, but he is much more mighty in us. God is not calling you and me to shine our candle or our "little light," he is calling us to shine the great light of the church, the city set on a hill that cannot be hidden. Each reference to "you" in Matthew 5:13-16 is plural, not singular.
Even so, when God is awesome in his sanctuaries, these are the churches, not just the individuals. "The God of Israel gives strength and power to his people." In modern times, we have lost the understanding of the power of his churches, but God reminds us of this in the last three verses of Psalm 68.