Psalm 68

Psalm 68 is a complex psalm but it’s main theme is simple. It is a declaration of the sovereign power of God who is judge over the earth. It appeals to God as the judge of the earth and in some important ways finds its fulfillment in the second coming of Christ as envisaged in Revelation 19. The psalm may have been used in a variety of situations and cannot be tied to any particular event.
Verse 4 speaks of the one who comes ‘riding upon the clouds.’ This is a way of portraying God’s readiness to act decisively in history, and it is an image that Christ applies to himself in Matthew 24:30. In particular God is named here as the Father of Orphans and Defender of the Widows (vs.5). In other words, he is the God who fights for the poor and the oppressed. Israel had experienced this when she was saved from Slavery in Egypt and there are allusions to this event here. The psalm speaks of God marching through the wilderness (vs.7) which reminds us of him leading his people, both in the pillar of cloud that went before Israel, and the ark of the covenant that was always out in front of the procession of God’s people as they marched forward.
Verse 11 gives us a wonderful picture of God deciding and announcing the result of the battle before it has begun. This then becomes the theme of celebration. The announcement comes as a vision of Kings fleeing and such a wealth of plunder that even those who stayed at home with the flocks get to share in it. It is uncertain what the ‘dove’ of silver and gold refers to in verse 13. It may be a picture of Israel adorned with blessing or it may refer to the glory of God manifested in battle.
Once God has prevailed, he makes his ‘throne’ on mount Zion (in a symbolic sense, referring to the temple in Jerusalem). This mountain is portrayed as overshadowing all others (in significance rather than size), because of the one who rules upon it. From verse 17 we have a picture of a great victory procession in which God ascends to rule over the nations and from this position blesses his people with gifts. Paul applies this to Christ in Ephesians 4:12. Jesus Christ ascended to heaven having gained victory over death, and from there distributed gifts through his Spirit to his people.
From verse 21 we have a picture of God as judge and again the parallels with Revelation 19, and with the picture of the day of judgement in Revelation 20, are noteworthy. Here in this Psalm, and in Revelation 19, we see God crushing his enemies in a decisive act of just judgement. Also, in this psalm and in Revelation 20:11-15 we see God calling all people to account with no possibility of escape. He will even call people up from the ‘depths of the sea’ which alludes the abode of the dead.
Again, from verse 24, we have a picture of God’s royal procession, preceded by singers and musicians. The picture is akin to that of the procession of the ark of the covenant up to Jerusalem in 1 Chronicles 15:16-28 and the Psalm seems to be alluding to this, though is itself not necessarily wedded to this historical occasion. When God is enthroned he receives homage from the nations. Here we are reminded of the vision of Christ being universally acknowledged as ‘King of Kings’ on that day when “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11).
As the Psalms turns to petition in Verse 28, the psalmist calls on God to summon his power against his enemies who are portrayed as a beast among the reeds and a herd of bulls. These are typical ways of depicting enemies and the imagery carries through into Revelation 13 where ‘the beast’ symbolizes the anti-Christ. In the end, the psalmist declares, the enemies of God will acknowledge him as LORD by brining tributes to him as conquered kings would do before their conqueror in ancient times.
The psalm ends as it began, with a reminder of God’s sovereign power, including the image of him riding upon the clouds of heaven triumphant. God’s people can take heart because he is strong, and through him we too are made strong. It is a powerful psalm, rich in imagery and one that points forward to the culmination of the age in which we now live. As you listen to this psalm be reminded that Jesus Christ is coming again and let this remind you of what matters most as you await his return.

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