Psalm 68
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
It is said that "the testimony of [or, 'concerning'] Jesus is the spirit of prophecy" (Revelation 19:10). This is specially true of this psalm, it might be called a song of the ark. As Moses spake of the setting forward and resting of the ark (Numbers 10:35, 36), so the psalmist sings of the glorious march of Messiah at the head of his Church - onward from victory to victory - to the final rest. We may bring out much of its spiritual significance by marking some points of resemblance between the ark and Christ.

I. THE LAW OF GOD WAS PLACED WITHIN THE ARK. The Law was the "testimony" to God's character and will, and the foundation of his "covenant" with Israel. That this might be kept in perpetual remembrance, the Law was put in the ark as the most sacred place (Deuteronomy 10:1-5). Therefore the ark was called "the ark of the testimony" and "the ark of the covenant" (Exodus 16:34; Deuteronomy 31:26; Hebrews 9:4). The ark was thus a figure of him that was to come, of whom it was written, "Thy Law is within my heart" (Psalm 40:8; cf. Isaiah 42:21; Matthew 5:17; John 4:34; John 17:4; Romans 10:4; Revelation 11:19).

II. THE ARK WAS SET IN THE FOREFRONT OF ISRAEL IN ALL THEIR GOINGS. It was always at the head. When it moved, Israel moved. When it rested, Israel rested. In the wilderness, at the passage of the Jordan, and on during the conquest of Canaan, the ark always went before, as showing that they were under the guidance of God, and that in all their doings they must have regard to the will of God. The Law within the ark was to be the Law of Israel (ver. 7; Numbers 10:33; Joshua 3:3). So it is with Christ, as saith Isaiah, "Behold, I have given him for a Leader and Commander to the people" Isaiah 55:4). We see this beautifully illustrated in our Lord's earthly life. He was the good Shepherd, of whom it is said, "He calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out;" "He goeth before them, and they follow him" (John 10:3, 4). The word of the Lord to his disciples is always, "Follow me." What was said of the twelve is true of all others. "They were in the way going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus went before them" (Mark 10:32).

III. THE ARK WAS THE MEETING PLACE BETWEEN GOD AND HIS PEOPLE. (Cf. Exodus 25:22, "There I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony.") What was here in shadow we have now in substance. Christ is the meeting place between God and man (2 Corinthians 5:19). "Through him we have access unto God the Father" (Ephesians 2:18). He is Immanuel, God with us (Matthew 1:23; 1 John 1:3; Hebrews 4:16).

IV. THE ARK WAS ASSOCIATED WITH THE GREAT EVENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ISRAEL. Some of these are recorded in this psalm. So Christ has been with his people from the beginning. Their life, their conquests, their achievements, have all been through him. And he promises to be with them to the end (Matthew 28:20).

V. THE ARK WAS ENTHRONED WITH THE HIGHEST HONOURS IN THE HOUSE OF GOD. There had been many trials and conflicts, but at last there was victory. The ark was carried in triumph to Jerusalem, and set in glory on Mount Zion. Afterwards it was removed, and placed in the most holy place in the temple on Mount Moriah (vers. 18-31). All this may be said to have been typical of the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow, when he was received into heaven, and seated in glory on the right hand of God (Psalm 24; Ephesians 4:11; Hebrews 2:9, 10; Hebrews 10:12, 13). But there are certain differences. The ark was carried by human hands, but Christ conquered and ascended in his own strength (Hebrews 9:11). The ark was set in an earthly tabernacle, but Christ "is set on the right hand of the throne of the majesty in the heavens" (Hebrews 8:1, 9, 24). The ark was but a temporary thing, a symbol that served its purpose and has long since passed away. Christ is "the same yesterday, today, and forever." The Gospels set forth his glory; we see his royal progress in the Acts of the Apostles; and the Revelation of St. John bears witness to his continued triumphs, till the end come, when he shall be hailed by Jew and Gentile as "the King of kings and Lord of lords." - W.F.

Psalm 68:1-6
Psalm 68:1-6. The subject of this grand hymn is

The entry of God into his sanctuary on Zion. These introductory verses contain the praise of God as the Almighty Destroyer of the wicked and the Deliverer of the just, and the exhortation to praise him as the Helper of all the miserable.

I. GOD SOMETIMES SEEMS TO SIT INACTIVE, AND NOT TO INTERFERE WITH HUMAN AFFAIRS. At such times wicked men and wicked nations seem to triumph over righteous men and righteous nations, and good men are filled with doubting and despondent thoughts. Hence they pray, "Let God arise, and let his enemies be scattered."

II. BUT THERE ARE TIMES WHEN GOD SHOWS HOW WEAK IS THE STRONGEST WHEN ARRAYED AGAINST HIM. The wicked then flee before his face as smoke is driven before the wind, or as wax melts before the fire. Then good men are filled with rejoicing, and are confirmed in their highest thoughts of God. National revolutions and national growths are full of God's activity.

III. WHEN GOD ARISES TO WORK ANY GREAT CHANGE, WE HAVE TO PREPARE THE WAY FOR HIS COMING. (Ver. 4.) "Cast up a highway for him who rideth through the deserts," alluding to the custom of Eastern monarchs, who sent pioneers to prepare the route which they intended to follow; not "extol him that rideth upon the heavens." Here the preparation is evidently the joyful expectation of his coming to go before his people, and of the mighty deeds which he will work. By faith and joyful work we prepare God's way; and he goes before us to prepare our way. Both ideas here.

IV. GOD IS TO BE PRAISED NOT ONLY FOR HIS GREAT VICTORIES, BUT FOR HIS COMPASSION TO THE MISERABLE. (Vers. 4, 5.) He helps those most to be pitied, while the great earthly potentates respect only the rich and the noble.

1. He helps and comforts the widow and the fatherless.

2. He gives homes to the outcast and homeless.

3. He gives liberty to the captive. Only the rebellious abide in a land of drought. - S.

I. EARTHLY CROSSES. What significance in the terms "fatherless" and "widows"! They tell of death, of war and pestilence and famine, of desolated homes and broken hearts and innumerable sorrows. Then in "the solitary," all the ills of life seem gathered up.

II. HEAVENLY COMFORTS. It is a great comfort to believe that there is a God who made the world, and cares for the world that he has made. But there is much more here. God is represented as not only great, but kind; not only as mighty, but merciful; not only as ruling over all his works in righteousness, but as making the weak and the sorrowful his special care. There are three great comforts here.

1. God's Fatherhood. (Jeremiah 49:11.)

2. The brotherhood of man.

3. The blessedness of home. God setteth the solitary in families. This is in part fulfilled here. Perhaps "the solitary," like Moses in the desert, finds a home. instead of wandering alone, he is blessed with a wife and children, and the sweet joys of family life. Again, "the solitary" may have friends raised up to him. In the Church and in society he finds true companionships and healthy occupation, and walks no more with aimless feet. Or it may be that God works such a change in his heart that he rises superior to circumstances. There are "spiritual presences" with him. Though alone, he is yet not alone, because God is with him (Acts 8:39; 2 Timothy 4:17). But the highest fulfilment is to come. Heaven is the eternal home. There is no "solitary" there. It is the house of God, of many mansions, of happy families, and of endless fellowships and joys. While the text shows the Divine origin and the manifold blessings of "the family," it hints also at its immortality. It has withstood the greatest shocks of time, and it may, in some higher way, survive in the eternal world (Proverbs 12:7; cf. Ephesians 3:15, Revised Version). - W.F.

Psalm 68:9
Psalm 68:9. These words may be taken as symbolizing

God's love gifts to his people. What he did to Israel in the wilderness, he will do to his Church to the end of the world. He is the great Sender, the Giver of every good and perfect gift, and evermore the thought of his love awakens gratitude and praise. His gifts are characterized by -

I. SWEETNESS. They are sweet in themselves as the "rain," but they are sweeter still as sent from God. They have the impress of his hand. They are the tokens of his love (Acts 14:17; Deuteronomy 32:2).

II. COPIOUSNESS. Rain may be slight, partial, or temporary. Here it is "plentiful." It is like that which came on Carmel at the prophet's call - "abundance of rain" (1 Kings 18:41). It is a "rain of gifts" - large, generous, widespread, meeting the needs of all, reaching to the furthest part of the dry and parched land.

III. TIMELINESS. God does nothing in an arbitrary way. It is when his people are "weary" that he visits them with "times of refreshing." They are "weary" from toil, or conflict, or suffering, or long and anxious waiting; and their hearts are like the "parched ground" crying for "rain." God hears. When "rain" is most needed it is best appreciated. God promises "to pour water on the thirsty" (Isaiah 44:3).

IV. REFRESHMENT. "Confirm." This implies renewal of strength, invigoration of faith and hope and love. As the "rain" quickens and calls forth the life in the earth, so that the grass flourisheth and the corn ripens, so it is with God's people when he visits them with the outpouring of the Spirit. It is as if Pentecost were come again. Let us pray and wait. Let us turn new vigour to right use.

"As torrents in summer, half dried in their channels,
Suddenly rise though the sky is still cloudless,
For rain has been falling far off at their fountains;
So hearts that are fainting grow full to o'erflowing,
And they that behold, it marvel and know not
That God at their fountains far off has been raining."

(Longfellow.) W.F.

Psalm 68:18
Psalm 68:18. Consider

The Ascension in three aspects.

I. AS A FACT. "Thou hast ascended." What was shown in figure is now fulfilled. What was a faith is now a fact (Acts 1:2-9; Ephesians 4:7). While there is much that is strange, there is nothing that is incredible. The marvellous thing was not Christ's ascent, but his descent. Believe in the Incarnation, and all beside, down to the glorious ascent from Olivet, becomes not only credible, but natural.

II. AS A POWER. Christ ascended as a conqueror. His entrance into heaven was a triumph. His power is seen not only in victory over his enemies, but in blessings to his friends. Power over matter is great, but power over mind is greater. Christ's power is moral and beneficent. The work he did on earth was the earnest of the work he carries on in heaven. His "gifts" are not only kingly, but they are bestowed in the most kingly manner. "The rebellious" are not excluded. There is mercy for the greatest sinner, as there is grace to the uttermost for all the saints. Christ's "gifts" are not only precious, but permanent. As long as there is need on earth there will be supply from heaven (Hebrews 4:14-16).

III. AS A PROPHECY. Christ was the first, but not the last, to ascend, He has "opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers." His ascent is the pledge of his people's ascent. "Where should the living members be but with their living Head?" His ascent is the sure prophecy of his second coming, and of the everlasting glory of his kingdom (Acts 1:11; Colossians 3:4; Hebrews 9:28). "In his blessed life we see the path, and in his death the price, and in his great ascent the proof supreme of immortality." - W.F.

Blessed be the Lord, who daily beareth our burden (Revised Version).

I. HERE IS A SWEET PICTURE OF GOD. It is sometimes said that the God of the Old Testament is a God stem and implacable, more to be feared than to be loved. This is to err. The picture here is very different. It is tender and winning. We see the Lord here stooping down in love, to help the weak, to relieve the weary, to bring deliverance to the oppressed. This is in accordance with his character. Thus he has dealt with his people, with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, and countless others, in the time of their need. The thought of what God is and has done excites endless gratitude. Daily mercy calls forth daily praise. "Blessed be the Lord."

II. HERE IS A BRIGHT FOREGLEAM OF THE GLORY OF CHRIST. It may be said that we have the gospel preached here in a figure. Take this word as a test, and Christ's life is the comment. See how he came down to us. See how he bore the burden of our sins and weaknesses. See how gently he dealt with his first disciples, and so gave token of the way he would deal with his disciples to the end of the world. His love never faileth. From day to day, with unwearied patience and mercy, he hears our burden. Hear his voice ringing sweetly through the ages, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." What Christ does for us we should endeavour to do, so far as lieth in us, for others. We should help one another (Galatians 6:1, 2).

III. HERE IS A BEAUTIFUL REPRESENTATION OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. What we cannot do for ourselves, Christ will do for us. We are not alone, Christ is with us. We are not called to face the trials and to bear the burdens of life in our own strength; Christ is our Burden bearer. Our sins, which would have crushed us clown to hell, he has already borne, and the lesser burdens, also too heavy for us, he will bear for us. He may not take them off us, but if not, he will enable us to carry them. He will make his grace sufficient for us. Every day brings to us its burden, and every day we need anew the help of Christ. Though we can do nothing without him, we can do all things through his strength. Thus our path is onward. We go from strength to strength. Nearer and nearer comes the time when we shall lay our burdens down forever, and enter into the rest of God. - W.F.

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