Psalm 68 recalls how God’s presence established Israel as a nation and fought on her behalf. God’s presence saved God’s people from slavery and scattered the Egyptian army (Numbers 10:35; Psalm 68:1). And the psalmist asks God to do it again (Psalm 68:2-3). In the wilderness, God’s presence provided for Israel through a cloud (Psalm 68:4). God’s presence comforted those Pharaoh made fatherless and widowed (Deuteronomy 1:31; Psalm 68:5). Even though God's presence led Israel into a desert, God’s presence also left Egypt and Pharaoh exposed to the sun’s scorching heat (Psalm 68:6).
Like an army, God’s presence led Israel to Mt. Sinai, where he first called them “his people” (Psalm 68:7-8). God’s presence appeared as rain and brought a flood of bread, meat, and refreshing water to the needy of Israel (Psalm 68:9-10; Exodus 16:4). In the book of Judges, when Israel’s men were too afraid to march with God, God’s presence fell on the women of Israel and gave them victory and the spoils of war (Psalm 68:11; Judges 5:24). And while the men slept, God scattered the women’s enemies just as he did to Egypt (Psalm 68:13-14).
This makes Israel’s enemies with their impressive mountain strongholds look in envy at the comparatively squat hills in Israel where God’s presence reigns in power (Psalm 68:15-16). God’s presence captures captors, and the evil empires of the earth bring kingly gifts to the true King of the world (Psalm 68:18). Daily God’s presence bears his people’s burdens, helps them escape death, and saves them (Psalm 68:19-20). With God on the throne, it seems inevitable that any enemy threatening his people will be crushed. And God will soon walk in the blood of the unceasingly evil and violent (Psalm 68:21-23).
We’re then told God’s presence is actually making its way to Israel’s new capital city in a procession (Psalm 68:24). Perhaps this is when the ark, a symbol of God’s kingship and presence, made its way to Jerusalem under David’s leadership (2 Samuel 6:12). Regardless, in response, the women of Israel tell everyone to rejoice in the good news of God’s ascendancy (Psalm 68:24-26). They cry for God’s presence to defeat their enemies like he did to Egypt (Psalm 68:28, 31). The psalm then ends with a call for all nations to praise the God of Israel (Psalm 68:32-33). Because he plans to give them gifts of power and strength (Psalm 68:35).
Where is the Gospel?
The journey of God’s presence through the wilderness into victory and into Jerusalem is a picture of Jesus’ life, victories, and ascension from the dead. Just as the ark represented God’s presence and moved with the nation of Israel to provide their needs, Jesus is God’s presence embodied, living, and moving (Hebrews 1:3). Where Jesus went, the enemies of God’s people were scattered. Legions of demons ran in fear (Mark 5:12-13). Leprosy that covered people like snow, melted (Matthew 8:3). Sickness bowed to Jesus’ authority. And even the dead submitted to his commands (John 11:33-34).
And just as the ark was celebrated and sung over as it entered Jerusalem, Jesus was greeted like a king as he rode a donkey through Jerusalem’s gates (Luke 19:37). The Roman empire brought kingly gifts to Jesus: a royal robe, a scepter, and even a crown (John 19:2). And the first act of King Jesus was to bear his people’s burdens and provide a way to escape death’s captivity (1 Peter 2:24). So, like an army, he stormed the grave’s fortress, imprisoned its power, and rose to a throne above every name and empire (Colossians 2:15). And just as God’s ascendancy and victory in Israel was announced by women, the good news of King Jesus’ rule and reign is announced by new women at the empty tomb (John 20:1-2).
Like Israel, your burdens are probably great. But Jesus has ascended to a throne, after first descending into the earth and plundering death. And from that abundance he promises to give gifts of power and strength to his people (Ephesians 4:7). So like the psalm commands, celebrate the God of Israel, Jesus!
See for Yourself
I pray the Holy Spirit will open your eyes to see the God who defeats our enemies. And may you see Jesus as the King of Israel who gives gifts to his people.