Psalm 68 emphatically celebrates God’s defeat of his enemies and enthronement in Jerusalem. It lacks a superscription tying it to any particular historical circumstance, but some scholars have speculated that it was composed for the procession when David first brought the Ark of the Covenant to his new capital city of Jerusalem. So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing (2 Sam 6:12).
The psalm begins with a bold declaration of God’s power: God shall arise, his enemies shall be scattered; and those who hate him shall flee before him! (v. 1) His dealings with evildoers are vividly pictured: As smoke is driven away, so you shall drive them away; as wax melts before fire, so the wicked shall perish before God! (v. 2) In contrast, the righteous shall be glad; they shall exult before God; they shall be jubilant with joy! (v. 3)
The bulk of the song divides into two parts. First, there is a description of God’s progressive victories over all those who oppose him. His symbolic arrival in Jerusalem is only the latest stage in a journey that began back in the Exodus. O God, when you went out before your people, when you marched through the wilderness, the earth quaked, the heavens poured down rain, before God, the One of Sinai, before God, the God of Israel. (v. 7-8) No one who opposes him can stand: The kings of the armies—they flee, they flee! (v. 12, cf. 11-14) The victorious march to his dwelling place completes what began long ago at Sinai (v. 15-18).
With God now having ascended on high (v. 18), the remainder of the psalm praises God for his triumph (v. 19-23). A great procession of singers, musicians, and the leaders of tribes from the extreme north and south of Israel acclaims him (v. 24-27). All nations, in fact, acknowledge his power and pay him homage (v. 28-31). The psalm concludes in a powerful tribute: O kingdoms of the earth, sing to God; sing praises to the Lord… Awesome is God from his sanctuary; the God of Israel—he is the one who gives power and strength to his people. Blessed be God! (v. 32, 35)
Perhaps the most interesting feature of this psalm comes back in the prologue. How do we know that God is a righteous ruler, a great king who is worthy to be praised? Well, just look at how he demonstrates it in his reign. Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation. God settles the solitary in a home; he leads out the prisoners to prosperity, but the rebellious dwell in a parched land. (v. 5-6 niv)
In the midst of extolling God’s power, we have this wonderful display of his benevolent rule. God is tender and compassionate; he cares for his people. In particular, he manifests that through concern for the most vulnerable elements in society: the orphan, the widow, the homeless, the prisoner.
This theme is emphasized repeatedly in Scripture. In the Law, Israel is told not to mistreat foreigners, widows, or orphans, remembering that they were once slaves and sojourners themselves, and that God has compassion for such people—and his wrath burns against their oppressors (Ex 22:21-27; Deut 24:17-22). The Messiah was prophesied to bring good news to the vulnerable (Is 61:1ff), a passage Jesus read as fulfilled in the synagogue in Nazareth (Lk 4:16-21). In a society that devalued children—the disciples tried to prevent parents from bringing them to Jesus—he welcomed them and blessed them (Matt 19:13-15). And we are called to emulate our Lord and reflect the nature of our God in all this (James 1:27).
This Sunday has been set aside as “Stand Sunday,” in recognition of children in foster care and their families. CASA of Liberty/Chambers Counties asked us to participate in this, and the Elders and I were delighted to take part. This church repeatedly demonstrates its concern for the vulnerable in the world, most prominently with the Food Bank. That’s beside what each of you do individually that we may not even know about. But there are always more who are in need of experiencing the love of Christ in their lives. Some 30,000 children are in the foster care system in Texas alone. I encourage you to search your heart and consider how you personally might be more involved in ministering to them.
Regardless of anything else, we can pray for them. We are going to do that in our service today collectively. But we also have the names of dozens of these children that have been provided to us; they are posted on the bulletin board in the foyer. I ask you to please take a name or two or three and pray individually for these kids today. Pray for their families, both their parents and those fostering them. Pray that the God who settles the solitary in a home will protect them. May God bless them and you in this effort.