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Psalm 68:7-14 -
God of Power, God of Grace
7When You went out before Your people, O God, when You marched
through the wasteland, Selah
8The earth shook, the heavens poured down rain,
before God, the One of Sinai,
before God, the God of Israel.
9You gave abundant showers, O God;
You refreshed Your weary inheritance.
10Your people settled in it,
and from Your bounty, O God,
You provided for the poor.
11The Lord announced the word,
and great was the company
of those who proclaimed it:
12“Kings and armies flee in haste;
in the camps men divide the plunder.
13Even while you sleep among the campfires,
the wings of [my] dove are sheathed with silver,
its feathers with shining gold.”
14When the Almighty scattered the kings
in the land,
it was like snow fallen on Zalmon.
We continue this psalm, in which David, presumably as he moves the Ark of the Covenant, is recounting the greatness of God’s power and the greatness of His grace towards His people. In this section, David looks back at examples of God’s grace in protecting His people. “Fresh mercies should put us in mind of former mercies and revive our grateful sense of them” [Henry].
David writes: “When You went out before Your people, O God, when You marched through the wasteland, …” (vss. 7). David refers here to the exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt, when God literally and physically “went out before His people” in the form of a cloud. The central event of the Old Testament is the redemption of His people out of Egypt. It is referred to over and over throughout the Old Testament when God’s grace to His people is spoken of. And this event points to and is a type of the central event of the New Testament (and human history), Christ’s redemption of humanity from the slavery of sin. “That one work of the church’s delivery out of Egypt, representing the redemption of His people from the misery of sin and Satan’s bondage, is a sufficient proof forever of the Lord’s love, care, power, and faithfulness, to deliver His own out of all their misery; which the church, and every member thereof, should always make use of unto the end of the world: whether we look upon that work in the type singly, or as it is a representation or pledge of the spiritual delivery of His people, this work we should often look upon, and still hold it up unto God” [Dickson, 398].
David continues: “… The earth shook, the heavens poured down rain, before God, the One of Sinai, before God, the God of Israel” (vs. 8). This refers to the time when God personally gave the Law to the children of Israel: “On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently, and the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder” (Ex. 19:16–18). The giving of the Law was accompanied by an awesome display of God’s splendor and majesty. “In the works of the Lord it is needful not only to look upon that which may foster faith in God and love toward Him, but also to set before us what may serve to keep our hearts in fear and awe of His dreadful majesty” [Dickson, 399]. God knew that we would be more apt to keep His law if we had a sense of fear of Him. The fear of God is a good thing, keeping us on a straight path. Yes, we must know of the grace and goodness of God, but we must also understand His power, might and majesty. We must know of His ability to make the earth tremble, and to pour forth His judgment upon us.
Certainly at times, God shows forth His power miraculously, but more often God provides and blesses His people in more ordinary ways, as David points out: “You gave abundant showers, O God; You refreshed Your weary inheritance. Your people settled in it, and from Your bounty, O God, You provided for the poor” (vss. 910). “The ordinary sustaining of God’s people bodily and spiritually, in the possession of any benefit, temporal or spiritual, given unto them, should be observed, as well as the bestowing of any benefit in an extraordinary way, as here the ordinary sustaining of Israel in Canaan, is made a part of the song of praise, no less than their miraculous delivery out of the Egypt” [Dickson, 399].
When a nation turns to God, they are helped in a most important location: on the field of battle. God Himself speaks of this: “The Lord announced the word, and great was the company of those who proclaimed it: ‘Kings and armies flee in haste; in the camps men divide the plunder. Even while you sleep among the campfires, the wings of my dove are sheathed with silver, its feathers with shining gold’” (vss. 12–13). Then David adds: “When the Almighty scattered the kings in the land, it was like snow fallen on Zalmon” (vs. 14). God can turn the tide in battle by causing “kings and armies to flee in haste.” God even blesses His people as they “sleep among the campfires.” “The victory was due to the Almighty arm alone; He scattered the haughty ones who came against His people, and He did it as easily as snow is driven from the bleak sides of Zalmon” [Spurgeon].
In this world, we, even the people of God, are faced with great afflictions and trials. At times, we are locked in mortal combat. Skeptics may mock when they hear it, but trust me, when you go into battle, you want to do so with God on your side. There is a reason for all such trials. “The Lord will sometimes exercise His church with wars, afflictions, and trials, when He intendeth not to punish them, but to give them the victory over their enemies, and that for His own glory” [Dickson, 400].
(The study of this psalm will continue in the next issue, D.V.)