Posted on Mar 25, 2017
PSALM 68  – God Shall Scatter His Enemies (ESV) or
          God Who Saves: – Part I (title and notes from James Montgomery Boice)
Let’s begin with the first verse: “God shall arise, his enemies shall be scattered; and those who hate Him shall flee before Him!” Psalm 68 is a song of military triumph (p. 552 from Boice’s Psalms Volume 2) written by David for the choirmaster.  When was it written?  Actually, we do not know. However, there is much to know about this amazing psalm of triumph.
Outline and Historical Setting
A great deal has been written about this psalm, and there are many theories about it, in part because it contains a large number of verses that are hard to understand.  Psalm 68 has ten stanzas.  We will study the first five stanzas in this lesson and the last five stanzas in next week’s lesson.  This psalm has a prologue (vs. 1-6) and an epilogue (vs. 32-35).  In between is the central section divided into two parts (vs. 7-18 and 19-31). This song is about God’s mighty acts on His people’s behalf.  In fact, the two main parts of the psalm celebrate, first, God’s victorious march from Egypt, with its culmination at Jerusalem (vs. 7-18) (p.553), and secondly the power and majesty of His regime seen in the movement of His people and the flow of worshippers and vassals to His footstool (vs. 19-31) (p. 554).
One great feature of the psalm is that it abounds in names of God.  Six are explicit: Yahweh, Yah, Elohim, El, Adonai and Shaddai.  Others are in the form of descriptive words or phrases: Him who rides on the clouds (v. 4), a Father to the fatherless, a Defender of widows (v. 5), the One of Sinai (v. 8), God our Savior (v. 19), the Sovereign LORD (v.20), my God and King (v. 24), and He who rides the ancient skies above, who thunders with mighty voice (v. 33).  Each stanza relates something different about God, progressing from God’s mighty acts in the past to the present and eventually even to an anticipation of the future.  The psalm’s survey of the majestic sweep of God’s doings is superb.  It is hard to find another psalm to equal it (p. 554).
The Prologue: “Arise, O Lord”
For the opening line, it has its origin in the ancient cry of the setting out of God’s people, found in Numbers 10:25-36. Let’s take some time to read and ponder the setting of this psalm.
The setting is the end of the encampment of the Jews at Mt. Sinai, where they had received the law and constructed the wilderness tabernacle and its furnishings.  The most important item of these furnishings was the ark of the covenant, which was kept out of sight within the Most Holy Place of the tabernacle. It was thought of as the earthly abode of God, and God favored this understanding by descending upon the tabernacle and its ark visibly in the form of the massive Shekinah glory, or cloud, when the structure was first set up.  The cloud rose up and moved out ahead of the people when they were being instructed to march forward.  It settled down over the tabernacle when they were stopped to camp.  Therefore, as Numbers relates, whenever the ark set out, Moses said, “Rise up, O Lord! May your enemies be scattered; may your foes flee before you”(p. 554). Whenever it came to rest, Moses would say, “Return, O Lord, to the countless thousands of Israel” (vs. 35-36).  This is a dramatic historical memory, and it is to this that the opening of Psalm 68 refers.  Only in Psalm 68 the prayer (“Arise, O Lord”) is turned into a historical remembrance or declaration (literally, “God arise”).  Yet this is a declaration of faith that is looking to the future because of the past (p. 555).
The March: Setting Out from Sinai
The words that begin the third stanza (vs. 7-10) pick up directly from the prologue, for the cry ”Arise, O God” was raised when the people finally set out from Sinai on the march to Canaan, which is what these verses describe.  There is a jumble of images here, poetically compacted: the shaking of the earth, which was associated with the theophany (appearing of Christ pre-incarnate) at Sinai (Exodus 19:18-19; see Heb. 12:26) and… showers of blessing, which were part of God’s provision for the poor (vs. 9-10).  This image reminds us of Psalm 65:9-13 and ties stanza three to stanza two (page 555).
The March: Victory over the Kings
The fourth stanza (vs. 11-14) relates to the conquest of Canaan.  Once again we have a fast-moving mixture of images: kings and armies fleeing (vs. 12, 14); Jewish armies dividing the plunder(v. 12); and the ease of the conquest, like snow falling gently on the land (v. 14); (page 556).
Can you imagine all that happening, being there and experiencing this great victory? Actually in a spiritual sense, we experience victory every day with the Lord on our side.  How is the Lord bringing victory into your life?
Now for the last part we will study today, the fifth stanza:
The March: Arriving at Mount Zion
This fifth stanza is the longest in the psalm, which is a way of showing that these verses are the high point of the composition and the climax of the poem’s first half. Several points are particularly worth noting. 1. God’s choice of small things.  There is an important biblical principle here, which is that God is not impressed by greatness, as we think of it, but rather chooses the weak and lowly things of this world as vehicles for his great acts in order that the glory for what is accomplished might go to himself (page 557). [
I absolutely love that… we makes us weak, so He can make us strong and get the glory!  Let’s take a look at I Cor. 1:26-31 and Isa. 42:8 to understand this amazing concept a little further.]  2. The entrance of God into His sanctuary.  If stanza five is the high point of the psalm and the climax of the psalm’s first half, then verse 17 is certainly the climax of the climax.  It describes the glorious entrance of God into his sanctuary. 3. Paul’s use of verse 18.  One of the most fascinating things about Psalm 68 is the way the apostle Paul used verse 18 in his letter to the Ephesians.  He referred it to Jesus Christ, saying in the well-known 4th chapter of that letter, “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.  This is why it says: ‘When He ascended on high, He led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.’” (Eph. 4:7-8); (page 558). 
That’s truly remarkable that our Lord Jesus would give gifts to us!  May we use them for His glory.
To conclude, a victorious king would both receive gifts and dispense them, particularly dispensing the spoils of his conquest. The point of course, is that what is so beautifully described in the psalm has its ultimate fulfillment in the work of Jesus Christ, for which all the Old Testament pictures are but prophecies.  It is He who has delivered us from slavery to sin and brought us from “Sinai to Mount Zion,” where we are to dwell forever with Him (page 559). Oh, how glorious that will be! Praise God!
Personal notes by Lisa Patton (Bible notes from Ryrie, MacArthur and Boice)