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Author:Rev. Mark Chen
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Congregation:First Evangelical Reformed Church in Singapore
Title:Our King Is a Great Conqueror and Glorious Deliverer
Text:Psalms 68:1-35 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Christ's Kingship

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Trinity Hymnal Revised 1990, The Psalter 1912

TH 301 - Join All the Glorious Names
Psalter 179 - Invocation and Praise
Psalter 353 - Divine Deliverance

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mark Chen, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Last week, we examined a lament psalm. It showed that God’s people can fall into despair. All Christians will experience deep piercing suffering. But the Psalm 42 tells us to hope in God. He’s our salvation. And today, Psalm 68 examines that salvation. It’s a triumphant and imprecatory psalm. For everyone who has earthly or spiritual enemies, this psalm shouts victory. One day, God’s enemies will be punished and his people vindicated. And liberated people rejoice. When Allied Forces landed in Normandy, they fought the Nazis. Paris was liberated and joyful citizens besieged soldiers with flowers, kisses, and wine. They shouted in victory when the Nazis were defeated. From despair to delight, depression to delirium. Now, deliverance and conquering are related. There’s no deliverance without someone being conquered.

When Christ conquered death and sin, he freed us from sin and the power of the devil. In our earthly despair, we can rejoice, because we’re saved. We also rejoice, because one day he’ll vindicate us in the final judgment. We rejoice when we remember the past and look forward to the future. The psalm’s big picture is this. Our God is worthy to be praised, because he’s delivered his people in the past and gives them present and future victory as their king; therefore let all people worship him.

Firstly, our God is worthy to be praised. Verse 4 says, “Sing unto God, sing praises to his name: extol him that rideth upon the heavens by his name JAH, and rejoice before him.” He’s  worthy to be praised. Now, this psalm has no title, but most scholars agree about the historical context. It was when the Ark was returned to Jerusalem. We read this in 2 Samuel 6. The Ark of the Covenant symbolized God’s presence on earth. It contained the 10 commandments - God’s revealed will; the budding rod of Aaron - symbolizing God’s leading through his officers; and the pot of manna - which showed God’s provision. Now each of these items could judge the people of God. They built the golden calf immediately after hearing the law. They refused God’s appointed leaders - wanting to return to Egypt; and they complained about daily heavenly bread. They should’ve been judged! But God covered these items with the mercy seat. He forgave them. He wouldn’t accuse them. So the Ark represented God’s justice and mercy in one place. Mercy to his people; but judgment to enemies. Psalm 68 was written at the return of the Ark. You see, the Philistines had stolen it previously. But they experienced God’s judgment so badly, they quickly returned it. So as it came back, there was great rejoicing. Singers and musicians praised God. He’s worthy to be praised. And this psalm speaks consistently of these two reasons - he’s a great conqueror and a glorious deliverer. When he destroys his enemies, he delivers his people. When he delivers his people, he does it by conquering his enemies. 

He’s a great conquerer. Verse 1 - “Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered: let them also that hate him flee before him.” This was the same phrase in Numbers 10:35, when the Israelites left Sinai. It says, “And it came to pass, when the ark set forward, that Moses said, Rise up, LORD, and let thine enemies be scattered; and let them that hate thee flee before thee.” As they set off, the Ark was in front showing God leading them. And a warning to enemies! God is coming. Skitaddle! Scram! Scatter! Siam! Now, these words may have been uttered each time they moved. Maybe everyday for 40 years, Israel started her day with these words. It reminded them when God arose to act, nothing could stand in his way. Pharaoh could not stand. The Jordan river stopped flowing. The walls of Jericho fell. When God arises, there’s no stopping him. That’s why he should be praised. Compared to him, his enemies are powerless. they will not triumph. Verse 2 - “As smoke is driven away, so drive them away: as wax melteth before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God.” Wicked men are described as smoke and wax. Smoke is easily blown away by wind. Wax melts immediately by fire. So the wicked are powerless before God when he arises. Everyone who has ever lit a candle knows what happens to the wax when heat comes in contact with it. You blow the wick, and smoke forms - but it’s soon gone. The wicked are like that - when God acts - he will destroy their sin and burn them up. 

He’s also a glorious deliverer. His people are blessed by him. He destroys his enemies - but he cares for his people. Verse 3 tells his people to be glad and rejoice exceedingly. Why? God allows them into his presence. Let them rejoice before him. While the wicked are driven from his presence, his people come before his presence. And because of us intimacy, they exceedingly rejoice! And they sing. Verse 4 - “Sing unto God, sing praises to his name: extol him that rideth upon the heavens by his name JAH, and rejoice before him.” They sing because he’s a covenant keeping God. His name is Jehovah. He rides upon the heavens. Now, the Psalmist used this name and this phrase because Baal was called “the rider of the clouds.” But the one who really rides the heavens is Jehovah. He’s higher. But even though he’s higher than the heavens, his people are near him and he cares for them. Verse 5 - “A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation.” From his holy house in heaven, he thinks about the fatherless and widows. He’s not far removed. He knows, sees, and cares. He’s not like Baal, whose prophets thought they had to shout and cut themselves to get his attention. He also helps the weak and puts the lonely in families. He frees prisoners of war. But by contrast, those who rebelled against him, he let them perish in the wilderness.“But the rebellious dwell in a dry land,” verse 6. 

Now, these two reasons are why God must be praised - he’s a great conqueror and glorious deliverer. These two things are expounded throughout the psalm. So secondly, we see his great conquest and glorious deliverance of his people in the past. In verses 7-17, the Psalmist recounted what happened during the Exodus from Egypt and the Conquest of Canaan. These past historical events both events featured the Ark of God. In these times, God delivered his people. Verse 7 says, “O God, when thou wentest forth before thy people, when thou didst march through the wilderness.” When they wandered in the wilderness, God was at the front, leading and guiding his people. The Psalmist described his power. When they were at Sinai, verse 8, the earth shook and the heavens dropped at God’s presence. There was a great earthquake at Mount Sinai. If you recall, when Israel met God at Sinai, they had to fast some days. A fence was put around the mountain so the people couldn’t touch it. And when God appeared to speak to them, there was an earthquake. Fire and lightning struck the mountain top and blackened it. Yes, the people were fearful. But God was showing his power; and there, he was vowing to be their God and they’d be his people. This is why, when the went through the wilderness, God took care of them. Verses 9-10 say how he cared for them. He sent plentiful rain to restore his people. He provided for his needy people. Yes, in the wilderness, God powerfully sent manna from heaven - raining it down on them; he gave them quail to eat; and he sent water gushing from the rock to quench their thirst. He was gracious to them. 

But in the wilderness, God greatly conquered their enemies. In verse 11 we read - “The Lord gave the word: great was the company of those that published it.” This “word” refers to the command that God gave to get up and fight. When Israel went forth with the Ark in front of them, they crossed the Red Sea. And the Egyptians drowned. And at this conquest, God’s people rejoiced - great was the company of those that published it! Like Miriam singing. Or when David beat Goliath, the maidens sang how he slayed his 10 thousands. When God delivered his people from Egypt and when he led them into Canaan and commanded them to fight, there was rejoicing. Verse 12 says how the kings of the armies fled hastily. Israel triumphed over her enemies in the wilderness. So much so that when they came to Jericho, Rahab said the city was terrified. This is also why the Gibeonites came with their deception - to avoid destruction. When God conquered these enemies, his people benefited. They were like those who stayed at home awaiting the spoils. Even though they were once slaves - as those who washed pots and pans, verse 13 - they were delivered and enriched by God who led them. They were given an inheritance - including the mountains of Salmon and Bashan. God was so powerful at Sinai, he had 20,000 chariots driven by thousands of warrior angels, verse 17. Pharaoh on the other hand only had 500 chariots. This is God’s great conquest and glorious deliverance in the past.

But we also see God giving them current victory as their king. This is the third point. Not only in history, but presently as the Ark was being moved back into the Tabernacle at Jerusalem. Verse 18 says, “Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the LORD God might dwell among them.” This was God’s enthronement - the Ark was carried into the holy mountain. Because God came back victorious. When the Philistines returned the ark, they gave, along with the ark, gifts of gold. Now when the Ark was first taken, it was a shameful time for Israel. They suffered. It was a time when God’s glory departed - it was Ichabod. But God was working. When the Philistines captured the Ark, they put it in the temple of Dagon. Jehovah had been captured! The captors made Jehovah captive! But if you remember the story, the next day, the statue of Dagon had fallen over, bowing itself toward the Ark. After they put it upright, the next day, it fell over again, but this time, the head and hands broke off. Dagon was just a stump. After that, the Philistines in Ashdod were struck by a plague - tumors covered their bodies. Many died and many were in pain. He had led captivity captive. He conquered them. And in defeat, they returned the Ark with gold - many large chunks of gold. So here, God’s people realized how God destroyed his enemies and loaded them with benefits, verse 19. And this was an assurance, verse 21, that he’d continue to crush the head of his enemies - even the fiercest enemies. That’s what hairy scalp means. In ancient times, fearsome warriors wore their hair long and shaggy - it was a fearsome sight - but God will crush every hairy scalp that rebels against him. God chases them down, verse 22. These enemies will try to escape to Bashan in the north, or west to the sea. But there’s no escape, verse 23. There’s carnage. God’s enemies will be slain in such numbers that we’ll wade in blood and dogs shall lick it up.

Because of this deliverance, they rejoice victoriously, verses 24-28. Now that the Ark was back, there was praise. They celebrated when the Ark entered the sanctuary. The singers and musicians went forth and the maidens played the tambourines. This was when King David joined them. 2 Samuel 6 records how David was not dressed in kingly robes, but a linen ephod - the simple garment of priests. The whole of Israel worshiped God. Verse 27 says from the two southernmost tribes - Benjamin and Judah; to the far north, Naphtali and Zebulun. And their praises showed their hopes and desires, verses 28-31. God, strengthen us and make us powerful. Let all kings and nations to worship you. Conquer all of them. Even kings as far as Egypt - an ancient enemy; and Ethiopia. These were their aspirations. When the Ark was returned, they praised God for being a great conqueror and a glorious deliverer in the past and present. They were confident in him. They desired him to rule the whole earth.  

That’s the last point. Let all people worship him one day. We see in verses 32-35 a call to all to worship him. God conquered the Egyptians, the Canaanites, and the Philistines. The people now hoped that as God was enthroned, all kingdoms would worship him. Verses 32 invokes all kingdom of the earth - not just Egypt and Ethiopia. Why? Verses 33-35 says it’s because he has ascended on high - to the heavens of heavens and he speaks powerfully from there. It was a prayer, a hope, a desire for God to be victorious - and show his terror and cause his people to be strengthened. 

Now, as we look at this psalm, we might be uncomfortable as New Testament Christians to think about God conquering his enemies. We like the parts that speak about God caring for his people. But we may cringe at all that talk of blood. But Christ is not our deliverer if he does not conquer. And we see the Christological context. Verse 18 is quoted in Ephesians 4:7-10 - “But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.” When Christ died and conquered sin and death, he ascended into heaven. He gave the gift of his Spirit and all spiritual gifts to his church that we might grow. It’s not gold or silver - but it’s the gifts of teaching, ruling, mercy, and all other spiritual gifts so that we Christians can serve one another and grow the kingdom. But we can’t forget Christ’s conquering. If you’ve ever read the Book of Revelation, you know the seal and bowl judgments God sends on his enemies. Blood and destruction are involved! And after God destroyed Babylon the great, God’s people rejoiced. She had killed the prophets and saints - she was drunk with their blood. When she was finally killed, God’s people cried out in Revelation 19:1-2 - “Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honor, and power, unto the Lord our God: For true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand.” The one who conquered was Jesus. Jesus isn’t just the suffering savior who came to give his life; but he conquered death by his death. He shows mercy as the Ark of God to those who would come to him. He took the judgment of God on himself - the 3 hours of darkness and agony - for the sake of God’s people, to cover the judgment of God towards them. But to his enemies, who refuse that mercy, he uncovers his justice. Just as the seals were broken, and God’s judgment poured out from the scrolls, and just as the bowls were broken to unleash vengeance, that Ark of God - Christ himself will march forth and destroy his enemies.

This Psalm therefore, teaches us to look at our past, present, and future deliverance. We struggle with sin now. We have despair. But why can we hope in God? Because firstly, we’ve been rescued from our sin. God is with us now. And though we suffer, and it seems like God’s glory has departed, Ichabod, God is working. And one day, he rights all wrongs. Sin, the devil, death, your shame - they will be delivered to the deepest pit and lake of fire. While we as God’s people will have no more shame. Only shouts of victory. Let this be your comfort in your times of difficulty now. Amen!

Sermon Outline:

  1. Our God Is Worthy to Be Praised
    1. The historical context
    2. He’s a great conqueror
    3. He’s a glorious deliverer
  2. Because He Has Delivered His People
    1. God delivered his people
    2. God conquered his enemies
  3. And Gives Them Victory as Their King
    1. God’s victorious ascension
    2. Our victorious reaction
  4. Therefore Let All People Worship Him
    1. The call to all to worship
    2. The Christological context


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mark Chen, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2022, Rev. Mark Chen

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