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This Psalm is full of gospel from beginning to end, as the authority of God the Holy Ghost fully shows, Ephesians 4:8. It was composed, probably, at David's removing the ark from the house of Obed-edom. And as the ark was well known, and well understood in the church, to have been a type of Christ we may well suppose the mind of David had this in view in all he celebrates.
To the chief musician, A Psalm or Song of David.
If the Reader will consult Numbers 10:35, he will find that the invocation with which this Psalm opens is the same as Moses, the man of God, used ages before, at every removal of the ark in the journeys of the Israelites. Probably it was a devout prayer used in the church upon all occasions of this sort; and therefore the patriarch David, as well as the people, were well acquainted with this divine method of seeking the presence and power of a covenant God to precede them in all their undertakings, as well as in all their religious exercises. And who can doubt but that the eyes of the faithful, as the eyes of one man, were looking to the Lord Jesus Christ, whom the ark represented? Reader, think what views our fathers in the old church had of the same Jesus whom we adore in the new! And shall we not call upon our glorious Head to arise and go before us upon all occasions, and precede us in all that we put our hand to? Oh! had we but faith to do this, how would all the enemies of our salvation, and of our God and his Christ, flee before us! Isaiah 52:12; Deuteronomy 32:30. But when we have paid due attention to this striking verse, in reference to the historical part of it, the beauties of it will meet our souls in a yet more exalted point of view, if we read it as referring to Christ's triumph over death and the grave. Then indeed did Christ arise and scatter all his foes; then it was that he first taught the church to look beyond death and the grave, by going before us, as our forerunner to the upper regions of the blessed, to open the way to the true Canaan, and the Zion of glory, which is above. Hail! thou risen and exalted Jesus!
Here are two strong similitudes made use of, to represent the fleeting transitory continuance of all the enemies of our Christ. Smoke may for the moment seem to eclipse the sun; and wax, from its hardness and adhesive nature, may form an obstruction; but both must instantly give way before the light and heat of the sun's beams. So Jesus, when he appears, makes every enemy fall before him.
What a beautiful contrast is here drawn between the righteous and the wicked! And what a blessed thought it is, to consider in whom that righteousness is found, which; from its unchanging nature, must be an everlasting security! Isaiah 54:17.
Reader, do not fail to observe in what an endearing point of view the church is called upon to triumph in her covenant God. First, in his glorious incommunicable name JAH, self existent, and in himself the Author and Source of all the covenant-blessings he hath given and promised. Secondly, in his covenant character, as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named; by which he stands engaged to be the Father of our fatherless and ruined state in Adam. And thirdly, in the fulfillment of what he hath promised to our glorious Head; of which every poor sinner brought out of darkness and the shadow of death is a confirmation. The Lord Jehovah doth in effect say to the person of the great Head of the church, whenever he quickens a sinner, By the blood of thy covenant I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water; Zechariah 9:11. Well may every redeemed soul sing praises to God; yea, sing praises to his name! And still more when contemplating the distinguishing nature of the mercy. Is it not the name-sake of Jehovah which is made the cause and motive of every covenant mercy? Ezekiel 36:22.
Here is a magnificent description, though in few words, of that great event which the church in all ages desires to keep in remembrance, namely, God's presence and movement in a pillar of cloud by day, when he went before Israel in the wilderness, together with the solemn and awful appearances at Mount Sinai. Never, surely, did the history of mankind furnish the like. Several of the sacred writers of the Old Testament refer to it, as denoting the love of Jehovah to his people: Such as Moses' dying blessing, Deborah's song, and Habakkuk's prayer. Deuteronomy 33:2; Judges 5:4-5; Habakkuk 3:3, etc. But while we admire and adore those tokens of divine love, let us not overlook the spiritual mercies which, in allusion to the times of the gospel, those manifestations shadowed. Is not Jesus now going forth, in the marches of divine grace, through the whole of the wilderness dispensation of his redeemed? Are not his people still coming up out of it, leaning upon Jesus? Hath Jesus brought them out of Egyptian bondage, and doth he bring them into wilderness dispensations? Still he is leading them by a right way to a city of habitation, and going before them through all the borders of it. The enemy may say of us, as the Egyptians did of our fathers, The wilderness hath shut them in; and our rebellious and unbelieving hearts may sometimes be discouraged, as our fathers were, by reason of the way: but Jesus will bring us through a new and living way, even his blood. We are not come indeed to the mount that burned with fire, and to blackness, and darkness, and tempest; but we are come to mount Zion; to God the judge of all; to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant; and to the blood of sprinkling! Blessed be God the Holy Ghost, for teaching his servant the apostle so to explain the superiority of the gospel state over the law. Reader! do not forget to look at those sweet scriptures, Song of Solomon 8:5; Psalms 107:7; Exodus 14:3; Hebrews 10:19-20; Heb_12:18-24.
What is this plentiful rain, which Jehovah sent upon his inheritance, but Christ himself? He, it was said, should come down like rain upon the mown grass; Psalms 72:6. And when Jesus comes to a church, to a land, to a people, to an individual, what gifts and graces of the Spirit doth he bring with him, to bless, and refresh, and make happy? Reader! observe, the expression, to confirm the Lord's inheritance. Yes! the gift of God's dear Son is a confirmation of all covenant-promises. Hence the Lord made both the wilderness and Canaan, with types only of gospel mercies, to blossom as a rose. Hence the Lord sent the quails, and the manna, and the milk and honey, as so many tokens of divine favor, and as a pledge of the everlasting riches of the Lord Jesus, in the enjoyment of whom Jehovah would confirm his covenant with Abraham forever. Genesis 12:3. In the faith of this, the Patriarchs lived and died, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and embraced them: and thus in the overflowing goodness of the Lord, the Lord manifested his love to his poor. Hebrews 11:13.
If we read these triumphs in a spiritual sense, with reference to the preaching of the everlasting gospel, the subject will be infinitely heightened above that of the mere history. The Lord indeed gave the word to his servants, who in his name, and by his power, drove out all their enemies; and hence we find Joshua and others, going forth in the Lord's name, to victory. But the word which Jehovah gave in this place eminently means his word of salvation by Jesus Christ. Hence, w hen prophets, apostles, and evangelists, went forth preaching the word, the Lord confirmed that word by signs following: great were the effects of it indeed; not only earthly potentates and kings fell under it, but all the power of the enemy. And what is it now, but the same? Devils (said the apostles) are subject through thy word, blessed Jesus; and so may the faithful still praise him. Luke 10:17.
In allusion to the state of Israel while in Egypt, while they were building houses for Pharaoh, they were considered as the most abject of slaves, and it is probable that they had no couch, or resting place, but lay down by night, after their work was finished, among the rubbish of their labours: hence they are said to have been, like worthless dirty vessels, lying among the pots. But when brought out of slavery, and established in their kingdom, as in the days of David and Solomon, these were golden days to Israel; compare Exodus 1:11-14; 1 Kings 10:27. But I pray the Reader to look further still, to the spiritual sense of this scripture. Doth not our Lord Jesus Christ in effect say to every soul of his redeemed, when brought to himself, Though thou wert cast out to perish, and in thy lusts and affections wert covered with the rubbish of idolatry; living as without God and without Christ in the world; yet now that thou art brought nigh in my blood, thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee. Song of Solomon 4:7. So the apostle views the presentation which Christ makes of his church to himself, Ephesians 5:26-27.
The hill of Zion, though beautiful for situation, and the joy of the whole earth, became so for no other reason but because the Lord chose it for himself, and to place his church there. For as to the greatness of it, or the extent or loftiness of it, there was no comparison between Zion and the numberless other hills around. And was not this a beautiful similitude to the humble appearance of Zion's king? There was no beauty when we should see him, that we should desire him: as it was said of Zion by the enemy, so was it said of Zion's Lord. Is this Zion, whom no man seeketh after? Jeremiah 30:17; Psalms 48:2. Reader! do not overlook the instruction this scripture holds forth now; for Christ's church is as much despised, even by many who call themselves Christians, in the present hour, as in the day when this Psalm was written. But, sweet the thought! Here, saith the Lord, will I dwell forever. - See that rich string of promises, Psalms 132:13-18.
This gives us a lively idea of the ministry of angels. We know but little of their employment; but the word of God affords much account concerning them. They are deeply engaged in prying into the mysteries of redemption. They attended the great Redeemer upon numberless occasions during his ministry upon earth, and attended him to grace his triumph when he returned to glory after redemption-work was finished - And we are told, that they will make a part in the Mediator's train, when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all that believe. And they are said to be ministering servants sent forth to minister unto them that are heirs of salvation. But how they succour the faithful, or how their services are now exercised in the church, scripture doth not inform us. See those passages, 1 Peter 1:12; Matthew 4:11; Luke 22:43; Matthew 28:2; Acts 1:10-11; Hebrews 1:14.
This is the verse of verses, which serves as a key to unlock the sacred treasury of this whole Psalm. And the Holy Ghost himself is his own commentator. By his servant, the apostle Paul, he hath taught the church how to apply it to the person of our Lord Jesus Christ; Ephesians 4:8, etc. Hence, by comparing these scriptures, and looking up for his divine teaching, who is the almighty Author of both, we are admitted into a blessed apprehension of the things here recorded, concerning Christ. Reader! do observe, in what words the thing is spoken of, thou hast ascended. Whereas this was written by the spirit of prophecy, at least a thousand years before Christ was born. But to His almighty eye, before whom things past, present, or future, form but one object, the event is so sure, that what he hath counseled must stand, and be as certain as if finished. The ascension of the Lord Jesus is the subject here contemplated; but the whole of Christ's triumphs over death, hell, and the grave, together with his exalted state at the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens, is included in this hymn of praise. Psalms 47:5-7. Precious thought to the believer! Jesus, thy Jesus, thy surety, the Captain of thy salvation, hath led captive the devil and all his host, that led thee captive, and hath destroyed forever the dominion of sin and the grave. Hallelujah! I desire the Reader, in comparing this verse with the parallel one, in Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians, to observe the variation of expression. It is beautifully diversified, as if God the Holy Ghost would have the church take notice of each particularly. David's expression is, Thou hast received gifts for men: the apostle's phrase is, and gave gifts unto men: Both of which, strictly and properly speaking, Christ did. For he received from the Father, as Mediator, all he gave to his people; for it pleased the Father, that in him should all fulness dwell; that of his fulness all we might receive, and grace for grace. These things were in the covenant agreed on between the glorious Persons, that Christ should give eternal life to as many as the Father had given him. And the apostle throws further light upon the subject in explaining what those gifts are, and how they were bestowed, when he saith that he gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers. And, Reader! do not overlook what to you and me; personally considered, becomes the sweetest part of the verse: Jesus received these ascension-gifts for the rebellious; yea, said the Holy Ghost; as if the blessed Spirit would put a special emphasis upon this part of Christ's gifts: yea they were, and are, for the rebellious. Then, Reader! why not for you, why not for me? Lord Jesus! grant them to both, if it be thine heavenly will; that thou mayest dwell in our hearts by faith, and be formed there the hope of glory! One observation more on this glorious verse: In the margin of some of our old Bibles; the translators have retained, what the original Hebrew will fully allow, that those gifts received were not only for men, but he received them IN the man Christ Jesus; that is, in his human nature, which he had taken into the Godhead. And we know, that in him dwelled all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. Oh! precious, precious thought: How hath Jesus honored our nature! And how hath Christ endeared himself to us, in corning so near to us, that we might be brought near to him! John 14:20; Joh_17:23.
Who that contemplates the divine love, especially as manifested in the verse going before, but must break out, with the church, in this short but sweet hymn of praise? The Lord not only gives us benefits, but loads us with them, and this not only now and then, but daily: and He that is our God now, will be our God forever. All the issues of life and death are with him. Oh! let the enemies of our Jesus tremble at these truths, and kiss the Son, lest he be angry; for if his wrath be kindled, yea, but a little, they shall perish. But blessed are all they that put their trust in him. Psalms 2:12.
In allusion to the bringing the church out of Egypt at the first, the Lord here speaks of bringing the church again, with a far greater deliverance, from the depths of danger, by the triumphs of redemption in Christ his chosen. And here is an allusion also to the feet of Christ, or the heel of Christ, being bruised in the contest. As in the former verse the head o f the enemy's hairy scalp was said to suffer. See Genesis 3:15; Isaiah 63:3.
Is not this a similar address, from the Father to the Son, to what we meet with, Psalms 45:6-7, and which the Holy Ghost hath explained Hebrews 1:6-9? And if so, what a glorious view doth it afford of God the Father's delight and glory in the salvation wrought by his dear Son? What holy triumphs are here shown to be our Christ's? Observe how the Jewish church, with her several tribes, are set forth as coming to Christ; and how the Gentile church, with Ethiopia and the Isles, (why not our Britain included?) as looking unto Jesus for redemption. Reader I pray oblige me by reading to this effect, Isaiah 19:18, to the end.
How very applicable and suited is this hymn of praise, for all the redeemed upon earth to use, after the review of such unspeakable mercies as this Psalm hath recorded! Who can withhold the just tribute of praise, among all the kingdoms of the earth? Heaven is indeed the place of unceasing joy, and thanksgivings to God and the Lamb: but until we arrive at that blessed place, every tongue, every heart, every faculty of soul and body, should be called forth in the song of redemption. Who that contemplates the sovereign majesty of Jehovah, his glory, his power, his supreme honour and holiness, but must be lost in amazement, to think of the condescending manifestations of his grace, in the person and offices of his co-equal, co-eternal Son! Well may we cry out, blessed be God! blessed be God, for Jesus Christ!
MY soul! pause over what thou hast read in this divine, this gospel Psalm. What though David sang the invocation in it, to thy God and Saviour, at the bringing up the ark, yet was it by faith in Jesus, who is himself the true ark of Jehovah, and on whom his glory rested. And do thou sing aloud his name and righteousness, as the ark of thy salvation, in time and to all eternity. Depend upon it, my soul, all thine enemies must flee before thy Jesus; for He, thy risen and exalted Saviour, is gone up on high; he hath led captivity captive, and received gifts for his people; yea, for the most rebellious, as thou hast been, and still art, even for thee; that the Lord thy God might come and dwell with thee, and, according to his promise, make his abode with thee. Do thou bless him then, my soul, who daily loadeth thee with benefits. Do thou praise him, who now goeth before thee, as he went before his people through the wilderness, as he fed them with manna, and sent a plentiful rain upon his inheritance, so doth he come down as showers upon the mown grass, who was, and is the living bread, the bread of God, which cometh down from heaven; and was, and is the life, and portion of his people, both then and forever. Hail! thou almighty Redeemer! Blessed forever be thy name! Thou hast not only published and proclaimed thine own, and thy Father's will for the salvation of sinners; but thou hast spoken the word, and great hath been the company of them that published it, as sent by thee. It is thou, blessed Jesus! which hast sent down the Spirit, and given some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ! And now, blessed Lord! do thou bless the labours of those whom thou hast commissioned, and make them abundantly useful, in publishing thy name, thy grace, thy love, thy finished salvation, and thy glory; until we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. Amen.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Psalms 68". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/