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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Psalms 68:18

You have ascended on high, You have led captive Your captives; You have received gifts among men, Even among the rebellious also, that the Lord God may dwell there.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Gifts;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Poetry;   Psalms, book of;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - War, Holy War;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Ascension of Christ;   Knowledge of God (1);   Messiah;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Heaven;   Prophecy;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Captivity;   David;   Deborah;   Mizar;   Oil;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Kingdom of God;   Psalms;   Sin;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Ascension;   Descent into Hades;   Ephesians Epistle to the;   Psalms (2);   Quotations;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Ascension;   Gifts in the Church;   Psalms, Book of;   The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary - Ascension;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - God;   Psalms the book of;   Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types - Ift;   Loose;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Ascension of Christ;   Triumphs;  
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Psalms, Book of;   Kitto Biblical Cyclopedia - Ascension;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Angelology;   Cabala;   Didascalia;   Peshiá¹­ta;  
Daily Light on the Daily Path - Devotion for January 10;   Every Day Light - Devotion for October 12;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

Verse Psalms 68:18. Thou hast ascended on high — When the ark had reached the top of Sion, and was deposited in the place assigned for it, the singers joined in the following chorus. This seems to be an allusion to a military triumph. The conqueror was placed on a very elevated chariot.

Led captivity captive — The conquered kings and generals were usually tied behind the chariot of the conqueror-bound to it, bound together, and walked after it, to grace the triumph of the victor.

Thou hast received gifts for men — "And gave gifts unto men;" Ephesians 4:8. At such times the conqueror threw money among the crowd. Thou hast received gifts among men, באדם baadam, IN MAN, in human nature; and God manifest in the flesh dwells among mortals! Thanks be to God for his unspeakable GIFT! By establishing his abode among the rebellious, the prophet may refer to the conquest of the land of Canaan, and the country beyond Jordan.

Yea, for the rebellious also — Even to the rebellious. Those who were his enemies, who traduced his character and operations, and those who fought against him now submit to him, and share his munificence; for it is the property of a hero to be generous.

That the Lord God might dwell among them.] יה אלהים yah Elohim, the self-existing God; see on Psalms 68:4. The conqueror now coming to fix his abode among the conquered people to organize them under his laws, to govern and dispense justice among them. The whole of this is very properly applied by St. Paul, Ephesians 4:5, to the resurrection and glory of Christ; where the reader is requested to consult the note.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Psalms 68:18". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

Bridgeway Bible Commentary

Psalms 68:0 The God of Israel

This magnificent hymn of praise and triumph was no doubt written for some special occasion. It may have been the occasion on which David brought the ark to Jerusalem (see introductory notes to Psalms 24:0), but its language makes the psalm suitable for much wider use.

When God fights for his people, their enemies are as helpless before them as smoke before wind or wax before fire. Nothing can stop him as he rides out to do battle (1-4). God is on the side of the poor, the afflicted and the downtrodden, but he opposes those who rebel against him (5-6).
All this was demonstrated in the events of the exodus from Egypt, when God worked wonders in the skies and on the earth to release his people and punish their oppressors (7-10). It was demonstrated also in the conquest of Canaan and the events that followed. Enemy kings were conquered and driven before Israel as snowflakes are driven before the wind. The psalmist pictures the colourful scene at the Israelites’ camp as the soldiers return with clothing and other goods left behind by the fleeing enemy (11-14).

Finally, Israel conquered Jerusalem, whereupon God, in the symbolic form of the covenant box, came to Mount Zion. The psalmist imagines the mighty mountains of Bashan being envious of the humble hill in Jerusalem that God chose for his dwelling place (15-16; cf. 2 Samuel 5:1-10; 2 Samuel 6:14-19).

God’s conquest on behalf of his people, from the time they left Mount Sinai to the time they came to Mount Zion, is pictured in a conquest by a mighty army of chariots. The victors capture their enemies and enrich themselves by seizing the enemies’ goods (17-18).
These reminders from the past encourage Israel to have confidence in God for the present and the future. He will continue to help them (19-20). From the tops of Bashan’s mountains to the depths of the sea nothing can withstand God. Israel will triumph over its enemies (21-23). The psalmist then describes the triumphal procession, as singers, musicians and dancers, followed by the tribal representatives, enter the sanctuary (24-27). No longer will other nations (‘beasts’ and ‘bulls’) conquer Israel and force it to pay heavy taxes. Instead these nations will bring their offerings to Israel, as they submit themselves to the rule of God (28-31). All nations are urged to praise him who rules in the heavens (32-35).

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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Psalms 68:18". "Brideway Bible Commentary". 2005.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Thou hast ascended on high - That is, Thou hast gone up to the high place; to thy throne; to thine abode. The idea is, that God had descended or come down from his dwelling-place in the case referred to in the psalm, and that having now secured a victory by vanquishing his foes, and having given deliverance to his people, he had now returned, or reascended to his seat. This may either mean his throne on earth, or his abode in heaven. It would seem most probable that the latter is the idea.

Thou hast led captivity captive - “Thou hast made captivity captive,” or “Thou hast captured a captivity.” The main idea is, that he had achieved a complete victory; he had led all his foes captive. The language “would” also express the idea that he had made captives for himself of those who were captives to others, or who were in subjection to another. As applied in the Christian sense, this would refer to those who were captives to Satan, and who were held in bondage by him, but who had been rescued by the Redeemer, and brought under another captivity - the yielding of voluntary service to himself. Those once captives to sin were now led by him, captives in a higher sense. See the notes at Ephesians 4:8.

Thou hast received gifts for men - Margin, “in the man.” That is, “Among men,” or while among them as a conqueror. The idea here most naturally conveyed would be, that he had obtained “gifts,” privileges, advantages, “in” man; that is, that men, considered as captives, constituted the victory which he had achieved - the advantage which he had acquired. It was not so much “for” them as “in” them, and “by” them, to wit, by possessing them as captives or subjects to him. With this victory achieved, he had now ascended on high.

Yea, for the rebellious also - Or, more properly, “even the rebellious.” That is, Those who had been in a state of rebellion he had subdued to himself, and had thus led captivity captive. It was a triumph by which they had become subdued to him.

That the Lord God might dwell among them - literally, “For the dwelling of Jah, God.” The idea is, that he had achieved such a triumph; he had so brought the rebellious under subjection to himself, that he could take up his abode with them, or dwell with them as his people. His rule could be extended over them, and they would acknowledge him as their sovereign. This would be applicable to a people in ancient times that had been subdued by the people of God. It might now be properly applied, also, to sinners who by the power of truth have been so subdued as to submit to God. It is applicable to all who have been conquered by the Gospel - whose enmity has been slain - who have been changed from enemies to friends - so that the Lord may dwell in their hearts, or rule over them. This passage is applied by the apostle Paul in Ephesians 4:8 to the Messiah, not as having original reference to him, but as suggesting language which would appropriately express the nature of his work, and the glory of his triumph. See the notes at that place.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Psalms 68:18". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

18. Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive There can be little doubt that these words are intended to magnify the proofs of Divine favor granted upon the elevation of David to the throne, by contrasting the state of matters with that under Saul. The ascending on high implies the being previously low, and intimates, that under the melancholy confusions which had prevailed in the kingdom, there was no longer the same conspicuous display of the Divine glory as formerly. The government of Saul, which, from the first, had originated in a way that was condemnable, was doomed to fall under the displeasure of God, while his favor, on the other hand, was to be restored under David; and the undeniable appearances of this left no room for doubt that one who began his reign under such auspices was the object of the Divine choice. David, although he had acquitted himself with courage in the battles which were fought, ascribes all the glory of them to God, saying, that it was he who had taken captive the enemy, and forced them to pay tribute, and reduced the more fierce and rebellious to subjection. By the term סוררים sorerim, rebellious, contumacious, or revolters, he would evidently seem to mean a distinct class of persons from the other enemies, whom he mentions as having been taken captive; and it intimates, that while those who did not venture to resist, and who surrendered, had been brought under the yoke, the more proud and unyielding had been forced into submission. The end designed by this is stated in the words which follow, that God might dwell in the midst of his people; and that he might demonstrate himself to be an all-sufficient protector to those who put their trust in him.

As the passage which we have now been considering is applied by Paul in a more spiritual sense to Christ, (Ephesians 4:8,) it may be necessary to show how this agrees with the meaning and scope of the Psalmist. It may be laid down as an incontrovertible truth, that David, in reigning over God’s ancient people, shadowed forth the beginning of Christ’s eternal kingdom. This must appear evident to every one who remembers the promise made to him of a never-failing succession, and which received its verification in the person of Christ. As God illustrated his power in David, by exalting him with the view of delivering his people, so has he magnified his name in his only begotten Son. But let us consider more particularly how the parallel holds. Christ, before he was exalted, emptied himself of his glory, having not merely assumed the form of a servant, but humbled himself to the death of the cross. To show how exactly the figure was fulfilled, Paul notices, that what David had foretold was accomplished in the person of Christ, by his being cast down to the lowest parts of the earth in the reproach and ignominy to which he was subjected, before he ascended to the right hand of his Father, (Psalms 22:7.) That in thinking upon the ascension, we might not confine our views to the body of Christ, our attention is called to the result and fruit of it, in his subjecting heaven and earth to his government. Those who were formerly his inveterate enemies he compelled to submission and made tributary — this being the effect of the word of the Gospel, to lead men to renounce their pride and their obstinacy, to bring down every high thought which exalteth itself, and reduce the senses and the affections of men to obedience unto Christ. As to the devils and reprobate men who are instigated to rebellion and revolt by obstinate malice, he holds them bound by a secret control, and prevents them from executing intended destruction. So far the parallel is complete. Nor when Paul speaks of Christ having given gifts to men, is there any real inconsistency with what is here stated, although he has altered the words, having followed the Greek version in accommodation to the unlearned reader. (39) It was not himself that God enriched with the spoils of the enemy, but his people; and neither did Christ seek or need to seek his own advancement, but made his enemies tributary, that he might adorn his Church with the spoil. From the close union subsisting between the head and members, to say that God manifest in the flesh received gifts from the captives, is one and the same thing with saying that he distributed them to his Church. What is said in the close of the verse is no less applicable to Christ — that he obtained his victories that as God he might dwell among us. Although he departed, it was not that he might remove to a distance from us, but, as Paul says, “that he might fill all things,” (Ephesians 4:10.) By his ascension to heaven, the glory of his divinity has been only more illustriously displayed, and though no longer present with us in the flesh, our souls receive spiritual nourishment from his body and blood, and we find, notwithstanding distance of place, that his flesh is meat indeed, and his blood drink indeed.

(39) Paul’s words are not exactly those of the Septuagint, the present reading of which is, ἔλαβες δοματα ἐν ἀνθρώπω, “Thou hast received gifts for man;” while Paul’s words are, ἔδωκε δόματα τοῖς ἀνθρώποις But Bloomfield thinks that ἐν ἀςθρώπω in the Septuagint is a corruption for ἐπ᾿ ἀνθρώποις; and that Paul read in that version ἔλαθες δοματα ἐπ᾿ ανθρώποις, which is the true sense of the Hebrew words, being no other than this, “Thou hast received gifts on account of men;” i e. , to give to men. Paul, therefore, might say ἔδωκε instead of ἔλαθες ἐπι, to make the sense plainer; as also does the Chaldee Paraphrast, and the Syriac and Arabic translators. Paul’s words are evidently not intended to be a regular quotation, as appears from his changing the second person into the third.

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Psalms 68:18". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". 1840-57.

Chuck Smith Bible Commentary

Psalms 68:1-35

Psalms 68:1-35 :

Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered: let them also that hate him flee before him. As smoke is driven away, so drive them away: as wax melts before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God ( Psalms 68:1-2 ).

So, sort of a thing against the enemies of God. "Let them be scattered, let them flee as smoke sort of just disappears, is driven by the wind, so drive them. As wax melts before the fire, so let them perish in the presence of God."

But let the righteous be glad; let them rejoice before God: yea, let them exceedingly rejoice ( Psalms 68:3 ).

All right, righteous, be glad. Rejoice before God. In fact, exceedingly rejoice.

Sing unto God, sing praises to his name: extol him that rideth upon the heavens by his name, YAH, and rejoice before him ( Psalms 68:4 ).

The Yah, the I am. And of course, in the name you have then Yashua, Yahoshaphat, so many different contractions with the Yah, but to us the important one is Yashua, which is the Hebrew for Jesus. "Extol Him by His name, Yah, and rejoice before Him."

A father of the fatherless, a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation. God setteth the solitary in families: he brings out those which are bound with chains: but the rebellious dwell in a dry land. O God, when you went forth before your people, when you did march through the wilderness; the earth shook, the heavens dropped at the presence of God: even Sinai itself moved at the presence of God, and the God of Israel. Thou, O God, did send a plentiful rain, whereby you did confirm your inheritance, when it was weary. Your congregation hath dwelt therein: thou, O God, hath prepared of thy goodness for the poor. The LORD gave his word: and great was the company of those that published it. Kings of armies did flee apace: and she that tarried at home divided the spoil. And though you have lain among the pots, yet shall ye be as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold. When the Almighty scattered kings, and it was white as snow in Salmon. The hill of God is as the hill of Bashan; and the high hill is as the hill of Bashan. Why leap ye, ye high hills? This is the hill which God desired to dwell in; yea, the LORD will dwell in it for ever ( Psalms 68:5-16 ).

In other words, he sees the other hills of sort of being jealous and all because God has chosen really the hill of Zion to dwell in. "Why leap ye high hills?" You know, "We're so high, it should be us, and all."

The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: the LORD is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place. Thou hast ascended on high ( Psalms 68:17-18 ),

Now we have here a prophecy concerning Jesus Christ quoted by Paul in the fourth chapter of the book of Ephesians. "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 may dwell among them." Paul in quoting this said, "He who has ascended is the same one who first of all descended into the lower parts of the earth. And when He ascended, He led the captivity captive and gave gifts unto men. And to some apostles, and to some prophets, and to some evangelists, and to some pastor teachers, for the perfecting of the saints for the work of the ministry for the building up of the body of Christ. Until we all come into the unity of faith, complete man, the knowledge of the Son of God, the measure, the stature, the fullness, the image of Christ." And so, Paul quotes this, "He has ascended on high; He led captivity captive." But to lead captivity captive, He went first of all in the lower parts of the earth to free those that were captive.

You see, prior to the death of Jesus Christ those Old Testament saints could not enter in to the glory of heaven. It was necessary that their sins be put away, something that the sacrifices of the Old Testament could not do. It was impossible that their sins could be put away by the blood of bulls or goats. All of the Old Testament sacrifices only were pointing to the better way that God would provide when He sent His only begotten Son to be a lamb offering, sin offering, a sacrifice for our sins. "So we are redeemed, not with corruptible things such as silver and gold from our vain empty life, but with the precious blood of Jesus Christ who was slain as a lamb without spot or without blemish" ( 1 Peter 1:18-19 ). So because the blood of bulls and goats could not put away sin but only speak of the better sacrifice which was to come, their sins were covered, and they, when they died, were held by death in the grave, in Sheol or in Hades, in hell.

But hell, prior to the death of Christ, was separated into two compartments. One compartment was of suffering for the unbelievers; the other was a compartment of comfort by Abraham for those who were trusting in the promises of God and in the fulfillment of God's promise. Now these Old Testament men of faith all died in faith not having received the promise, but seeing it afar off they held onto it and they claimed that they were just strangers and pilgrims here. And they were just looking for a city which hath foundation, whose maker and builder is God.

Now when Jesus died, He descended into hell. He who has ascended is the one who first of all descended into the lower parts of the earth. And when He ascended, it is then that He led captivity captive. In the book of Isaiah, chapter 61, the prophecy concerning Christ, it said, "He is going to set at liberty those that are bound and open the prison doors to those that are bound." Set at liberty those that are chained, open the prison doors to those that are bound. Those that were bound by death, waiting with Abraham for the promise of God. When Jesus died He descended into hell and He preached to those souls that were in prison. The glorious fulfillment of God's promise. The redemptive program is complete. The blood has been shed, whereby your sins are now put away once and for all. And now with their sins put away, they can ascend into the heavenly scene. So when He ascended, He led the captives from their captivity. And then He gave gifts unto men. That is, within the church, He gave gifted men as apostles, as prophets, as evangelists, as pastor teachers, for the perfecting of the saints. So, Paul quotes this in Ephesians 4:1-32 , and of course, it just ties together a whole group of scriptures. Luke, the sixteenth chapter; Acts, chapter 2; and Ephesians, chapter 4; and the reference there in Peter where He went and preached to those souls in prison; and Isaiah 61:1-11 . So you can look those up and find them tied together.

Blessed be the LORD, who daily loads us with benefits ( Psalms 68:19 ),

I love that! Oh, blessed be the Lord, who daily just loads me down with the benefits of being His servant. Benefits of walking with Him. Oh, what benefits are mine in Christ Jesus.

even the God of our salvation. He that is our God is the God of salvation; and unto God the LORD belongs the issues of death ( Psalms 68:19-20 ).

Our times are actually in God's hands. It's appointed unto man once to die, and unto God the Lord belong the issues of death.

But God shall wound the head of his enemies, and the hairy scalp of such as those that go on still in his trespasses. The LORD said, I will bring again from Bashan, and I will bring my people again from the depths of the sea: That thy foot may be dipped in the blood of your enemies, and the tongue of the dogs in the same. They have seen thy goings, O God; even the goings of my God, my King, in the sanctuary. The singers went before, the players on the instruments ( Psalms 68:21-25 )

And now here he is describing the worship of God in the sanctuary. "You've seen the going of God in the sanctuary," and now he is going to describe a little bit. First of all, in the procession the singers are in the front. Following them are those players of instruments--the symbols, the trumpets and all. Followed after them

were the young girls playing on their timbrels. Bless ye God in the congregations, even the LORD, from the fountain of Israel ( Psalms 68:25-26 ).

So he sees now, and of course, you know, we've come to sort of a stilted form of the worship of God. We gather together. We sit in pews. We sit in rows. We are regimented and all. And we come and we have sort of a lecture on the Word of God, but I am sure that there is an area for a diversity in our worship. You know, where they were entering in, even. Singers were in the front as they were entering singing praises unto God, followed by the band playing their instruments, followed by the drill team, the young damsels with their timbrels, as they were playing on the timbrels unto the Lord.

When you go to Jerusalem on Friday evening at the beginning of Sabbath, we always like to spend one Friday evening at the Western Wall, as the people gather to worship the Lord on the Sabbath day. And really the excitement of the evening is when these young Jewish boys come down from the school. And they come down about four across, several rows of them, their arms over each other, and they come down chanting and dancing. Sort of a little dance step and all, their arms around each other, and they are chanting. And of course, this is the highlight of the evening when these kids come on down to worship the Lord there by the Western Wall. And they do this little dance step coming in. And as they get down by the wall, they start then their songs and their chants as they sort of get in a circle, and they start dancing around the circle various dances and all unto the Lord. And then after about a half hour of this kind of worship and praise, then they put their arms around each other and dance back up the hill, chanting and singing their praises unto God, as they go back up the hill. And it is a very moving, touching sight. And I think that this is exciting. I think that there is a place for a more of a demonstrative worship unto God. You know, we are coming into the sanctuary to worship Him. Oh, it should be an exciting experience.

"Enter into His presence with thanksgiving, enter into His courts with praise. Be thankful unto Him and bless His name" ( Psalms 100:4 ). You see people gathering, and they are honking their horns, "Get out of my way! I'm going to church today." And by the time we get here, we really need it. Rather than coming in with a joyful heart, a heart that is overflowing with praises unto God in anticipation of worshipping Him.

Now he looks at the congregation that's assembled and,

There is little Benjamin with their ruler [the small tribe of Benjamin over there and there they are in their place with their ruler], and there are the princes of Judah and their council, and there are the princes of Zebulun, and there over there are the princes of Naphtali. Thy God hath commanded thy strength: strengthen, O God, that which you have wrought for us. Because of thy temple at Jerusalem shall kings bring their presents unto thee ( Psalms 68:27-29 ).

This, of course, is again looking forward to the Kingdom Age, when the kings of the earth come and offer their presents unto Christ.

Rebuke the company of spearmen, the multitude of the bulls, with the calves of the people, till every one submit himself with pieces of silver: scatter thou the people that delight in war. Princes shall come out of Egypt; Ethiopia shall stretch out her hands unto God. Sing unto God, ye kingdoms of the earth [the glorious Kingdom Age]; O sing praises unto the Lord: To him that rideth upon the heaven of heavens, which were of old; lo, he doth send out his voice, and that a mighty voice. Ascribe strength unto God: his excellency is over Israel, his strength is in the clouds. O God, thou art awesome out of thy holy places: the God of Israel is he that giveth strength and power unto his people. Blessed be God ( Psalms 68:30-35 ).

So the glorious worship of God in the Kingdom Age; it is going to be exciting. The singers coming in, the instruments, the girls with their timbrels and all, and the congregation as they rise to worship the Lord. "

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Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Psalms 68:18". "Chuck Smith Bible Commentary". 2014.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Psalms 68

David reviewed God’s dealings with Israel to memorialize God’s faithfulness to His people (cf. Judges 5). He traced Israel’s history from the wilderness wanderings to his own capture of Jerusalem. As a mighty commander, God had led His oppressed people into the glorious future He had promised them. In the process He overcame many strong foes.

"The theme of this magnificent Psalm is the march of God to victory. It traces the establishment of His kingdom in the past; it looks forward to the defeat of all opposition in the future until all the kingdoms of the world own the God of Israel as their Lord and pay Him homage." [Note: Kirkpatrick, p. 375.]

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Psalms 68:18". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

2. The record of God scattering His enemies 68:7-18

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Psalms 68:18". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

The NIV rendering of Psalms 68:15 is preferable: "The mountains of Bashan are majestic mountains, rugged are the mountains of Bashan." As impressive as the mountains of Bashan were, namely, Mt. Hermon and its peaked neighbors, the mountain God had chosen for His special habitation was even more grand, namely, Mt. Zion. Topographically, Mt. Zion is not as impressive, but because God chose to dwell among His people there, it was most significant. David described God, accompanied by His angelic army, escorting Israel from Mt. Sinai to Mt. Zion.

The Canaanites believed Baal lived on Mt. Carmel. In describing Yahweh this way, David was using imagery common among his pagan ancient Near Eastern neighbors. He did so to portray Yahweh’s greatness.

The historical events that most closely correspond to God’s figurative ascension up Mt. Zion were David’s capture of Jerusalem from the Jebusites (2 Samuel 5:6-8) and his bringing the ark into that city (2 Samuel 6). When David defeated the Jebusites, he led a host of them captive and undoubtedly took much spoil from them. The writer viewed the spoil as a kind of gift they gave him. Even the rebellious Jebusites gave gifts to David. Of course, God was the real Commander-in-Chief who took the mountain for His people, led the captives captive, and received the gifts from them.

The Apostle Paul referred to Psalms 68:18 in Ephesians 4:8, but he quoted it very loosely and even changed receiving gifts to giving gifts. One explanation for this difference is that Paul may have been following a popular Jewish interpretation of his day, the Targum, which attributed these actions to Moses. According to the Targum, Moses ascended into the firmament, led captivity captive, and gave gifts to the sons of men. [Note: This is the preference of Ross, p. 843.] Another explanation is that Paul used this verse as a basis for what he said but went beyond it to make another point he wanted to stress. After all, he did not claim to quote this verse. He just cast his own words in the mold of this verse. [Note: This explanation is similar to the one suggested by Harold W. Hoehner, "Ephesians," in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament, p. 634.] Paul used this verse to illustrate Jesus’ ascension into the heavenly Mt. Zion after His resurrection. He too ascended on high, led His enemies captive, and received gifts from men. These gifts may be praise or more tangible gifts. They may have already come to Him, or His reception of them may be primarily future. Paul went on to say Jesus also gave gifts to men, something God definitely did and David may have done, but which this psalm does not say they did. This point was the one Paul stressed in his following explanation, but God’s and David’s gift-giving to men was not David’s emphasis here when he wrote this psalm.

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Psalms 68:18". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Thou hast ascended on high,.... Which is to be understood, not of Moses ascending up to the firmament, as the Targum and Jarchi interpret it, of which we nowhere read; nor of David's going up to the high fortresses, as Aben Ezra; nor of God's ascent from Mount Sinai; but of Christ's ascension to heaven, as the apostle cites and explains it in Ephesians 4:8; which ascension respects him as man, was not figurative, as in Genesis 17:22; but real and local, from earth to heaven, and was certain and visible; he was seen to go up by angels and men; and, because of the certainty of it, it is here expressed in the past tense, though it was then future;

thou hast led captivity captive; meaning either such who had been captives, in which sense the word is used, Psalms 126:1; and so may design either those who had been prisoners in the grave, but were set free at Christ's resurrection, and went with him in triumph to heaven; or all his people, whom he redeemed by his blood from that captivity and bondage they were in by nature; or rather those who led them captive are here meant by "captivity"; such as sin, Satan, the world, death, and every spiritual enemy, whom Christ conquered and triumphed over; the allusion may be to public triumphs, when captives were led in chains, even kings and great men, that had captivated others: the words seem to be borrowed out of Judges 5:12;

thou hast received gifts for men; the gifts of the Holy Spirit, qualifying men for the ministry of the Gospel, as they are interpreted by the Apostle, Ephesians 4:11; these Christ received from his divine Father in human nature, when he ascended up to heaven, in order to give them to men; and which he did in a very extraordinary manner on the day of Pentecost. The Targum and Syriac version render it, "thou hast given gifts to men"; and the Arabic version, "and he gave gifts to men", as the apostle, Ephesians 4:8;

yea, [for] the rebellious also; disobedient and unbelieving m, as all men are by nature, even God's elect, before conversion, Titus 3:3; who are not only called by grace, and have the blessings of grace bestowed upon them; but some of them have gifts given them, whereby they are fitted to preach the Gospel to others, as Saul, the blasphemer, persecutor, and injurious; and some of those among the Jews, that were concerned in the crucifixion of Christ: though some think the Gentiles are intended, on whom the Holy Spirit was poured forth after our Lord's ascension; and so the Targum interprets it of the rebellious, who become proselytes, and return by repentance;

that the Lord God might dwell [among them]; that is, that they, by the gifts and graces of the Spirit bestowed on them, might become a fit habitation for God; or that "they", the rebellious, being now partakers of the grace of God and his gifts, "might dwell [with] the Lord God" n in his churches; enjoy his divine presence, and have communion with him in his word and ordinances.

m סודרים απειθουντες Sept. "non credentes", V. L. n לשכן "ut habitent cum Jah, Jehovah", Piscator; "cum Deo", Gejerus; "ut habitent pulchritudinem Dei", Cocceius.

Copyright Statement
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Psalms 68:18". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

Glory of Zion; The King of Zion.

      15 The hill of God is as the hill of Bashan; a high hill as the hill of Bashan.   16 Why leap ye, ye high hills? this is the hill which God desireth to dwell in; yea, the LORD will dwell in it for ever.   17 The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: the Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place.   18 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.   19 Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah.   20 He that is our God is the God of salvation; and unto GOD the Lord belong the issues from death.   21 But God shall wound the head of his enemies, and the hairy scalp of such an one as goeth on still in his trespasses.

      David, having given God praise for what he had done for Israel in general, as the God of Israel (Psalms 68:8; Psalms 68:8), here comes to give him praise as Zion's God in a special manner; compare Psalms 9:11. Sing praises to the Lord who dwelleth in Zion, for which reason Zion is called the hill of God.

      I. He compares it with the hill of Bashan and other high and fruitful hills, and prefers it before them, Psalms 68:15; Psalms 68:16. It is true, Zion was but little and low in comparison with them, and was not covered over with flocks and herds as they were, yet, upon this account, it has the pre-eminence above them all, that it is the hill of God, the hill which he desires to dwell in, and where he chooses to manifest the tokens of his peculiar presence, Psalms 132:13; Psalms 132:14. Note, It is much more honourable to be holy to God than to be high and great in the world. "Why leap you, you high hills? Why do you insult over poor Zion, and boast of your own height? This is the hill which God has chosen, and therefore though you exceed it in bulk, and be first-rates, yet, because on this the royal flag is hoisted, you must all strike sail to it." Zion was especially honourable because it was a type of the gospel church, which is therefore called Mount Zion (Hebrews 12:22), and this is intimated here, when he said, The Lord will dwell in it for ever, which must have its accomplishment in the gospel Zion. There is no kingdom in the world comparable to the kingdom of the Redeemer, no city comparable to that which is incorporated by the gospel charter, for there God dwells and will dwell for ever.

      II. He compares it with Mount Sinai, of which he had spoken (Psalms 68:8; Psalms 68:8), and shows that it has the Shechinah or divine presence in it as really, though not as sensibly, as Sinai itself had, Psalms 68:17; Psalms 68:17. Angels are the chariots of God, his chariots of war, which he make use of against his enemies, his chariots of conveyance, which he sends for his friends, as he did for Elijah (and Lazarus is said to be carried by the angels), his chariots of state, in the midst of which he shows his glory and power. They are vastly numerous: Twenty thousands, even thousands multiplied. There is an innumerable company of angels in the heavenly Jerusalem, Hebrews 12:22. The enemies David fought with had chariots (2 Samuel 8:4), but what were they, for number or strength, to the chariots of God? While David had these on his side he needed not to fear those that trusted in chariots and horses,Psalms 20:7. God appeared on Mount Sinai, attended with myriads of angels, by whose dispensation the law was given, Acts 7:53. He comes with ten thousands of saints,Deuteronomy 33:2. And still in Zion God manifests his glory, and is really present, with a numerous retinue of his heavenly hosts, signified by the cherubim between which God is said to dwell. So that, as some read the last words of the verse, Sinai is in the sanctuary; that is, the sanctuary was to Israel instead of Mount Sinai, whence they received divine oracles. Our Lord Jesus has these chariots at command. When the first-begotten was brought in to the world it was with this charge, Let all the angels of God worship him (Hebrews 1:6); they attended him upon all occasions, and he is now among them, angels, principalities, and powers, being made subject to him,1 Peter 3:22. And it is intimated in the New Testament that the angels are present in the solemn religious assemblies of Christians, 1 Corinthians 11:10. Let the woman have a veil on her head because of the angels; and see Ephesians 3:10.

      III. The glory of Mount Zion was the King whom God set on that holy hill (Psalms 2:6), who came to the daughter of Zion,Matthew 21:5. Of his ascension the psalmist here speaks, and to it his language is expressly applied (Ephesians 4:8): Thou hast ascended on high (Psalms 68:18; Psalms 68:18); compare Psalms 47:5; Psalms 47:6. Christ's ascending on high is here spoken of as a thing past, so sure was it; and spoken of to his honour, so great was it. It may include his whole exalted state, but points especially at his ascension into heaven to the right hand of the Father, which was as much our advantage as his advancement. For, 1. He then triumphed over the gates of hell. He led captivity captive; that is, he led his captives in triumph, as great conquerors used to do, making a show of them openly,Colossians 2:15. He led those captive who had led us captive, and who, if he had not interposed, would have held us captive for ever. Nay, he led captivity itself captive, having quite broken the power of sin and Satan. As he was the death of death, so he was the captivity of captivity, Hosea 13:14. This intimates the complete victory which Jesus Christ obtained over our spiritual enemies; it was such that through him we also are more than conquerors, that is, triumphers, Romans 8:37. 2. He then opened the gates of heaven to all believers: Thou hast received gifts for men. He gave gifts to men, so the apostle reads it, Ephesians 4:8. For he received that he might give; on his head the anointing of the Spirit was poured, that from him it might descend to the skirts of his garments. And he gave what he had received; having received power to give eternal life, he bestows it upon as many as were given him,John 17:2. Thou hast received gifts for men, not for angels; fallen angels were not to be made saints, nor standing angels made gospel ministers, Hebrews 2:5. Not for Jews only, but for all men; whoever will may reap the benefit of these gifts. The apostle tells us what these gifts were (Ephesians 4:11), prophets, apostles, evangelists, pastors and teachers, the institution of a gospel ministry and the qualification of men for it, both which are to be valued as the gifts of heaven and the fruits of Christ's ascension. Thou hast received gifts in man (so the margin), that is, in the human nature which Christ was pleased to clothe himself with, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God. In him, as Mediator, all fulness dwells, that from his fulness we might receive. To magnify the kindness and love of Christ to us in receiving these gifts for us, the psalmist observes, (1.) The forfeiture we had made of them. He received them for the rebellious also, for those that had been rebellious; so all the children of men had been in their fallen state. Perhaps it is especially meant of the Gentiles, that had been enemies in their minds by wicked works,Colossians 1:21. For them these gifts are received, to them they are given, that they might lay down their arms, that their enmity might be slain, and that they might return to their allegiance. This magnifies the grace of Christ exceedingly that through him rebels are, upon their submission, not only pardoned, but preferred. They have commissions given them under Christ, which some say, in our law, amounts to the reversing of an attainder. Christ came to a rebellious world, not to condemn it, but that through him it might be saved. (2.) The favour designed us in them: He received gifts for the rebellious, that the Lord God might dwell among them, that he might set up a church in a rebellious world, in which he would dwell by his word and ordinances, as of old in the sanctuary, that he might set up his throne, and Christ might dwell in the hearts of particular persons that had been rebellious. The gracious intention of Christ's undertaking was to rear up the tabernacle of God among men, that he might dwell with them and they might themselves be living temples to his praise, Ezekiel 37:27.

      IV. The glory of Zion's King is that he is a Saviour and benefactor to all his willing people and a consuming fire to all those that persist in rebellion against him, Psalms 68:19-21; Psalms 68:19-21. We have here good and evil, life and death, the blessing and the curse, set before us, like that (Mark 16:16), He that believes shall be saved; he that believes not shall be damned.

      1. Those that take God for their God, and so give up themselves to him to be his people, shall be loaded with his benefits, and to them he will be a God of salvation. If in sincerity we avouch God to be our God, and seek to him as such, (1.) He will continually do us good and furnish us with occasion for praise. Having mentioned the gifts Christ received for us (Psalms 68:18; Psalms 68:18), fitly does he subjoin, in the next words, Blessed be the Lord; for it is owing to the mediation of Christ that we live, and live comfortably, and are daily loaded with benefits. So many, so weighty, are the gifts of God's bounty to us that he may be truly said to load us with them; he pours out blessings till there is no room to receive them,Malachi 3:10. So constant are they, and so unwearied is he in doing us good, that he daily loads us with them, according as the necessity of every day requires. (2.) He will at length be unto us the God of salvation, of everlasting salvation, the salvation of God, which he will show to those that order their conversation aright (Psalms 50:23), the salvation of the soul. He that daily loads us with benefits will not put us off with present things for a portion, but will be the God of our salvation; and what he gives us now he gives as the God of salvation, pursuant to the great design of our salvation. He is our God, and therefore he will be the God of eternal salvation to us; for that only will answer the vast extent of his covenant-relation to us as our God. But has he power to complete this salvation? Yes, certainly; for unto God the Lord belong the issues from death. The keys of hell and death are put into the hand of the Lord Jesus, Revelation 1:18. He, having made an escape from death himself in his resurrection, has both authority and power to rescue those that are his from the dominion of death, by altering the property of it to them when they die and giving them a complete victory over it when they shall rise again; for the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. And to those that shall thus for ever escape death, and shall find such an outlet from it as not to be hurt of the second death, to them surely deliverances from temporal death are mercies indeed and come from God as the God of their salvation. 2 Corinthians 1:10.

      2. Those that persist in their enmity to him will certainly be ruined (Psalms 68:21; Psalms 68:21): God shall wound the head of his enemies,--of Satan the old serpent (of whom it was by the first promise foretold that the seed of the woman should break his head,Genesis 3:15), --of all the powers of the nations, whether Jews or Gentiles, that oppose him and his kingdom among men (Psalms 110:6, He shall wound the heads over many countries),--of all those, whoever they are, that will not have him to reign over them, for those he accounts his enemies, and they shall be brought forth and slain before him,Luke 19:27. He will wound the hairy scalp of such a one as goeth on still in his trespasses. Note, Those who go on still in their trespasses, and hate to be reformed, God looks upon as his enemies and will treat them accordingly. In calling the head the hairy scalp perhaps there is an allusion to Absalom, whose bushy hair was his halter. Or it denotes either the most fierce and barbarous of his enemies, who let their hair grow, to make themselves look the more frightful, or the most fine and delicate of his enemies, who are nice about their hair: neither the one nor the other can secure themselves from the fatal wounds which divine justice will give to the heads of those that go on in their sins.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Psalms 68:18". "Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". 1706.

Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible

Our Lord’s Triumphant Ascension

April 27, 1890 by

C. H. Spurgeon (1834-1892)

Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou has received

gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them--Psalms 68:18 .

The hill of Zion had been taken out of the hand of the Jebusites. They had held it long after the rest of the country had been subdued; but David at last had taken it from them. This was the Mountain ordained of Jehovah of old to be the place of the Temple. David, therefore, with songs and shouts of rejoicing, brought up the ark from the abode of Obed-edom to the place where it should remain. That is the literal fact upon which the figure of the text is based, We are at no loss for the spiritual interpretation, for we turn to Ephesians 4:8 , where, quoting rather the sense of the passage than the exact words, Paul says, "When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto Him" 'The same sense is found in Colossians 2:15 :"And having spoiled principalities anti powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it." Not misled by the will-o'-the-wisp of fancy, but guided by the clear light of the infallible Word, we see our way to expound our text. In the words of David we have an address to our Lord Jesus Christ, concerning His ascent to His glory. "Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou has received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious 'also, that the Lord God might dwell among them."

Our Savior descended when He came to the manger of Bethlehem, a babe, and further descended when He became "a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief." He descended lower still when he was obedient to death, even the death of the cross; and further yet when His dead body was laid in the grave. Well saith our apostle, "Now that He ascended, what is it but that He also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?" Long and dark was the descent--there were no depths of humiliation, temptation, and affliction which He did not fathom. Seeing He stood in their place and stead, He went as low as justice required that sinners should go who had dared to violate the law of God. The utmost abyss of desertion heard Him cry, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Low in the grave He lay, but He had His face upward, for He could not see corruption.

On the third day He quitted the couch of the dead, and rose to the light of the living. He had commenced His glorious ascent. To prove how real was His resurrection, He stayed on the earth forty days, and showed Himself to many witnesses. Magdalene and James saw Him alone; the eleven beheld Him in their midst; the two on the road conversed with Him; five hundred brethren at once beheld Him. He gave infallible proofs that He was really risen from the dead, and these remain with us unto this day as historic facts. He ate a piece of a broiled fish and of a honeycomb, to prove that He was no phantom. He said to the apostles, "Handle me, and see that it is I myself; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have." One laid his finger in the print of the nails, and even thrust his hand into His side. Their very doubts were used to make the evidence clearer. The fact that Jesus died was put beyond question by the spear-thrust; and the fact that He was alive, in a material form, was equally well established by the touch of Thomas. Beyond a doubt, Christ Jesus has risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.

This being settled beyond question, the time came for our Lord to continue His homeward, upward journey, and return unto the glory from which He had come down. From "the mount called Olivet," while His disciples surrounded Him, "He was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight." The rest of His upward progress we cannot describe. Imagination and faith step in, and conceive of Him as rising beyond all regions known to us, fir above all imaginable height. He draws near to the suburbs of heaven; and surely the poet is not wrong when he says of the angels--

They brought his chariot from on high

To bear him to his throne;

Clapp'd their triumphant wings, and cried,

"The glorious work is done."

"Lift up your heads, 0 ye gates, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors, that the King of glory may come in." How high He ascended after He passed the pearly portal Paul cannot tell us, save that he says "he ascended up far above all heavens," and describes Him as "set at God's right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion"; and as "dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto." The man Christ Jesus has gone back to the place from whence His Godhead came. Thou art the King of glory, O Christ! Thou art the eternal Son of the Father! Thou sittest ever in the highest heaven, enthroned with all glory, clothed with all power, King of kings and Lord of lords. Unto thy name we humble present our hallelujahs, both now and forever.

I. Now, concerning the text itself, which speaks of the ascent of our ever blessed Lord, we shall say, first, that OUR LORD'S TRIUMPH WAS SET FORTH BY THIS ASCENSION.

He came here to fight the foes of God and man. It was a tremendous battle, not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual wickednesses and evil powers. Our Lord fought against sin, and death, and hell, and hate of God, and love of falsehood. He came to earth to be our champion. For you and for me, beloved, He entered the lists, and wrestled till He sweat great drops of blood: yea, "He poured out his soul unto death." When He had ended the struggle He declared His victory by ascending to the Father's throne.

Now His descent is ended . There was no need for Him to remain amid the men who despised Him. The shame, and suffering, and blasphemy, and rebuke are far beneath Him now. The sun has risen, and the darkness of night has fled. He has gone up beyond the reach of sneering Sadducees and accusing Pharisees. The traitor cannot again kiss Him, Pilate cannot scourge Him, Herod cannot mock Him. He is far above the reach of priestly taunt and vulgar jest. No more the cruel spear; The cross and nails no more; For hell itself shakes his frown, And all the heavens adore.

Now, also our Lord's work was done . We are sure that the purpose of His love is secure, or He would not have returned to His rest. The love that brought Him here would have kept Him here if all things necessary for our salvation had not been finished. Our Lord Jesus is no sudden enthusiast, who rashly commences an enterprise of which He wearies before it is accomplished. He does not give up a work which He has once undertaken. Because He said, "I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do," and then ascended to the Father, I feel safe in asserting that all that was required of the Lord Christ for the overthrow of the powers of darkness is performed and endured: all that is needed for the salvation of His redeemed is fully done. Whatever was the design of Christ's death, it will be accomplished to the full; for had He not secured its accomplishment He would not have gone back. I do not believe in a defeated and disappointed Savior, nor in a divine sacrifice which fails to effect its purpose. I do not believe in an atonement which is admirably wide but fatally ineffectual. I rejoice to hear my Lord say, "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me." Whatever was the purpose of the Christ of God in the great transaction of the cross, it must be fully effected: to conceive a failure, even of a partial kind, is scarcely reverent. Jesus has seen to it that in no point shall His work be frustrated. Nothing is left undone of all His covenanted engagements, "It is finished" is a description of every item of the divine labor; and, therefore, has He ascended on high. There are no dropped stitches in the robe of Christ. I say again, the love that brought our Lord here would have kept Him here if He had not been absolutely sure that all His work and warfare for our salvation had been accomplished to the full.

Further, as we see here the ending of our Lord's descent and the accomplishment of His work, remember that His ascent to the Father is representative. Every believer rose with Him, and grasped the inheritance. When He uprose, ascending high, He taught our feet the way. At the last His people shall be caught up together with the Lord in the air, and so shall they be forever with the Lord. He has made a stairway for His saints to climb to their felicity, and He has trodden it Himself to assure us that the new and living way is available for us. In His ascension, He bore all His people with Him. As Levi was in the loins of Abraham, when Melchizedek met Him, so were all the saints in the loins of Christ when He ascended up on high. Not one of the number shall fail to come where the head has entered, else were Jesus the Head of an imperfect and mutilated body. Though you have no other means of getting to glory but faith in Jesus, that way will bring you there without fail. Not only will He not be in glory and leave us behind, but He cannot be so, since we are one with Him; and where He is His people must be. We are in the highest glory in Jesus as our Representative, and by faith we are raised up together, and made to sit together in the heavenlies, even in Him.

Our Lord's ascent is to the highest heaven . I have noticed this already; but let me remind you of it again, lest you miss an essential point. Our Lord Jesus is in no inferior place in the glory land. He was a servant here, but He is not so there. I know that He intercedes, and thus carries on a form of service on our behalf, but no strivings, and cryings, and tears are mingled with His present pleadings. With authority He pleads. He is a priest upon His throne, blending with His plea the authority of His personal merit. He saith, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth"; and therefore He is glorious in His prayers for us. He is Lord of every place, and of everything; He guides the wheel of providence, and directs the flight of angels; His kingdom ruleth over all. He is exalted above every name that is named, and all things are put under Him. Oh, what a Christ we have to trust in and to love!

And on this account we are called upon in the text no think much of His blessed Person. When we speak of what Christ has done, we must think much of the doing, but still more of the Doer. We must not forget the Benefactor in the benefits which come to us through Him. Note well how David puts it. To him the Lord is first and most prominent. He sees Him, he speaks to Him. " Thou has ascended on high. Thou hast led captivity captive. Thou hast received gifts for men." Three times he addresses Him by that personal pronoun "Thou." Dwell an the fact that He, the Son of David, who for our sakes came down on earth and lay in the manger, and hung upon a woman's breast, has gone up on high, into the glory infinite. He that trod the weary ways of Palestine now reigns as a King in His palace. He that sighed, and hungered, and wept, and bled, and died, is now above all heavens. Behold your Lord upon the cross--mark the five ghastly wounds, and all the shameful scourging and spitting which men have wrought upon Him! See how that blessed body, prepared of the Holy Ghost for the indwelling of the Second Person of the adorable Trinity, was evil entreated!

But there is an end to all this. " Thou has ascended on high." He that was earth's scorn is now heaven's wonder. I saw Thee laid in the tomb, wrapped about with cerements, and embalmed in spices; but Thou has ascended on high, where death cannot touch Thee. The Christ that was buried here is now upon the throne. The heart which was broken here is palpitating in His bosom now, as full of love and condescension as when He dwelt among men. He has not forgotten us, for He has not forgotten Himself, and we are part and parcel of Himself. He is still mindful of Calvary and Gethsemane. Even when you are dazzled by the superlative splendor of His exalted state, still believe that He is a Brother born for adversity.

Let us rejoice in the ascent of Christ as being the ensign of His victory, and the symbol thereof. He has accomplished His work. If Thou hadst not led captivity captive, O Christ, Thou hadst never ascended on high; and if Thou hadst not won gifts of salvation for the sins of men, Thou hadst been here still suffering! Thou wouldst never have relinquished thy chosen task if Thou hadst not perfected it. Thou art so set on the salvation of men, that for the joy that was set before Thee, Thou didst endure the cross, despising the shame; and we know that all must have been achieved, or Thou wouldst still be working out thy gracious enterprise. The voice of the ascension is --CONSUMMATUM EST: "It is finished."

II. Having led your thoughts that way, I would, secondly, remind you that THE LORD'S TRIUMPHAL ASCENT DEMONSTRATED THE DEFEAT OF ALL OUR FOES. "Thou has led captivity captive" is as certain as "Thou has ascended on high."

Brethren, we were captives once -- captives to tyrants, who wrought us woe, and would soon have wrought us death. We were captives to sin, captives to Satan, and therefore captives under spiritual death. We were captives under diverse lusts and imaginations of our own hearts: captives to error, captives to deceit. But the Lord Jesus Christ has led captivity captive. There is our comfort. Yet, forget not that we were hopeless captives to all these: they were too strong for us, and we could not escape from their cruel bondage.

The Lord Jesus, by His glorious victory here below, has subdued all our adversaries , and in His going up on high He has triumphed over them all, exhibiting them as trophies. The imagery may be illustrated by the triumph of Roman conquerors. They were wont to pass along the Via Sacra, and climb up to the Capitol, dragging at their chariot wheels the vanquished princes with their hands bound behind their backs. All those powers which held you captive have been vanquished by Christ. Whatever form your spiritual slavery took, you are clean delivered from it; for the Lord Christ has made captives those whose captives you were. "Sin shall not have dominion over you." Concerning Satan, our Lord has bruised his head beneath His heel. Death also is overcome, and his sting is taken away. Death is no more the king of dread: "The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." Whatever there was or is, which can oppress our soul, and hold it in bondage, the Lord Jesus has subdued and made it captive to Himself.

What then? Why, henceforth the power of all our adversaries is broken . Courage, Christians! You can fight your way to heaven, for the foes who dispute your passage have been already worsted in the field. They bear upon them the proofs of the valor of your leader. True, the flock of the Lord is too feeble to force its way; but listen, "The Breaker is come up before them, and the King at the head of them." Easily may the sheep follow where the Shepherd breaks the way. We have but to follow those heavenly feet, which once were pierced, and none of our steps shall slide. Move on, O soldiers of Jesus, for your Captain cries, "Follow me!" Would He lead you into evil? Has He not said, "Thou shalt tread upon the lion and the adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet." Your Lord has set His foot on the necks of your enemies: you wage war with vanquished foes. What encouragement this glorious ascension of Christ should give to every tried believer!

Remember, again, that the victory of our Lord Christ is the victory of allwho are in Him. "The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head." Now, the seed of the woman is, first of all, the Lord Jesus; but also, it is all who are in union with Him. There are still two seeds in the world--the seed of the serpent, and these cannot enter into this rest; and the seed of the woman, who are born, not of blood, nor of the will of man, nor of the will of the flesh, but of God: in these last is the living and incorruptible seed, which liveth and abideth forever, Jesus, our Lord, represents them in all that He does--they died in Him, were buried in Him, are raised in Him, and in the day when He triumphed, they led captivity captive in Him. Looking at the great battle now raging in the world, I gaze with joyful confidence. We are fighting now with Popery, with Mohammedanism, with idolatry in the foulest forms; but the battle is in effect won. We are struggling with the terrible infidelity which has fixed itself like a cancer upon the church of God, and our spirit sinks as we survey the horrors of this almost civil war. How often we groan because the battle does not go as we would desire it! Yet there is no reason for dismay. God is in no hurry as we are. He dwells in the leisure of eternity, and is not the prey of fear, as we are. We read concerning the multitude, when they needed to be fed, that Jesus asked Philip a question; but yet it is added, "howbeit Jesus knew what he would do." So today the Lord may put many questions to His valiant ones, and "For the divisions of Reuben there may be great searchings of heart"; but He knows what He is going to do, and we may lay our heads upon His bosom and rest quiet. If He does not tell us how He will effect His purpose, yet assuredly He will not fail. His cause is sure to win the victory, for how can the Lord be defeated? A vanquished Christ! We have not yet learned to blaspheme, and so we put the notion far from us. No, brethren, by those bleeding hands and feet He has secured the struggle. By that side opened down to His heart we fee l that His heart is fixed in our cause. Especially by His resurrection, and by His climbing to the throne of God, He has made the victory of His truth, the victory of His church, the victory of Himself most sure and certain.

III. Let us notice, thirdly, that OUR LORD'S TRIUMPHANT ASCENSION WAS CELEBRATED BY GIFTS. The custom of bestowing gifts after victory was practiced among the Easterns, according to the song of Deborah. Those to whom a triumph was decreed in old Rome scattered money among the populace. Sometimes it seemed as if every man in the city was made rich by his share of the spoils of vanquished princes. Thus our Lord, when He ascended on high, received gifts for men, and scattered largess all around.

The psalm says: "Thou has received gifts for men." The Hebrew hath it, "Thou has received gifts in Adam"--that is, in human nature. Our Lord Christ had everything as Lord; but as the man, the Mediator, He has received gifts from the Father. "The King eternal, immortal, invisible," has bestowed upon His triumphant General a portion with the great, and He has ordained that He shall divide the spoil with the strong. This our Lord values, for He speaks of all that the Father has given Him with the resolve that He will possess it.

When Paul quotes the passage, he says, "He gave gifts to men." Did Paul quote incorrectly? I think not. He quoted, no doubt, from the Greek version. Is the Greek version therefore compatible with the Hebrew? Assuredly; for Dr. Owen says that the word rendered "received" may be read "gave." And if not, for Christ to receive for men is the same thing as to give to men, for He never receives for Himself, but at once gives it to those who are in Him. Paul looks to the central meaning of the passage, and gives us the heart and soul of its sense. He is not intending to quote it verbatim, but to give in brief its innermost teaching. Our Lord Jesus Christ has nothing which He does not give to His church. He gave Himself for us, and He continues still to give Himself to us. He receives the gift, but He only acts as the conduit-pipe, through which the grace of God flows to us. It leased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell; and of His fullness have all we received.

What are these great ascension gifts? I answer that I invite your adoring attention to the sacred Trinity herein the sum of them is he Holy Spirit. I invite your adoring attention to the sacred Trinity herein manifested to us. How delightful it is to see the Trinity working out in unity the salvation of men! "Thou hast ascended on high": there is Christ Jesus. "Thou has received gifts for men": there is the Father, bestowing those gifts. The gift itself is the Holy Spirit. This is the great largess of Christ's ascension, which He bestowed on His church at Pentecost. Thus you have Father, Son, and Holy Spirit blessedly co-working for the benediction of men, the conquest of evil, the establishment of righteousness. O my soul, delight thyself in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. One of the sins of modern theology is keeping these divine Persons in the background, so that they are scarcely mentioned in their several workings and offices. The theology which can feed your souls must be full of Godhead, and yield to Father, Son and Holy Spirit perpetual praise.

Beloved, the gifts here spoken of are those brought by the Holy Spirit. "The water that I shall give him," said Christ, "shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." He said again, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink." We read that He "spoke of the Spirit, which they that believed on him should receive." "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?" To conquer the world for Christ we need nothing but the Holy Spirit, and in the hour of His personal victory He secured us this boon. If the Holy Spirit be but given we have in Him all the weapons of our holy war. But observe, according to Paul, these gifts which our Lord gave are embodied in men; for the Holy Spirit comes upon men whom He has chosen, and works through them according to His good pleasure. Hence He gave some, apostles, some, evangelists, and some, pastors and teachers. No one may be judged to be given of God to the church in any of these offices unless as the Spirit dwells upon him. All are given of God upon whom the Holy Spirit rests, whatever their office may be. It is ours to accept with great joy the men who are chosen and anointed to speak in the name of the Lord, be they what they may. Paul, Apollos, Cephas, they are all the gifts of the risen Christ to His redeemed ones, for their edifying and perfecting. The Holy Spirit, in proportion as He abides in these servants of God, makes them to be precious benisons of heaven to His people, and they become the champions by whom the world is subdued to the Lord Jesus Christ.

These gifts, given in the form of men, are given for men. Churches do not exist for preachers; but preachers for churches. We have sometimes feared that certain brethren thought that the assemblies of believers were formed to provide situations for clerical persons; but, indeed, it is no so. My brethren in the church, we who are your pastors are your servants for Christ's sake. Our rule is not that of lordship, but of love. Every God-sent ministers, if he discharges his duty aright, waits upon the bride of Christ with loving diligence, and delights greatly to hear the Bridegroom's voice. I wish that you who talk of my Lord's servants as if they were rival performers would cease thus to profane the gifts of the ascended King. The varying abilities of those by whom the Lord builds up His church are all arranged by infinite wisdom, and it should be ours to make the most we can of them. Comparing and contrasting the Lord's gifts is unprofitable work. It is better to drink of the well of Elim than to grow hot and feverish in disputing as to whether it is better or worse than Beersheba or Sychar. One minister may be better for you than another; but another may be better for somebody else than the one you prefer. The least gifted may be essential to a certain class of mind; therefore, despise no one. When God gives gifts, shall you turn them over contemptuously, and say, "I like this well; but the other I like not?" Did the Father bestow these gifts upon His Son, and has the Holy Spirit put them into different earthen vessels that the excellency of the power might be of God; and will you begin judging them? No, Beloved, the Lord hath sent me to preach His gospel, and I rejoice to feel that I am sent for your sake. I entreat you to profit as much as you can by me by frequent hearing, by abounding faith, by practical obedience to the Word. Use all God's servants as you are able to profit by them. Hear them prayerfully, not for the indulgence of your curiosity, nor for the pleasing of your ear with rhetoric, but that you, through the Word of God, may feel His Spirit working in our hearts all the purpose of His will. Our conversion, sanctification, comfort, instruction, and usefulness, all come to us by the Holy Spirit, and that Spirit sends His powerful messages by the men whom He has given to be His mouths to men. See how wonderful was that ascension of our Lord, in which He scattered down mercies so rich and appropriate among the sons of men. From His glorious elevation above all heavens, He sends forth pastors, and preachers, and evangelists, through whom the Holy Spirit works mightily in them that believe. By them He gathers the redeemed together, and builds them up a church to His glory.

IV. I want the attention of all who are unconverted, for I have glorious tidings for them. To them I speak under my fourth head, OUR LORD'S TRIUMPH HAS A VERY SPECIAL BEARING.

"Thou has received gifts for men, " not for angels, not for devils, but for men poor fallen men. I read not that it is said, "for bishops or ministers" but "for men"; and yet there is a special character mentioned. Does the text particularly mention , saints," or those that have not defiled their garments? No, I do not read of them here. What a strange sovereignty there is about the grace of God! Truly He will have mercy on whom He will have mercy; for in this instance He selects for special mention those that you and I would have passed over without a word. "Yes, for the rebellious also." I must pause to brush my tears away. Where are you, ye rebels? Where are those who have lived in rebellion against God all their lives? Alas! You have been in open revolt against Him: you have raged against Him in your hearts, and spoken against Him with your tongues. Some have sinned as drunkards, others have broken the laws of purity, truth, honesty. Many rebel against the light, violate conscience, and disobey the Word-- these also are among the rebellious. So are the proud, the wrathful, the slothful, the profane, the unbelieving, the unjust. Hear, all of you, these words, and carry them home; and if they do not break your hearts with tender gratitude you are hard indeed. "Yea, for the rebellious also." When our Lord rode home in triumph He had a pitying heart towards the rebellious. When He entered the highest place to which He could ascend, he was still the sinner's friend. When all His pains and griefs were being rewarded with endless horror, He turned His eye upon those who had crucified Him, and bestowed gifts upon them.

This description includes those who have rebelled against God, though once they professed to be His loyal subjects. Perhaps I am addressing some who have so far backslidden that they have thrown up all religion and have gone back into the world and its sins: these are apostates from the profession which once they made. To these I would give a word of encouragement, if they will turn to the Lord. Once upon a time, John Bunyan was under great temptation from the devil. This trial he records in his Grace Abounding . He thought that God had given him up, and that he was cast away forever; and yet he found hope in this text. I have copied out a little bit which refers to it: "I feared also that this was the mark that the Lord did set on Cain, even continual fear and trembling under the heavy load of guilt that he had charged upon him for the blood of his brother Abel. Then did I wind and twine and shrink under the burden that was upon me, which burden did also so oppress me that I could neither stand, nor go, nor lie, either at rest or quiet. Yet that saying would sometimes come into my mind, 'He hath received gifts for the rebellious.' Rebellious, thought I, why surely they are such as once were under subjection to their Prince, even those who, after they had sworn subjection to His government, have taken up arms against Him; and this, thought I, is my very condition. Once I loved Him, feared Him, served Him; but now I am a rebel, and I have sold Him. I said, Let Him go if He will, but yet He has gifts for rebels; and then why not for me?"

Oh, that I could cause every despairing heart to reason in this way! Oh, that the Holy Spirit would put this argument into every troubled mind at this moment: " And then why not for me ? " Come home, dear brother, come home, for there are gifts for the rebellious; and why not for you? I know you deserted the Lord's Table, but the Lord of the Table has not deserted you. I know you have, as far as you could, forsaken the name of Christ, and even wished you could be unbaptized: but that could not be, nor can the Lord leave you to perish. I know you have done evil with both hands eagerly; and perhaps now you are living in a known sin, and when you go home today you will see it before your eyes. Nevertheless, I charge you, return unto the Lord at once. Come to your Lord and Savior, who still prays, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." Behold how in His glory He "hath received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also." O my soul, I charge thee, on thine own account, hang on to this most precious declaration, for thou, too, hast been a rebel. Would God that all my brothers and sisters would be cheered by this dear word, and take it home to themselves with a believing repentance and a holy hatred of sin! I would print the words in stars across the brow of night." Yea, for the rebellious also."

V. I have done when I have handled the fifth point, which is this: OUR LORD'S TRIUMPHANT ASCENSION SECURES THE CONSUMMATION OF HIS WHOLE WORK. What doth it say? "That the Lord God might dwell among them." When our Lord Christ came here at the first He was willing enough to "dwell" among us; but it could not be. "The Word was made flesh and tabernacled among us," like a Bedouin in his tent, but not as a dweller at home. He could not "dwell" here on that occasion. He was but a visitor, and badly treated at that. "There was no room for him in the inn," where everybody else was freely welcome. "He came unto his own"-- surely they will lodge Him, "but his own received him not. "There was no room for Him in the temple-- there He had to use the scourge. There was room for Him in the open streets, for they took up stones to stone Him. Out of the synagogue they hurried Him, to cast Him down headlong from the brow of the hill. "Away with him! Away with him!" was the cry of the ribald crowd. This dear visitor, who came here all unarmed, without sword or bow, they treated as though He had been a spy or an assassin, who had stolen among them to do them ill. And so they ran upon Him with a spear, and He, quitting these inhospitable realms which knew Him not, took home with Him the marks of man's discourtesy. O earth, earth, how couldst thou drive away thy dearest Friend, and compel Him to be as a wayfaring man, that tarrieth but for a night; nay, worse, as a man astonished, who meets with wounding in the house of His friends?

After He had risen again, He went home, that from this throne He might direct a work by which earth should become a place where God could abide. Again is the temple of God to be with men, and He shall dwell among them. This world of ours has been sprinkled with the precious blood of the Lamb of God, and it is no longer as an unclean thing. Jesus is the lamb of God who so taketh away the sin of the world that God can treat with men on terms of grace, and publish free salvation. The Lord God Himself had long been a stranger in the land. Did not the holy man of old say, "I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were?" But Jesus, the ascended One, is pouring down such gifts upon this sin-smitten world, that it will yet become a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness and the God of righteousness.

This promise is partly fulfilled before your own eyes this day; for the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, and He has never returned. Jesus said, "He shall abide with you forever." The Holy Dove has often been greatly grieved, but He has never spread His wings to depart. This is still the dispensation of the Spirit. You hardly need to pray to have the Spirit poured out; for that has been done. What you need is a baptism of the Holy Spirit; namely, to go down personally into that glorious flood which has been poured forth. Oh, to be immersed into the Holy Ghost and into fire: covered with His holy influence, "plunged in the Godhead's deepest sea, and lost in His immensity!" Here is our life and power, for thus the Lord God doth dwell among us. Ever since the ascension the Holy Ghost has remained among men, though He has not been, at all seasons, equally active. All through the night of Romanism, and the schoolmen, He still tarried: there were humble hearts which rejoiced to be His temples even in those doleful days. Today He is still with His regenerated ones. In spite of impudent strivings against the divine inspiration of His Holy Scripture, and, notwithstanding the follies of ecclesiastical amusements, He is with His chosen. Lord, what is man that thy Spirit should dwell with him? But so it is; and this is why our Lord went up to Heaven and received divine gifts that by Him the Lord God might dwell among us.

But there cometh a day when this shall be carried out to the letter. Methinks I hear the angels say, "Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven." Now, "in like manner" must mean in Person. In Person our Lord was taken up into heaven, and in Person He will come again; and when He cometh, the Lord god will, indeed, dwell among us. Oh, that the day would come! We wait and watch for His glorious appearing; for then will He dwell among men in a perfect fashion. What happy days shall we have when Jesus is here! What a millennium His presence will bring; there can be no such auspicious era without it, any more than there can be summer without the sun. He must come first, and then will the golden age begin. The central glory of that period shall be that the Lord is here. "The Lord God shall dwell among them." Then shall be heard the song which will never end, earth's homage to the Lord, who renewed the heavens and the earth, and has taken up His dwelling in them. "They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heart; for he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them." Up till now this work has been going on; but as yet it is incomplete. "Every prospect pleases, and only man is vile," is still most sadly true. The rankness of sin destroys the sweet odors of this world, so that the pure and holy God cannot abide in it; but since the Lord Jesus hath sweetened it with His sacred merits, and the Spirit is purifying it by His residence in men, the Lord smelleth a savor of rest, and He will not give up this poor fallen planet. Even now His angels come and go in heavenly traffic with the chosen. Soon the little boat of this globe shall be drawn nearer to the great ship, and earth shall lie alongside heaven. Then shall men praise God day and night in His temple. Heaven shall find her choristers among the ransomed from among men. The whole world shall be as a censer filled with incense for the Lord of hosts. All this will be because of those gifts received and bestowed by our Lord Jesus in the day when He returned to His glory, leading captivity captive. O Lord, hasten thy coming. We are sure that thine abiding presence and glorious reign will come in due season. Thy coming down secured thy going up: thy going up secures thy coming down again. Wherefore, we bless and magnify Thee, O ascended Lord, with all our hearts, and rise after Thee as Thou dost draw us upward from groveling things. So be it! Amen.

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Bibliographical Information
Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Psalms 68:18". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". 2011.