May 18: Psalm 68
The procession of Christ’s Ascension to glory
Common meter double 86.86 D Forest Green (I Sing the Mighty Power of God), p. 70 Ellacombe (Hosanna, Loud Hosanna), p. 130
Kingsfold, p. 60
Promised Land, p. 80
Let God arise, and scattered far be all His enemies;
And let all those who do Him hate before His presence flee,
As smoke is driven, drive Thou them; as wax melts by the fire,
Let wicked men before God’s face so perish in His ire.
But let all righteous men be glad; let them before God’s sight
Be very joyful; yea, let them rejoice with all their might.
Sing praise to God; prepare His way; Jehovah is His name,
Who rideth through the wilderness; before Him joy proclaim.
He takes a father’s place to those who are left fatherless;
The widow’s judge is God, within His place of holiness.
God sets the lonely in families, He leads the captives forth
With singing, but the rebels live in land that is sun-scorched.
O God, the time Thy going forth was at Thy people’s head,
The time when Thy majestic march into the desert led,
Then at God’s presence trembled earth; the melting heavens fell;
This Sinai quaked, for God was there, the God of Is-ra-el.
A shower of fresh, abundant rain, O God, Thou sendest then;
Thine heritage, when it was faint, Thou didst revive again.
Thy congregation found their home; Thy people settled there.
O God, Thou with Thy goodness didst for all the poor prepare.
The Lord announced the word which He commanded to be shown;
And great was all the mighty host which made the tidings known
The kings of mighty hosts shall flee, shall flee in haste away;
And she that tarried at her house will then divide the prey.
Though ye may lie in cattle pens, ye shall yourselves enfold
In silver feathers, like a dove with wings of brilliant gold.
There as th’Almighty scattered kings on Zalmon fell the snow.
God’s mountain is the Bashan range with lofty peaks to show.
Why look askance, ye mountain peaks, upon the holy hill
Where God the Lord desires to dwell? Yes, He forever will!
God’s chariots twenty thousand are, yes, thousands multiplied.
The Lord’s among them, as He was on Sinai’s mountainside.
Thou didst ascend on high and lead captivity away,
Received ev’n rebels’ gifts, that God the Lord might with them stay.
O bless-ed be the Lord, who doth each day our burden bear;
He our salvation is alone; He, God, for us will care.
Our God is unto us a God who brings deliverance,
And unto us escape from death the Lord Jehovah grants.
But surely God shall wound the head of those that are His foes.
He’ll seize the scalp of him that on in guilt and trespass goes.
The Lord has said, “From Bashan range I will bring back these foes,
I will bring back My enemies which ocean’s depths enclose,
That thou may dip thy foot in blood, that thy dog’s tongue may share
Its portion of thine enemies by Me defeated there.”
They saw Thy great procession, God, the great procession’s pace,
Directed by my God, my King, in holiness and grace.
Before went singers; after them the minstrels music made,
And bands of maidens all around their ringing timbrels played.
Within the congregations all bless God with one accord;
All ye who come from Israel’s fount, O do ye bless the Lord.
Their prince, young Benjamin, is there, and Judah’s princes high;
The chiefs of Zebulon are there, and those of Naphtali.
Thy God commands thy strength; for us Thy work, God, strengthened be.
For Thy house in Jerusalem let kings bring gifts to thee.
Rebuke the beasts among the reeds, those trampling bulls of might,
With all the other peoples who but calves are in their sight.
That all may humbly bow themselves, bring bars of silver ore.
For He has scattered peoples all who take delight in war.
Then shall the princes proud and great come out of Egypt’s lands,
And Ethiopia to God shall soon stretch forth her hands.
O all ye kingdoms of the earth, sing praises unto God;
And Him who is the Lord of all with praises do ye laud
To Him that rides on heav’n of heav’ns which He of old did found;
Lo, He sends out His voice, a voice in might that doth abound.
All strength to God do ye ascribe, because His majesty
Is over Is-ra-el; His strength is in the heavens high.
Thou, God, are awesome from Thy place; Isr’el’s own God is He,
Who gives His people strength and power; O let God bless-ed be.
This is a psalm about the glorification of Christ, with particular accent on His ascent into heaven: “Sing to God, sing praises to His name; extol Him who rides on the clouds…You have ascended on high, you have led captivity captive; You have received gifts among men…Sing to God, you kingdoms of the earth.” In Ephesians 4:8, our earliest Christian witness to this interpretation of Psalm 68, Paul actually changes its wording, so that the “gifts” refer to the various ministries in the Church: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.” Paul explains in verses 9-10: “Now this, ‘He ascended’ – what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heaves, that He might fill all things.” Paul then lists some of the major ministries in the Church, all of them “gifts” of the risen, glorified Christ. (Reardon, p. 134)
While singing this psalm, also consider the procession of Christ as victor leading many in His train, to which Paul refers in 2 Cor. 2:14-16.