Psalm 68

68:0The Philistines lived by the sea to the west of the Jews. David was the king of the Jews. The Philistines and the Jews were enemies. In one of their fights, the Philistines took away the Ark of God. The Ark was a special box made of wood. It was a metre long and half a metre high and half a metre wide. The Jews kept things in it that gave them help to remember their Covenant with God. In the Covenant they agreed to love, serve and obey God. He agreed to give them help at all times. People that kept the Covenant had a special name for God. It was Yahweh, which we translate LORD. There is another word Lord that means master. It is Adonai in Hebrew, not Yahweh. Both names are in this psalm.

Bad things happened to the Philistines when they took the Ark. So they sent it back to the Jews. For a long time, it was on a farm between Gath and Jerusalem. Gath was a Philistine city. Jerusalem did not belong to the Jews at this time, but David fought against it and won. He made it his capital city. Then he decided to take the Ark from where it was into Jerusalem. There was no temple in Jerusalem at that time, only a tent where people met God. A tent is a building made of animal skins and other materials, but not stones.

So somebody wrote Psalm 68. It may have been David, or someone else wrote it for David. Everybody sang it while the Ark came into Jerusalem. They also sang other psalms, like Psalm 24. The people all walked together in a procession. A procession is a number of people walking or marching together. They started where the Ark was, and took it to its new home in the tent in Jerusalem.

But Psalm 68 starts long before that. It starts in Egypt, and describes the Jews coming to their new land. Because God had promised it to them, we often call it the Promised Land. They went through Sinai, where they built the Ark. They fought against the people that lived in their new land. In the end they lived at peace, and brought the Ark into Jerusalem.

Cloud Rider: A Song for the Nation

This is for the music leader.

It is a psalm of David, a song.

68:0This is a long psalm. It is in 4 parts:

– Verses 1-6 that tell us about God and what he does for people

– Verses 7-18 that tell us about God leading his people from Egypt to the Promised Land

– Verses 19-31 that tell us more about God and the procession

– Verses 32-35 that tell us to praise God for what he has done.

1 God will rise up and his enemies will move away in all directions.

The people that hate him will quickly ride away from him.

68:1In verse 1, ‘God will rise up’ means that he will start to do something for his people. This will make his enemies and their enemies run away before (in verse 2) he destroys them. Verse 1 is repeated from Numbers 10:35, which is about moving the Ark of God.

2 God, blow them away as you would blow smoke away.

As butter becomes oil in a fire,

when the godless see the face of God it will destroy them.

68:2In verse 3, ‘the righteous’ are God's people. If you want to know more about the word ‘righteous’ look after Psalm 5. ‘See the face of God’ means that they see that God is doing something.

3 But the righteous will be happy.

They will rejoice when they see the face of God.

They will shout because they are so happy!

4 Sing to God, sing psalms to his name.

Praise the One that Rides on the Clouds.

His name is the LORD! Shout for joy in front of him.

68:4In verse 4 we have another name for God: the One that Rides on the Clouds, or Cloud Rider! This was the name of a false god in the land before the Jews came. The psalm says that God the LORD is the real Cloud Rider, not the false god!

5 God is the father of those that have no father.

He gives help to women whose husbands have died.

He does this from the holy place where he lives.

6 God gives a home to lonely people.

He leads people out of prison and they hear music.

But people that do not obey God

will continue to live in a land where the hot sun burns the ground.

68:6In verses 5 and 6 we read about some of the good things that God does. These are really things that he has already done for the Jews! He has:

– Taken them out from prison in Egypt

– Heard their songs when they were free

– Given them help when they needed it

– Punished their enemies.

But he will always do this for his people, any time, anywhere!

7 God, you went out in front of your people.

You marched through the wilderness.

SELAH

68:7Verses 7-18: You will see three Selahs in this psalm. They are after the first verse of each of the last three parts. Bible students think that this is because people should stop, think, make music and pray before reading the other verses in each part.

8 The ground moved, the skies dropped rain when God came to Sinai.

God is the God of Israel.

68:8In verse 8 we read that God came to Sinai. There he gave his people the rules they were to obey. We call them the Ten Commandments. They made the Ark there.

9 God, you gave plenty of rain.

It made your Promised Land fresh again when it was dry.

68:9When they reached the Promised Land in verse 9 God sent rain to make their food plants grow.

10 Your people came to live in it.

God, you gave good things to the poor people that needed them.

You made them strong.

11 The Lord gave a message

and a large number of women passed on the good news.

68:11Verses 11-14 confuse many Bible students. They are very difficult to translate. This is because we do not know what some of the Hebrew words mean. It gives us help to read the Song of Deborah in Judges 5. This is because many Bible students think that verses 11-14 are about the fight that is in the Song of Deborah. The Greek translation of verse 11 says ‘many women preached the gospel.’

12 Kings of huge armies ran away. They fled!

The women at home decided who should have

what their soldiers brought from the war.

13 Even if you sleep where the sheep sleep,

the dove will have wings of silver and feathers of gold!

68:13Verse 13 may mean this:

– ‘Even if you sleep’, that is, even if you do not come to fight

– ‘The dove will have wings of silver and feathers of gold’, that is, the women will wear beautiful clothes.

In the Song of Deborah, some men did not come to fight; and the women of other tribes had beautiful things from the (dead) enemy.

14 When Shaddai made foreign kings run away in different directions

it was like snow on Mount Zalmon.

68:14In verse 14 Zalmon means ‘Black Mountain.’ We are not sure where it is. The snow may be real snow, or the white bones of the dead enemy.

15 The mountain called Bashan is a Mountain of God.

The mountain called Bashan has many high hills.

16 High mountains, why do you look at the mountain that God wants to live in?

Why do you want him to live in you instead?

This mountain is where the LORD himself will always stay.

17 God has millions of chariots.

The Lord came with them to his holy mountain Sinai.

18 You went to the high mountain.

You took with you the prisoners that you had caught.

You received gifts from men, the men that had fought against you.

The LORD God will always live here.

68:18Verses 15-18 tell of the end of the journey. It is in Jerusalem, on a mountain or hill called Zion. Higher mountains, like Bashan, think that God should live in them. But God chose to live in Zion. He will ‘always live here’ (verse 18).

19 Say good things about the Lord!

Every day he gives us help with what we have to carry.

He is the God that saves us!

SELAH

20 Our God is the God who will make us free.

God, the Lord will save us from death.

21 But God will break the heads of his enemies.

He will break the hairy heads of those people

that will not stop doing wrong things.

68:21In verse 21 ‘the hairy heads’ make us remember pictures of people from David's time. They had very long hair. Nobody will run away from God. He will find them, even down in the deep sea!

22 The Lord says, ‘I will bring my enemies back from Bashan.

I will bring them back even from deep down in the sea.

23 Then you can put your feet into their blood

and even your dogs can drink some!’

68:23Verse 23 means that David's people will beat their enemies.

24 God, they will see your people walking together.

They will see my God and my King

leading his procession into the temple.

68:24Verses 24-27 tell us more about the procession. It is now near Jerusalem. It is not the procession from Egypt that we read about in verses 7-18. ‘The King’ in verse 24 is David. God is with him, but nobody can see God. In verse 25 ‘the musicians’ are the people that make music in many ways. One of them is hitting tambourines, little drums with bells on them. Other women did this in the Bible, examples are:

– Moses' sister Miriam after God took the Jews from Egypt (Exodus 15:20)

– Jephthah's daughter after God beat the enemies of the Jews (Judges 11:34).

25 The singers will go in front. The musicians will go behind them.

All round them will be girls beating tambourines.

26 ‘Say good things about God among all the people there!

All you people of Israel, praise the LORD!’

27 Benjamin, the youngest, will go first.

The leaders of Judah will make a noise praising God.

Then will come the leaders of Zebulun and Naphtali.

68:27In verse 27 we hear of four tribes of Israel: Benjamin, Judah, Zebulun and Naphtali. There were 12 tribes (or large families), but there is only room in the psalm for 4. Benjamin is first because Jerusalem is in the part of the Promised Land where Benjamin lived. Judah is next because it is David's tribe, and he is king. The other 10 tribes come next, but we only read about two of them.

28 Your God sent the power that gave you help.

God, be powerful again as you did in past times for us,

29 from your temple in Jerusalem.

Kings will then bring gifts to you.

68:29Verse 29 is an important verse. There is more about it in Isaiah 60. Some of the kings are in verse 30.

30 Be angry with:

· the animals that live in the reeds

· the group of bulls among the calves of the nations.

When they fall on their knees,

they will bring to you pieces of silver.

Make the people that find pleasure in war

run away from you in all directions.

68:30‘The animals that live in the reeds’ might be crocodiles. These live in the River Nile, in Egypt. ‘Bulls among the calves’ are ‘strong kings among weak kings.’ All these kings will bring gifts to God. They will kneel (or ‘fall on their knees’) and give God metals of value, like silver.

31 The government of Egypt will send people

and the people from Cush will lift up their hands to praise God.

68:31In verse 31 Cush may be Sudan.

32 Sing to God, you kingdoms of the earth!

Sing psalms to the Lord!

SELAH

33 Sing to the One that rides on the clouds

and on the heavens that have always been there!

He is shouting with a powerful voice.

34 Tell everyone about the powerful God that is the King of Israel.

His power is in the skies.

35 God, how great you are in your temple!

He is the God of Israel.

He gives power to his people and makes them strong.

Say good things about God!

68:35The psalm ends by telling everyone to praise God. Again, he is the Cloud Rider. In verse 35 ‘your temple’ is heaven, where God lives. It is not the tent (temple) in Jerusalem, as in verses 24 and 29.