Theme: Obedience and Praise
In this week’s lessons from the second part of Psalm 68, we learn that this psalm looks beyond David’s time to a day of future blessing concerning the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Scripture: Psalm 68:19-35
In closing, let me go back to something I wrote at the beginning of last week’s study. I said that Psalm 68 is a song of military triumph, and I illustrated this by the way the Huguenots used it and by how it was popular with Charlemagne, Oliver Cromwell and other strong military figures who were Christians. It is easy to understand how Psalm 68 appealed to them. They were responsible for fighting people they considered to be God’s enemies, and the idea of God rising up to scatter his enemies and defeat his foes was the very thing they desired and for which they prayed. If we had been in their shoes, we would probably have used the psalm as they did.
But I cannot help observing, as I look back, having studied the psalm, that in the final analysis none of those military efforts was an unqualified success at least in the long haul. It is true that Henry of Navarre won several major campaigns and that the Huguenots were able to defend themselves for many years. But eventually the Edict of Nantes was revoked, thousands of French Protestant Christians were murdered, and the rest were driven into exile to the benefit of other nations such as England, Holland and the United States, but to the impoverishment of France.
Charlemagne had some success reviving the so-called Roman Empire. But his empire was in no way an equivalent of the ancient Roman Empire. And although he had famous victories over the Moors, who were regarded as the ruthless enemies of Christianity, in a short while these very Moors swept across North Africa, over the Near East and into Europe. Even the crusades, for all their great effort, were unable to defeat them utterly or completely drive them out.
And Cromwell? He was an unusual leader. Some, though not all, would regard the era of Puritan ascendancy as a good thing. But even if it was a good thing, it was only a short while after Cromwell’s death that England turned from its immediate Puritan past, brought Charles II back from exile and reinstated the monarchy.
None of this is meant to lessen any appreciation of any of the victories or accomplishments of any of these leaders. But it does remind us that the goal of the church of God in this age is not military triumphs, however noble or highly motivated they may be, any more than its methodology is to be the world’s methodology. Our commission is to preach the gospel of salvation by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ throughout the whole world and leave the conquest of the world to Jesus. This is because he alone is king. Indeed he is the King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev. 19:16). He is in complete control of all things. He will reign in power. All nations will come to him, and before him every knee will bow, “in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10, 11).
What should be our response to that? Obedience, of course. Jesus is our king too, and kings require obedience. But how about praise? Psalm 68 is a praise psalm among other things, and this is how it ends: “Praise be to God!” So let us praise him, even if others do not do it yet. And let us remember that even though we may suffer discouragements now and sometimes be defeated, we can still press on in steady faith, knowing that Jesus is on the throne and everyone will eventually bow before him. We can be encouraged by remembering that we will also reign with him in that day.
What is the church’s goal? How do we hope to see God triumph?
What is our commission?
Prayer: Following the psalmist’s example in the closing verses of our psalm, praise God for the coming day when his triumph will be fully known and all peoples will bow before him.
For Further Study: While not every psalm is messianic, each one in its own way reflects something of the Lord Jesus Christ and his redeeming and sanctifying work. Order your copy of James Boice’s three-volume set of his sermons on the Psalms, and take 25% off the regular price.