MARCHING TO ZION
Lord, how we love Jerusalem.
Read PSALM 68
For the director of music. Of David. A psalm. A song.
1 May God arise, may his enemies be scattered;
may his foes flee before him.
2 May you blow them away like smoke—
as wax melts before the fire,
may the wicked perish before God.
3 But may the righteous be glad
and rejoice before God;
may they be happy and joyful.
4 Sing to God, sing in praise of his name,
extol him who rides on the clouds[b];
rejoice before him—his name is the Lord.
5 A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling.
6 God sets the lonely in families,[c]
he leads out the prisoners with singing;
but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.
7 When you, God, went out before your people,
when you marched through the wilderness,[d]
8 the earth shook, the heavens poured down rain,
before God, the One of Sinai,
before God, the God of Israel.
9 You gave abundant showers, O God;
you refreshed your weary inheritance.
10 Your people settled in it,
and from your bounty, God, you provided for the poor.
11 The Lord announces the word,
and the women who proclaim it are a mighty throng:
12 “Kings and armies flee in haste;
the women at home divide the plunder.
13 Even while you sleep among the sheep pens,[e]
the wings of my dove are sheathed with silver,
its feathers with shining gold.”
14 When the Almighty[f] scattered the kings in the land,
it was like snow fallen on Mount Zalmon.
15 Mount Bashan, majestic mountain,
Mount Bashan, rugged mountain,
16 why gaze in envy, you rugged mountain,
at the mountain where God chooses to reign,
where the Lord himself will dwell forever?
17 The chariots of God are tens of thousands
and thousands of thousands;
the Lord has come from Sinai into his sanctuary.[g]
18 When you ascended on high,
you took many captives;
you received gifts from people,
even from[h] the rebellious—
that you,[i] Lord God, might dwell there.
19 Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior,
who daily bears our burdens.
20 Our God is a God who saves;
from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death.
21 Surely God will crush the heads of his enemies,
the hairy crowns of those who go on in their sins.
22 The Lord says, “I will bring them from Bashan;
I will bring them from the depths of the sea,
23 that your feet may wade in the blood of your foes,
while the tongues of your dogs have their share.”
24 Your procession, God, has come into view,
the procession of my God and King into the sanctuary.
25 In front are the singers, after them the musicians;
with them are the young women playing the timbrels.
26 Praise God in the great congregation;
praise the Lord in the assembly of Israel.
27 There is the little tribe of Benjamin, leading them,
there the great throng of Judah’s princes,
and there the princes of Zebulun and of Naphtali.
28 Summon your power, God[j];
show us your strength, our God, as you have done before.
29 Because of your temple at Jerusalem
kings will bring you gifts.
30 Rebuke the beast among the reeds,
the herd of bulls among the calves of the nations.
Humbled, may the beast bring bars of silver.
Scatter the nations who delight in war.
31 Envoys will come from Egypt;
Cush[k] will submit herself to God.
32 Sing to God, you kingdoms of the earth,
sing praise to the Lord,
33 to him who rides across the highest heavens, the ancient heavens,
who thunders with mighty voice.
34 Proclaim the power of God,
whose majesty is over Israel,
whose power is in the heavens.
35 You, God, are awesome in your sanctuary;
the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people.
Praise be to God!
a Psalm 68:1 In Hebrew texts 68:1-35 is numbered 68:2-36.
b Psalm 68:4 Or name, / prepare the way for him who rides through the deserts
c Psalm 68:6 Or the desolate in a homeland
d Psalm 68:7 The Hebrew has Selah (a word of uncertain meaning) here and at the end of verses 19 and 32.
e Psalm 68:13 Or the campfires; or the saddlebags
f Psalm 68:14 Hebrew Shaddai
g Psalm 68:17 Probable reading of the original Hebrew text; Masoretic Text Lord is among them at Sinai in holiness
h Psalm 68:18 Or gifts for people, / even
i Psalm 68:18 Or they
j Psalm 68:28 Many Hebrew manuscripts, Septuagint and Syriac; most Hebrew manuscripts Your God has summoned power for you
k Psalm 68:31 That is, the upper Nile region
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“We’re marching to Zion, / Beautiful, beautiful Zion; / We’re marching upward to Zion, / The beautiful city of God” (Isaac Watts, 1674–1748).
This is a complicated psalm. The key is to recognize that it is mapping out, in epic idiom, the journey of the Ark of the Covenant from Sinai to Jerusalem. It opens by echoing the ancient cry as the Ark sets out, conveying God’s presence to his people (Num. 10:35). Verse 17 signals its arrival and installation in the temple. The description of a liturgical procession (24–27) offers a clue about the psalm’s origin. It may have been composed for David and the elders of Israel when they brought up the Ark into Jerusalem (Chr. 15:25; 2 Chr. 5:2–6). The Ark in procession dramatizes the Lord’s victorious ascent to his earthly sanctuary in Zion (24).
God’s victories over his enemies up to this point in history have been emphatic (2,14,21–23). The psalmist is convinced that ultimately all nations will acknowledge God’s rule (29–32; Phil. 2:10,11), but in the meantime God’s reign is contested. That’s why the prayer of verse 28 is given to us as well as to the Israelites. Why not pray it now on behalf of your nation?
Psalm 68 helps us to understand Nehemiah’s love for Jerusalem. He is deeply concerned for the welfare of that city precisely because the Lord had chosen it as a dwelling place for his name (Neh. 1:9). Paul perceives an even greater significance for the Lord’s victorious ascent to his earthly sanctuary. For him, it was a precursor of the resurrection and ascension of Christ when “he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his people” (Eph. 4:8, NRSV). For us it is a psalm for Pentecost. Although Pentecost is now well past, the psalm invites you to thank Christ both for the gifts he bestows on your local church and also for the promise to lead you to the heavenly Jerusalem (Heb. 12:22).
“The Lord is King! Lift up your voice, / O earth, and all you heavens, rejoice; / From world to world the song shall ring: / ‘The Lord omnipotent is King!’” (Josiah Conder, 1789–1855).
Lord, arise and scatter those who hate You as You usher in a kingdom that will have no end.