The other night we were reading Psalm 23 in both English and French. (My son reads and speaks French, I don’t.) I am always amazed how much depth there is in these six verses. Sometimes I think we read things so quickly that we really don’t mine all there is to be found in what appears on the page (or screen). We want the ‘bullet points’ to be highlighted for us. We’re in a hurry to move on to the next event.
So I was forced to slow down when I encountered this summary of another Psalm, this one being Psalm 68. Paul Tautges posted this on Counseling One Another.
First, take a moment to read the Psalm. If you click the link, I’ve selected NASB (the formal correspondance translations like this and ESV will cause you read slower than say, the NLT or NCV) but feel free to change the translation if you prefer. Click here.
Here’s what can be derived from that about God. To read at source, click here.
While meditating on Psalm 68 this morning, I found encouragement from thinking on the many descriptions of God.
- God is the Judge (vv. 1-3)
- God rides to our help (v. 4, Cf. Deut 33:26)
- God is a father to the orphan (v. 5a)
- God is a defender of the widow (v. 5b)
- God draws near to the lonely (v. 6)
- God delivers those in bondage (v. 6b)
- God deals with the rebellious (v. 6c)
- God goes before His people (vv. 7-8)
- God bountifully provides (vv. 9-10)
- God causes His enemies to flee (vv. 11-14)
- God frees the captives and dwells among them (vv. 15-18)
- God bears His children’s burdens (v. 19)
- God alone can cause us to escape death (v. 20)
- God shatters His enemies (vv. 21-23)
- God is King (vv. 24-25)
- God is the fountain of Israel (vv. 26-27)
- God commands our strength (v. 28)
- God is worshipped by earthly kings (v. 29)
- God is a warrior (vv. 30-31)
- God speaks with a mighty voice (v. 33)
- God is awesome in majesty (v. 34)
Wanna go deeper with Psalm 68?
This is from the blog of First Evangelical Free Church in Sioux City, Iowa; where it appeared under the title Ephesians 4 and Psalm 68: What’s the Connection?
This past Sunday we discussed Ephesians 4:1-16 in our adult Sunday school class. During part of the discussion, I mentioned the connection that Paul draws to Psalm 68:18 and we very briefly outlined a few of the themes that Paul was speaking about. Since this is a pretty big issue in the chapter, I thought it might be helpful for folks to see how I arrived at my conclusions – both to better understand Paul’s argument in Ephesians 4 as well as to better understand how the New Testament quotes the Old Testament.
First, context matters. The context in Ephesians 4 is all about unity. In fact, that’s been a theme that Paul has been spotlighting for quite awhile. In Ephesians 1, we see unity proclaimed in verse 10 (“to unite all things in Him…”); in chapter 2 we see unity as the focus in our relationship with Christ; in chapter 3 we see unity not just between Jews and Gentiles, but also between redeemed humanity and Christ Jesus. So when we arrive in chapter 4, it’s no surprise that Paul continues the theme of unity, now showing some of the practical outworking and examples (verses 3-6 and verses 11 and following).
Psalm 68, however, is a very different kind of animal. The first thing you’ll notice when you flip to it is how long it is. Paul certainly hasn’t quoted much of it. Reading through the Psalm, you’ll also notice the recurring theme of how the Lord will scatter and defeat all of His enemies (v1-2, 12, 30, etc.) which will cause His people to rejoice (v3-4, 19-20, 26, 29, 32-35, etc.) because of God’s just and righteous character (v5, 17, 28, etc.).
The question that arises, of course, is what does this Psalm (and verse 18 specifically) have to do with unity? Paul seems to see the connection fairly clearly, since he explains it in Ephesians 4:9-10. But if you’re anything like me, it still seems a bit murky without some additional thought. A careful comparison between Ephesians 4 and Psalm 68 will also show that Paul appears to have changed some of the wording – did Paul misquote the Psalm?
So there’s a whole host of issues to address. Let’s now take these issues apart one at a time…
First, Paul is quoting the Psalm correctly according to two different standards. While it reads differently in English translations, the quotation and the words of Psalm 68 actually read very similarly in the Greek version of the Old Testament (most English Bibles focus upon the original Hebrew version of the Old Testament, which accounts for the difference in wording). While a complete discussion of why Paul is quoting from the Greek rather than the Hebrew is beyond our focus here, I do wish to point out that this is very common of New Testament writers. And not just of them, but of Jesus also! So, for a number of historical, linguistic, and cultural reasons, Paul is quoting from a Greek translation of the Old Testament. Secondly, Paul’s quotation isn’t meant to be an exact citation, but rather to remind his readers of the content of the entire Psalm, with a specific focus on verse 18. This is similar to how somebody might, after reading this article, say to a friend “Pastor Kevin said that Paul is correctly quoting from the Old Testament in Ephesians 4.” Of course, I didn’t use those exact words, but they are an accurate description of the words that I DID say.
So the next issue then is this: in what way is Paul using Psalm 68 to make his point? Sometimes, you’ll see New Testament authors using an exact quotation from the Old Testament to make their point. That is to say, the point made in the OT is exactly the same point as the author is making in the NT. Other times, the NT author is simply referring to the broad themes or ideas contained within an OT passage. Still other times, the NT author might be making a case based upon how the OT passage was written (in Matt 22:32, Jesus famously points out the present tense grammar of a seemingly unrelated passage to prove His point about the resurrection).
Of all of these options, it would seem best to conclude that Paul is quoting Psalm 68 not on the basis of “gifts” (which we might be naturally drawn to, since the word appears in the quotation and in the verses that appear afterwards) primarily, but instead that he has a wider idea in mind: God’s victory over His enemies. And more specifically, Christ’s victory over sin and death. Paul makes it clear that he understands this Psalm to be a good description not just of what God has done in OT times (though that is, of course, true), but also an accurate description of what Christ (who is fully God and fully man) has done and will bring to completion both now and in eternity. The “gifts” come into play when Paul continues on in chapter 4 with regard to maturity – they are the application of this teaching to our lives.
Therefore, Paul’s point is this: Christ has triumphed over sin and death. That triumph has begun at the cross and will be completely and entirely fulfilled at His second coming. The reason for that triumph is to, as Paul mentioned in Ephesians 1:10, fulfill the plan of the ages: to unite all things in Him. And there’s our word, isn’t it? Unity. When all who oppose the Lord have been put aside, what remains is those who love Him. What remains is, in fact, unity. Thus, Paul quotes Psalm 68:18 to remind us that the same God who has been shown faithful and just in ages past is the same God who sent His Son Jesus to bring about reconciliation and unity between us and Him and is then also the same God who now calls us to utilize the good gifts that He has given us for His glory as we seek to encourage one another towards maturity (Ephesians 4:12-16)!
So there you have it – Paul has done us an amazing favor by showing us not just his present point about unity, nor even a point about spiritual gifts, but by linking these discussions to the even wider theme of God’s good grace and eternal plan which has been present from the beginning of time and will find it’s fulfillment in Christ’s return. Paul has shown us how to better read our Bibles, how to better connect OT and NT, and – most importantly – how to better know, respond to, and love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, and might.