To the chief Musician, A Psalm or Song of David. Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered: let them also that hate him flee before him.
It is a beautiful view of the character of the eternal Parent of all His creatures that He fills all the parental relations. "A Father of the fatherless." And His beloved Son well caught in this, as in everything, His Father's mind: "I will not leave you orphans."
I. There are fatherless ones much worse than the fatherless, and there are widows of a far deeper sorrow than the bereaved. There is the man that walks this earth and yet has no relationship with heaven. There are women who are widows in their own inner life.
II. God gathers up the fatherless and the widows and many other unhappy ones in one sad class: the "solitary." "God setteth the solitary in families." (1) He does so by an act of His own sovereign power. He can, if He will, through the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, entirely take away all the solitude of life. The circumstances shall remain just the same, but you shall not feel them. (2) Or you may have such a vivid realisation of the communion of saints, that with both worlds you shall feel quite one. You are "set" in the family of God. (3) It may please God much sooner than you think or expect to take you to your Father's house and set you at once in the very midst of them, at the side of one who is gone. (4) God may do it by some providential arrangement. He may, in a way you little thought of, put it into hearts to love you, and to draw towards you, and to unite themselves with you. "He will set the solitary in families."
J. Vaughan, Sermons, 6th series, p. 77.
References: Psalm 68:6.—H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 2070; G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 58; T. Baldwin Brown, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 357. Psalm 68:9.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 136, and vol. xi., p. 135; E. W. Shalders, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xii., p. 54. Psalm 68:10.—H. Melvill, Sermons, vol. i., p. 175; Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 345. Psalm 68:12.—Bishop Woodford, Occasional Sermons, vol. i., p. 210. Psalm 68:13.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. xxii., p. 336; Preacher's Monthly, vol. vi., p. 317; E. Monro, Practical Sermons, vol. i., p. 361. Psalm 68:15.—J. Irons, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 121. Psalm 68:17.—J. C. Hare, Sermons in Herstmonceux Church, p. 481. Psalm 68:17, Psalm 68:18.—A. Watson, Sermons for Sundays, Festivals, and Fasts, 1st series, p. 1.
Psalm 68:18The Ascension.
I. Our Saviour has "gone up on high;" that is, He went up from earth in His human form, and was exalted far above all creatures to the right hand of God His Father. It is not wonderful that the Lord of Life should have burst the bonds of death. It is not wonderful that the Son of God, after finishing His appointed task, should have gone back to His loving Father. The birth of Christ and the death of Christ, His meekness in taking our nature upon Him, His mercy in submitting to be crucified for our offences—these are the things to wonder at, and not the Resurrection and Ascension.
II. Christ led captivity captive. For though He is, in one sense, the Prince of peace, because He came to make peace between God and man and to open a way for reconciling the truly penitent to their offended but still loving Father, yet, in another sense, He is the Captain of our salvation, because in this world of sin and strife the only road to peace is through war. He had to fight in the shape of man against those tyrannous enemies of man, sin and death. The first He conquered by His holy life; the last He conquered by His resurrection. This is called leading captivity captive, because before the time of Jesus sin and death were holding the human race captive in their hard bonds.
III. If sin and death are captives to Jesus Christ, they are likewise captives to His servants. Therefore we need not fear them provided we are His servants, not in name only, but in deed and truth.
A. W. Hare, The Alton Sermons, p. 161.
Christ's disinterestedness our pattern.
I. Our love should be without bounds.
II. Our love must be disinterested.
III. Our love should be self-denying.
IV. This self-denial must be shown in overcoming our passions.
A. W. Hare, The Alton Sermons, p. 172.
The gifts which Christ has received for His enemies may be divided into two classes; the first consists of such gifts as Christ offers to men while they are still His enemies, the second of such as He bestows on men whom He has reconciled to God.
I. The gifts in the former class are two: repentance and forgiveness of sins. Forgiveness as soon as we repent and the power to repent in order to our forgiveness are the two gifts which Christ offers to men while they are still enemies to God.
II. Suppose that we have profited by the first gifts, and through them have been reconciled to our heavenly Father, Christ has a second and larger class of gifts to forward us in the way of holiness and to bring us into the presence of God. (1) Of these spiritual gifts the chief is the new heart and the right spirit which are the mark of God's true children. (2) A more perfect faith and love. (3) The gift in which all the others are embraced is the gift of the Holy Spirit.
A. W. Hare, The Alton Sermons, p. 183.
This Psalm goes over the whole reach of God's mercies in redeeming His Church, but the most illustrious verse perhaps in it is the eighteenth, which relates to our Lord's ascension. Here we may observe the several parts of the great triumph of our suffering Redeemer when His glory was made perfect and He was finally exalted on that day.
I. There is the simple fact of His ascension. He is gone into heaven, the first of all Adam's children, opening the gates of immortality to all believers. He is gone into heaven, the first-fruits of a whole harvest of His redeemed; and by that glorious ascension we know something of what is prepared for those who try to ascend thither in heart and mind. We know that nothing possibly can be too high or glorious for faithful Christians to hope for, seeing that He who is their Pattern and Example is raised to the right hand of the Almighty Father.
II. Notice the effect of Christ's ascension on His enemies, and on all the powers of darkness. "Thou hast led captivity captive;" that is, Thou art now like a great warrior returning in triumph from the field, with a band of captive enemies. This gives us a fearful notion of what we are doing when we permit ourselves to forget that we are Christians, serving any lust or unworthy desire, instead of practising those tempers which only can make us fit for everlasting life. We are then taking the wrong part in the great, never-ending warfare between Christ and the power of darkness.
III. Notice the effect of our Saviour's ascension on men, even on the worst of men: "the rebellious." He received for them the most precious gifts, insomuch that the Lord God, the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, was sent down by Him to dwell among them. There is hope here even for the vilest; there is encouragement for those who have been most rebellious to resolve anew and more earnestly that they will be such no longer.
Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times" vol. ii., p. 97.
The gifts which the Christian already enjoys only consist of foreglimpses and earnests of that which is to come. He lives upon the interest of the rich capital which is deposited for him in the skies.
I. These instalments and this interest usually bring with them a peace and tranquillity of mind which lift him in a measure above the troubles which harass and distress the worldly man.
II. They sustain the troubled heart under every species of affliction
III. The sweet and holy meditation which the good man has of God through life is another manifestation of these gifts.
IV. But it is in the hour of death that the Christian realises the richest assurance of the preciousness and value of the gifts which have been received in trust for him. Then he feels that "the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord."
A. Mursell, Calls to the Cross, p. 1.
I. It is not for nothing that St. Paul, in the Epistle to the Ephesians, lays such emphasis on these words, for indeed he is giving us the secret of all true glory: that it rests and is based on humility. Christ ascended, only He had first descended, had taken the form of a servant, had been willing to be accounted the lowest and the last, and thus attained of right to be the highest and the first. As His descent, so also His ascent.
II. "Thou hast led captivity captive." The work of men's deliverance, which Christ began while He was on earth, He carries on and completes from heaven. He "received gifts for men"—the manifold gifts of the Holy Ghost. He who gave once gives always. These are gifts for men; and as long as there are men needing these gifts, they will not cease. And that will be always, even to the end of the world. In a world of sorrow such as ours, when will the office of a Comforter cease? In a world of sin such as ours, when will the office of a Sanctifier be out of date?
R. C. Trench, Sermons in Westminster Abbey, p. 214.
References: Psalm 68:18.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. x., p. 212; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. v., p. 478; J. Keble, Sermons from Ascension Day to Trinity, p. 12; C. Wordsworth, Sermons at Harrow School, p. 229; C. Kingsley, Sermons on National Subjects, p. 140; C. J. Vaughan, Memorials of Harrow Sundays, p. 358. Psalm 68:20.—J. Irons, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 121; G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 138. Psalm 68:20, Psalm 68:21.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvi., No. 1523. Psalm 68:24, Psalm 68:25.—Expositor, 3rd series, p. 93.
I. What is the strength of a saint. (1) The strength of a saint is the strength of a regenerated man. A regenerated man is not less a man for his regeneration. On the contrary, natural power is brought out in the new birth and sanctified, especially all that is characteristic of human nature. (2) The strength of a man is in his likeness to God, in his being first made and then renewed in the image of God. God in the man is the strength of the man. To obey God and to love both God and His creatures—this is the putting forth of the highest strength of man and the highest creative power.
II. The fact that the strength of a saint God has commanded. "Commanded"—by what? (1) By what God is and by what He reveals Himself to be. (2) By the relation which God has established between every man and Himself. (3) By a law of loyalty which He has written in the heart. (4) By external verbal law. (5) By the claims of the new kingdom of His grace.
III. Give God your strength. (1) It is treason to withhold it. (2) A full blessing will attend the consecration. (3) In the neglect of this duty there is no valid excuse. The progression of the individual man, like the progression of the race and of the Church, is by antagonism. And this involves incessant spiritual hardship. But in the midst of our conflicts the Almighty God addresses us, saying, "My grace is sufficient for thee, for My strength is made perfect in weakness."
S. Martin, Rain upon the Mown Grass, p. 247.
References: Psalm 68:28.—Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 322; A. Watson, Sermons for Sundays, Festivals, and Fasts, 3rd series, p. 263. Psalm 68:28, Psalm 68:29.—J. M. Neale, Sermons on Passages of the Psalms, p. 190.
Psalm 68:30God has ordained and sanctioned war. But God has no delight in war. He uses war as an instrument and an agent. But as He has no pleasure in the death of a sinner, though He slays the wicked, so God has no delight in war.
I. Mark, first, certain characters that delight in war. (1) Quarrelsome men, fond of the strife and conflict of war, and of the excitement which that strife and conflict brings; (2) restless men, weary of the very quietness and repose of peace; (3) officious men, delighting to meddle with strife belonging not to them, and ready to forward their opinions by war; (4) ambitious men; (5) cruel men; (6) proud and revengeful men, and generally all who do not look upon mankind as the children of one Father in heaven, and adopt the law of love as their rule.
II. The nature and results of war may well lead us to deprecate it. (1) Think of the feelings which must be excited between man and man before war can be declared, and while war is carried on. (2) Look at the actual struggle. "Every battle of the warrior is with confused noise and garments rolled in blood." (3) Reflect upon all that is involved in the struggle. (4) The issues of war, if they decide the might, can never taken alone determine the right. So that on every ground we are bound, as Christians, to pray, "Scatter Thou the people that have pleasure in war."
III. Why should we so pray? Because God alone can prevent war. The love of God will prevent war, the love of Christ, and the love of each other. Until all delight in war is destroyed, it can only be prevented by God scattering those who delight in war.
S. Martin, Westminster Chapel Pulpit, No. 9.
References: Psalm 68—J. G. Murphy, The Book of Daniel, p. 47. Psalm 69:2.—Expositor, 3rd series, vol. v., p. 360. Psalm 69:10.—J. Keble, Sermons for Holy Week, p. 77. Psalm 69:14.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xi., No. 631. Psalm 69:20.—T. Armitage, Christian World Pulpit, vol. i., p. 323.
As smoke is driven away, so drive them away: as wax melteth before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God.
But let the righteous be glad; let them rejoice before God: yea, let them exceedingly rejoice.
Sing unto God, sing praises to his name: extol him that rideth upon the heavens by his name JAH, and rejoice before him.
A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation.
God setteth the solitary in families: he bringeth out those which are bound with chains: but the rebellious dwell in a dry land.
O God, when thou wentest forth before thy people, when thou didst march through the wilderness; Selah:
The earth shook, the heavens also dropped at the presence of God: even Sinai itself was moved at the presence of God, the God of Israel.
Thou, O God, didst send a plentiful rain, whereby thou didst confirm thine inheritance, when it was weary.
Thy congregation hath dwelt therein: thou, O God, hast prepared of thy goodness for the poor.
The Lord gave the word: great was the company of those that published it.
Kings of armies did flee apace: and she that tarried at home divided the spoil.
Though ye have lien among the pots, yet shall ye be as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold.
When the Almighty scattered kings in it, it was white as snow in Salmon.
The hill of God is as the hill of Bashan; an high hill as the hill of Bashan.
Why leap ye, ye high hills? this is the hill which God desireth to dwell in; yea, the LORD will dwell in it for ever.
The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: the Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place.
Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the LORD God might dwell among them.
Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah.
He that is our God is the God of salvation; and unto GOD the Lord belong the issues from death.
But God shall wound the head of his enemies, and the hairy scalp of such an one as goeth on still in his trespasses.
The Lord said, I will bring again from Bashan, I will bring my people again from the depths of the sea:
That thy foot may be dipped in the blood of thine enemies, and the tongue of thy dogs in the same.
They have seen thy goings, O God; even the goings of my God, my King, in the sanctuary.
The singers went before, the players on instruments followed after; among them were the damsels playing with timbrels.
Bless ye God in the congregations, even the Lord, from the fountain of Israel.
There is little Benjamin with their ruler, the princes of Judah and their council, the princes of Zebulun, and the princes of Naphtali.
Thy God hath commanded thy strength: strengthen, O God, that which thou hast wrought for us.
Because of thy temple at Jerusalem shall kings bring presents unto thee.
Rebuke the company of spearmen, the multitude of the bulls, with the calves of the people, till every one submit himself with pieces of silver: scatter thou the people that delight in war.
Princes shall come out of Egypt; Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God.
Sing unto God, ye kingdoms of the earth; O sing praises unto the Lord; Selah:
To him that rideth upon the heavens of heavens, which were of old; lo, he doth send out his voice, and that a mighty voice.
Ascribe ye strength unto God: his excellency is over Israel, and his strength is in the clouds.
O God, thou art terrible out of thy holy places: the God of Israel is he that giveth strength and power unto his people. Blessed be God.