In these verses we have three things:—
I. The gracious promise which God makes of the redemption of his people, and their victory over his and their enemies (Ps. 68:22, 23): The Lord said, in his own gracious purpose and promise, “I will do great things for my people, as the God of their salvation,” Ps. 68:20. God will not fail the expectations of those who by faith take him for their God. It is promised, 1. That he will set them in safety from their danger, as he had done formerly: “I will again bring them from the depths of the sea,” as he did Israel when he brought them out of the slavery of Egypt into the ease and liberty of the wilderness; “and I will again bring them from Bashan,” as he did Israel when he brought them from their wants and wanderings in the wilderness into the fulness and settlement of the land of Canaan; for the land of Bashan was on the other side Jordan, where they had wars with Sihon and Og, and whence their next removal was into Canaan. Note, The former appearances of God’s power and goodness for his people should encourage their faith and hope in him for the future, that what he has done he will do again. He will set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people (Isa. 11:11); and we may perhaps see repeated all the wonders which our fathers told us of. But this is not all: 2. That he will make them victorious over their enemies (Ps. 68:23): That thy feet may be dipped, as thou passest along, in the blood of thy enemies, shed like water in great abundance, and the tongue of thy dogs may lap in the same. Dogs licked the blood of Ahab; and, in the destruction of the anti-christian generation, we read of blood up to the horses’ bridles, Rev. 14:20. The victories with which God blessed David’s forces over the enemies of Israel are here prophesied of, but as types of Christ’s victory over death and the grave for himself and for all believers, in his resurrection (and theirs by virtue of his) out of the earth, and of the destruction of the enemies of Christ and his church, who shall have blood given them to drink, for they are worthy.
II. The welcome entertainment which God’s own people shall give to these glorious discoveries of his grace, both in his word and in his works. Has he spoken in his holiness? Has he said he will bring again from Bashan? What then is required of us in return to this?
1. That we observe his motions (Ps. 68:24): “They have seen, thy people have seen, thy goings, O God! While others regard not the work of the Lord, nor the operation of his hands, they have seen the goings of my God, my King, in the sanctuary.” See here, (1.) How an active faith appropriates God; he is God and King; but that is not all, he is my God and my King. Those who thus take him for theirs may see him, in all his outgoings, acting as their God, as their King, for their good, and in answer to their prayers. (2.) Where God’s most remarkable outgoings are, even in the sanctuary, in and by his word and ordinances, and among his people in the gospel church especially, in and by which is made known the manifold wisdom of God. These outgoings of his in the sanctuary far outshine the outgoings of the morning and the evening, and more loudly proclaim his eternal power and godhead. (3.) What is our duty in reference to these outgoings, which is to observe them. This is the finger of God. Surely God is with us of a truth.
2. That we give him glory in the most devout and solemn manner. When we see his goings in his sanctuary, (1.) Let those that are immediately employed in the service of the temple praise him, Ps. 68:25. It was expected that the Levites, some of whom were singers and others players on instruments, who had the nearest views of his outgoings in his sanctuary, should lead in his praises. And, it being a day of extraordinary triumph, among them were damsels playing with timbrels, to complete the concert. “Thus (says Dr. Hammond) when Christ has gone up to heaven the apostles shall celebrate and publish it to all the world, and even the women that were witnesses of it shall affectionately join with them in divulging it.” (2.) Let all the people of Israel in their solemn religious assembly give glory to God: Bless God, not only in temples, but in the synagogues, or schools of the prophets, or wherever there is a congregation of those that come forth from the fountain of Israel, that are of the seed of Jacob, let them concur in blessing God. Public mercies, which we jointly share in, call for public thanksgivings, which all should join in. “Thus (says Dr. Hammond) all Christians shall be obliged solemnly to magnify the name of the Messiah, and, to that end, frequently to assemble together in congregations.” And, (3.) Let those among them who, upon any account, are the most eminent, and make a figure, go before the rest in praising God, Ps. 68:27. There was little Benjamin (that was the royal tribe in Saul’s time) with their rulers, the princes of Judah (that was the royal tribe in David’s time), and their council, their captains or leaders. In the beginning of David’s reign there had been long war between Judah and Benjamin, but now they both join in praises for success against the common enemy. But why are the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali particularly mentioned? Perhaps because those tribes, lying towards the north, lay most exposed to the incursions of the Syrians, and other neighbours that molested them, and therefore should be in a particular manner thankful for these victories over them. Dr. Hammond gives another reason, That these were the two learned tribes. Naphtali giveth goodly words (Gen. 49:21) and Zebulun had those that handle the pen of the writer, Jdg. 5:14. These shall join in praising God, their princes especially. It is much for the honour of God when those that are above others in dignity, power, and reputation, go before them in the worship of God and are forward in using their influence and interest for the advancing of any service that is to be done to him. Dr. Hammond notes hence that the kingdom of the Messiah should, at length, be submitted to by all the potentates and learned men in the world.
3. That we seek unto him, and depend upon him, for the perfecting of what he has begun, Ps. 68:28. In the former part of the verse the psalmist speaks to Israel: “Thy God has commanded thy strength; that is, whatever is done for thee, or whatever strength thou hast to help thyself, it comes from God, his power and grace, and the word which he has commanded; thou hast no reason to fear while thou hast strength of God’s commanding, and no reason to boast while thou hast no strength but what is of his commanding.” In the latter part he speaks to God, encouraged by his experiences: “Strengthen, O God! that which thou hast wrought for us. Lord, confirm what thou hast commanded, perform what thou hast promised, and bring to a happy end that good work which thou hast so gloriously begun.” What God has wrought he will strengthen; where he has given true grace he will give more grace. Some make this whole verse to be a believer’s address to the Messiah, whom David calls God, as he had done, Ps. 45:6, 8. “Thy God” (God the Father) “has commanded thy strength, has made thee strong for himself, as the man of his right hand (Ps. 80:17), has treasured up strength in thee for us; therefore we pray that thou, O God the Son! wilt strengthen what thou hast wrought for us, wilt accomplish thy undertaking for us by finishing thy good work in us.”
III. The powerful invitation and inducement which would hereby be given to those that are without to come in and join themselves to the church, Ps. 68:29-31. This was in part fulfilled by the accession of many proselytes to the Jewish religion in the days of David and Solomon; but it was to have its full accomplishment in the conversion of the Gentile nations to the faith of Christ, and the making of them fellow-heirs, and of the same body, with the seed of Israel, Eph. 3:6. 1. Some shall submit for fear (Ps. 68:30): “The company of spearmen, that stand it out against Christ and his gospel, that are not willing to be ruled by him, that persecute the preachers and professors of his name, that are furious and outrageous as a multitude of bulls, fat and wanton as the calves of the people” (which is a description of those Jews and Gentiles that opposed the gospel of Christ and did what they could to prevent the setting up of his kingdom in the world), “Lord, rebuke them, abate their pride, assuage their malice, and confound their devices, till, conquered by the convictions of their consciences and the many checks of providence, they be every one of them brought, at length, to submit themselves with pieces of silver, as being glad to make their peace with the church upon any terms.” Even Judas submitted himself with pieces of silver when he returned them with this confession, I have betrayed innocent blood. And see Rev. 3:9. Many, by being rebuked, have been happily saved from being ruined. But as for those that will not submit, notwithstanding these rebukes, he prays for their dispersion, which amounts to a prophecy of it: Scatter thou the people that delight in war, who take such a pleasure in opposing Christ that they will never be reconciled to him. This may refer to the unbelieving Jews, who delighted in making war upon the holy seed, and would not submit themselves, and were therefore scattered over the face of the earth. David had himself been a man of war, but could appeal to God that he never delighted in war and bloodshed for its own sake; as for those that did, and therefore would not submit to the fairest terms of peace, he does not doubt but God would scatter them. Those are lost to all the sacred principles of humanity, as well as Christianity, that can delight in war and take a pleasure in contention let them expect that, sooner or later, they shall have enough of it, Isa. 33:1; Rev. 13:10. 2. Others shall submit willingly (Ps. 68:29, 31): Because of thy temple at Jerusalem (this David speaks of in faith, for the temple of Jerusalem was not built in his time, only the materials and model were prepared) kings shall bring presents unto thee; rich presents shall be brought, such as are fit for kings to bring; even kings themselves, that stand much upon the punctilios of honour and prerogative, shall court the favour of Christ at a great expense. There is that in God’s temple, that beauty and benefit in the service of God and in communion with him, and in the gospel of Christ which went forth from Jerusalem, that is enough to invite kings themselves to bring presents to God, to present themselves to him as living sacrifices, and with themselves the best performances. He mentions Egypt and Ethiopia, two countries out of which subjects and suppliants were least to be expected (Ps. 68:31): Princes shall come out of Egypt as ambassadors to seek God’s favour and submit to him; and they shall be accepted, for the Lord of hosts shall thereupon bless them, saying, Blessed by Egypt my people, Isa. 19:25. Even Ethiopia, that had stretched out her hands against God’s Israel (2 Chron. 14:9), should now stretch out her hands unto God, in prayer, in presents, and to take hold on him, and that soon. Agree with thy adversary quickly. Out of all nations some shall be gathered in to Christ and be owned by him.