The psalmist here, having occasion to give God thanks for the great things he had done for him and his people of late, takes occasion thence to praise him for what he had done for their fathers in the days of old. Fresh mercies should put us in mind of former mercies and revive our grateful sense of them. Let it never be forgotten,
I. That God himself was the guide of Israel through the wilderness; when he had brought them out of their chains he did not leave them in the dry land, but he himself went before them in a march through the wilderness, Ps. 68:7. It was not a journey, but a march, for they went as soldiers, as an army with banners. The Egyptians promised themselves that the wilderness had shut them in, but they were deceived; God’s Israel, having him for their leader, marched through the wilderness and were not lost in it. Note, If God bring his people into a wilderness, he will be sure to go before them in it and bring them out of it. Song 8:5.
II. That he manifested his glorious presence with them at Mount Sinai, Ps. 68:8. Never did any people see the glory of God, nor hear his voice, as Israel did, Deut. 4:32, 33. Never had any people such an excellent law given them, so expounded, so enforced. Then the earth shook, and the neighbouring countries, it is likely, felt the shock; terrible thunders there were, accompanied no doubt with thunder-showers, in which the heavens seemed to drop; while the divine doctrine dropped as the rain, Ps. 32:2. Sinai itself, that vast mountain, that long ridge of mountains, was moved at the presence of God; see Jdg. 5:4, 5; Deut. 33:2; Hab. 3:3. This terrible appearance of the Divine Majesty, as it would possess them with a fear and dread of him, so it would encourage their faith in him and dependence upon him. Whatever mountains of difficulty lay in the way of their happy settlement, he that could move Sinai itself could remove them, could get over them.
III. That he provided very comfortably for them both in the wilderness and in Canaan (Ps. 68:9, 10): Thou didst send a plentiful rain and hast prepared of thy goodness for the poor. This may refer, 1. To the victualling of their camp with manna in the wilderness, which was rained upon them, as were also the quails (Ps. 78:24, 27), and it might be fitly called a rain of liberality or munificence, for it was a memorable instance of the divine bounty. This confirmed the camp of Israel (here called God’s inheritance, because he had chosen them to be a peculiar treasure to himself) when it was weary and ready to perish: this confirmed their faith, and was a standing proof of God’s power and goodness. Even in the wilderness God found a comfortable dwelling for Israel, which was his congregation. Or, 2. To the seasonable supplies granted them in Canaan, that land flowing with mild and honey, which is said to drink water of the rain of heaven, Deut. 11:11. When sometimes that fruitful land was ready to be turned into barrenness, for the iniquity of those that dwelt therein, God, in judgment, remembered mercy, and sent them a plentiful rain, which refreshed it again, so that the congregation of Israel dwelt therein, and there was provision enough, even to satisfy their poor with bread. This looks further to the spiritual provision made for God’s Israel; the Spirit of grace and the gospel of grace are the plentiful rain with which God confirms his inheritance, and from which their fruit is found, Isa. 45:8. Christ himself is this rain, Ps. 72:6. He shall come as showers that water the earth.
IV. That he often gave them victory over their enemies; armies, and kings of armies, appeared against them, from their first coming into Canaan, and all along in the times of the judges, till David’s days, but, first or last, they gained their point against them, Ps. 68:11, 12, 14. Observe here, 1. That God was their commander-in-chief: The Lord gave the word, as general of their armies. He raised up judges for them, gave them their commissions and instructions, and assured them of success. God spoke in his holiness, and then Gilead is mine. 2. That they had prophets, as God’s messengers, to make known his mind to them. God gave them his word (the word of the Lord came unto them) and then great was the company of the preachers—prophets and prophetesses, for the word is feminine. When God has messages to send he will not want messengers. Or perhaps it may allude to the women’s joining in the triumph when the victory was obtained, as was usual (Exod. 15:20; 1 Sam. 18:7), in which they took notice of the word of God, triumphing in that as much as in his works. 3. That their enemies were defeated, and put to confusion: Kings of armies did flee, did flee with the greatest terror and precipitation imaginable, did not fight and flee, but flee and flee, retired without striking a stroke; they fled apace, fled and never rallied again. 4. That they were enriched with the plunder of the field: She that tarried at home divided the spoil. Not only the men, the soldiers that abode by the stuff, who were, by a statute of distributions, to share the prey (1 Sam. 30:24), but even the women that tarried at home had a share, which intimates the abundance of spoil that should be taken. 5. That these great things which God did for them were sanctified to them and contributed to their reformation (Ps. 68:14): When the Almighty scattered kings for her (for the church) she was white as snow in Salmon, purified and refined by the mercies of God; when the host went forth against the enemy they kept themselves from every wicked thing, and so the host returned victorious, and Israel by the victory were confirmed in their purity and piety. This account of Israel’s victories is applicable to the victories obtained by the exalted Redeemer for those that are his, over death and hell. By the resurrection of Christ our spiritual enemies were made to flee, their power was broken, and they were for ever disabled to hurt any of God’s people. This victory was first notified by the women (the she-publishers) to the disciples (Matt. 28:7) and by them it was preached to all the world, while believers that tarry at home, that did not themselves contribute any thing towards it, enjoy the benefit of it, and divide the spoil.
V. That from a low and despised condition they had been advanced to splendour and prosperity. When they were bond-slaves in Egypt, and afterwards when they were oppressed sometimes by one potent neighbour and sometimes by another, they did, as it were, lie among the pots or rubbish, as despised broken vessels, or as vessels in which there was no pleasure—they were black, and dirty, and discoloured. But God, at length, delivered them from the pots (Ps. 81:6), and in David’s time they were in a fair way to be one of the most prosperous kingdoms in the world, amiable in the eyes of all about them, like the wings of a dove covered with silver, Ps. 68:13. “And so,” says Dr. Hammond, “under Christ’s kingdom, the heathen idolaters that were brought to the basest and most despicable condition of any creatures, worshipping wood and stone, and given up to the vilest lusts, should from that detestable condition be advanced to the service of Christ, and the practice of all Christian virtues, the greatest inward beauties in the world.” It may be applied also to the deliverance of the church out of a suffering state and the comforts of particular believers after their despondencies.
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