June 21 2023
Today, Wednesday June 21
The Worship of a Unified Church
“You have ascended on high, You have led captivity captive; You have received gifts among men, Even from the rebellious, That the LORD God might dwell there.Blessed be the Lord, Who daily loads us with benefits, The God of our salvation! Selah
Our God is the God of salvation; And to GOD the Lord belong escapes from death. But God will wound the head of His enemies, The hairy scalp of the one who still goes on in His trespasses. The Lord said, "I will bring back from Bashan, I will bring them back from the depths of the sea, That your foot may crush them in blood, And the tongues of your dogs may have their portion from your enemies." They have seen Your procession, O God, The procession of my God, my King, into the sanctuary. The singers went before, the players on instruments followed after; Among them were the maidens playing timbrels. Bless God in the congregations, The Lord, from the fountain of Israel. There is little Benjamin, their leader, The princes of Judah and their company, The princes of Zebulun and the princes of Naphtali.”
Today we want to look at verses 18-27, that we find right in the middle of Psalm 68. The theme of this passage is the unity that God blesses His people with. The nation of Israel was made up of 12 tribes from the 12 sons of Jacob. As you know from the book of Genesis, these sons did not always get along with each other. After they came out of Egypt with Moses and went through the wilderness for 40 years, they struggled to stay unified. There always seemed to be jealousy and strife between them of some sort. And even after they conquered Canaan and were living in the Promise Land the tribes were often seen divided over some issue. You see this in the book of Judges and throughout their history.
But also, especially in times of national crisis, you will find the tribes coming together for the common purpose of defeating their enemies. I believe that is what we find here in Psalm 68. This Psalm is one of their great praise and celebration songs that recognizes the victory that God gives His people when they trust and obey Him. God has chased down their enemies on all sides and “crushed them” (v. 23). “Bashan” (v. 22), represents their enemies to the east. “The depths of the sea”, speaks of their enemies on their west side.
Now God receives the homage of His people who gladly say, "My God, My King." (vv. 24-27). Their real King, “God, leads the procession” of both men and women, lay people and priests, joined in unity in worshipping and praising the Lord. Zion was situated at the border of Judah and Benjamin; David came from Judah and King Saul from Benjamin. As the youngest of the sons of Jacob, and perhaps as the tribe of Israel's first king, Benjamin leads the procession along with the leaders of Judah (v. 27), (representing the southern tribes), and the leaders of Zebulun and Naphtali (representing the northern tribes). Israel is a united people, praising the Lord. The "Fountain of Israel" (v. 26) refers to the Lord (Psalm 36:9).
I believe that all this is a beautiful picture and prophecy of the church that we read about in Ephesians 4, where Psalm 68:18 is quoted. God desires for His church to dwell together in unity. And that is the reason He gives the gifts of the Holy Spirit to the various leaders and members of the church. Today read Ephesians 4:1-13 wit this in mind and notice how these two passages go together!
“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift. Therefore He says: "When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men." (Now this, "He ascended"--what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.) And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…”.
Jesus descended to destroy our enemy but also ascended in great victory with the work of salvation completed! His High Priestly prayer in John 17:20-26, was that we as believers would be unified as “one” so that the world would know that we are His disciples. What a beautiful witness a loving and unified church is to a lost world.