Ep.155: Psalm 68: Rider on the Clouds.

Hello. I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray with Me”. 

Psalm 68 contains some of the most memorable and some of the most mysterious verses in the entire book of Psalms. It presents the complex personality of God. He is the God of war, the God of temple worship, the God of law, and the God who cares for individuals. 

The psalm opens with an imperative,
    Let God arise,
      his enemies be scattered.
    May you blow them away like smoke–
      as wax melts before the fire,
      may the wicked perish before God (v. 1a-1b).
I wish I could blow away my enemies like smoke.

In praise of the personal justice God gives to individuals the poet writes:
    Sing to God. . .
      extol him who rides on the clouds. . . (v. 4)
    He sets the lonely in families
      he leads out prisoners with singing;
      but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land (v. 6).
That’s what our God does: he rides the clouds of heaven, he sets the lonely in families, he leads prisoners on a journey of song and freedom.

For sheer poetic beauty, try these lines:
    Even while you sleep among the sheepfolds,
        the wings of my dove are sheathed in silver,
        its feathers are shining with gold (v. 13).
Not sure what exactly it means? Neither is anyone else, but it’s beautiful and mysterious imagery. 

In similarly beautiful and enigmatic imagery, the poet describes God, perhaps when he moved from Mt. Sinai where he delivered the law into his temple in Jerusalem. The poet says:
    When you ascended on high,
        you led captives in your train,
        you received gifts from humankind,
    even from the rebellious —
        that you, Lord God, might dwell there (v. 16).
Consider for a moment: Do you think of yourself as God’s captive, giving him gifts, inviting him to dwell with you?

One of the greatest comfort verses in the Bible is in Psalm 68:
  Praise be to the Lord, to God our Saviour,
      who daily bears our burdens (v. 19).
Think about yourself in this verse. Does God bear your burdens in the COVID crisis? In your troubled family?

The poet calls on God to defeat his enemies, saying:
    Rebuke the beast among the reeds. . .
        Scatter the nations who delight in war (v. 30).
Part of the horror of our age is the nations who take delight in war, who want to use their armaments, who look for excuses to kill and destroy. 

The psalm concludes with this memorable praise:
  You, God, are awesome in your sanctuary,
      the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people (v. 35).

Let’s pray. 

Our father, this psalm opens for us new ways of thinking about you, new images of your strength and activity. 

We praise your power that melts your enemies like wax and blows them away like smoke. 

We praise you that you ride on the clouds, that you shook the earth at Mt. Sinai, that you send abundant showers to refresh your weary inheritance (vv. 4, 8-10). We are your weary inheritance. Refresh us we pray.

We praise you for placing the lonely in families and releasing the prisoners with singing (v. 6). Lead us out of our prisons, prisons of fear and lethargy and despair. Place us in the family you are building. 

We praise you that you ascended on high, taking captives in your train and receiving gifts from humankind (v. 18). As Geroge Matheson wrote, “Make me a captive Lord, and then I shall be free” (poem: Make Me a Captive Lord).

We praise you that you daily bear our burdens (v. 19). Bear the burdens of today with us: COVID-19, personal isolation and family troubles, a world in chaos. Defeat those who think that order and justice are born in war and anarchy. 

You are awesome in your sanctuary, God. You give power and strength to your people. We praise you God, you alone. (v. 35).


I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”.