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Psalm 68

My God, my king

Though God sometimes seems remote, uninterested in our problems, this psalm assures us he’s come to live among us and is powerful, compassionate and determined to bless the weak and see justice done on earth.

A David psalm.

Let God arise
and his enemies be scattered.
May those who hate him flee before him.
2 Let them be blown away
like a puff of smoke.
May evildoers perish before God
like wax melts before a flame
3 while those who put their trust in God
be glad and exult before him
and dance for joy.

4 Sing to God
make music to his name.
Lift up a song to the Cloud Rider[1]
whose name is Yahveh.
5 The God whose house is holy
is father to the fatherless
a defender of widows.
6 God provides homes for the homeless
and sets prisoners free with singing
while those who rebel against him
live in a burnt-out land.

7 God, when you led your people out
marching through the wilderness
8 the earth shook
and the heavens poured
before you, the God of Sinai—
before God, the God of Israel!
9 You sent a generous downpour, God
to revive your weary land.
10 Your people settled in it, God
in your goodness you provided for the poor.

11 The Lord gave the word
and a huge host of women spread the news:
12 “Kings and their armies are fleeing headlong
as our women at home divide the spoils!
13 Even you who sleep among the sheepfolds
will rise on the wings of a dove
shimmering with silver
and glittering with gold.
14 When the Almighty scattered the kings in battle
a snowstorm engulfed Dark Mountain!”[2]

15 What a majestic mountain is Mount Bashan—
a mountain studded with peaks!
16 Why, many-peaked mountain, do you envy
the mountain where God chose to live
where Yahveh will live forever?[3]
17 With  myriads upon myriads of chariots
the Lord came from Sinai into his sanctuary.[4]
18 You ascended its heights
leading captives in your train, Yahveh God
and receiving gifts of tribute from people
even from those who opposed
your taking up residence there.

19 Blessed be Yahveh
who bears our burdens day by day
the God who saves us!
20 Our God is a God who rescues—
Sovereign Yahveh releases us from death.
21 Yes, God will smash his enemies’ skulls
the hairy heads
of those who gallivant in their guilt.
22 Yahveh says, “I’ll bring your enemies back
from Bashan and the depths of the sea
23 so you can splash through pools of their blood[5]
and your dogs lap it up too.”

24 People saw your triumphal procession, God
the procession of my God, my king
into the sanctuary.
25 Singers came in front
musicians in the back
with young women beating drums in between.
26 “Bless God in the great congregation
Yahveh, you descendants of Israel!”
27 Benjamin, the youngest, is out front, leading
the princes of Judah following in company
and then Zebulun and Naphtali’s princes.

28 Take command, God!
Show us the power you exerted
on our behalf before, God.
29 Earth’s kings bring tribute
to your Temple in Jerusalem
30 Rebuke the crocodiles lurking in the reeds
the enemy nations bellowing
like a herd of bad-tempered bulls.
Trample down those who lust after booty!
Scatter the nations that delight in war!
31 Envoys will make their way from Egypt
and Nubians hurry to God
with hands outstretched.

32 Sing to God, earth’s kingdoms
worship Yahveh, 33 who rides
through the heavens’ age-old heights.
Hear the deafening sound of him
thundering across the sky!
34 Ascribe power to God
who reigns in majesty over Israel
and reveals his power in the skies.
35 God is awesome in his sanctuary
the God of Israel
who gives strength and power to his people.
Blessed be God!

This psalm presents highlights of Israel’s story with a movie trailer’s speed and style. As with a movie trailer, David doesn’t give us the whole storyline—just brief glimpses to whet our appetite for more.

One key point is that this is God’s journey with Israel—from Egypt via Sinai to Jerusalem. David points to God’s many victories over all who tried to keep the Israelites from conquering Canaan and, ultimately, God from taking his throne in Zion’s sanctuary. Israel’s enemies lurk like crocodiles in the reeds to devour the helpless. They threaten innocent passersby like ornery bulls. And throughout, Yahveh’s compassion is as great as his power since he irresistibly subdues his enemies in order to house the homeless and bear our burdens every day.

David gives us a funny picture of the towering Mount Bashan—where Baal supposedly lived—furious because Yahveh chose the far smaller Mount Zion for his capital instead. David is basically saying, “Eat your heart out, Bashan!”

Why is God’s taking up residence in Jerusalem such a big deal, calling everyone on earth to joyful, exuberant praise? Because he’s coming to redeem our undeserving race and rule over us with justice and prosperity for all—turning even lowly shepherds into paragons of glory.

Since you’ve come to end injustice and care for the oppressed, Lord, I can work and pray for that day with hope. Empower me to stand against the opposition I face. I praise you that you counted me worth rescuing and that your justice will one day fill the earth as the waters cover the sea. Amen.

In your free moments today, meditate on these words:

Blessed be Yahveh, who bears our burdens day by day
the God who saves us!



[1] The Canaanites gave this name to Baal, saying that he thundered in the clouds before sending down rain.

[2] This comes from the story of Deborah and Barak’s victory told in Judges 4-5. Here even shepherds, who didn’t go to war, are showered with gold and silver booty and could be said—in our lingo—to “walk on air.”

[3] Mount Bashan (Hermon) stands for one of the nations that opposed Israel’s migration to Canaan (Num. 21:33-35).

[4] The “chariots” of God’s angel armies far outnumber those of any of Israel’s enemies.

[5] Picturing utter defeat in all its ghastly glory, this hyperbolic image was as familiar to David’s audience as it is shocking to us today.

Why Yahveh?

Every translator of the Psalms must decide how to handle God’s personal name, YHWH, which occurs repeatedly in its Hebrew text. Translators of the King James Version usually translated it “LORD” (all caps) and occasionally transliterated it (badly) as “Jehovah.” Modern translations, likewise, either translate or transliterate it. While translating it aims to make it more accessible to readers, transliterating it is more faithful to the text since it’s not a word at all, but rather God’s uniquely personal name. I’ve chosen to transliterate it to root it more firmly in the biblical story as the name—meaning the “self-existent One”—that God revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. This name set Israel’s God apart from all the gods of Israel’s neighbors.

Personal names are, well, very personal. Even the sound of a name can evoke strong emotion. One problem with YHWH is that we aren’t sure how it was pronounced since Jews long ago stopped saying it in order better to hallow it. In transliterating it, I follow the advice of my esteemed Hebrew professor, Raymond Dillard. He advocated transliterating it as Yahveh—pronounced yah·vay—arguing that following the modern Hebrew pronunciation of its third consonant makes the name sound more robustly Jewish than Yahweh.
May these psalms be a light to you in dark times. You can read more of Mark Robert Anderson's writings on Christianity, culture, and inter-faith dialogue at Understanding Christianity Today.