A History in Praise

3 Mar

Psalm 68 is a long one.  It gives the history of Israel’s escape from slavery in Egypt and praises God who accomplished it.  It is interesting that the palmist wants to remember all that God has done for the people of Israel and show how God’s power has transformed the people and the land.

1-4 Up with God!
Down with his enemies!
Adversaries, run for the hills!
Gone like a puff of smoke,
like a blob of wax in the fire—
one look at God and the wicked vanish.
When the righteous see God in action
they’ll laugh, they’ll sing,
they’ll laugh and sing for joy.
Sing hymns to God;
all heaven, sing out;
clear the way for the coming of Cloud-Rider.
Enjoy God,
cheer when you see him!

5-6 Father of orphans,
champion of widows,
is God in his holy house.
God makes homes for the homeless,
leads prisoners to freedom,
but leaves rebels to rot in hell.

Verses 5 and 6 give a vision of God that has been embraced by Liberation theologians.  God as champion of widows and the homeless is repeated throughout the scripture.  It is this God that the church follows into mission today.

7-10 God, when you took the lead with your people,
when you marched out into the wild,
Earth shook, sky broke out in a sweat;
God was on the march.
Even Sinai trembled at the sight of God on the move,
at the sight of Israel’s God.
You pour out rain in buckets, O God;
thorn and cactus become an oasis
For your people to camp in and enjoy.
You set them up in business;
they went from rags to riches.

In these verses God leads the people into the wilderness, away from from Egypt and slavery.  The desert wilderness turns into a lush oasis with God present.  Of course, this is a very poetic version of Israel’s history, yet there is truth in it.  When God is at the center, dry and weary places can be transformed into beautiful places of growth and rest.  As the Psalm goes on it does the “tribal victory dance thing”.  Victory for Israel means acquisition of land and property.

11-14 The Lord gave the word;
thousands called out the good news:
“Kings of the armies
are on the run, on the run!”
While housewives, safe and sound back home,
divide up the plunder,
the plunder of Canaanite silver and gold.
On that day that Shaddai scattered the kings,
snow fell on Black Mountain.

15-16 You huge mountains, Bashan mountains,
mighty mountains, dragon mountains.
All you mountains not chosen,
sulk now, and feel sorry for yourselves,
For this is the mountain God has chosen to live on;
he’ll rule from this mountain forever.

17-18 The chariots of God, twice ten thousand,
and thousands more besides,
The Lord in the lead, riding down Sinai—
straight to the Holy Place!
You climbed to the High Place, captives in tow,
your arms full of booty from rebels,
And now you sit there in state,
God, sovereign God!

19-23 Blessed be the Lord—
day after day he carries us along.
He’s our Savior, our God, oh yes!
He’s God-for-us, he’s God-who-saves-us.
Lord God knows all
death’s ins and outs.
What’s more, he made heads roll,
split the skulls of the enemy
As he marched out of heaven,
saying, “I tied up the Dragon in knots,
put a muzzle on the Deep Blue Sea.”
You can wade through your enemies’ blood,
and your dogs taste of your enemies from your boots.

It is interesting that even as God as seen as one who cares for the least, God is also the conquering King.  The ways that God is envision are as diverse as is the infinite nature of God.  I think what marks us as God people are the choices of what image of God we use to focus our faith.  I choose God of the homeless, but of course I always love a parade.

24-31 See God on parade
to the sanctuary, my God,
my King on the march!
Singers out front, the band behind,
maidens in the middle with castanets.
The whole choir blesses God.
Like a fountain of praise, Israel blesses God.
Look—little Benjamin’s out
front and leading
Princes of Judah in their royal robes,
princes of Zebulon, princes of Naphtali.
Parade your power, O God,
the power, O God, that made us what we are.
Your temple, High God, is Jerusalem;
kings bring gifts to you.
Rebuke that old crocodile, Egypt,
with her herd of wild bulls and calves,
Rapacious in her lust for silver,
crushing peoples, spoiling for a fight.
Let Egyptian traders bring blue cloth
and Cush come running to God, her hands outstretched.

32-34 Sing, O kings of the earth!
Sing praises to the Lord!
There he is: Sky-Rider,
striding the ancient skies.
Listen—he’s calling in thunder,
rumbling, rolling thunder.
Call out “Bravo!” to God,
the High God of Israel.
His splendor and strength
rise huge as thunderheads.

35 A terrible beauty, O God,
streams from your sanctuary.
It’s Israel’s strong God! He gives
power and might to his people!
O you, his people—bless God!

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