Psalm 68 is not one in which many people find their life verse. You will not find many throw cushions embroidered with, “As wax melts before fire, so the wicked shall perish before God” (v. 2). Few will decorate the walls of their living room with stretched canvases reading, “Trample underfoot those who lust after tribute; scatter the peoples who delight in war” (v. 30). This violent psalm causes us some discomfort to read.
But there is a crucial principle here for God’s people to embrace. The psalm pictures Yahweh riding out as a warrior against the nations and defeating all who stand in his path. He promises his people, “I will bring them back from Bashan, I will bring them back from the depths of the sea, that you may strike your feet in their blood, that the tongues of your dogs may have their portion from the foe” (vv. 22–23). The warrior God of the psalm will conquer all his enemies and bring them before his people so that they can witness his justice. His people, so long taunted and terrorised by their enemies, will see and rejoice in ultimate justice.
Yahweh is portrayed as the cosmic conqueror. None can withstand him. From east to west and from north to south, he rides victoriously against all his enemies. Those who once seemed so powerful to his people stand utterly powerless before the cosmic conqueror.
But the cosmic conqueror is not a typical conqueror. He is not a bloodthirsty tyrant who wishes only to destroy his enemies. Yes, he will trample under foot those who will not submit to him, but be also offers glorious deliverance to those who will submit. “Our God is a God of salvation, and to GOD, the Lord, belong deliverances from death” (v. 20). The psalmist calls the nations to drop their swords and pledge allegiance to Yahweh. This conqueror will conquer some by force but a great many others by kindness.
Here is the encouragement for us: The God of the Bible is absolutely committed to conquering all those who rebel against him, from shore to shore. He will conquer some in judgement and others by kindness. Either way, his people have no reason to fear, for he will conquer.
As I write these words, the world waits with bated breath to see who will emerge victorious from the 2020 US presidential election. The political divide in the country is palpable from 14,000km away. The only thing that everyone seems to have in common is fear. Both parties campaign for votes on the basis of how terrible things will be if the other side wins. In the midst of this, thinking Christians are reminding one another that, no matter who sits in the White House, Jesus Christ sits on his throne. He is not threatened by Donald Trump or Joe Biden. Regardless of who conquers the electoral college, Jesus Christ remains the cosmic conqueror.
We do well to remember the same truth as we head into a new day. Our fears will confront us. At times, our enemies will seem larger than life. It will feel as if we are being driven away as smoke or melting like wax. When we feel that way, we need to remember that Jesus Christ is the cosmic conqueror and that no threat against his people will ultimately stand. With that truth fixed firmly in our hearts, the exhortation of this psalm will become our lived reality:
O kingdoms of the earth, sing to God; sing praises to the Lord, Selah to him who rides in the heavens, the ancient heavens; behold, he sends out his voice, his mighty voice. Ascribe power to God, whose majesty is over Israel, and whose power is in the skies. Awesome is God from his sanctuary; the God of Israel—he is the one who gives power and strength to his people. Blessed be God!