Summary: The church is Jesus' gift to each believer to help us carry out the work of ministry.
As we observe the incarnation of the Messiah, Jesus, during this Christmas season, we’ve been on a journey through some of the Messianic Psalms. We began in Psalm 8 where we saw the humility of Jesus that was demonstrated by His incarnation and his crucifixion. We then continued on to Psalm 88 where we saw how Jesus suffered on our behalf in order to satisfy the wrath of God that we deserved. Two weeks ago the message was a lot more upbeat as we examined Psalm 16 which pictured the resurrection of Jesus that empowers us to live on the path of life and experience fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore.
We’ll continue our journey in Psalm 68. Since it is such a long Psalm – 35 verses to be exact – we won’t have time to examine it in detail, or even read the entire Psalm. Hopefully you’ve already done that on your over the past two weeks, but if not, I really want to encourage you to do that this coming week.
By now we shouldn’t be surprised that this Psalm, like all the Messianic Psalms we’ve looked at so far, operates on two levels. So here’s how we’re going to tackle our passage this week:
We’ll start with a brief look at the Messianic application that is found in Ephesians 4
Then we’ll examine Psalm 68 in its historical context
Finally, we’ll be able to return to Ephesians 4 and make some practical application for our own lives.
I think once we go through that process, you’ll see why we need to proceed in that manner.
Once again we’re not left to wonder about the Messianic application of this Psalm because Paul applies it directly to the Messiah, Jesus in Ephesians 4. I’ll begin reading in verse 7:
But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift. Therefore it says,
“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men.”
(In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
Ephesians 4:7-12 (ESV)
The bolded verse that I have put a box around in your bulletin outline is the verse we’re going to focusing on this morning. In that verse, Paul quotes from Psalm 68, but as we’ll see in a moment, there are some issues with the way he uses the verse.
But for now, what I want us to see is that…
Psalm 68 is a picture of the ascension of the Messiah, Jesus
After his birth, suffering on our behalf, crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus only stayed on this earth for 40 days before He ascended to the right hand of the Father. And both Ephesians 4 and Psalm 68 help us to understand just why that event is so significant.
We’re going to come back to Ephesians 4 shortly, but let’s take a look at our text from Psalm 68 first. Even if we had time to look at that Psalm in detail, it is actually much more helpful to take a step back and look at the overall message of the Psalm. So let’s start with a broad outline of the Psalm
Outline of Psalm 68
The triumph of God over His enemies and His ascent to His throne
I. Prologue (vv.1-6)
The wicked perish and the righteous rejoice (vv. 1-3)
A call to sing praise to God (vv. 4-6)
II. God descends to deliver His people in the past (vv.7-17)
In this section, the Psalmist recounts how God delivered His people from slavery in Egypt and brought them into the Promised Land. It is significant that in that section, there are two references to God giving gifts to His people:
In verse 10 He is describes as providing for the needy.
In verse 11, He gives the word
III. God ascends to His Throne (v.18)
You will note that verse 18, the one that Paul quotes in Ephesians, is right in the middle of this Psalm. As we’ve seen in other Psalms, in Hebrew poetry this serves to emphasize this verse and to identify it as the central idea in the Psalm. We’ll come back to this verse in just a moment.
IV. Present Deliverance and Provision (vv. 19-20)
As a result of ascending to His throne, God is now in a position to deliver and provide for His people in the present. He is the God of salvation who daily bears up His people.