Thursday, December 17, 2015
Psalm 68:18 You ascended on high, leading a host of captives in your train and receiving gifts among men…
It is fitting as we approach Christmas Day next week that the final installment of my study of Psalm 68 brings us to verse eighteen. Fitting because David’s words are given by the Holy Spirit to the Apostle Paul in Ephesians chapter four as the basis of his teaching that Jesus Christ, God Himself, came down to earth to accomplish God’s redemptive purpose.
In Psalm sixty-eight, King David is reflecting on the awesome power of God to deliver the oppressed and save them. In fact, more than half of the thirty-five verses refer specifically to the power and might of God to save people from captivity and to conquer His enemies.
Bear with me as we look at a little history to gather some context for today’s truth. It may seem boring, but it is highly relevant. The lesson comes from verses 15 and 16, where there is an interesting metaphor used by David. It is one of those passages that on the surface probably makes very little sense, but with the Holy Spirit’s illumination it becomes very clear.
O mountain of God, mountain of Bashan; O many-peaked mountain, mountain of Bashan! Why do you look with hatred, O many-peaked mountain, at the mount that God desired for his abode, yes, where the LORD will dwell forever?
In The northernmost part of Palestine was the region of Bashan. A series of volcanic mountains lined the region, while its valleys were some of the most productive agriculture land in all of Israel. It was the territory given to the tribe Manasseh when the Promised Land was divided up.
You remember the story of Manasseh, right? He was the first-born son of Joseph, yet in spite of Joseph’s attempt to correct an error, Jacob gave the second-born son Ephraim the blessing as one of his own sons. Jacob declared that the younger son will be greater than the older and will play a more prominent role in God’s redemptive plan. In addition, he gave them a mountain slope that he captured from the Amorites – the mountains of Bashan. Later, the tribe of Manasseh would occupy that territory, and even though it was highly fertile and productive, there was a constant jealousy of other tribes who seemed to get more than they did.
Now, jump ahead a few centuries. The Kingdom of Israel has been established, and Mount Zion chosen as the place where the King would reign forever. Instead of rejoicing, the mountains of Bashan express envy that they were not chosen. The entanglement of envy still held them captive.
Envy still holds us captive as well. We are bound up in the chains of comparison. Want proof? Watch what happens when you open Christmas presents this year. The verbal and non-verbal communications will be clear. Why do they have more than me? Why did he get a bigger present than me? I wanted that!
King David offers us the solution – not just to envy, but to the whole big picture of God’s redemptive plan. You ascended on high, leading a host of captives in your train and receiving gifts among men…
Paul restates the case with added information in Ephesians 4. But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.” (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)
Jesus Christ, God Himself, descended from His position and glory in heaven to set free all the captives of sin and give them gifts to be used to serve God in His redemptive plan. We have been raised with Christ and have been seated with Him in the heavenly places. Regardless of social status, inherited injustice, or current captivity, Jesus Christ has paid the purchase price for your freedom. FREEDOM!
That is God’s redemptive plan – the blood of Jesus Christ and the power of His resurrection can and will set you free if you choose to believe. That’s why Jesus descended to the earth and was born of a virgin – to die for our sin. That’s why He was qualified to ascend to the throne as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Now, the eternal question – are you in His train?