The Psalms have long been for me both a source of comfort and a source of dis-comfort. Sometimes I experience this range of emotion while moving from one Psalm to another; but in some cases, I experience it within the same Psalm, and in a dizzying fashion. The Psalm appointed for today—Psalm 68—brings about the latter for me.
Writers of commentaries on this Psalm seem to agree that it was sung by King David and a procession of Jews as the Ark of the Covenant was being taken into Jerusalem. Scripture tells us that the Ark had been stolen by the people of Philistia (“the Philistines”) during a battle, but they sent it back to the Jews after experiencing a good deal of trouble while having it in their possession.
We have in this Psalm, on one hand, a lovely image of a procession of people singing and worshiping God in celebration as they convey to a new home this sacred reminder of God’s amazing love. We read joyous verses such as: “Sing to God, sing praises to his name; lift up a song to him who rides upon the clouds—his name is the Lord—be exultant before him.” (v. 4);
On the other hand, we have a deeply troubling verse such as this: “But God will shatter the heads of his enemies, the hairy crown of those who walk in their guilty ways. The Lord said, ‘I will bring them back from Bashan . . . so that you may bathe your feet in blood, so that the tongues of your dogs may have their share from the foe.’” (v. 21-23).
Wow! What are we to do with this? Yes, I realize these verses were penned in a different time and place, and the world has changed vastly. Or has it? Millions of people are this very day living in the midst of war. At the end of 2013, I heard a statistic that broke my heart. More than 11,000 children have been killed since the outbreak of war in Syria. Children. . . . Life can sometimes feel like one of these dizzying Psalms. We joyously celebrate and worship God—giving thanks for life itself, our families, the beauty of our world, for so many gifts and blessings. At the same time we know of, and experience, great sadness. Even as we live and move through this paradox, though, we can take comfort in the one point that remains constant: God is with us. God’s love stands firm through it all. Love will have the last word. Thanks be to God.
— Christie Thomas