Ezekiel 21 & Psalm 68

Ezekiel 21

     The word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, set your face toward Jerusalem and preach against the sanctuaries. Prophesy against the land of Israel and say to the land of Israel, Thus says the LORD: Behold, I am against you and will draw my sword from its sheath and will cut off from you both righteous and wicked. Because I will cut off from you both righteous and wicked, therefore my sword shall be drawn from its sheath against all flesh from south to north. And all flesh shall know that I am the LORD. I have drawn my sword from its sheath; it shall not be sheathed again.

    “As for you, son of man, groan; with breaking heart and bitter grief, groan before their eyes. And when they say to you, ‘Why do you groan?’ you shall say, ‘Because of the news that it is coming. Every heart will melt, and all hands will be feeble; every spirit will faint, and all knees will be weak as water. Behold, it is coming, and it will be fulfilled,’” declares the Lord GOD.

    And the word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, prophesy and say, Thus says the Lord, say:

    “A sword, a sword is sharpened
        and also polished,
    sharpened for slaughter,
        polished to flash like lightning!
        (Or shall we rejoice? You have despised the rod, my son, with everything of wood.) So the sword is given to be polished, that it may be grasped in the hand. It is sharpened and polished to be given into the hand of the slayer. Cry out and wail, son of man, for it is against my people. It is against all the princes of Israel. They are delivered over to the sword with my people. Strike therefore upon your thigh. For it will not be a testing—what could it do if you despise the rod?” declares the Lord GOD.

    “As for you, son of man, prophesy. Clap your hands and let the sword come down twice, yes, three times, the sword for those to be slain. It is the sword for the great slaughter, which surrounds them, that their hearts may melt, and many stumble. At all their gates I have given the glittering sword. Ah, it is made like lightning; it is taken up for slaughter. Cut sharply to the right; set yourself to the left, wherever your face is directed. I also will clap my hands, and I will satisfy my fury; I the LORD have spoken.”

    The word of the LORD came to me again: “As for you, son of man, mark two ways for the sword of the king of Babylon to come. Both of them shall come from the same land. And make a signpost; make it at the head of the way to a city. Mark a way for the sword to come to Rabbah of the Ammonites and to Judah, into Jerusalem the fortified. For the king of Babylon stands at the parting of the way, at the head of the two ways, to use divination. He shakes the arrows; he consults the teraphim; he looks at the liver. Into his right hand comes the divination for Jerusalem, to set battering rams, to open the mouth with murder, to lift up the voice with shouting, to set battering rams against the gates, to cast up mounds, to build siege towers. But to them it will seem like a false divination. They have sworn solemn oaths, but he brings their guilt to remembrance, that they may be taken.

    “Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Because you have made your guilt to be remembered, in that your transgressions are uncovered, so that in all your deeds your sins appear—because you have come to remembrance, you shall be taken in hand. And you, O profane wicked one, prince of Israel, whose day has come, the time of your final punishment, thus says the Lord GOD: Remove the turban and take off the crown. Things shall not remain as they are. Exalt that which is low, and bring low that which is exalted. A ruin, ruin, ruin I will make it. This also shall not be, until he comes, the one to whom judgment belongs, and I will give it to him.

    “And you, son of man, prophesy, and say, Thus says the Lord GOD concerning the Ammonites and concerning their reproach; say, A sword, a sword is drawn for the slaughter. It is polished to consume and to flash like lightning—while they see for you false visions, while they divine lies for you—to place you on the necks of the profane wicked, whose day has come, the time of their final punishment. Return it to its sheath. In the place where you were created, in the land of your origin, I will judge you. And I will pour out my indignation upon you; I will blow upon you with the fire of my wrath, and I will deliver you into the hands of brutish men, skillful to destroy. You shall be fuel for the fire. Your blood shall be in the midst of the land. You shall be no more remembered, for I the LORD have spoken.”

(Ezekiel 21 ESV)

Psalm 68

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. A Song.

    God shall arise, his enemies shall be scattered;
        and those who hate him shall flee before him!
    As smoke is driven away, so you shall drive them away;
        as wax melts before fire,
        so the wicked shall perish before God!
    But the righteous shall be glad;
        they shall exult before God;
        they shall be jubilant with joy!
    Sing to God, sing praises to his name;
        lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts;
    his name is the LORD;
        exult before him!
    Father of the fatherless and protector of widows
        is God in his holy habitation.
    God settles the solitary in a home;
        he leads out the prisoners to prosperity,
        but the rebellious dwell in a parched land.
    O God, when you went out before your people,
        when you marched through the wilderness, Selah
    the earth quaked, the heavens poured down rain,
        before God, the One of Sinai,
        before God, the God of Israel.
    Rain in abundance, O God, you shed abroad;
        you restored your inheritance as it languished;
    your flock found a dwelling in it;
        in your goodness, O God, you provided for the needy.
    The Lord gives the word;
        the women who announce the news are a great host:
        “The kings of the armies—they flee, they flee!”
    The women at home divide the spoil—
        though you men lie among the sheepfolds—
    the wings of a dove covered with silver,
        its pinions with shimmering gold.
    When the Almighty scatters kings there,
        let snow fall on Zalmon.
    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?
    The chariots of God are twice ten thousand,
        thousands upon thousands;
        the Lord is among them; Sinai is now in the sanctuary.
    You ascended on high,
        leading a host of captives in your train
        and receiving gifts among men,
    even among the rebellious, that the LORD God may dwell there.
    Blessed be the Lord,
        who daily bears us up;
        God is our salvation. Selah
    Our God is a God of salvation,
        and to GOD, the Lord, belong deliverances from death.
    But God will strike the heads of his enemies,
        the hairy crown of him who walks in his guilty ways.
    The Lord said,
        “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.”
    Your procession is seen, O God,
        the procession of my God, my King, into the sanctuary—
    the singers in front, the musicians last,
        between them virgins playing tambourines:
    “Bless God in the great congregation,
        the LORD, O you who are of Israel's fountain!”
    There is Benjamin, the least of them, in the lead,
        the princes of Judah in their throng,
        the princes of Zebulun, the princes of Naphtali.
    Summon your power, O God,
        the power, O God, by which you have worked for us.
    Because of your temple at Jerusalem
        kings shall bear gifts to you.
    Rebuke the beasts that dwell among the reeds,
        the herd of bulls with the calves of the peoples.
    Trample underfoot those who lust after tribute;
        scatter the peoples who delight in war.
    Nobles shall come from Egypt;
        Cush shall hasten to stretch out her hands to God.
    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!

(Psalm 68 ESV)

Christ the Conqueror

Psalm 68 celebrates God's continual protection and provision for His people. Throughout this Psalm, David recalls the way in which God led His people through the wilderness and into their inheritance of the land that He had promised them. 

The reference to God ascending to reign anticipates the future resurrection and ascension of Christ when God's ultimate enemy (Satan) will be subdued and His people will ultimately be delivered (salvation). The Psalm focuses on the Conqueror who receives the spoils from the defeated, whereas later the apostle Paul uses this Psalm to point out how Christ as Conqueror distributes what He receives to His own people.

Therefore it says, "When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men." 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, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4)

As the Israelites would sing this, they should have been overwhelmed with gratitude at the incredible privilege of being God’s ambassador nation that was intended to be a blessing to the rest of the world. May we consider the privilege of being chosen and counted among God's special people and embrace our responsibility to be a blessing to the world around us.