15 “O mountain of God, mountain of Bashan; O many-peaked mountain, mountain of Bashan! 16 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? 17 The chariots of God are twice ten thousand, thousands upon thousands; the Lord is among them; Sinai is now in the sanctuary. 18 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.” (Psalm 68:15–18 (ESV)
Most biblical scholars identify Psalm 68 as “a song” celebrating God’s triumphal ascent to Mount Zion. If the superscription of Davidic authorship is correct, (TO THECHOIRMASTER. A PSALM OF DAVID. A SONG), then the occasion may have been David’s conquering the city (2 Sam. 5:6–8), or moving the ark to Zion (2 Sam. 6), or some triumphal procession after a victory, or his victories in general. The greatest triumph to which the psalm is related is Christ’s Ascension, for Psalm 68:18 was paraphrased and applied to Him by Paul (Eph. 4:8).
Today’s text tells of the LORD’s selecting Zion (Mt. Hermon, Deut. 4:48) above other mountains and of His triumphant entry into it like a conqueror. The great mountains of the land of Bashan refer to the Hermon mountain range, only a few miles north of Bashan. Mt. Zion was also the Jebusite fortress in Jerusalem conquered by David. Zion was eventually used by biblical writers to identify other areas of Jerusalem. It was used as an identification of the entire city. Zion was also used to symbolically describe the eternal city of God.
Choosing Mt. Zion for His dwelling place, God entered the city with a vast company (thousands of thousands) of angelic hosts, metaphorically pictured here as riding in chariots. Thus the LORD went all the way from Mt. Sinai (cf. v. 8) to His sanctuary in Zion. His entrance into Jerusalem (when David conquered it, 2 Sam. 5:6–8, or when David moved the ark to Jerusalem, 2 Sam. 6) was like a mighty conqueror ascending on high with captives, receiving tribute from the vanquished, the rebellious.”
How does this portion of Psalm 68 pertain to the Lord Jesus Christ? Why does the Apostle Paul quote from it in Ephesians 4:8?
Dr. John Walvoord further explains, “Psalm 68:15-18 was referred to by Paul in Ephesians 4:8. However, rather than quoting the Hebrew, Paul apparently followed the Jewish interpretation of the day (the Targum), which paraphrased this verse as follows: “You did ascend to the firmament, O Prophet Moses! You led captivity captive; you taught the words of the Law; you gave [not received, ‘as in the Heb.] gifts to the sons of men.” (This interpretation saw Moses as God’s representative.) Paul followed this Jewish exegesis because it explained that the conqueror distributed the gifts to His loyal subjects. The apostle applied that idea to Christ’s victory over the forces of evil and His granting spiritual gifts (cf. Eph. 4:11) to those on His side. By this analogy (based more on the Jewish interpretation of the psalm than on the exact Heb. wording) Paul emphasized the greatness of believers’ spiritual victory in Christ.”
Acts 1:6-11 says, “6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
Remember, the Season of Advent does not just concern the coming, or arrival, of the Lord Jesus Christ at His incarnation, but also His arrival in souls of sinners at conversion, and finally His arrival when He returns to Earth in power, might and glory (Rev. 19-22).
Soli deo Gloria!