By Horatius Bonar
"Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive; thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them." -- Psalm 68:18
THIS psalm is of and for Messiah. It is He whose name is Jah,--the Lord God of Israel,--He is addressed throughout this psalm as God. It is this psalm which the apostle quotes in Ephesians (4:8), and interprets of Christ and His ascension. It is Christ that David here addresses, "Thou hast ascended on high."
I. The ascension. This is the last point of Messiah's earthly history, and sums up the whole. But according to the interpretation of Paul, it includes all that went before, "what is but that He also descended! The ascent reminds us of a descent. He descended to Bethlehem; and then He descended to Joseph's tomb. After that all was ascension; and the expression of our text includes or rather expresses resurrection. He went down into the lower parts of the earth; he came up again; and then he went on high. This ascending was the completion of his work; the carrying out of His love; the Father's testimony of personal acceptance and delight; and His seal to the absolute perfection of the work for which He descended. It was a real ascension; a glorious one; a very exalted one; far above all principalities and powers; to the Father's throne. "We see Jesus crowned with glory and honour." All heaven is His; and He has entered into possession of His heavenly inheritance. All power is given to Him in heaven and in earth. He filleth all things. The universe now is His.
II. The triumph. "Thou hast led captivity captive." Whether this refers to His leading forth His redeemed out of their captivity, or leading into captivity those who held them bound, the triumph is the same, and the words point to the same event,--the same enemies, the same battle, the same victory. It is Messiah's triumph; over His enemies, the Father's, and ours. The warfare is that predicted in Paradise, between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. That warfare concerns .us; it is for us. He who fights is the captain of our salvation. The battle went on during the ages before He came; it came to a head on the cross; it is not yet finished; and the full consummation of the triumph is reserved for His second coming, when He binds Satan and casts him into the bottomless pit. Then shall He complete His triumph; and shew that He is more than conqueror. Meanwhile His victory upon the cross is ours.
He has fought our battle, and won our victory. "Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." What enemy can prevail? No weakness of ours can dismay us. We glory in our infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon us. Let us then fight the good fight. The foe is already routed by our Captain; it is only with his broken and scattered troops that we have to do.
III. The recompense. "Thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also." Thus the Father rewards His faithful service. Not only does He receive the Spirit without measure for Himself; but the gifts of the Spirit for others. This is the apt recompense of His self-emptying. He emptied Himself, therefore hath the Father filled Him; filled Him with the Spirit; filled Him with the Spirit's mighty and manifold gifts. Much of the Spirit was given before He came; we read of the Spirit filling holy men; but much was reserved for His glorification, that the connection between Him and the gift of the Spirit might be manifested. When He was glorified, the pentecostal shower came down; the residue of the Spirit was given. This fullness of the Spirit was,--
(1.) For men; not for angels, but men; not for heaven, but for earth. It was as the ascended God-man that He received the Spirit, for those whose nature He took. "I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh;" not on the unfallen, but fallen sons of Adam.
(2.) For the rebellious. For those who stand farthest off; full of enmity and resistance. Not for the good, but the evil. As of the Son of man on earth, so of Him in heaven, we may say, "He came to seek that which was lost; not to call the righteous, but sinners."
Thus Christ has received the Spirit for sinners; as Egypt's corn was entrusted to Joseph for the hungry. Go to Him who has the seven spirits of God; deal with Him who freely dispenses this Spirit. Come to the waters. If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink.
IV. The final result. "That the Lord God might dwell among them." God had been driven from earth, from among men. His object is to return; and all that He has done in and through Christ is to secure that return. He does this,--
(1.) By incarnation. The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us. God thus tabernacled with men.
(2.) By the cross. It is the propitiation that makes it a righteous thing for God thus to dwell. It is the blood that brings it about. No blood, no indwelling.
(3.) By the Holy Ghost. It is this that is referred to in our text. The Spirit purchased by the blood comes down and comes in.
He has been doing this in individual souls. They are the habitation of the Spirit; temples of the Holy Ghost. He is yet to do so more conspicuously when Jesus comes the second time. Then shall this prophecy be fulfilled. The tabernacle of God shall be with men; God shall be with them, their God. Earth shall be full of the Holy Ghost, and glorious with His gifts.