After the Introduction in Psalm 68:1-3, the first major section of this poem is verses 4-18, which traces Yahweh's mighty acts from the exodus from Egypt to Yahweh's choice of Jerusalem as his dwelling place. The story begins with these words in verses 4-6:
"Sing to God, sing praises to his name;
life up a song to him who rides upon the clouds--
his name is the Lord [Yahweh]--
be exultant before him.
Father of orphans and protector of widows
is God in his holy habitation.
God gives the desolate a home to live in;
he leads out the prisoners to prosperity,
but the rebellious live in a parched land."
1. The summons to the hearers to "sing to God" in verse 4 calls to mind the beginning of the song which Moses and the Israelites sang east of the Red Sea just after Yahweh delivered them from Egyptian bondage (Exodus 15:1-2).
2. The Canaanite Ugaritic texts (13th-12th centuries B.C.) often refer to Baal as "him who rides upon the clouds." The Hebrew Bible affirms polemically that it is not Baal, but Yahweh, who actually rides on the clouds (see Deuteronomy 33:26; Psalm 18:9-13; Isaiah 19:1), for he alone is the true God. Yahweh is a great king, who rides through the skies on his royal chariot as he controls human affairs (Psalm 104:3).
3. The ideal king in the ancient Near East was responsible for protecting and providing the needs of widows and orphans. Yahweh has a special place in his heart for widows and orphans, since they have been left alone, and thus are especially vulnerable to oppressors and predators (see Exodus 22:21-24; Deuteronomy 24:17-22; Isaiah 1:16-17, 21-26; James 1:26-27).
4. Yahweh reverses human fortunes: he gives the desolate a home, causes prisoners to prosper, and punishes the rebellious.
Praise God for the many ways he helps those in need.