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Blessed Be God!

Savoring the Psalter  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Our God is worthy of our worship because of His mighty works of victory over the enemies of our souls.

Notes & Transcripts
Illustration-
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Communion with God—Power of
In driving piles, a machine is used by which a huge weight is lifted up and then made to fall upon the head of the pile. Of course the higher the weight is lifted the more powerful is the blow which it gives when it descends. Now, if we would tell upon our age and come down upon society with ponderous blows, we must see to it that we are uplifted as near to God as possible. All our power will depend upon the elevation of our spirits. Prayer, meditation, devotion, communion, are like a windlass to wind us up aloft; it is not lost time which we spend in such sacred exercises, for we are thus accumulating force, so that when we come down to our actual labour for God, we shall descend with an energy unknown to those to whom communion is unknown. [C. H. Spurgeon, Feathers for Arrows (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1870), 41.]
C. H. Spurgeon, Feathers for Arrows (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1870), 41.]
Main Thought: Our God is worthy of our worship because of His mighty works of victory over the enemies of our souls.
Sub-intro:
Note - Explain the exegetical structure and heart of this Psalm and why that is important to its exposition. Concentric Nature of the Psalm:
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Concentric Nature of the Psalm:
A - God Scatters the Enemy (vv. 1-2).
II. Rejoicing in the Strength of God (, ).
B - The Righteous Praise God (vv. 3).
C - Sing to God, the Rider on the Heavens (v. 4).
III. Sing to God Who Rides Upon the Heavens (, ).
D - In the Sanctuary, God Brings the Marginalized (vv. 5-6).
E - God's People (vv. 7-10).
IV. God Brings the Poor into His House / Kings Bring Gifts into God's House (, ).
F - Women Publish (v. 11).
G - Kings Flee (v. 12).
V. God's People - Four Tribes (, ).
H - Wings of a Dove (v. 13).
I - God Scatters to Bashan (vv. 14-15).
VI. Women Proclaim & Damsels Play (, ).
J - God's Mountainous Army (vv. 16-17).
K - God Delivers Captives (v. 18).
L - Benediction (v. 19).
VII. Kings Flee - God Is My King (, ).
K - God Gives Escape from Death (v. 20).
J - God Crushes Enemies (v. 21).
VIII. Wings of a Dove - Tongue of a Dog (, ).
I - God Gathers from Bashan (v. 22).
H - Tongue of a Dog (v. 23).
IX. God Scatters; God Gathers (, ).
G - My King (v. 24).
F - Damsels Play (v. 25).
X. God's Mountainous Army; God Crushes Enemies (, ).
E - Four Tribes (vv. 26-28).
D - Kings Bring Presents to God in the Temple (vv. 29-30).
XI. God Delivers Captives and Gives Escape from Death (, ).
C - Sing to God in the Heavens, to the Rider (vv. 31-33).
B - Ascribe Strength to God (v. 34).
XII. Blessed Be God ().
A - God Strengthens His People (v. 35).
Note - BKC’s concise summary of this Psalm:
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This is “a song” celebrating God’s triumphal ascent to Mount Zion. If the superscription of Davidic authorship is correct, then the occasion may have been David’s conquering the city (), or moving the ark to Zion (), or some triumphal procession after a victory, or his victories in general. Some scholars disregard the superscription, and relate the psalm to some other occasion such as the Jews’ return from the Exile, though there are no clear historical references to this in the poem. Its figurative language makes the psalm adaptable to several occasions. No doubt the psalm, if written by David, would have been used at subsequent victories. The greatest triumph to which the psalm is related is Christ’s Ascension, for was paraphrased and applied to Him by Paul ().
The psalmist reviewed the history of Israel from the wilderness wanderings to the occupation and conquest of the land. He emphasized God’s choice of Zion, which resulted in Israel’s taking many Canaanites as captives and the Israelites receiving gifts or spoils from the captives. This is the reason he sang praises: God was marching triumphantly on behalf of the oppressed. David called on others to join him in praising their strong Lord. [Allen P. Ross, “Psalms,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 842.]
Allen P. Ross, “Psalms,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 842.
Body:
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has the reputation of being the most difficult psalm in the Psalter.1 The psalm contains 15 words that occur only once in the Hebrew Bible (McCann 1996:944). Numerous relationships between words are obscure. Some of the poetic lines are perplexing. And the sense relations between the strophes are not always clear. In spite of all these interpretive problems, however, the main message of the poem is discernible, and key aspects of that message are evident.
celebrates the reign of God. This celebration was not individual and private but corporate and public, as 68:24–27 makes clear. A grand liturgical procession is taking place, and at the center of the procession is God, the reigning king. With singers in the front and musicians in the rear, God is being escorted to his throne in his royal sanctuary. Celebration of God’s reign explains why a thread of praise runs through the entire psalm: “Sing praises to God and to his name!” (68:4), “Praise the Lord; praise God our savior!” (68:19), “Praise God, all you people of Israel” (68:26), “Sing to God, you kingdoms of the earth” (68:32), “Praise be to God!” (68:35).
1 “ is generally known as the most difficult of the psalms to interpret” (McCann 1996:944). “The difficulties of interpreting are almost legendary” (Tate 1990:170). “There is hardly another song in the Psalter which in its corrupt text and its lack of coherence precipitates such serious problems for the interpreter as ” (Kraus 1989:47). [Mark D. Futato, “The Book of Psalms,” in Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol 7: The Book of Psalms, The Book of Proverbs (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2009), 227.]
Mark D. Futato, “The Book of Psalms,” in Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol 7: The Book of Psalms, The Book of Proverbs (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2009), 227.]
Psalm 68:1–2 KJV 1900
1 Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered: Let them also that hate him flee before him. 2 As smoke is driven away, so drive them away: As wax melteth before the fire, So let the wicked perish at the presence of God.
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The Psalm has been called "the grandest and most elaborate of all the Dedication Odes," and "one of the masterpieces of the world's lyrics"; and Maclaren says: "This superb hymn is unsurpassed, if not unequalled, in grandeur, lyric fire, and sustained rush of triumphant praise." Perowne speaks of it as, "this grand hymn." Cheyne says it is, "A patriotic and religious ode of wondrous range and compass, and in the grandest style." Moulton says that "even in the diluted English version it is difficult to read this mighty marching song without the feet longing to tramp and the hands to wave." [W. Graham Scroggie, The Guide to the Psalms, A Comprehensive Analysis of the Psalms, vol. 2, The Scroggie Studies of the Psalms and the Gospels Library (Kregel Publications, 2014), 97.]
W. Graham Scroggie, The Guide to the Psalms, A Comprehensive Analysis of the Psalms, vol. 2, The Scroggie Studies of the Psalms and the Gospels Library (Kregel Publications, 2014), 97.]
Psalm 68:3–4 KJV 1900
3 But let the righteous be glad; let them rejoice before God: Yea, let them exceedingly rejoice. 4 Sing unto God, sing praises to his name: Extol him that rideth upon the heavens By his name JAH, and rejoice before him.
Note - Dr. Gill’s insight to the name Jah:
“Jah is another name of God, which is mentioned [here] and , , though it may be only an abbreviation or contraction of the word Jehovah, and may signify the same; according to Cocceius, it come from [yod + aleph + he] , and signifies decency, or what is meet and becoming.” [Gill, John; A Complete Body of Doctrinal and Practical Divinity…;]
Note - A. T. Pierson, in The Fundamentals, has a different take on this name Jah, however:
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The name, “Jah,” here only found, is not simply an abbreviation of “Jehovah;” but the Present tense of the Hebrew verb to be; and expresses the idea that this Jehovah is the Living, Present God; and, as the heavens are always over our heads, He is always a present Helper, especially to those who, like the widow and the orphan, lack other providers and protectors.
George Müller, of Bristol, undertook to demonstrate to the unbelieving world that God is such a living, present God, and that He proves it by answering prayer; and that the test of this fact might be definite and conclusive, he undertook to gather, feed, house, clothe, and also to teach and train, all available orphans, who were legitimate children, but deprived of both parents by death and destitute. [Arthur T. Pierson, Chapter XVII: The Proof of the Living God, vol. 4 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2005), 238.]
[Arthur T. Pierson, Chapter XVII: The Proof of the Living God, vol. 4 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2005), 238.]
Psalm 68:5–6 KJV 1900
5 A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, Is God in his holy habitation. 6 God setteth the solitary in families: He bringeth out those which are bound with chains: But the rebellious dwell in a dry land.
Note - how verse 5 was a go to verse for men such as George Muller (see “A Million and a Half in Answer to Prayer, January 17th, 1838”). Muller stated:
“By the help of God, this shall be my argument before Him, respecting the Orphans, in the hour of need. He is their Father, and therefore has pledged Himself, as it were, to provide for them, and to care for them; and I have only to remind Him of the need of these poor children, in order to have it supplied.”
Note - back to our Psalm at hand, and considering the reign of our God:
The reign of God is rooted in the character of God. The characteristic of God that occupies center stage in this celebration is his power: “Summon your might.… Display your power” (68:28), “his mighty voice thundering from the sky” (68:33), “Tell everyone about God’s power … his strength is mighty in the heavens” (68:34), “The God of Israel gives power and strength to his people” (68:35). [Futato, 227.]
Mark D. Futato, “The Book of Psalms,” in Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol 7: The Book of Psalms, The Book of Proverbs (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2009), 227.]
Psalm 68:7–10 KJV 1900
7 O God, when thou wentest forth before thy people, When thou didst march through the wilderness; Selah: 8 The earth shook, the heavens also dropped At the presence of God: even Sinai itself was moved At the presence of God, the God of Israel. 9 Thou, O God, didst send a plentiful rain, Whereby thou didst confirm thine inheritance, when it was weary. 10 Thy congregation hath dwelt therein: Thou, O God, hast prepared of thy goodness for the poor.
Hebrews 12:26 KJV 1900
Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven.
Psalm 68:11–14 KJV 1900
11 The Lord gave the word: Great was the company of those that published it. 12 Kings of armies did flee apace: And she that tarried at home divided the spoil. 13 Though ye have lien among the pots, Yet shall ye be as the wings of a dove covered with silver, And her feathers with yellow gold. 14 When the Almighty scattered kings in it, It was white as snow in Salmon.
Note - recall how various writers have seen verse 13, namely Tozer in his “Attributes of God” application to God making something special out of those who are nothing in the world’s eyes.
Note - also how this Dove would bring to mind the imagery of the Hebrew text...
Psalm 68:15–18 KJV 1900
15 The hill of God is as the hill of Bashan; An high hill as the hill of Bashan. 16 Why leap ye, ye high hills? This is the hill which God desireth to dwell in; Yea, the Lord will dwell in it for ever. 17 The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: The Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place. 18 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.
God’s power has been displayed in the past in a series of historical events through which his reign was established. The initial event was the exodus from Egypt, followed by the march through the wilderness. This procession through the wilderness culminated in the conquest of the Promised Land (68:10–14) and the enthronement of God in his royal sanctuary (68:17–18). was perhaps used during a liturgical reenactment of this establishment of God’s reign, the original procession being replicated in the liturgical procession (cf. 68:17 and 68:24). [cf. confer, compare] [Futato, 227.]
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cf. confer, compare] [Mark D. Futato, “The Book of Psalms,” in Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol 7: The Book of Psalms, The Book of Proverbs (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2009), 227.]
That saying would sometimes come into my mind. He hath received gifts for the rebellious (18). The rebellious, thought I! Why, surely they are such as once were under subjection to their Prince; even those who after they have sworn obedience to His government have taken up arms against Him; and this, thought I, is my very condition. I once loved Him, feared Him, served Him; but now I am a rebel; I have sold Him. I have said, Let Him go, if He will; but yet He has gifts for rebels; and then, why not for me? --Bunyan (Grace Abounding) [Scroggie, 97.]
Note - This verse (18) has been the text of many a sermon by itself. Consider though what the EDBT states concerning warfare in the NT:
Warfare in the New Testament. Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem celebrated his past and future defeat of the powers of darkness. He fulfills the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9 of the gentle king riding on a donkey (Matt. 21:5). People cry out portions of Psalm 118, saying, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” (Mark 11:9–10). Psalm 118 is regarded by many Old Testament scholars as a celebration of a king returning from a military victory.
In Psalm 118:12 the king states his enemies surrounded him like bees. In the name of the Lord he cuts them off. Shouts of victory go up in the tents of the righteous (vv. 12–15). Christ had recently defeated demons (Mark 9) and death (John 11). He had told his disciples he saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven (Luke 10:18).
Upon his triumphal entry the divine warrior goes straight to his temple and cleanses it (Matt. 21:12) of the money makers (Mal. 3:1–4). His subsequent death and resurrection were described by apostle Paul as a military victory over the powers of darkness. He disarmed the powers and authorities. He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross (Col. 2:15). Thereupon victorious, as the conquering king in Psalm 68:18, he ascended on high, he led captives in his train, and he gave gifts to men (Eph. 4:8).
Just before his death Christ foresaw the awful tragedy of the revolts against the Romans and wept over the city (Luke 19:41–44). On the way to the cross he told the women not to weep for him but for themselves and for their children who would be caught up in this awful pogram (Luke 23:27–30). In the Olivet Discourse he warned his disciples to flee when they saw Jerusalem encompassed about with armies (Luke 21:20–24).
--Bunyan (Grace Abounding) [Scroggie, 97.]
His warning of false messiahs coming in his name was probably fulfilled in part by Bar Kosiba, who in a.d. 132 styled himself as “son of the star” (Bar Kochbah). Even the great rabbi Akivah believed he was the messiah. These revolts initiated the trampling of Jerusalem by the Gentiles (Luke 21:8, 24). He foretold that wars and rumors of wars would be commonplace throughout the age (21:9–11).
Mark D. Futato, “The Book of Psalms,” in Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol 7: The Book of Psalms, The Book of Proverbs (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2009), 227.]
All this proves to be a model and an illustration of the endtime conflict of the people of God. Christ did not believe the end would come in his day. He believed these things would be the beginning of sorrows (Matt. 24:8). One who reads the Olivet Discourse is like a person watching the landscape and seeing two mountain ranges. They appear to be close together when in fact they may be miles apart.
Destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans of the first century is the close mountains. Far off in the distance is another, high cluster of peaks. This is the final war at the end of the age, which will be attended by a great deal of supernatural phenomena (Luke 21:25–28). It is this endtime generation that will not pass away until all is fulfilled (Matt. 24:34).
The horrors of the final conflict are introduced in the Book of Revelation by four eerie horsemen (6:1–8). The first phase of war is quick, easy conflict with the bow, a long-range weapon. Then comes wholesale slaughter with the red horse. The black horse introduces famine and rationing. The final horse brings ravaging death to the home front by starvation, disease, and wild animals. These are only the beginning of sorrows.
W. Graham Scroggie, 97.]
The arch criminal called the “antichrist” will even have power to wage war against the saints and overcome them (Rev. 13:7; cf. Dan. 7:21–25). The sudden arrival of the Ancient of Days will, however, abruptly terminate his activities. At that time the saints of the most high will be given sovereignty and dominion over the earth (Dan. 7:26–27).
In the meantime the Christian life is metaphorically compared to warfare. Timothy is exhorted to endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ (2 Tim. 2:3). He is encouraged to fight the good fight of faith and hold on to eternal life (1 Tim. 6:12). This conflict, however, is not against flesh and blood but against the powers of this dark world, against spiritual forces in heavenly realms (Eph. 6:12). Paul warns the Ephesians to put on the whole armor of God into this conflict (6:10–15).
The church at Corinth was told that the weapons we fight with are not the weapons of this world. They have divine power to demolish strongholds. These strategic assets can take into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ (). [Paul Ferguson - Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology]
Paul Ferguson
Psalm 68:19–21 KJV 1900
19 Blessed be the Lord, Who daily loadeth us with benefits, Even the God of our salvation. Selah. 20 He that is our God is the God of salvation; And unto God the Lord belong the issues from death. 21 But God shall wound the head of his enemies, And the hairy scalp of such an one as goeth on still in his trespasses.
Psalm 68:22–23 KJV 1900
22 The Lord said, I will bring again from Bashan, I will bring my people again from the depths of the sea: 23 That thy foot may be dipped in the blood of thine enemies, And the tongue of thy dogs in the same.
The reign of God was not only established in the past, but it has implications for subsequent generations. Also running through the psalm is the thread of God blasting his enemies and blessing his people: “Rise up, O God, and scatter your enemies.… But let the godly rejoice” (68:1, 3), God “sets the [righteous] prisoners free and gives them joy. But he makes the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land” (68:6).
This dual theme provides support for the proposal of numerous scholars that was originally used in the context of the autumnal Festival of Shelters. This feast was celebrated at the transition between the dry season and the rainy season, the transition between the end of one agricultural year’s harvest and the beginning of another’s plowing and planting. This meteorological context would explain the references to the Lord as “him who rides the clouds” (68:4) and “the one who rides across the ancient heavens” (68:33). The former expression is clearly a polemic against Baal, who was called in Ugaritic rkb ’rpt (Rider of the Clouds) in his role as provider of rain and the resultant fertility and prosperity.2 It was not Baal, however, but the God of Israel who sent abundant rain to refresh the weary Promised Land so that his people might enjoy a bountiful harvest (68:9–10). During the Festival of Shelters, prayers would have been offered for the coming of the rains that were absolutely crucial for life in the land, and prayers would have been offered for the elimination of all hostile forces that could threaten prosperity in any way. [2 For brief discussions see VanGemeren 1991:445 and Tate 1990:163, 176.] [Futato, 227–228.]
2 For brief discussions see VanGemeren 1991:445 and Tate 1990:163, 176.] [Mark D. Futato, “The Book of Psalms,” in Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol 7: The Book of Psalms, The Book of Proverbs (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2009), 227–228.]
Mark D. Futato, “The Book of Psalms,” in Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol 7: The Book of Psalms, The Book of Proverbs (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2009), 227–228.]
Psalm 68:24–27 KJV 1900
24 They have seen thy goings, O God; Even the goings of my God, my King, in the sanctuary. 25 The singers went before, the players on instruments followed after; Among them were the damsels playing with timbrels. 26 Bless ye God in the congregations, Even the Lord, from the fountain of Israel. 27 There is little Benjamin with their ruler, The princes of Judah and their council, The princes of Zebulun, and the princes of Naphtali.
Psalm 68:28–29 KJV 1900
28 Thy God hath commanded thy strength: Strengthen, O God, that which thou hast wrought for us. 29 Because of thy temple at Jerusalem Shall kings bring presents unto thee.
Note - Fuller’s Application:
1. The Worship of God must be attended with diligence.
2. The Worship of God must be attended with brotherly love.
3. Our business, when assembled, must be to bless God in our congregations.
4. [We] unite in acknowledging that, whatever we are, we owe it to God alone...
5. …our business must be to unite in prayer for future mercies. [Fuller, Andrew; The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller, Vol. 1.]
Psalm 68:30–31 KJV 1900
30 Rebuke the company of spearmen, The multitude of the bulls, with the calves of the people, Till every one submit himself with pieces of silver: Scatter thou the people that delight in war. 31 Princes shall come out of Egypt; Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God.
Psalm 68:32–35 KJV 1900
32 Sing unto God, ye kingdoms of the earth; O sing praises unto the Lord; Selah: 33 To him that rideth upon the heavens of heavens, which were of old; Lo, he doth send out his voice, and that a mighty voice. 34 Ascribe ye strength unto God: His excellency is over Israel, And his strength is in the clouds. 35 O God, thou art terrible out of thy holy places: The God of Israel is he That giveth strength and power unto his people. Blessed be God.
So is eschatological in the sense that it calls us, as it called the original users of the psalm, to celebrate the reign of God in the face of evidence to the contrary. Yes, God reigns. Yes, the enemies have already been scattered. And yes, there are enemies that have not yet been scattered. As we live in this tension between what is already our experience of God’s reign and what is not yet our experience, we need at least one thing: strength—the strength of God. And it is this strength displayed for us in the psalm that is also and finally promised to us in the psalm: “The God of Israel gives power and strength to his people” (68:35). He gives us power to face all the kinds of opposition we encounter in life. He gives us power to produce an “abundant harvest” in life. He gives us power to praise him as the source of our life. He gives us power to pray for our enemies that all of the “kingdoms of the earth” might one day join in the singing of the praises of the God who reigns (see ). [Futato, 228.]
Mark D. Futato, “The Book of Psalms,” in Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol 7: The Book of Psalms, The Book of Proverbs (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2009), 228.]
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If the ancient people of God could live with this strength, how much more can we. For the ascension of the king to his throne in ancient times, whether in history or liturgy, was only a foreshadowing of the ultimate enthronement of the divine king in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul applies 68:18 to Christ in , and then goes on to explain that this ascension of Christ was to the end “that he might fill the entire universe with himself” (). Paul understood the main message of and proclaimed that this message is embodied in the Lord Jesus Christ. The enthroned Christ gives us all that we need, that through us “he might fill the entire universe with himself” as all the “kingdoms of the earth” bring their tribute to the king who reigns. [Futato, 228.]
Mark D. Futato, “The Book of Psalms,” in Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol 7: The Book of Psalms, The Book of Proverbs (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2009), 228.]
Note - Hymn: “Let God Arise”
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1 O Lord our God arise,
The cause of truth maintain,
And wide o’er all the peopled world,
Extend her blessed reign.
2 Thou Prince of Life arise,
Nor let Thy glory cease,
Far spread the conquest of Thy grace,
And bless the earth with peace.
3 Thou Holy Ghost, arise,
Expand Thy quickening wing,
And o’er a dark and ruined world,
Let light and order spring.
4 All on the earth arise,
To God the Saviour sing:
From shore to shore, from earth to heaven
Let echoing anthems ring.
Ralph Wardlaw, 1803.
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