Do me a favor and please read Psalm 144.
Our superscription has this as a psalm of David and there is no reason not to believe it – but what other information can we glean? Well, there is a lot going on here. We have David praising God for being his stability (vs 1), we have David giving glory to God for his ability to fight and have skills for war (vs 1 – and if I’m honest I’m a little uncomfortable with that “praise” – but that’s on me and not David), we have a declaration that God is a fortress, stronghold, and deliverer (vs 2) but then the rest of this psalm all have to do with God being the provider of peace.
- Vs 3 is about care
- Vs 5-6 are about scattering enemies
- Vs 7-8 are about deliverance from enemies
- Vs 9-15 are about the joys that happen WHEN DELIVERED (you simply don’t thrive, sing, and increase in numbers when your enemies have routed you)
I’m going to be honest with you – I cannot stop coming back to verse 1. It’s simply not in my nature and thought to think of war and battle and having to go to it and through it. I DID spend time in my younger years looking at the different branches of the military and if I was being called into them but that didn’t last too long. And while coming to the end of seminary I also spent quite a bit of time focused on the Army and doing so as a Chaplain but ultimately recognized that God had something else in store for me. And while I’m not against the military, I’m not against war and battle when it is necessary (is it EVER necessary? Good conversation there) it’s simply hard for me to swallow that God “trains” the hands of his servants for war or their “fingers for battle.” Where is THAT conversation in the Gospels? Oh…it’s not. So what do we do with this?
Well, we first must recognize the fact that times were different. It was kill or be killed. Secondly, we must also recognize that God DID train David’s hands. All that time he spent as a shepherd out in the fields. All that time he spent learning how to defend the sheep from massively large animals that would not only easily take off with a sheep but could do so also to the shepherd! And yet it was during that time that God was training him to become the defender and protector of God’s people. It was during those years that he learned the skills necessary to eventually bring down Goliath (1 Sam 17). But we must remember, the skills God gave to David were for protection, for preservation, for deliverance, and for a future. They weren’t to be used for vengeance or just because he could – and we realize this when we remember that David had NUMEROUS opportunities to kill Saul and yet he never took them. Why? Because that was not the man God had called him to be or why he would become king.
God is not in the business of war. God is not in the business of blood and guts and destroying people. God is in the “deliverance” and “protection” business (that sounds/feels weird to say). God seeks to give his people refuge, hope, and peace. A future where there is no war, no battles, no death and destruction – only life. This is why the Bible is a story about hope, redemption, and saving by way of Jesus Christ. Yes all that war stuff is there but it’s to show you how broken we are and that at our own hands the war doesn’t stop, the battles rage on, and nobody wins. It is only by way of the Son of God that death and destruction are put to an end. And in the end? The Bible, by way of Jesus Christ, is a story about what we read in verses 7-15: deliverance, rescue, protection, joy, hope, worship, growth, life, and blessings.
This psalm is a great reminder that protection and a future come by way of God and God alone. This psalm is a great reminder that God is in the business of life and he’ll do what is necessary to destroy the evil forces of this world – so much so that he sacrificed himself to destroy and overcome the work of evil and Satan.
Some questions I think are good to chew on and discuss:
- How do we see us being “trained” for battle by way of the Gospel’s proclamation of Jesus Christ? That is, by what Christ teaches us – how do we combat evil and sin and bad people? Do we use guns and knives? Is there something else? (here’s a hint: what does Ephes 6:10-20 say?)
- Follow Up Question: How do you and I live into that today?
- How often, when faced with some type of “enemy”, do you try to do things on your own instead of asking God to deliver, protect, and work this through?