PSALM 144 TALK:   BATTLE HYMN FOR TRUE BELIEVERS

PSALM 144 TALK:   BATTLE HYMN FOR TRUE BELIEVERS

(This is the seventh Psalm of a collection of eight Psalms attributed to King David in the fifth and final book of Psalms. This Psalm features the idea of God being our protector and deliverer in the many battles of this life for all true believer in the God of the bible).

(THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide”.

INTRODUCTION

One of my current ministries at my local church at this time is to help lead the singing during the church service I attend. The service I attend is a more traditional form of worship and we often sing manly older hymns mixed with some new ones and one day to my surprise the organist for the day chose the famous American civil war hymn, “Battle Hymn of the Republic”.

I knew this hymn but had never sung it in church before but I’m sure if I was an American Christian I would have sung this famous hymn many times in church in America. I enjoyed singing the hymn and so did most of the congregation that day and when I went home I looked up both the words and the story behind this famous American hymn.

The words of Battle Hymn of the Republic were written by a lady named Julie Ward Howe in 1861. Julie Ward Howe was an abolitionist who after visiting union or Northern troop camps in and around Washington DC wrote the words of this famous hymn to the tune of a song she heard many union soldiers singing called, “John Browns Body”.

John Browns body was a song about a famous radical abolitionist who attempted to start a slave rebellion in the south of America but failed and was later executed. Julie Ward Howe must have had the distinctive tune of the original song swimming around in her brain because she woke up in the middle of the night in her Washington Hotel room and wrote down very quickly her words to this hymn that read like this,

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword;
His truth is marching on.

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.

I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps;
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps,
His day is marching on.

I have read His fiery gospel writ in rows of burnished steel!
“As ye deal with my condemners, so with you My grace shall deal!
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel, ”
Since God is marching on.

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat;
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him; be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on.

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me;
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free!
While God is marching on.

The song like many parts of the bible use military imagery to speak of the great spiritual battle we are all caught up in which Paul makes plain with these words from Ephesians 6: 12,

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”.

 Wars and rumours of wars Jesus predicted would feature the last days of this world before he comes again to do away with sin, tribulation and the Devil and take all true believers to heaven as the first line of Julie Ward Howe hymn speaks of,

“Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord”

 It is said that these were the last public words spoken by the great American civil rights leader Martin Luther King as the next day after he spoke them he was assassinated.

Battle Hymn of the Republic is a rallying call for all true believers to fight on in the day to day battles with sin, the world and devil a fight not fought with guns and bombs but a spiritual war where we use the spiritual weapons Paul speaks of in the verses that follow Ephesians 6: 12.

God does not leave us alone in the battlefields of life but rather he is our protector and deliverer as Paul states clearly in Ephesians 6: 10 – 11,

 “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes”.

Psalm 144 is David’s Battle Hymn for True Believers and seems to be very closely linked with an earlier Psalm, Psalm 18. Many of the images and even words and terms used in Psalm 144 are found throughout Psalm 18.

 I like Tremper Longman 111 explanation of the possible connections between these two wonderful Psalms,

“Psalm 18 thanks God for saving him, while Psalm 144 requests God to save him”.

 Maybe David wrote Psalm 144 first when he first became king of Israel and faced many external threats from Nations around him like the Philistines who had just soundly defeated the former king of Israel, King Saul.

Psalm 144 then was David praying for protection and deliverance from these fierce and powerful enemies and then when God answered David with many great remarkable victories over nations like the Philistines as recorded in 2 Samuel 8 he wrote Psalm 18.

Psalm 18 was modelled on Psalm 144 and is a much fuller praise of the protection and deliverance God gave David over his enemies.

Psalm 18 could well be David’s fulfilment of the promise he made in verses 9 and 10 of Psalm 144,

“I will sing a new song to you, my God; on the ten-stringed lyre I will make music to you,
10 to the One who gives victory to kings, who delivers his servant David”.

 Maybe the original collectors and editors of David’s Psalms of the first book of Psalm left out Psalm 144 because it was now superseded by Psalm 18 or they simply did not know of David’s first composition asking for God’s protection and deliverance from his many enemies. However, the later collectors and editors of book 5 somehow found David’s original Psalm 144 and decided to include it in this final collection of Psalms written by David.

So, in this Psalm talk I will use David’s war and battle images as metaphors for the war or battle we are involved in spiritually with the world, the flesh and the devil and also so the very real connection of David’s words of praise for God’s protection and deliverance in Psalm 18. Hopefully I will produce for you a true “Battle Hymn for all true Believers” and so with this in mind my headings for this Psalm are:

     1.  (1 – 8)   GOD MY PROTECTOR

  1. (1 – 4)God the protector of the unworthy
  2. (5 – 8)Powerful protector active in history

2     (9 – 11)   GOD MY DELIVERER

  1. (9 – 10) A new song of deliverance promised
  2. (vs.11)  A prayer for deliverance

     3.  (12 – 15) GOD MY PROVIDER

  1. (12 – 14) God’s blessings of his protection and deliverance
  2. (vs. 15) Blessings, protection, deliverance only for true believers

 Using these headings, let’s now have a closer look at this “Battle Hymn for true Believers”:

      1.   (1 – 8)   GOD MY PROTECTOR

             1.   (1 – 4)  God the protector of the unworthy

As I said in my introduction this Psalm contains a lot of images and even phrases used in Psalm 18 and also other Psalms of David and some bible scalars have criticised this Psalm as some later writers attempt to compose a Psalm of David piecing together bits and pieces of previous Psalms of David particularly Psalm 18.

I like the explanation and quote H.C. Leopold gives in his commentary on this issue,

In place of the idea that this Psalm is an inferior piece of patchwork it might be well to consider the possibility that Schmidt suggests that we have here, ‘an original work of art’”

The opening verse of this Psalm is a praise of God David made for how God is the source of his protection and even battle skills in the fierce battles he had already faced,

“Praise be to the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle”.

 David often called God his rock something that features in my Psalm talk on Psalm 28 which commences with the words,

“To you Lord I call; you are my Rock, do not turn a deaf ear to me”

 Then in Psalm 18, which we believe was written after God answered the battle prayer of this Psalm David writes in verse 46,

“The Lord lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be God my Saviour”

 David wrote or prayed in Psalm 61 verse 2,

“From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I”.

 Over and over again throughout the life of David God protected him like a rock which he could hide behind and even when he was forced into physical battle God was a rock for him as he gave him the skill or ability to fight as he says in the second part of verse 1,

“Who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle”.

 Sometimes I watch action movies that contain very sure and even conceited men who act like they are invincible, dogging bullets and winning physical battles against lots of enemies who attack them and I often think it would only take one slip or false move and a bullet would simply bring them down.

However, Hollywood would suggest that true heroes possess unbelievable luck to doge the may bullets that come at them. In reality, there is no such thing as luck or all powerful human beings who are invincible but rather there is only an all- powerful and all- knowing God in whose hands is our destiny as David makes clear by what he suggests in the second part of verse 1 of Psalm 144 and makes clear by what he says in Psalm 18: 35,

“You make your saving help my shield,and your right hand sustains me; your help has made me great”.

 This verse in Psalm 18 also reflects what David, I believe originally prayed for in Psalm 144 which I have proposed was David’s prayer for protection and deliverance soon after he became king of Israel.

This reflection of Psalm 18: 35 and verse 2 of that same Psalm is what David is speaking about in his Psalm 144 verse 2 version of these concepts,

He is my loving God and my fortress,my stronghold and my deliverer,my shield, in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoplesunder me”.

 The big additive in verse 2 of Psalm 144 is the wonderful concept of God’s love expressed in the opening words of verse 2,

“He is my loving God”

Which is an Old testament reference to the Covenant of Love David and other writers of the Psalms knew and often referred to. This covenant of love is expressed in Deuteronomy 7: 7 – 9,

“The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments”.

 David trusted completely in this God of covenant love and God protected him from his enemies on many occasions like a fortress, stronghold, shield and deliverer. This means that David did not believe he had some kind of right to the protection and deliverance of God but rather that God only gave it to him because he was a great God of love who is always faithful to his promises.

This aspect of God’s underserved love for us is made even clearer in the New Testament in so many places like what Paul says about our spiritual deliverance or salvation in Romans 8: 6 – 8,

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”.

 God helped David not only by protecting him from his enemies but also God delivered him from many of them expressed so well in the words at the end of verse 2 that simply says,

“Who subdues peoples under me”.

 In the past, some Christians have gone to war literally with their enemies expecting a kind of Old Testament victory over them but they failed to realise that we are not fighting a physical war or battle but a spiritual one and our weapons of war in these battles are spiritual ones as Paul states clearly in 2 Corinthians 10: 3 – 5,

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ”.

 Our battle hymn is that we are weak and defenceless against the mighty forces of evil but as Paul states clearly in Ephesians 6: 10 – 11, we are strong because we trust in a strong and loving God,

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes”.

This volubility and weakness to protect and defend ourselves is made even clearer by what David states in verses 3 and 4 of Psalm 144,

“Lord, what are human beings that you care for them,mere mortals that you think of them?
They are like a breath; their days are like a fleeting shadow”.

The question David proposes in verse 3 is very similar to the question he proposes in Psalm 8: 3 – 4,

“When I consider your heavens,the work of your fingers,the moon and the stars,which you have set in place,what is mankind that you are mindful of them,human beings that you care for them?”

 Albert Barnes makes it clear what David is saying in Psalm 144 verse 3 and Psalm 8 verse 4 with these words,

The idea is, it is amazing that a being so insignificant as man should be an object of interest to God, or that One so great should pay any attention to him and to his affairs”.

 This is then both a statement of the insignificance and weakness of mankind and the great love of God in that he not only is interested in us but as we shall see is willing to get involved in our world and with us in a most costly way to deliver or save us.

Our volubility in the battles of life against powerful spiritual forces is made even clearer again by David’s description of us in verse 4,

“They are like a breath; their days are like a fleeting shadow”.

 Allan Harman points out our volubility and its corresponding needs in these words,

“It means man’s existence is of such a fleeting nature, then how much does he need the Lord’s help”.

 David needed the Lord’s help and protection so much but as we have seen in the previous verses he acknowledged that God had given it to him in the following three ways, God was his,

  1. Rock – fortress or stronghold
  2. Fighting equipper
  3. Deliverer

 

We have the same promise of rock, equipper and deliverer or saviour in the words of that great doxology at the end of Jude – verses 24 – 25,

To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25 to the only God our Saviour be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.

 So, our Battle Hymn for true believers clearly states that even though we are weak and spiritually powerless the Lord makes the difference in our lives by him making us strong against all the forces we are in battle with.

      2.   (5 – 8)   Powerful protector active in history

There are many people in the past and even today who say they believe in God or an active first force but he or that force is not still active in our world, rather he or the force set the world up like a clock that was started ticking and then left it ticking away and it takes it’s natural course according to the general laws of nature this so called absent God or force set down.

This belief in God is called Deism and it is believed this is the kind of God Albert Einstein believed in.

I believe verses 5 – 7 of this Psalm 144 put down the idea of God being absent from this world after he created it for David prays,

“Part your heavens, Lord, and come down;touch the mountains, so that they smoke.
Send forth lightning and scatter the enemy; shoot your arrows and rout them.Reach down your hand from on high;deliver me and rescue mefrom the mighty waters, from the hands of foreigners”.

 David is asking for God to personally intervene into his day and protect him from his powerful enemies. Which David later thanked God for in Psalm 18: 6 – 15.

How could David come to pray such a prayer as this?

The simple reason is that David was not a Deist but as I am and I believe all true believers are a theist who believes in the God of the bible. David knew from the bible and his own personal experience of this God that God does get involved in our world and always has.

What David is asking for sounds very much like what happened in the book of Exodus when his ancestors where at Mount Sinai as we read in Exodus 20: 18 – 19,

 “When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance 19 and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.”

 I don’t think David literally wants God to do a Mt Sinai as I believe verses 5 and 6 are a poetic image of God reaching down in power and might to protect and deliver David from his enemies. He puts this intervention of God another way in a Psalm like Psalm 57: 3,

“He sends from heaven and saves me,rebuking those who hotly pursue me- God sends forth his love and his faithfulness”.

 I stated before that David believed in a God who actively intervenes in the lives of those who put their trust in him because of his faith in God’s word the bible and his own experience. He is speaking in Psalm 57 of his experience of God’s intervention in his life to save and protect him in Psalm 57 and later in that Psalm states it again this way in verse 10,

“For great is your love, reaching to the heavens;your faithfulness reaches to the skies”.

 The heading for Psalm 57 is that David wrote this Psalm or came to the idea of it from his experience of being trapped in a cave when on the run from King Saul who sought to kill him.

David actually survived twice from being trapped in a cave and both times sceptics could say that was not God who saved David but good luck but David did not believe in luck in the battles of his life, a battle he described as being rescued from mighty waters (vs. 7) another direct reference to Psalm 18 for in verses 16 and 17 we read,

“He reached down from on high and took hold of me;he drew me out of deep waters.

17 He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me”.

 So, again what David asked God to do for him in this Psalm 144 he actually did for David, it seems because of what have just read in Psalm 18 verses 16 – 17.

We know the hot water or rather mighty waters was the attack of foreign enemies as we read at the end of verse 7,

“From the hands of foreigners”

Foreigners like the Philistines who God helped David totally defeat according to 2 Samuel 8:1. Other foreign nations are mentioned in 2 Samuel 8 like Moabites, the king of Zobah, Arammeans and many others. After these many victories, I believe David probably wrote Psalm 18 and in verse 3 of that Psalm David boldly says this,

“I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I have been saved from my enemies”.

 In a far greater way we have been saved by the God of the bible who wonderfully got involved in history when he,

“Reached down his hand from on high” (verse 7)

This is when God sent his Son into the world who took flesh to save us from our sins as John boldly declares in John 1: 14,

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth”.

 Or as John says in chapter 3 verse 16,

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”.

 I also believe in a God who intervenes into the lives of men even today as I have seen answers to my prayers that could be also explained away as good luck but over and over again I see them as God helping me in my daily life to protect and guide me in the many battles of life.

Lastly in this second part of the first section of this Psalm 144 David speaks of the nature of his enemies he needs God’s intervention to protect and save him from in these words,

“Whose mouth are full of lies, whose right hands are deceitful”.

 In our spiritual battles of life, we like David are up against the Devil who Jesus called both a liar and the father of lies, John 8: 44,

“You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies”.

 If David is speaking about foreign enemies he is possibly speaking of the often deceitful and false alliances and promises his enemies made but David knew their real intentions as he expressed in Psalm 2: 1 – 3,

“Why do the nations conspireand the peoples plot in vain?The kings of the earth rise up

and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,“Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.”

 Again, in the battles of life as in any conflict the wise course of action is know your enemy and also know your bible so as true believer’s our best preparation in the battles of life is know and put into practice the advice James states in James 4: 7 – 10,

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up”.

 In the life’s battles the hymn should sing is of the great God of heaven and earth who is willing to intervene into our daily lives for all true believers if they but call on him turning away from the devil and his lies and humbling ourselves before our loving saving God.

 2     (9 – 11)   GOD MY DELIVERER

  1. (9 – 10) A new song of deliverance promised

On four other occasions David uses this expression “a new song”, Psalm 33:3, 40: 3, 96: 1 and 98: 1 and we also find the same expression in Isaiah 42: 10.

Here in verse 9 of Psalm 144 David is promising to sing a new song to the Lord on a special instrument he played called, “ten string lyre”. It seems the normal instrument David played was a 5-string lyre but he also had a larger and fuller sounding 10 string lyre and Leopold suggests why David refers to his new song of praise being played on a ten- string lyre rather than 5 string lyre as,

“to allow for full toned music and thus suggest that an effort to match the greatness of the mercy received is going to be made”.

 What does David and Isaiah mean by the expression “sing a new song”?

I have had two attempts to explain this phrase before and will share with you now my two attempts to explain this phrase:

  1. Psalm 33: 3,

“For David writing new songs was not a strange experience as we have over 73 original works of David in the book of Psalms alone. But Leupold points out there is three possible interpretations of this concept of a new song: 

    1.   Singing the old hymn with deeper understanding

    2.   Fresh colour to and old hymn

    3.  The composition of a song entirely new”.

Whatever David is referring to in this verse his deliverance experience caused him to sing. Music has been described by many as “The expression of the emotions of the heart” and when we sing with meaning or from the heart we are expressing our true understanding of what God has done for us in delivering us from the power of sin and death.”.

 

  1. Psalm 98: 1,

 

To sing a new song to God does not necessarily mean that we are to compose new songs all the time and not sing old songs.

The Hebrew meaning for “New Song” is apparently, “made or become fresh.” This means that old songs we know and love can be “New Songs”, when we sing them from a fresh or renewed understanding of God and his word.

 I know sometimes I sing in church old songs and I fail to really connect in my heart to the wonderful truths of its words. However more than often I sing something in church or at a special Christian meeting that I have sang many times before but God’s spirit moves in my heart with a fresh appreciation of what it is saying to me about God and his word, then it is truly a “New Song”.

 If Psalm 144 is the request for God to deliver or save him from his many enemies and Psalm 18 is that request answered and praised then Psalm 18 could well be David’s new song he promises to compose here.

 As a singer, musician and even song writer myself I can identify with David and his obvious enthusiasm to use his music to praise and glorify God and I must stress as David did that he saw the main value of music as a vehicle to glorify God as he makes plain by what he goes on to say in verse 10,

“To the One who gives victory to kings, who delivers his servant David”.

 He promises to give credit to the one who credit is due namely his God who gives him victories in the battles of his life. Victories for David, verse 10 indicates are victories for his people as he is their king but note David does not want any glory for his unique privileged position as King as he then calls himself God’s servant.

Even the Lord Jesus spoke of himself as God’s servant who had a great mission to save us as we read in Mark 10: 45,

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

 Paul makes it clear we are to be like the Lord Jesus and serve one another, Galatians 5: 13.

“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love”.

 Peter also makes a similar point in 1 Peter 4: 10,

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms”.

 So, David promises as God’s king and servant to sing a new song to the Lord, which could be an old song sung with new understanding and meaning once God has delivered him from his current battle with his enemies. We to should always be ready to praise our God for his deliverance or salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ in our daily battles of life as Paul encourages the Colossians to do in Colossians 3: 15 – 17,

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him”.

       2    (vs.11) A prayer for deliverance

We come then to the end of verse 10 and verse 11 which is like a refrain as the words in verse 11 are almost identical to the words David used in verses 7 and 8. David writes in verse 10b and verse 11,

“From the deadly sword deliver me; rescue me from the hands of foreigners whose mouths are full of lies, whose right hands are deceitful”.

 David is obviously facing very difficult times at the hands of his enemies and again makes it clear to God in prayer the heavy burden he bares which is, I think, made even more clearer by David using these words as a kind of refrain or poetic summary of the main point of his Psalm.

In David’s time the principle weapon of destruction was the sword which he calls in the hands of his foreign enemies who are lying and deceitful a deadly sword.

Note again that David is not just saying he faces just physical force but he also faced verbal abuse as his enemies use their tongues and mouths to destroy him.

A missionary on home leave who serves with his wife and family in India spoke in our church today and referred to what he called “Hate crimes” by those who oppose Christians there at the moment. They falsely accuse Christians of all sorts of made up charges and have them thrown in jail awaiting a court appearance. He said usually after a couple of months in jail awaiting trial they are freed as the charges are dismissed by the courts as being false.

The devil has and will use lies and deceit to bring down and destroy true believers as a proven battle tactic but we must always find courage in the words of Paul in Romans 8: 37 – 39,

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

     3.   (12 – 15) GOD MY PROVIDER

            1.   (12 – 14) God’s blessings of his protection and deliverance

Some bible scalars argue that the final four verses did not belong to the original Psalm of David and because of the reference to breaching walls and captivity in verse 14 these verses were made up and added to this Psalm after the return from Babylonian captivity.

However, there is another logical conclusion to this problem and that is that David has moved by faith from his desperate need for protection and deliverance to what he sees as the possible outcomes he and his nation would have when they had victory over their enemies.

Victory over his enemies he argues will lead to God’s blessings of a strong and vital nation, prosperous and free of the possibility of being overrun by powerful and vicious Godless foreigners.

So, I believe David presents three main forms of national blessings if God protects and delivers his people from battle or war with his many enemies and these are presented in what I call Old Testament material benefits:

  1. A strong and vital future for the nation and its people (vs. 12)
  2. A materially prosperous nation (vs. 13)
  3. A sense of national security and peace (vs. 14)

Let’s then have a closer look at these three Old Testament style blessings God’s protection and deliverance will bring to David and his people:

  1. A strong and vital future for the nation and its people (vs. 12)

Each of the three forms of blessing are not only spoken of in Old Testament realities but are also presented in poetic imagery as well.

The first of these Old Testament blessings is what I have called a strong and vital future for the nation and its people and verse 12 reads this way,

“Then our sons in their youth will be like well- nurtured plants, and our daughters will be like pillars carved to adorn a palace”.

 I like Albert Barnes explanation of this verse when he writes,

“That our sons – not called forth to the hardships of the tent and the field, the perils and the exposures of war – may grow up under the culture of home, of the family, in quiet scenes, as plants carefully cultivated and flourishing”.

 This concept of the Children of Israel being blessed by God because of the protection and deliverance God would give his faithful true believers is stated in his covenant agreement with his people Israel as we see in Deuteronomy 28: 1 – 4,

“If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God:3 You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country 3 The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks”.

 The second half of verse 12 speaks of not only sons flourishing in a secure blessed nation delivered from the battles of war but the nation’s daughters as well,

“And our daughters will be like pillars carved to adorn a palace”.

 Apparently, many ancient Palaces and Temples featured statues of sleek and healthy young females on their walls and pillars. This image would be a vital and real one for the people of Old Testament times and again represents healthy vital young people who David believed would thrive once the threat and turmoil of foreign invasion had passed.

So, in Old Testament, Old Covenant sense the blessing of children living in a safe and prosperous land is what I believe David has in mind,

However, what does God promise us in the New Covenant as his blessings for being his faithful true believers?

Here are three important New Testament, New Covenant promises we have in Christ:

1.    Eternal Inheritance through Christ – Hebrews 9: 15,

For this reason, Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant”.

  1. Every Spiritual blessing in Christ – Ephesians 1: 3,

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ”. 

  1. God’s blessing of the Holy Spirit – Romans 8: 26 – 27,

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

 Finally, Paul declares in the next verse of Romans 8, verse 28 that he works everything for Good for those who are faithful true believers,

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, whohave been called according to his purpose.

  1. A materially prosperous nation (vs. 13)

The next verse, verse 13 and the start of verse 14 along with other Old Testament verses like it have been miss – quoted by many Christians to imply that God promises all faithful true believers material blessing in this life as it says,

“Our barns will be filled with every kind of provision. Our sheep will increase by thousands by tens of thousands in our fields; our oxen will draw heavy loads”.

 This is a miss quote or wrong interpretation as this is again Old Testament, Old Covenant promises like the one before concerning prosperous families. I refer back to Deuteronomy 28: 1 – 4,

“If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God:3 You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country 3 The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks”.

As I said in connection with the last verse this promise of material blessing to God’s faithful people has been superseded by the greater and far more reaching promises of the New Covenant.

However, I am not advocating that God does not bless Christians with strong stable families and even material blessings. I have seen over all my years in the church how often the turning to Christ by a husband and wife leads to a far more stable, happy family and often brings material benefits but material benefits in this life is not a guarantee for those who turn to Christ as God is not concerned primarily for our earthly happiness but his concern is for our eternal holiness or sanctification which will lead to us glorifying his wonderful name as Paul make clear by Romans 5: 1 – 5,

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, wehave peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And weboast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but wealso glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us”.

 We must realise we live in sinful fallen world, that even as Christians our bodies suffer the consequences of sin which is decay and death and on top of thiat we are caught up as God’s faithful true believers in a constant and great spiritual battle. Like David we should pray for protection and deliverance from all this but total victory in this great battle will not come unto The Lord Jesus Christ returns and all evil and those associated with it is done away with as predicted in passages like Revelation 20: 11 – 15.

Following this passage in Revelation we have the wonderful description of the New Heaven and the New Earth that results from the final judgment and its cleansing processes and in Revelation 21: 1 – 4 we read of the great hope all faithful true believers can look forward to,

“Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

 Up to that great day God does not leave us all alone in the battles of life but he through the Lord Jesus Christ and his Holy Spirit stands with us to comfort, protect and even fight for us in every difficulty the battle of life can bring upon us Paul confidently told the Thessalonians in 2 Thessalonians 3: 3,

But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one”

  1. A sense of national security and peace (vs. 14)

The final outcome and blessing David predicts will come to him and his people if God protects and delivers them from their enemies is what I call a sense of national security and peace expressed in the words and poetic images of verse 14,

“There will be no breaching of walls, no going into captivity, no cry of distress in our streets”.

 We must always try to come to terms with the words and images used in the Psalms in the context of the ancient world they were written in and here in verse 14 we have a great example of this.

The people lived in the ancient world lived under the constant threat of being conquered and over run by other nations. Ancient history is littered with stories of peace loving and often materially successful nations being conquered and overrun by an enemy. The miracles of the history of Israel and the Jews is that even as a tiny in worldly terms insignificant nation or race of people they survived so long throughout history when far more powerful nations perished.

The conquering of a nation in ancient times involved invasion and usually the sieging of cities that always had large walls around them to protect them from invading armies. This is why David says that if God protects them and delivers them from their enemies that would experience,

“No breaching of walls”.

 Once a wall of a city was breached the conquered population was often taken into captivity as happened to the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 722BC by the Assyrians and then nearly 200 hundred years later the Southern Kingdom of Judah was overrun and taken into captivity by the Babylonians in 587BC and Jerusalem’s walls were breached and its people were taken in captivity,

        2   (vs. 15)   Blessings, protection, deliverance only for true believers

I have many non-believing friends and family who I seek to be a witness to but they often seem so entrenched in ignoring God and even considering that faith God has any value and purpose. I know many of my non-believing friends and family even find me to be an irritant to their so called Godless existence. I often wish them well on their birthdays and other special times but deep inside I know that without turning to God in faith and obedience there is no real blessing from God for them because all the promises of God are for faithful true believers.

David makes this clear in the closing verse of his Psalm 144,

“Blessed is the people of whom this is true, blessed is the people whose God is the Lord”.

 Certainly, God does bless both the righteous and the unrighteous in this life as Jesus makes clear from what he said in Matthew 5: 45,

“He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous”.

 The context of Jesus words here is his call for us to love our enemies and be like his father our God in heaven who believe sent his son The Lord Jesus Christ into the world and has made us his children. So wishing non-believers well is acting like our Father in heaven and his Son, The Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus put his words into action about loving our enemies even when he was being crucified he prayed for the forgiveness of those who were nailing him to the cross.

However, David is correct, the best and only way for people to have a guarantee of God’s blessing in their lives is by people having a true and genuine faith in the God of the bible who David calls,

“God the Lord”

I like Albert Barnes comments on this verse when he writes,

“Prosperity and peace, such as are referred to in the previous verses, are, and must be, the result of pure religion. Peace, order, abundance, attend it everywhere, and the best security for a nation‘s prosperity is the worship of God; that which is most certain to make a nation happy and blessed, is to acknowledge God and to keep his laws”.

 All through this Psalm I have referred to two unique aspects of this Psalm, which are:

  1. The images of ancient battle and war which I have applied to the spiritual battle we as true believers are always caught up in.

2. The obvious connection of this Psalm, 144 to David’s Psalm 18, which I have advocated is that Psalm 144 is the prayer for protection and deliverance from his enemies and Psalm 18 is a praise for that protection and deliverance from those enemies.

So, if I am correct somewhere in Psalm 18 I should find evidence of both of these two unique aspects and I believe verses 25 – 29 is proof of my theory,

 “To the faithful you show yourself faithful, to the blameless you show yourself blameless,
26 to the pure you show yourself pure, but to the devious you show yourself shrewd.

27 You save the humble but bring low those whose eyes are haughty.28 You, Lord, keep my lamp burning;my God turns my darkness into light.29 With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall”.

 These are great words of praise of a faithful true believer of the God of the bible who has experienced the blessing of God for himself and his people in the form of protection and deliverance from their many enemies.

As Christians, I have advocated in this Psalm talk and many others that being a true believer in the God of the bible does not mean we will not face hardship and difficulty as we are always caught up in a great spiritual battle as Paul spoke of in Ephesians 6: 12.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”.

 We will not also escape the reality in this life that we are living in a fallen and often Godless world but this does not mean that God is not with us and even blessing us.

I am reminded here of the apt words of James in James 1: 2 – 8 about God’s purpose and role of facing the battles of life with God through the Lord Jesus by our side,

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do”.

Julie Ward Howe in 1861 saw first-hand the horrors that man’s rebellion to God can cause and even true believers like her could not escape the difficulties and trials the horrific war called the civil war in America brought to all people in its day but Julie Ward Howe saw the spiritual dimension to that war and the hope that only Faith in the God of the bible through the Lord Jesus Christ can bring and this hope and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is beautifully expressed in her last verse of her great hymn, “The Battle Hymn of the republic”,

“In the be beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,

With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me,

As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free!

While God’s is marching on”.

I close as usual with an original poem / song and a final word of prayer:

THE CHRISTIAN BATTLE SONG

(Based on Psalm 144)

Praise to the Lord my rock who trains me for war

He guides me by his hands so that I will not fall.

Against all the forces of evil he gives me success

For my God is a loving God and fortress.

A strong hold when my life is in distress

So, praise to the Lord my deliverer who longs to bless.

 

O Lord what are human beings that you care so much for them.

For they are just mortal beings Oh yes, we are just mere men.

We’re like a breath of air that’s here and gone

May our world come to see that they are wrong.

Show your power against our enemies we do long

O Lord reach down your hand make our enemies be gone.

 

I will sing a new song to you Lord on the string instrument I play.

I will sing of the victory He gives to me each day.

Great powers of darkness now oppose our God

Many enemies stand in the path that we trod

The words they use against us are the bombs they lob

But I will sing of God’s power trusting in the word of God.

 

Blessed are all the people who trust in the mighty God above.

Their sons and their daughters will be blessed with love.

And spiritual riches will be theirs all of their days

For they will be free from sins curse and Satan’s ways.

For Jesus died on the cross and in victory was raised.

Blessed then are those who turn to him in faith and praise.

By: Jim Wenman

PRAYER:

 I thank you Lord that you are always with me in the many battles of life. I thank you Father in heaven that you sent your son, Jesus Christ to die for my sins on the cross making a way back to you in heaven. I thank you Holy Spirit for your presence in my life making me strong against the devil’s attacks and interceding for me with the Father in heaven when I need assistance and help in my daily battles with sin the world and the devil. I look forward then to the day I will be with you in heaven when there will be no more pain, death and tears, when all true believers will experience your total blessing for all eternity, In Jesus name I pray this, Amen.

 

 

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