For the Love of God, Volume 1/July 9
From Gospel Translations
Joshua 11; Psalm 144; Jeremiah 5; Matthew 19
VERSES 12-14 OF PSALM 144 PICTURE an idyllic situation in the land: sons and daughters multiplying and healthy, barns filled with produce, cattle filling the fields, trade flourishing, military defenses secure, freedom from some regional superpower, basic prosperity and contentment in the streets. What will bring about these conditions?
The answer is summarized in the last verse: “Blessed are the people of whom this is true; blessed are the people whose God is YAHWEH” (144:15). This last line means more than that these people happen to have preferred a certain brand of religion. It means, rather, that if this God—the one true God—owns a people— a people who in confessing him as their God trust him and worship him and obey him—that people is blessed indeed. And because this last verse is a summarizing verse, the unpacking of this notion is found in the rest of the psalm.
The psalm opens in praise to “the LORD my Rock”—a symbol that is evocative of absolute stability and security. This God trains the hands of the king for war: that is, his providential rule works through the means of supplying and strengthening those whose responsibility it is to provide the national defense, while they for their part rely on him and do not pretend their military prowess is somehow a sign of innate superiority (144:1-2). Far from it: human beings are fleeting, nothing but passing shadows (144:3-4). What we must have is the presence of the Sovereign of the universe, his powerful intervention: “Part your heavens, O LORD, and come down; touch the mountains, so that they smoke” (144:5). When the Lord takes a hand, David and his people are rescued from danger, oppression, and deceit (144:7-8). What this evokes is fresh praise “to the One who gives victory to kings, who delivers his servant David” (144:10). When God takes a hand, the result is the security and fruitfulness described in verses 10-15.
Here is a balance rarely understood—still more rarely achieved. It applies every bit as much to, say, revival in the church, as it applies to the security and prosperity of the ancient nation of Israel. On the one hand, there is a deep recognition that what is needed is for the Lord to rend the heavens and come down. But on the other hand, this generates no passivity or fatalism, for David is confident that the Lord’s strength enables him to fight successfully. What we do not need is an arrogant “can do” mentality that tacks God onto the end, or a clichéd spirituality that confuses passion with passivity. What we do need is the power of the sovereign, transforming, God.