There is an unfortunate belief amongst modern Christians that God is soft and always loving. How far from the truth can they be! In this Psalm we find a God Whose wrath is final against His enemies. And He counts enemies of His people the same way, because an attack against His children is an attack against Him.
In the chapter we also find answers to our circumstances and attacks by enemies in our own day. God is just as firm and unyielding! Do not approach God’s word with blinkered eyes… if He says it, and has done it, we may not pretend otherwise.
Many Christians substitute what is said here with “Love your enemies” which, though truth, does not apply here. Why not? Because God says otherwise.
I will love thee, O LORD, my strength.
The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.
This was written for the chief Temple musician for public worship. Can you imagine any modern ruler praising God for keeping him safe? In this Psalm David writes as king, but remembering his earlier years.
Note the affirmative “I WILL love thee”? He is writing of a successful escape from his enemies, when he returned unharmed from a battle brought against him by king Saul. ‘Love’ in this text, racham, means a deep love and affection. This was after being saved from death, but David would have expressed it anyway.
He loved Jehovah because God was his strength, chezeq. That is, God allowed him to maintain a powerful presence and to grow strong and secure. It is how God wants to keep each one of us, but we mostly reject it by acting outside His will. David simply followed whatever God said, and even in war only acted when God directed him. When we act according to God’s will, we are strong, and receive many benefits.
“The LORD is my rock”. God is often referred to as ‘The Rock’, cela’. Its root means ‘lofty’, and it has the idea of a large rock or God’s stronghold. The same name is given to Christ. As his rock, God protected David from all comers. God was his fortress, a formidable and unbreachable tower… in days when evil men are winning against Christians, we must seriously ask why this is happening. It can only be that Christians today are ungodly and have no true faith, are so are not living righteously, which is the demanded criterion for receiving God’s help.
If we are righteous, He WILL protect, ‘He’ being ‘el, the mighty one, the true God Who will deliver, palat – save, make secure, allow to escape. He gives strength from Heaven; human means may, or may not, be used to bring it about. Because God does all this, David trusted Him; had faith. Do you trust God implicitly? Or is it just lip service and something you say to sound good before your peers, or even to convince yourself? This is how most Christians live.
God was David’s buckler, or magen. The magen went before his lord and held the shield as part of the soldier’s defence. God is our protector and surrounds us with His power and might. When we win, it is because of His defence.
God, our magen, was the “horn” of David’s salvation from his enemy, the horn (typically of a bull) being symbolic for strength and power. It also has a root meaning of ‘to shine’ and to produce something. “Salvation”, yesha’, means both victory and safety. David had both, because God protected him.
God was also David’s “high tower”. In ancient Israel there were many high towers dotted about the landscape, so that a soldier or anyone else could hide from an enemy. It had misgab, or height, with no lower windows… hence a stronghold, too high for anyone to break in. This is how we ought to see God and His word today. No-one can harm it, but an enemy can certainly harm us, if we are not righteous.
How DO you see God? How DO you see your own life and position?
I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.
The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid.
The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me.
In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.
Here we have another imperative: “I WILL call upon the LORD”. This is David calling on God no matter what happens, and loudly. Churches today have a very sad tradition – to remain silent in the face of enemies, and not to act against them. It is almost as if they were collaborators! What else are they when they do not shout out against evil? When they do not stand alongside those who are persecuted?
Only Jehovah is worthy to be praised. (Side note: Interestingly, the word for this is halal, meaning to shine forth, to be praised because worthy. In Arabic halal means to be legal or lawful; that is, permitted. Something that is not permitted is haram. Though the spelling is the same, halal in Arabic and Hebrew mean different things. The closest Hebrew word is Kosher. So, use of halal in this text has nothing to do with food or the Arabic word).
David openly admits that when the enemy surrounded him he was afraid. He is not talking about anxiety but actual terror. The enemy came upon him like “floods” or torrents, and he felt he was to meet his end: “The sorrows of death compassed me…” He doubles this idea of sorrow and fear with “The sorrows of hell compassed me about”. Do Christians admit to this kind of fear? No, most pretend they feel safe and do not admit to fear.
In 2006, when my enemies surrounded me, I knew great fear. They removed me from my job and income, then they came back at me with many more attacks, each one different and devastating. They were not ordinary attacks but an attempt at systematic destruction of me as a person. No-one helped me. Christian advocacy groups did not stand by me, only my own family. And so I felt completely oppressed. With seemingly nowhere to turn I literally became depressed, and could do nothing because of fear. Then God came to me and the severe reaction lasted only one week. This was God protecting me. He ‘shut me down’ for a week, and then gave me renewed energy and life, removing the fear.
In the past, when working in psychiatry amongst violent killers who daily erupted into great violence, I knew similar stress, and finally succumbed to a very severe illness that crippled me for a year or two, bringing me close to death. In that case, God’s protection was in removing me from the source. This kind of fear is deep and founded on real enemy activity against a person. Do not confuse it with the silly or superficial ‘fear’ caused by personal jibes or words! David was literally hounded by Saul and his army. Imagine being continually attacked by the king and always having to hide away in fear of your life!
Ungodly men CAN make us afraid. Make no mistake and do not pretend to be strong, if you have never been attacked so viciously. Even today, an elderly Christian couple is being continuously attacked by homosexuals, who have ruined their livelihood and home. Though the homosexuals were victorious in court, they continue to attack, as happened to me. The couple intend staying firm in their beliefs, but they are still very afraid, with good reason. I believe that if they stand firm, God will protect them and give them new hope. What about you? Do you make enough of a difference to warrant being attacked for your faith? If not, why not? We should never seek to be attacked – but we should always witness to our God.
The “snares of death prevented” David. That is, the trap that is death by violence confronted David face-to-face, stopping him from making progress. He was hamstrung by his own fear, but the fear was based in a very real threat to his life. Troubles can do that – we are so concerned with what is causing us pain that we let go of our faith, and the trouble takes over our thoughts and actions. Yet, GOD is our magen, or shield bearer! We do not have to face the enemy alone! But, we often do, forgetting God in our moment of fear.
David went through this terrifying experience, and then called upon God. “In my distress I called upon the LORD”. “Distress” is a reference to the enemy, hard as flint, and surrounding him. He was oppressed on all sides. Christians today are coming to this position, as wicked men and governments go about dismantling our very minds and hearts, with evil laws and persecution. Even so, it is at this very point of attack that we must call upon the Lord.
We see David calling upon Jehovah (LORD) as mighty supreme ruler, who was his personal Lord of helps, ‘elohiym (also ‘LORD’). He cried out! He petitioned God with fervour rooted in his fear and yet trust. And God “heard (his) voice” in Heaven (“his temple”)! It is worth repeating – when we live righteously, God hears us and helps us, even in our fear. Righteousness is essential to our wellbeing. If you call upon God and there is no answer – look to your life to see if it is holy! (It is also true that God will sometimes allow us to go through terrors, as a trial of our faith).
Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because he was wroth.
There went up a smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured: coals were kindled by it.
He bowed the heavens also, and came down: and darkness was under his feet.
And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind.
This next part of David’s song is chilling, because it shows us the other side of our God. To us He is our Father and friend. To our enemies He is the gloriously wrathful Lord of Heaven Who will destroy them. The verses here symbolise God’s wrath and terror against the enemies; it speaks of His utter victory over the evil ones. Hence words that show us darkness, smoke, wrath, and so on.
It is possible that the wording is literal in places – perhaps there was an earthquake. But, the figurative meaning is one of God’s might being shown against Saul: the very earth quaked because of His wrath. Verse 8 vividly depicts God’s anger against Saul. God was so angry He ‘came down’ or displayed His anger on earth, bringing the darkness of death upon the enemy.
“And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly”. This might refer to a mighty angel sent by God as a symbol for David’s hope, but it seems God Himself is spoken of here. The ‘cherub’ is another word for a chariot, which flew “upon the wings of the wind”. The fury of God, when unleashed, is not something to relish. It is brought upon an enemy like an hammer, smashing them to dust.
So, be faithful, Call upon God even if you experience real fear. If you are righteous, He will come swiftly and defeat your enemies. If you do not believe it, why read this Psalm and why pretend to have faith?
He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies.
At the brightness that was before him his thick clouds passed, hail stones and coals of fire.
The LORD also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave his voice; hail stones and coals of fire.
Yea, he sent out his arrows, and scattered them; and he shot out lightnings, and discomfited them.
Then the channels of waters were seen, and the foundations of the world were discovered at thy rebuke, O LORD, at the blast of the breath of thy nostrils.
God does not show Himself as He is to wicked men, but keeps behind dark clouds. Out of these clouds shine His majesty and power. No unsaved man can search for God and discover His innermost dealings. Only the saved are shown anything of God, in Christ. This terminology also shows us that God will war against evil and yet the enemy will not even see where He has placed his war pavilion (tent)! They will not harm Him, but He will certainly harm them!
Though God is Light and everything before Him reflects His brightness, this is covered by cloud, lightning, hail stones and fire. Only the elect can see His glory! The rest can only suffer the consequences of their folly, in darkness. God speaks like thunder, and the earth quakes. This description of God’s power came about in actuality when he destroyed Sodom!
God scattered Saul’s army, his arrows (represented by David’s arrows) found their mark, and the enemy was “discomfited”… they became confused and vexed, moving about noisily in disarray. Verse 15 takes us back to Creation, when God made everything out of darkness, calling it ‘good’. All God needed to do was snort from his nostrils, and enemies would die. This is what happened, as David recalls his earlier life, running from Saul with only 400 men at his side, whilst Saul had his whole army in pursuit. With God, the size of the enemy or trouble is as nothing!
He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters.
He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them which hated me: for they were too strong for me.
They prevented me in the day of my calamity: but the LORD was my stay.
Those who have suffered little, or not at all, cannot understand these words. To them, the words are just poetry, something to believe without conviction. But, to those who have suffered, or lost those most dear to them, the words are honey spread on a feast sent by God, cool water poured into a parched mouth, sun warming the frozen soul, and great comfort to dismiss the worst of evils.
This speaks of a man afraid and alone, then comforted personally by Almighty God. The Lord comes to us with arms outstretched, for He already knows our need before we seek it, even before we suffer. He knows, because He foreknows, He ordains because He foreordains. Everything is known to God in eternity, and He moves to succour us even before we are born, because this is in His plan!
We only know a disaster or fear when it arises – God knows it will do so before He made the world. We only call to God for help when we realise our need. God already knows our need and began to come to our aid even before we called.
So, He came to David from above, His Heavenly home, took David, and drew him out of the many waters – the thronging enemies surrounding him. The enemies were there all around. Suddenly, God removed David from their clutches! As I have often remarked, these moments are Red Sea experiences, for in the midst of very real dangers and despair God shows His hand in an unforeseen and remarkable way. Very often I have prayed for help, but think only along human lines, expecting this or that response. But, God is above our human experience, and instead of sending this or that – He sends the ‘other’… something totally unforeseen by us and twice as amazing! This is our great Lord, the King of kings. My language here is not meant to just fill a page, or to make you feel good. I never do that, because God is my judge and He expects me to be straight.
No, I speak like this because I have known His mercy and greatness; I have known Red Sea experiences. So I can speak with authority, as can any Christian who has known the deepest of human tragedy or fear. We can vouch for each other’s amazing meeting with the Lord!
God not only helps us in our fears and worst nightmare situations. He also delivers from actual enemies, those who hate us. He helps us because we are not strong enough to do it alone. There are times when a situation or person is overwhelming in power against us. I have known this on a number of occasions. The hatred against us is so strong as to be crushing. But, God steps in and the strong one, like the devil he follows, disappears like a puff of smoke!
We might endure an horrendous situation or loss, so fearsome we are rendered numb with shock or despair. I have known that, too, as have others. Yet, God surrounds us with heavenly love, which I liken to a cocoon, and we live for a while as if in another dimension, the dimension of His glory, in which nothing harms us and no fear or despair gains control. In this cocoon we see God, and love Him for it, as He gently holds our hand and allows us to lay our head on His shoulder.
This is not fiction. It is only ‘fiction’ to those who hate God, or those Christians who have never had need… yet. Those who have not met God face to face and known His powerful arms and gentle breath on their cheeks, will have no idea what I am talking about! That is simple fact, not a boast. Once you have been cocooned by God, you cannot mistake it, nor would you ever deny it.
Today, so many godless people hate us. It is a hatred with the stench of hell behind it, and its burning flames get closer every day. Seeing what they perceive to be a triumph over God, they attack without mercy and do immense damage. But, God is not beaten! Our enemies should be thankful that He is not beaten, but holds back. If He once unleashed His anger they would die instantly. But, they think that His silence means they have won against us.
Satan help them when He finally comes to our side… for God will pummel them with His fist and will not help them. In other words, they cannot survive, for Satan is incapable of helping those whom he has enslaved to stand against the wrath of God. Our God is mighty! Do you truly believe that?
At the very time he was being attacked, God was David’s stay. Even as evil hands reached out to smite David, God was there as a buckler, shielding him from harm. Sometimes, in the midst of daunting evil or situations that threaten to bring us down, and even as we shed many hot tears, God is already at our side. We cannot see Him but He does His work, helping us to be sustained and delivered from harm and misery. He cocoons us!
He brought me forth also into a large place; he delivered me, because he delighted in me.
The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me.
For I have kept the ways of the LORD, and have not wickedly departed from my God.
For all his judgments were before me, and I did not put away his statutes from me.
I was also upright before him, and I kept myself from mine iniquity.
Therefore hath the LORD recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his eyesight.
The enemy are already doomed. Even if many do not see God’s wrath in this lifetime (or, do not recognise it), they will certainly know it at the end of time, and will be rewarded for their brief moment on earth as unbelievers, with an eternity in hell.
But, for us, there is perpetual light. God brought David to a “large place”. This is an Hebraism meaning to be shown delights and immeasurable joy; a place of expanse, freedom and goodness to our souls and bodies. God saved David, as He does us. That He does so is remarkable and inexplicable in human terms. But, it is the final phrase in verse 19 that fills me with awe: “because he delighted in me.”
Only last evening, after hearing the statement on TV, I queried what was said. It is a common phrase: “All of us have a dark side.” It implies that every person has a dual soul – one part of him is good and the other is bad. Is this true? No, it is not. It cannot be! When we were unsaved, our souls were dark, literally black as sin. We CANNOT do good, therefore everything we do is dark; we sin because it is our nature to do so.
But, when we are saved, this darkness is dispelled by the Light Who is Jesus Christ. We are made ‘new creatures’ and are ready to enter Heaven. We cannot enter Heaven unless we are free of sin as a permanent feature. We do not have two sides – we have only the side that is God’s, pure and unadulterated. The ‘old man’ certainly comes back to try us out, but he cannot win against the Lord, even though we might temporarily let God down by our silly return to sin. (See article: ‘Do We Have a Dark Side?’)
This happens because when God looks at us, He only sees His Son, Jesus Christ, Who is pure and sinless. This is why we say we are “in Christ”. The core of our being is ‘in Christ’ and pure. The sins we commit are aberrations, not part of our new creature status. So, we do not have a ‘dark side’… to say we have one, is to deny that Christ fully saves us, leaving us with a festering cancer in our new spirits.
God, then, delights in all who are His! He has a perpetual love for the saved, not because of who we are, but because of Who we are ‘in’, Jesus Christ. For this we must always be thankful, for of ourselves we deserve nothing. God delights in us not because we never sin, but simply ‘because’… because He has adopted us. We are His children, even when we disobey. The enemy knows nothing of this.
The reason God kept David was because David was chosen by God. Then, when chosen, David obeyed the Lord. Thus, “The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me.”
As I have intimated in other papers, this is something modern Christians will never say. They think it is arrogant to claim to be perfect or to say God helps us because we are holy. But, God says it here, in His word! It cannot be ignored. We come across this kind of teaching time and again in the Psalms – obey God and He will reward us. Those who reject it do so because they cannot see how we can be ‘perfect’ when we still sin (they cannot see it because of their own sin). Here, David plainly says he was rewarded with God’s mercy because he lived righteously. Without exception, all of us who are saved can claim the same thing.
The difficulty is that Christians do not understand this righteousness. It does not mean we never sin. Nor does it mean that our righteousness is somehow suspended when we do sin. If the very core of our being is holy, and this is how we wish to live, it will show in countless ways. It will guide us every moment. When we sin, it is temporary and repented of, and the sin is cut away from our souls immediately. So, we remain righteous.
But, if the very core of our being determines to avoid holiness, we will continually live as if we were not saved, and this will make us ‘unrighteous’ on this earth. There can be a big clash between our personal righteousness and the righteousness of Christ Whose sacrifice saves us, so we are not blessed by God. Once we repent, benefits resume. It is this core of our being, the intentions of our heart, that matter the most to God. Occasional sins are only ‘glitches’ in our lives trying to trip us up. They do not harm our innermost core of holiness.
David explains: “For I have kept the ways of the LORD, and have not wickedly departed from my God.” Now, we know he sinned greatly with Bathsheba, and against her husband. Nevertheless, and admitting his sin was great, he was the apple of God’s eye and could claim to have kept God’s ways. We can all do this, by not allowing sin to master us, and by saying that God is our Lord, not sin or Satan.
We do this by forever keeping God’s statutes and commands in our hearts; they must be the first thing we think of in any situation, and throughout any normal day. Then God helps us. Thus, David could say, “I was also upright before Him, and I kept myself from mine iniquity.” When we walk with God daily, we are able to defy sin and the devil, and so keep ourselves from sin. God allows us to have this freedom to choose good or bad, though it is only He Who keeps us from harm.
“Therefore” adds David, God rewards him because of his righteousness. Readers should read over these notes very carefully to understand what is being said. Note that David also says “according to the cleanness of my hands in his eyesight.” He was clean in God’s eyes, if not in the eyes of mankind! Do you REALLY get it? Do you REALLY understand what I am saying? There is no recipe for sin in anything that has been said; nor is sin ever allowed or condoned. Just bear in mind this simple fact – once you are saved, you will never see hell, but will always be in God’s eye as one favoured… because we are “in Christ”.
With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful; with an upright man thou wilt shew thyself upright;
With the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt shew thyself froward.
For thou wilt save the afflicted people; but wilt bring down high looks.
For thou wilt light my candle: the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness.
David says that God will show mercy to those who themselves show mercy, and will be upright to those who are upright. It does not mean God mimics what people do! It means that God’s help and mercy depends on how we approach God. He can show mercy to anyone He wishes, but this is not what God does. Instead, He restricts His own actions because He wishes to. Also, sinful people only see what they wish to see, whether what they ‘see’ is true or false.
The Psalms very clearly show us that we must be righteous before we can expect help from God, or anything good. Righteousness includes showing mercy and being upright in everything we do. Of course, the wickedness of unsaved men leads them to suppose that God is mean-spirited and evil, violent and grossly unfair.
This is why they concentrate on silly questions already answered in scripture – why does God allow suffering? Why is God so ‘vile’ as to expect a sacrifice? And so on. These are the questions of unbeliever’s, who do not expect a rational answer – they just want to complain and boast of man’s superiority. They do not wish to see God as merciful and upright, because of their inner misery.
Verse 26 continues this theme: God will show His purity to those who are pure, but will be froward with those who are froward. Thus, the pure will see that God is clean, pure, bright, just and kind. The wicked will not see this because of their spiritual blindness. And the same wicked men, who are ‘froward’ – perverse, crooked, twisted – will see in God a reflection of their own evils.
That is, they will project onto Him what they themselves are. God will always be righteous and good and kind – but that is not how wicked, unsaved men see Him… because they do not want to. By making God like themselves, they try to escape their own consciences and guilt, by pretending God does not exist, or that He will act against them!
The last phrase in verse 26 is then compared to the first part of verse 27, using the preposition, ‘For’. It means here to take the place of something else (the wickedness of the unsaved). As a preposition, it shows a link between what follows with what went before, which suggests that this verse was originally part of the previous one. Even if not, it shows there is a link between the last statement and the next, in the form of a contrast.
Thus, those who think and act wickedly will say God is the same as themselves, but, he will appear so differently to those who trust Him.
Rather than hide His righteousness, as He does from the wicked, He reveals Himself to the righteous by saving them from their affliction. This is not a mere possibility, but a given fact, as the imperative “thou wilt” indicates. To save in this text is yasha’, meaning to liberate, save, deliver, or even make victorious.
The ones He saves are not self-righteous or arrogant, but humble and obedient, being attacked or intimidated by the wicked or by ‘circumstances’. “The people” in this text is not universal, but only applies to the people of God – in this text, the Hebrews. But, the same can be applied to us today, as His chosen people in Christ.
Those who are arrogant will have no help from God: “(thou) wilt bring down high looks”… those who are conceited and proud. Be aware that this can also apply to saved men and women who have yet to become truly humble before the Lord. He will bring them down to the dust before He comes to help them, and only then if they repent and turn back to Him in truth and humility.
Another preposition (“For”) links what has been said to verse 28. God will “light my candle” because David was not arrogant, as were the men in the previous verse. The candle will light his darkness, or feelings of despair and fear. God will “illuminate my lamp”, or spirit/life. It also has a secondary meaning: that David’s line would continue forever. Which it did, in Christ. Then, David says: ‘Jehovah my ‘elohiym will enlighten my darkness’, meaning that God will send light into the secret place of David’s heart, showing him help. Never think God will not come to help you in whatever distress you are in. He PROMISES His help to all who obey and are righteous. He never rescinds that help.
For by thee I have run through a troop; and by my God have I leaped over a wall.
As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him.
It is this closeness of God the Father (indicated by yet another preposition, showing that what follows is the result of God’s help) that enabled David to “run through a troop” and “leap(ed) over a wall”! This is saying that by God’s strength and help, David caused his enemy, Saul’s army division, to run away, and, where necessary, allowed David to escape their grasp. Leaping over a wall is reference to quickly escaping over houses and boundaries, as shuwr suggests. This interpretation is strengthened by the root, also shuwr, meaning to travel, or ‘went’.
God sees our predicament before it arises, and knows His response before we ask. Thus, whatever is the remedy, is often swift, bringing relief to mind and body and renewing strength and resolve.
“(As for) God, his way (is) perfect”. The words in brackets show they are implied by the Hebrew text, but are reasonable. Even if we leave them out, it still means that God is perfect… complete, whole, sound, wholesome, innocent of any sin, and is truth! Thus, no matter what happens to mankind, including David, God remains God, unchanging and pure. That is why we can trust Him.
God’s word is tried. Many have tested it against every known trial, and have found it totally worthy and true. Those who say God does not help or answer are those who have not truly tried His word, but have only a superficial knowledge without understanding. But, those with even a smattering of Bible knowledge will be given full understanding and help by Almighty God, if they determine to be righteous! This is because, as David repeats: “he is a buckler to all those that trust him.”
Many claim to trust God, but few really do, as their lives show. Most Christians say they have faith, but do not know what it really means. Nor do their lives reflect the glory that is faith. Only those who fully trust will see that glory, even in the depth of their suffering, trial and fear. This is God’s reward to the righteous. Though we deserve nothing from God, He pours out His glory and benefits onto those who obey.
Be blessed by these words, and look to God, not to self.
For who is God save the LORD? or who is a rock save our God?
It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect.
He maketh my feet like hinds' feet, and setteth me upon my high places.
He teacheth my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms.
What a magnificent Psalm this is! How great are the words! Importantly, God is centre of it all, not David or how he feels or thinks. And so it should be, “For who is God save the Lord?” It might surprise you to know that the word for ‘God’ here is NOT Jehovah, but ‘elowahh, which is probably elongated from ‘el. It literally means ‘God’ and refers to the one, true God. The word is only used in poetry and in later Hebrew. Another way to put it is: ‘Who is the one true God but Jehovah?’ (The word for ‘LORD’ is Jehovah). Thus, there are no genuine gods other than Jehovah.
David then says “Or, who is a rock save our God?” Rock here is tsuwr, but ‘God’ is another word, ‘elohiym. Note how we must be careful not to assume that same words in English have same meanings! As I have said many times before, interpretation has only one meaning, the meaning given by God. Hence Daniel could instantly speak with confidence: “This is the interpretation, O king…” (Daniel 4:24).
I watch in dismay and wonder when so many Christians claim to ‘interpret’ scripture and yet do so by torturing the text, proving their inability to interpret properly, or picking a meaning out of the blue, because they like it. Almost every Christian says he has the right to interpret as he wishes, thus ignoring or rejecting the Biblical teaching that “no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.” (2 Peter 1:20). Interpretation is not ‘up for grabs’. It is given by God, providing the genuine meanings given in the Greek and Hebrew… and I do not mean by simply reading a concordance.
The first use of ‘God’ in the verse is a reference to God as the one, true God. Then He is identified as Jehovah (LORD), and finally as ‘elohiym, or, my personal Lord. The shades of meaning are important!
David then repeats his statement but in another way, thus “Or”… “or who is a rock save our God?” (Or can also be used as ’and’ in this text). Rock is a large boulder or rock, powerful and firm. It is the same word used of Christ (not Peter), on Whom the Church is built. ‘Rock’ also implies something beautiful and ‘the mighty One’. Israel regarded God as a Rock because He protected them and gave them refuge from enemies, so David used the words “our God” and not just “my God”.
It is the same God who surrounded David with strength. In this verse ‘god’ is ‘el. Each different form of ‘God’ is used for a particular reason. In this case, David used ‘el, because God is the mighty one or mighty hero, the Jehovah who overpowers all men and things.
When David says he was girded, he was using the word in its military sense, as for one ‘girded (or equipped) for war’, as well as in the ordinary sense of being totally protected. And when he speaks of God girding him with strength, it is again used militarily. It means to have the physical strength, with attendant ability to use it. When God equips us for anything He gives us the fullest and best abilities. (From this point on, we have to reconcile the text with Jesus’ command to love our enemies… but this is not appropriate in the current text. See Article).
Not only did God make David strong, but He also made his way perfect. That is, every step David took in life was complete in the mind of God, sound, with integrity. It had to be, because, as David said, “God… maketh my way perfect”. It was not of David’s own doing, even though he was a supreme soldier and leader.
In our own lives, even if we work at something, become ‘professional’, or are highly regarded in our field, it is God Who gives us the advantage, not our own attributes. This should be a source of comfort for us all, for if we rested in our own abilities and strength, we would inevitably fail at some time. With God, His power is infinite as is His plan for our lives.
Many modern Christians do not like certain things about God. You can tell by the way they ignore various teachings, thinking their interpretation of God’s word is better! Here is another thing they dislike – war. We should never go to war, or kill others in war, they claim. Yet here we see that God trained David in the art of war! “He teacheth my hands to war”. (Not physically but in spirit).
To teach is lamad, a verb that means what it says. It has no figurative meaning, but is used in real-time… God trained and exercised David in war! The word ‘war’, too, is literal – milchamah; battle, war. It also refers to warriors; fighting. Many dislike this idea because they have been tainted by men’s philosophy to be emotional and even feminine; they are also scornful of God’s word and prefer the lives of evil men to the will of God and His perfect truth.
This is why the same Christians lash out against the death penalty, or even against calling someone sinful! For God, the death of wicked men is something He desires, because their very living is an offence to Him. I cannot really understand this, nor can anyone else, yet I must adhere to it. As an human being I do not want to see anyone die, even by holy decree. But, because it is an holy decree I accept it totally, because my emotions and desires do not count. God first – all else later.
David was given so much power, he could break a steel bow in his hands. (By the way, they did not have the steel we have today; by ‘steel’ David meant copper or bronze). This does not necessarily mean he could do so personally; it means that God gave his army the power to break the enemy, no matter what war weapons they had. It does not matter what is happening to us, what the problems are, or how many enemies we have… if we are righteous and do God’s bidding, He will give us overwhelming strength to overcome the circumstance. This is not superhuman, but divine, having its strength in Christ and not in us. Humanists see this as obnoxious, but I see it as comforting.
Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great.
Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip.
I have pursued mine enemies, and overtaken them: neither did I turn again till they were consumed.
I have wounded them that they were not able to rise: they are fallen under my feet.
For thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle: thou hast subdued under me those that rose up against me.
David is shielded by his salvation/deliverance. Again, note that this salvation comes from God, not from ourselves, despite what Arminians say. We are held up or sustained by His right hand. And we are made great by God’s gentleness. The greatness alluded to is by way of battle, yet it is also by way of God’s gentleness. It is debatable that we must treat our enemies with gentleness. To put it bluntly, they would just rip our throats out! No, it means that David’s ability to deal with his enemies was a gift given to him by God, Whose intention was gentleness towards him. That is, God condescended, ‘anvar, to give David the power to win.
This in no way takes away the New Testament command to love our enemies. But, in this text the enemies were an actual army going all-out to kill David and his soldiers. Like it or not, God trained David to go to war, and kill his enemies.
God enlarged David’s footsteps so that he did not slip. This tells us that God made sure David had ample room to work, to move and to do what he had to do. This is more to do with God’s hand in battle than with actual space to work in. ‘Enlarged’ also implies success. And, because God prepared the way for David with success, David did not make mistakes. In our own day we make mistakes if we take our eye off God and His will.
David chased after his enemies and overtook them. When David had the upper hand, they could not escape. And when David was winning he did not stop, but carried on until all his enemies were killed. When he fought against Rome, Hannibal inexplicably stopped outside Rome and refused to carry out the final death-blow. This was, and still is, not the way of war. The idea is to crush the enemy, not to give it breathing-space to come back again.
In our day, Christians do not understand this principle, and instead of pushing until they gain success they go so far and then give in to olive branches and smiles. And in this way the enemy laughs and attacks again. What do I mean? Today we have many enemies coming from all sides. Instead of pressing God’s word on them with personal firmness, we have ‘discussions’ and try to be ‘balanced’ and ‘fair’.
What we OUGHT to do is speak out firmly, without backing down, telling and not asking… telling them what God demands and not trying to compromise. God’s word is not ours to compromise with! It is when we are forthright and open that we win a thousand battles against the enemy of our souls, whichever form he takes. It is when we refuse to allow sin that the enemy knows he has come against a strong foe.
Think I am being harsh? Then what of David’s next words? “I have wounded them that they were not able to rise: they are fallen under my feet.” This is genuine ‘fighting talk’; David was talking about killing every single member of his enemy’s force. Like it or not, this is God’s way. This is why He will, at the end of time, destroy unbelievers in hell, by showing them everlasting punishment. If you are squeamish, look away now! Christians must be gentle as lambs but fierce as lions. But, we must never compromise on matters of faith and truth.
David says that God enabled him to win against those who hated him. God subdued them under David’s hands. Do not be squeamish! Ask God to win against enemies and bad situations! Expect Him to act, and do not be afraid to go ‘all the way’ until the enemy or situation is completely vanquished.
Surely this is what Christians are doing today? No, they are not. They are handing over this responsibility to large advocacy groups who act on their behalf, when what they SHOULD be doing is repenting personally, seeking strength personally, and acting personally. Only when they do this, and gain in God’s strength, can they stand together as a group. They will NOT see gains if they hand over everything to a group! David fought with sword in hand, not from a distant pavilion as his soldiers were killed. That, friends, is how it works!
Thou hast also given me the necks of mine enemies; that I might destroy them that hate me.
They cried, but there was none to save them: even unto the LORD, but he answered them not.
Then did I beat them small as the dust before the wind: I did cast them out as the dirt in the streets.
And now comes even more of this information that modern Christians shrink from – David asks God to give him even more success and victory. See what David actually said: “that I might destroy them that hate me”! No ‘balance’ or ‘fairness’ here! Just all-out destruction. Let me put it this way – if God hates His enemies and His enemies also hate His children, then it means they are the same enemies and the same hate. God says He will destroy His enemies – and that means destroying our enemies.
Because they are the same people. David calls upon God to give him strength to destroy his enemies. Do not turn away from the implications. There is no ‘softly-softly’ approach to David’s actual enemies. We either apply God’s word or we do not. If we do not, then never ask for more help, and do not expect victory.
Note, too, the other radical thought – that the enemy shouted out for salvation; they even called on God. They did so because they were fellow Israelites with the same God. But, God refused to help them or to answer. This was because though they were of God’s chosen nation, they were not acting faithfully or in holiness. They were out to murder David and his followers.
This shows us a number of things. It shows that when God has an enemy they are all alone. God does not want us to help them, and is angry if we do. If God Himself will not help someone, then who are we, meagre humans, to override His judgment? If God says He hates someone, then that is the end of the matter, and those people He hates are none of our concern. Forget the idea of ‘being fair’ or cutting them some slack, or even giving them legal recognition… when God hates them, we cannot have anything to do with them. Nothing. We cannot help them, nor may we stand by them or support them in any way. Does this contradict the command to love our enemies? I do not think so (See Article).
We also see in this that even fellow believers can know the wrath of God. They will earn it by swerving away from the true path and saying and doing what God does not wish them to say or do. These brethren will fall. God will remove them or cause them pain. And – this is the radical part – we must do His bidding and oppose the brethren if God Himself does so. We cannot hate them, but we must stand firm on God’s side if they are not acting or speaking in truth.
We live in a day when we cosset our enemies and give them ‘freedom’ to act against us, even though they hate us and God. Is this the right thing to do? I do not think so, as this Psalm clearly tells us. Think carefully about it, and your own attitude towards an enemy. In the spiritual sense, some enemies are best dealt with through academic criticism, some by personal approach, some by public debate or denunciation, but all must be roundly taken care of, even though we may only do so with basic agape.
Other enemies, not of a primarily spiritual nature (such as Hitler, etc) need a physically robust approach, even to death. These are Biblical facts. After this fashion, David said, “Then did I beat them small as the dust before the wind: I did cast them out as the dirt in the streets.”
I can imagine how many modern Christians would be horrified by that statement! David did not just win his battle, he determined to absolutely obliterate the enemy. Then he treated them like “dirt in the streets”, as nothing. I hear continual calls by Christians to treat foulest of enemies with kid-gloves, as if gentle discussion will change them. They do not understand the mind of evil men! Only God can change them… though such is unlikely if He has given them over to their evils.
I know that this whole section will raise eyebrows and cause some intakes of breath – but this is what David said, and what God sanctioned. Not only did He sanction it, but He commanded David in what he was to do!
It should be repeated that loving our enemies is a priority, but we should not hide from truth. If we are able we must love them. I say ‘if’ because elsewhere we are told to live at peace – if we are able. If we do good to our enemy, we do well… but this does not mean deliberately searching out enemies so that we can fawn over them!
I must admit that for a short while after my ‘2005 attacks’, my sense of ‘doing good’ to my enemies was quiet! In my heart I honestly wanted some kind of revenge, but I did nothing about it. Eventually the feelings subsided and God replaced them with a proper response. I had no opportunity to do them good after the event, and, frankly, at the time, I was not inclined to do so, such was the trauma. Yet, if I was to meet any of them in town, I would not have done anything. That, friends, is reality.
At times we can be suddenly blasted in the face by enemies, and this makes it very hard to apply anything but anger as an initial response. However, if we have a ‘lead-in’ time, responding properly is better, even if hard. The way to deal with it is to teach ourselves to respond properly before an enemy arises.
When I worked in psychiatry I was daily defending myself, literally, against physical attacks. I was able to do so without becoming angry, or retaliating, even when I had to use physical force. This was because I was trained and expected trouble.
But, sometimes, we are hit hard suddenly and our hearts and minds are shocked. Think about these things, because both are vital – how to act when a physical enemy comes along, and what to do when a spiritual and emotional enemy arises. In this section I have been very frank and open – because God’s word is, though I know that some Christians can become legalistic and point the finger.
We never know how we will react to a sudden danger or blow, so try to keep your own counsel. Loving our enemies can be an extreme, difficult thing to do… and it is very different when saying it from a pulpit, or between friends, when we have never experienced attacks!
Thou hast delivered me from the strivings of the people; and thou hast made me the head of the heathen: a people whom I have not known shall serve me.
As soon as they hear of me, they shall obey me: the strangers shall submit themselves unto me.
The strangers shall fade away, and be afraid out of their close places.
The LORD liveth; and blessed be my rock; and let the God of my salvation be exalted.
In a sense David is saying something similar… “Thou hast saved me from the strivings of the people”. In my ministry I have often had to strive, even with fellow believers. It is always grievous and very hard – something fellow believers rarely understand because they do not have this kind of ministry… it is always easy to criticise from the sidelines! Of course, strictly, the text here is talking about war as ‘strivings’. David said that by aiding him to beat his enemy, God made him the ruler of heathen he did not even know. This can be ours, too, when we live righteously and God bends the necks of enemies, subduing them and giving us the advantage.
It has been said many times before – when we live as we ought, God comes to our side with help. In David’s case, he was not just given victory, but people to rule. We, too, can rule by staying godly: enemies may then stop their activities against us and obey God. It has happened before and can happen again. “Strangers shall fade away, and be afraid out of their close places”. Our biggest enemy at this time, even bigger (for now) than the Islamicisation of the nation, is the homosexual movement that hates us with a perfect hatred. They must be made to fade away, and must be made afraid to reveal their horrendous sins in public. Only righteousness and sound doctrine can do that. This is what God tells us.
“The LORD liveth”! Or, to put it another way: ‘Jehovah is alive’! He is not a father who lives away, but a living Lord, our mighty Father Who can save us! He says we must be righteous before He will help us – then let us be righteous! He is a blessed Rock, the ground on which we stand. Let His Name be raised in praise, not ours. When we shout His name the nations shake! When we remain silent and do not repent, God turns away from us and cannot help.
It is God that avengeth me, and subdueth the people under me.
He delivereth me from mine enemies: yea, thou liftest me up above those that rise up against me: thou hast delivered me from the violent man.
Therefore will I give thanks unto thee, O LORD, among the heathen, and sing praises unto thy name.
Great deliverance giveth he to his king; and sheweth mercy to his anointed, to David, and to his seed for evermore.
Now we come to an addendum, in which David proclaims that God is the slayer of enemies, not himself. David and his soldiers were only instruments of God’s anger, used to teach the enemy a valuable lesson. It is God Who saved David from the enemy, making him more powerful than them, even though they were violent.
For this reason, David praises God, even into the ears of the enemy and those who were heathen, non-Hebrew nations. However, in strict terms of interpretation, the it also applies to Israel when unrepentant, as under Saul. Whoever they were, David sang praises to God for his deliverance.
God gave “great deliverance” to “his king”. Remember, David was not king when Saul chased him, but he was king when writing this Psalm, possibly years afterwards, in memory of God’s deliverance. Note how David properly said that he was God’s king, whilst other kings would have claimed their own grandness.
But, David was God’s anointed. He was given a special place and David recognised it. He was a reluctant king, but when made king he obeyed the Lord, and gave Him all the praise for battles won and for his kingship and rule.
Then comes a prophetic statement – that God would save “his seed for evermore”. This applied to all Hebrews who were faithful, as we read in the New Testament, as well as to all Jews and Gentiles who were saved through the blood of Jesus Christ. Thus, deliverance would come to all who believed throughout time, a deliverance that would lead us all into Heaven “for evermore”.
This Psalm delivers many critical teachings. It raises a large number of queries and truths, all of which deserve far more instruction and meditation. I have not hidden from some serious and hard questions, because we do not have that luxury! I know of pastors who refuse to preach certain truths for fear that their congregations will not like it. In other words, they fear losing their incomes. So, they preach odds and ends and not the whole truth. I would not like to be in their shoes!
I pray that you will search your hearts over the many issues raised, and will respond well. One of the biggest issues is to love our enemies, and yet fight them when necessary. I believe my personal testimony in the last few pages answers that question… and I had no-one to help me formulate my answers at the time of my distress and enemy attacks; rather, I had to act quickly and defensively!
I hope the study of this great Psalm has helped many readers. Note how the Psalms were for singing by Temple singers accompanied by musical instruments. But, David never repeated lines just for effect! And each line was solidly powerful in its own right. He did not get his listeners to keep repeating the same line over and over like a mantra. This is because he wrote as God demanded, and was not a modern writer who has an eye for his audience and maybe sales of music CDs. Let us all live as we ought, and, if some are weak at times, let us pray for them and help them become strong – do not just blast them with sanctimonious nasty pressures and misused texts and traditional rebukes.
© February 2011
Published on www.christiandoctrine.com
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