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Psalm 144

Rod Graciano

Blessed be the Lord, my rock, 

who trains my hands for war, 

and my fingers for battle; 

he is my steadfast love and my fortress, 

my stronghold and my deliverer, 

my shield and he in whom I take refuge, 

who subdues peoples under me. 

O Lord, what is man that you regard him, 

or the son of man that you think of him? 

Man is like a breath; 

his days are like a passing shadow. 

Bow your heavens, O Lord, and come down! 

Touch the mountains so that they smoke! 

Flash forth the lightning and scatter them; 

send out your arrows and rout them! 

Stretch out your hand from on high; 

rescue me and deliver me from the many waters, 

from the hand of foreigners, 

whose mouths speak lies 

and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood. 

I will sing a new song to you, O God; 

upon a ten-stringed harp I will play to you, 

10 who gives victory to kings, 

who rescues David his servant from the cruel sword. 

11 Rescue me and deliver me 

from the hand of foreigners, 

whose mouths speak lies 

and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood. 

12 May our sons in their youth 

be like plants full grown, 

our daughters like corner pillars 

cut for the structure of a palace; 

13 may our granaries be full, 

providing all kinds of produce; 

may our sheep bring forth thousands 

and ten thousands in our fields; 

14 may our cattle be heavy with young, 

suffering no mishap or failure in bearing; 

may there be no cry of distress in our streets! 

15 Blessed are the people to whom such blessings fall! 

Blessed are the people whose God is the Lord! 

 This battle psalm, memorably quoted by Private Jackson (Barry Pepper) while firing from his sniper’s nest in the church tower in “Saving Private Ryan,” expresses the warrior’s confidence in his ultimate refuge. His true shield is not his military training, but his divine Trainer; his true fortress is not the stone walls around him, but the Lord his rock. Confident in his divine refuge, the warrior nevertheless marvels that God cares as He does: why does God even notice mortals whose lives are like a mere breath or a passing shadow? (David undoubtedly thought of fallen comrades whose lives were unduly cut short.) Yet, as Jesus said, not even a sparrow falls to the ground without the Father’s permission, and “you are more valuable than many sparrows” (Matthew 10.29-31).

Once reassured of God’s protection in the battle, the warrior can cry out passionately for the Lord’s direct and dramatic intervention: “Burst the boundary between heaven and earth, O Lord; come down like a storm of thunder and lightning, and rescue me!” David’s prayer for divine intervention (in verses 5 through 8)  foreshadows the final coming of the Lord when He will “come in fire” (Isaiah 66.15-16), but also undoubtedly expressed David’s own desperate prayer in the heat of one or more of his many battles.

Though recalling moments of desparation, David could also testify to the Lord’s faithfulness to deliver His servants. Therefore he sang a song of worship to the ultimate Victor, and prayed that God’s deliverance would result in bountiful provision of the people’s needs, including safe streets for their children (verse 14; compare Isaiah 58.12 and Zechariah 8.3-5). David then concluded this psalm with a reminder that true blessing accrues to “the people whose God is the Lord.”

 All of this has direct application for us in the spiritual battles of our time. Our nation needs reminding that it cannot expect blessing if we refuse to be a “people whose God is the Lord.” For our part as believers, we must remember that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against … spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6.12). The primary manifestation of this struggle is in the realm of ideas. Like king David before us, we must stand against those “whose mouths speak lies” about things like “sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16.8). We do not fight with iron swords like David did, but with the sword of the Spirit weilded in prayer (Ephesians 6.17-18), the other sword which David used! Like David, we must fight our battle with passion — and with a clear sense of who the Victor is and of what the outcome will be.

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