Psalm 144

Psalm 144 follows a prayer sequence that is common to many of the psalms and we would do well to note it as an example of powerful prayer. The prayer is prayed by David in the setting of warfare and it expresses David’s desire to see his enemies defeated so that Israel can prosper freely. The first part (verses 1-2) is a declaration of praise and confidence in God. He declares that God is the one who gives David the skill to fight, the protection from harm, and the ultimate victory over his foes. It is a confession of faith and a statement of reliance. He is, in a sense, reminding God of his covenant responsibilities. God had said that he would be the God of his people and this meant that he would be their ‘loving God’, their ‘fortress,’ their ‘stronghold’, their ‘shield,’ their ‘refuge’ and their ‘deliverer.’ The abundance of the titles assigned here to God is the weight of the appeal: This is what God is, so let us see him be what he said he would be to us.

The second part (verses 3-4) is a statement of humility. The appeals are strong in this psalm and the requests are made in boldness but David shows here that he is not taking his relationship to God for granted. He declares that it is amazing that God should even place any significance upon mere man let alone be so intimately concerned with him and loving toward him. And yet God does care, and this expression of humility becomes another strong appeal. He saying, yes, it is amazing that you care for us so much; so let us see this amazing care at work here.

The third part (verses 5-8) is the request and like many of the psalms it calls for the destruction of those who are rising up against the will of God. The blanket denunciation of ‘foreigners’ sounds a bit rough to our ears but understand here what the outside threat implied for David at this time. Israel is pictured as a light burning in the midst of a dark world with the darkness constantly trying to snuff out the light. ‘Foreigners’ refers to those who threaten to wipe out the people of God and therefore also the purpose of God. God’s redemptive plan was intimately wrapped up in his people who were to be the priestly nation mediating salvation to the world. Many foreigners came to Zion in Solomon’s time who simply came to see the glories of Zion and hear the wisdom of the king. This is a different matter and the nation always welcomed these seekers. But in most cases, when a foreign nation came to Israel they did not come as tourists or seekers. They came with sword and bow to kill and destroy. It is from this threat that David is here seeking deliverance.

The fourth section (verses 9-10) is a declaration of praise again, but it is also an implicit appeal since David refers to God as the one who gives victory and delivers him from the sword. Again he reminds God of his self imposed covenant responsibilities. This then leads into a repeat of the request of verse 7-8 in verse 11.

The penultimate section (verses 12-14) is a celebration of how it will be for the people of Israel when God answers the prayer that is now being prayed. It is a common and remarkable feature of the psalm-prayers. The psalmist celebrates the answer before it comes with poetic descriptions of how the people will flourish and how God’s name will thus be glorified. This is both a further appeal but also a profound expression of biblical hope. It is the rejoicing in what is to come, and the rejoicing in the future deliverance is compounded by the present hardship.

The final verse is the perfect conclusion to such a prayer. The psalmist, as he involves himself earnestly in the relational act of prayer realises how blessed he is to be able to call on God. This is particularly significant following the words of verses 3 & 4. He realises how blessed are the people whom God has called his own and who has given himself in covenant love to people. They are blessed because all the things he has described in verses 12-14 will certainly be true but mostly because Yahweh (the LORD) is their God.

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