Psalm 144 – War and Peace
This psalm has the title A Psalm of David. It is believed to have been written near the time David came to be recognized as the king over all the tribes of Israel, and the psalm expresses David’s heart for the nation in both war and peace.
“It appears from verse 2 and verse 10 of this psalm, that it was composed after David’s accession to the throne. And it is evident, from verse 5, etc. that he had more enemies still to conquer, such as the Philistines, etc.” (George Horne)
A. Prayer and worship regarding seasons of war.
1. (1-2) Praising God who blessed and helped David in battle.
Blessed be the LORD my Rock,
Who trains my hands for war,
And my fingers for battle—
My lovingkindness and my fortress,
My high tower and my deliverer,
My shield and the One in whom I take refuge,
Who subdues my people under me.
a. Blessed be the LORD my Rock, who trains my hands for war: David was a remarkable warrior, who in today’s terms would be an elite special forces soldier. David killed many men in hand-to-hand combat, as described in 1 Samuel 17:48-50 and 18:26-27. Training is an essential part of success as a soldier, and David understood that it was the LORD who had trained his hands for war and his fingers for battle.
i. In his youth, David’s hands and fingers were familiar with “…the [shepherd’s] hook and [musician’s] harp, and not to the sword and spear; but God hath apted and abled them to feats of arms, and warlike exploits.” (Trapp)
ii. Adam Clarke listed the weapons he thought David intended: “…to use the sword, battle-axe, or spear…to use the bow and arrows, and the sling.”
iii. Who trains my hands for war: If a man or woman feels that God is training him or her to use spiritual weapons – such as the sword of the Spirit, the word of God – then training must always continue. It is never “who trained my hands for war,” but always in the present: who trains my hands for war.
iv. Spurgeon wrote of the danger of using some weapons without adequate training – a danger in both the natural and spiritual realms: “Untrained force is often an injury to the man who possesses it, and it even becomes a danger to those who are round about him; and therefore the psalmist blesses the Lord as much for teaching as for strength.”
b. My lovingkindness and my fortress, my high tower and my deliverer: David poured out names and titles for God, each representing some aspect of God’s character or help that had been of use in battle. David knew God’s help and presence in many ways, not just one or two.
i. Of all the names and titles, we note that David began with my lovingkindness (hesed, the great word for God’s loyal and covenant love). He loved and valued God for being his fortress, his high tower, his deliverer, his shield, his refuge, and his conquering victory. Yet first among all those was the gift from God of love, mercy, and faithfulness.
ii. “In Psalm 144 David is extremely personal as he confesses who he had found God to be. He says ‘my Rock,’ ‘my loving God,’ ‘my fortress,’ ‘my stronghold,’ ‘my deliverer,’ and ‘my shield’.” (Boice)
c. Who subdues my people under me: David likely wrote this after he was received as king over all the tribes of Israel (2 Samuel 5:1-5). If this psalm comes from an earlier period, he may have meant the subduing of the mighty men under his authority (as in 1 Samuel 22:1-2).
i. “Men who rule others should thank God if they succeed in the task. Such strange creatures are human beings, that if a number of them are kept in peaceful association under the leadership of any one of the Lord’s servants, he is bound to bless God every day for the wonderful fact.” (Spurgeon)
2. (3-4) The unexpected love and care of God for humanity.
LORD, what is man, that You take knowledge of him?
Or the son of man, that You are mindful of him?
Man is like a breath;
His days are like a passing shadow.
a. LORD, what is man, that You take knowledge of him? In the previous lines David exalted God’s great strength and victory. In light of that, it amazed David that God would have an interest in him, or in humanity in general.
i. Psalm 8:4 asks the same questions from a slightly different perspective. Here the emphasis is on the LORD as a warrior that none can oppose. In Psalm 8:4 the emphasis is on the power of God as Creator and sustainer of the universe.
ii. “The Lord thinks much of man, and in connection with redeeming love makes a great figure of him: this can be believed, but it cannot be explained.” (Spurgeon)
b. Or the son of man, that You are mindful of him? David used the common method of repetition to bring emphasis to the concept of God’s unusual and even unexpected care for humanity.
i. “Though I am king over my people, yet, alas, I am but a man. a base, sinful, mortal, and miserable creature; if compared with thee, less than nothing and vanity.” (Poole)
c. Man is like a breath: Having been responsible for the death of so many men, and having been so near to death himself, David knew how temporary human life was. It was as fleeting as a breath or a passing shadow.
i. “The psalmist does not present his petition before the Lord timidly but with boldness. He knows his God; and despite human shortcomings, he is convinced that the Lord does ‘care for him’ and ‘think of him.’” (VanGemeren)
3. (5-8) A plea for rescue from the great God.
Bow down Your heavens, O LORD, and come down;
Touch the mountains, and they shall smoke.
Flash forth lightning and scatter them;
Shoot out Your arrows and destroy them.
Stretch out Your hand from above;
Rescue me and deliver me out of great waters,
From the hand of foreigners,
Whose mouth speaks lying words,
And whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood.
a. Bow down Your heavens, O LORD, and come down: David used phrases and images from God’s appearance on Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:16-20) to give the sense of awe and even terror connected with God’s presence.
i. “He wants God to be as present in his day as he was when he revealed himself at Sinai.” (Boice)
ii. “In like manner, the church, or mystical body of Christ, is instant in prayer for the final completion of all her hope. She wisheth for the glorious day, when her God and Saviour shall bow the heavens, and come down to judgment, causing the mountains to smoke, and flame, and dissolve, and flow down before him; when his lightnings, those arrows of his indignation, and ministers of his vengeance, shall scatter the host of darkness, and destroy the anti-christian powers; when we shall be delivered from every enemy, and from all that hate us.” (Horne)
b. Rescue me and deliver me out of great waters: David asked that the same God of majestic awe would fight for him, sending forth lightning like arrows against the foreigners who fought against David with lies and falsehood.
i. During David’s days as a fugitive from Saul, he had many men who informed against him so they might gain favor with King Saul (1 Samuel 22:6-10, 23:19-20). David also likely faced whisperers and liars against his character when he was king. Like the greater Son of David, he was often lied about and slandered.
ii. When David spoke against these foreigners, it was not because of their nationality. By their actions they proved that they were truly foreigners from the people of God and rejected Yahweh, the God of Israel.
iii. “Those against whom he pleaded were out of covenant with God; they were Philistines and Edomites; or else they were men of his own nation of black heart and traitorous spirit, who were real strangers, though they bore the name of Israel!” (Spurgeon)
B. Praise and prayer to God for the blessing of peace.
1. (9-10) Praise to the God who rescues.
I will sing a new song to You, O God;
On a harp of ten strings I will sing praises to You,
The One who gives salvation to kings,
Who delivers David His servant
From the deadly sword.
a. I will sing a new song to You, O God: New victories and new deliverance required a new song. God’s love and help for David were always fresh and new, so his praise would also be.
i. I will sing a new song: “Upon the receipt of any new mercy, like as in a lottery, at every new prize drawn the trumpet soundeth.” (Trapp)
b. On a harp of ten strings I will sing praises to You: David was a skilled musician (1 Samuel 16:18), and he played his harp of ten strings as he sang praises to God.
c. The One who gives salvation to kings: David had felt God’s help many times as a humble shepherd boy (1 Samuel 17:34-36) and as a despised fugitive (1 Samuel 23:24-29). We sense that David was almost surprised that God would also help him as king, rescuing him from the deadly sword.
2. (11-15) Praying that the enemy be defeated so that God’s people would prosper.
Rescue me and deliver me from the hand of foreigners,
Whose mouth speaks lying words,
And whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood—
That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth;
That our daughters may be as pillars,
Sculptured in palace style;
That our barns may be full,
Supplying all kinds of produce;
That our sheep may bring forth thousands
And ten thousands in our fields;
That our oxen may be well laden;
That there be no breaking in or going out;
That there be no outcry in our streets.
Happy are the people who are in such a state;
Happy are the people whose God is the LORD!
a. Rescue me and deliver me from the hand of foreigners: David here repeated the idea from earlier in the psalm (verses 7-8). The presence and destructive work of these foreign liars and false speakers were of great concern to him, and he pleaded with God to rescue him.
b. That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth: David prayed for a series of blessings that would come among God’s people when God dealt with the evil speakers in their midst. The list of blessings focuses on the concerns of everyday people in farming societies:
· Blessed with children in the home; well-rooted and flourishing sons, and stable and stately daughters.
· Blessed in the work of their hands, with barns full, ten thousands of sheep, and oxen burdened with heavy harvests.
· Blessed with safety and peace in the community, with no violence (breaking in or going out) or riot over injustice (outcry in our streets).
i. “The Lord had promised to bless his people with stalwart youth, productivity, and prosperity, and to protect them from enemy attacks and humiliation (cf. Leviticus 26:1-13; Deuteronomy 28:1-14; Psalm 132:13-18).” (VanGemeren)
ii. Daughters may be as pillars: “…the daughters as the very picture of statuesque elegance and strength, ‘like sculptured pillars at the corners of a palace’ (New English Bible). There has been nothing slipshod in their upbringing.” (Kidner)
iii. “We desire a blessing for our whole family, daughters as well as sons. For the girls to be left out of the circle of blessing would be unhappy indeed.” (Spurgeon)
iv. No breaking in or going out: “So well ordered is the police of the kingdom, that there are no depredations, no robbers, house-breakers, or marauding parties, in the land; no sudden incursions of neighbouring tribes or banditti breaking into fields or houses, carrying away property, and taking with them the people to sell them into captivity: there is no such breaking in, and no such going out, in the nation.” (Clarke)
c. Happy are the people who are in such a state: David prayed as a wise and caring king, asking God for blessing upon his people in their common, everyday lives.
i. “This mercy I beg, not only for my own sake, but for the sake of thy people, that thine and our enemies being subdued, and peace established in the land, thy people may enjoy those blessings which thou hast promised to them.” (Poole)
ii. “These verses may with a little accommodation be applied to a prosperous church, where the converts are growing and beautiful, the gospel stores abundant, and the spiritual increase most cheering. There ministers and workers are in full vigour, and the people are happy and united. The Lord make it so in all our churches evermore.” (Spurgeon)
d. Happy are the people whose God is the LORD: Yet such blessings could only come to God’s covenant people when they were loyal to God as they had promised to be loyal (Exodus 24:3-8). When they looked to Yahweh as their only God and Master, rejecting all the idols of the nations, the promised blessings were granted – and God’s people were happy.
i. What was true for David and Israel under the Old Covenant is even truer for the believer in Jesus under the New Covenant. It should be said of believers, Happy are the people whose God is the LORD. This is our promise and heritage as believers, followers of Jesus Christ.
ii. “Those who worship the happy God become a happy people.” (Spurgeon)
iii. “The prayer ends at the source of the harmony it has visualized. For while it treasures the gifts, it reserves its final beatitude for the relationship behind them: that of being the people who know the Lord as their own.” (Kidner)
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org