How Mighty Are Your Enemies?
November 15, 2018 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
One of my favorite psalms is Psalm 18. David opens with these beautiful words and images:
“I love you, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
and I am saved from my enemies.” (v. 1-3)
As I came to read this psalm again this morning, one that I have read hundreds of times and have led Bible studies on, I am astonished once more by the unfathomable riches of the Word of God. A new insight! A new encouragement! This is why reading Scripture never grows old or mundane or stale or boring.
Let me share with you how God spoke afresh to me through his Word.
Psalm 18 is a psalm of praise from David for God’s deliverance from his enemies. God is faithful to his people and delights to rescue those who call out to him for help. The opening and closing verses of this psalm are well-loved for these declarations of the graciousness of God’s salvation.
The middle section of this psalm, however, trips some people up. David makes some statements that come across as arrogant, as if he was bragging. He says, “The Lord dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me” (v. 20); and “I was blameless before him, and I kept myself from my guilt” (v.23).
Aside from what seems like arrogance, we are confronted with what looks like works-righteousness-rewards. Do these verses say David earned his reward and deliverance with his performance?
I have always believed and taught that these are misunderstandings and misperceptions of the text. Shortly after these “self” statements David says in verse 32, “the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless.” David is not seeking to boast in himself, but draw further attention to his God who sustains him in all things, even his righteousness.
The new insight for me this morning comes before these “self” statements. David says in verse 17, “He rescued me from my strong enemy and from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me.” At first glance this appears to be a poetic restatement of what he has already been celebrating. God rescued him! But notice the grounding clause he adds in this verse, “for they were too mighty for me.”
David reveals that God’s gracious rescue comes when we humble ourselves and admit our inability to rescue ourselves. He emphasizes this again after his “self” statements in verse 27, “for you save a humble people, but the haughty eyes you bring down.” David never was seeking to boast about himself and his performance. He acknowledges his insufficiency while celebrating God’s all sufficient grace.
Here’s what I wrote in my Bible next to verse 17: “Do I see the enemies of my soul as too mighty for me?” It’s only in this humble posture that we receive and experience the power of God’s grace in our lives. Too often I celebrate the “stronghold” of God while still clinging to the “fortress” of my own abilities. David demonstrates that there is nothing in ourselves to which we should be clinging. As we call upon the Lord and trust in him alone for our deliverance, we will come to join David in celebrating the God who rescues us solely through his provision.