J.Calvin on Psalm 144: “The accumulation of terms…, tends greatly to strengthen faith.”

JCalvinPic1As we reflect on the “worshiping warrior” psalm, Psalm 144, it is also profitable to receive these words of John Calvin on v.2. May they also inspire us to worship our sovereign Lord, Who is our Strength, Goodness, Fortress, High Tower, Deliverer, and Shield.

2. My goodness, etc.

…Elsewhere (Psalm 18:50) he calls himself “God’s king,” not in the sense of his having dominion over God, but being made and appointed king by him. Having experienced God’s kindness in so many ways, he calls him “his goodness,” meaning that whatever good he possessed flowed from him. The accumulation of terms, one upon another, which follows, may appear unnecessary, yet it tends greatly to strengthen faith.

We know how unstable men’s minds are, and especially how soon faith wavers, when they are assailed by some trial of more than usual severity. It is not enough, if God would sustain us under such weakness, to promise us his help in individual or single expressions; and, even however many aids he supplies us with, we are subject to very great vacillations, and a forgetfulness of his mercy creeps in upon us which almost overwhelms our minds.

We are to remember that it is not merely in token of his gratitude that David heaps together so many terms in declaring the goodness of God, but to fortify God’s people against all attacks of the world, and of the evil one.

…David accordingly having ascribed the victories he had gained over foreign enemies to God, thanks him at the same time for the settled state of the kingdom. Raised indeed as he was from an obscure station, and exposed to hatred from calumnious charges, it was scarcely to have been believed that he would ever obtain a peaceable reign. The people had suddenly and beyond expectation submitted to him, and so surprising a change was eminently God’s work.

Sunday Worship Preparation – Psalm 144

Psalm 144For our worship preparation this Lord’s Day we consider Psalm 144, another “Psalm of David” penned under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. And since the Spirit of prophecy is the Spirit of Christ, we have here again the Word of Christ our Savior (1 Peter 1:11).

As we read and meditate on this psalm, we hear David and Christ singing and praying as worshiping warriors.  These are not conflicting themes, for David and the people of God often express these truths in the psalms. As we have seen in many psalms already, the psalmist was often in the midst of spiritual battle with the enemies of the Lord and His church when he was inspired to write his song. And as he wrote about these battles, he expressed his worship of the Lord, in both prayer and praise. We see that here too.

The Nelson Study Bible (T.Nelson, 1997) states in its notes on this psalm, “Warfare in ancient Israel was tied closely to the worship of God. Deliverance from the enemy was not just a task for tough soldiers, it was a matter of active piety.” It also remarks that this psalm may have been used in the  training of Israel’s armies.

And we must also state plainly that psalms such as these are just as relevant and necessary for the NT church. The church on earth is always a militant church, fighting in the army of Jesus Christ and under Him as Captain of her salvation (Eph.6:10ff.; the book of Revelation throughout). As we engage our spiritual foes from day to day, we magnify the Lord our Strength (Rock – v.1), realizing our own weakness and frailty (vss.3-4), calling on the Lord to come down and help us in the battle (vss.5-8). And this prompts a new song of praise to the Lord (v.9).

And notice that we do this with our eye on the salvation of our sons and daughters in the covenant of grace and the future prosperity of the church (vss.11-15). No Christian soldier stands alone; we always battle and we always worship connected to our fellow-soldiers, including those closest to us. And so we pray and praise God thinking about our covenant children and the entire body of Christ in every land and place. Yes, we too are worshiping warriors! May we show ourselves to be such today.

Psalm 144

Blessed be the Lord my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight:

My goodness, and my fortress; my high tower, and my deliverer; my shield, and hein whom I trust; who subdueth my people under me.

Lord, what is man, that thou takest knowledge of him! or the son of man, that thou makest account of him!

Man is like to vanity: his days are as a shadow that passeth away.

Bow thy heavens, O Lord, and come down: touch the mountains, and they shall smoke.

Cast forth lightning, and scatter them: shoot out thine arrows, and destroy them.

Send thine hand from above; rid me, and deliver me out of great waters, from the hand of strange children;

Whose mouth speaketh vanity, and their right hand is a right hand of falsehood.

I will sing a new song unto thee, O God: upon a psaltery and an instrument of ten strings will I sing praises unto thee.

10 It is he that giveth salvation unto kings: who delivereth David his servant from the hurtful sword.

11 Rid me, and deliver me from the hand of strange children, whose mouth speaketh vanity, and their right hand is a right hand of falsehood:

12 That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace:

13 That our garners may be full, affording all manner of store: that our sheep may bring forth thousands and ten thousands in our streets:

14 That our oxen may be strong to labour; that there be no breaking in, nor going out; that there be no complaining in our streets.

15 Happy is that people, that is in such a case: yea, happy is that people, whose God is the Lord.

Psalter1912If you desire to meditate on Psalm 144 through music, I encourage you to listen to a versification of this psalm at the PRC Psalter page. Here is one such versification, titled “Trustful Praise and Prayer”, to get you started (Visit the link to hear piano accompaniment and sing along.):

1. Blest be the Lord, my rock, my might,
My constant helper in the fight,
My shield, my righteousness,
My strong high tower, my Saviour true,
Who doth my enemies subdue,
My shelter in distress.

2. Lord, what is man, what hath he wrought,
The son of man, that in Thy thought
To hold him Thou shouldst deign?
For man is like a breath, a sigh,
His days on earth as quickly fly
As shadows o’er the plain.

3. Lord, bow Thy heavens, in might descend,
Touch Thou the hills, the mountains rend,
And they shall smoke and flame;
As arrows send Thy lightnings out
To put Thy enemies to rout,
And fill Thy foes with shame.

4. Stretch forth Thy hand and rescue me
From trouble’s dark and raging sea,
And from the alien throng,
Whose mouth but vanity doth speak,
Whose hand of strength against the weak
Is filled with craft and wrong.

5. Now will I sing a glad new song,
Thy praise, O God, I will prolong,
For Thou hast heard my prayer;
Salvation Thou dost give to kings,
Thy own dost keep, with sheltering wings,
From hurtful sword and snare.

6. O Thou to Whom in trust I flee,
Stretch forth Thy hand and rescue me
From all the alien throng,
Whose mouth but vanity doth speak,
Whose hand of strength against the weak
Is filled with craft and wrong.