Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Giving Thanks for God's Deliverance of the Messiah: Learning to Pray Psalm 18 (Part 3)

This is the final post on Psalm 18. Read Part one (18:1-6) and Part two (18:7-19).
Let us hear the rest of the psalmist's prayer:

20 The Lord has dealt with me according to my righteousness;
    according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me.
21 For I have kept the ways of the Lord;
    I am not guilty of turning from my God.
22 All his laws are before me;
    I have not turned away from his decrees.
23 I have been blameless before him
    and have kept myself from sin.
24 The Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness,
    according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight.
25 To the faithful you show yourself faithful,
    to the blameless you show yourself blameless,
26 to the pure you show yourself pure,
    but to the devious you show yourself shrewd.
27 You save the humble
    but bring low those whose eyes are haughty.
28 You, Lord, keep my lamp burning;
    my God turns my darkness into light.
29 With your help I can advance against a troop;
    with my God I can scale a wall.
30 As for God, his way is perfect:
    The Lord’s word is flawless;
    he shields all who take refuge in him.
31 For who is God besides the Lord?
    And who is the Rock except our God?
32 It is God who arms me with strength
    and keeps my way secure.
33 He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;
    he causes me to stand on the heights.
34 He trains my hands for battle;
    my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
35 You make your saving help my shield,
    and your right hand sustains me;
    your help has made me great.
36 You provide a broad path for my feet,
    so that my ankles do not give way.
37 I pursued my enemies and overtook them;
    I did not turn back till they were destroyed.
38 I crushed them so that they could not rise;
    they fell beneath my feet.
39 You armed me with strength for battle;
    you humbled my adversaries before me.
40 You made my enemies turn their backs in flight,
    and I destroyed my foes.
41 They cried for help, but there was no one to save them—
    to the Lord, but he did not answer.
42 I beat them as fine as windblown dust;
    I trampled them like mud in the streets.
43 You have delivered me from the attacks of the people;
    you have made me the head of nations.
People I did not know now serve me,
44     foreigners cower before me;
    as soon as they hear of me, they obey me.
45 They all lose heart;
    they come trembling from their strongholds.
46 The Lord lives! Praise be to my Rock!
    Exalted be God my Savior!
47 He is the God who avenges me,
    who subdues nations under me,
48     who saves me from my enemies.
You exalted me above my foes;
    from a violent man you rescued me.
49 Therefore I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
    I will sing the praises of your name.
50 He gives his king great victories;
    he shows unfailing love to his anointed,
    to David and to his descendants forever.

In verses 25–45 the psalmist returns to his report of the victory that God won on his behalf. There is a mix of praise for the LORD and narrative about the salvation of the psalmist. Unlike verses 7–19, the language of vv. 25–45 focuses on the psalmist’s experience rather than on the creational imagery that the psalmist had used to cast God’s actions into cosmic focus.

How does the psalmist describe his experience of salvation? 

First, in vv. 25–27 he recognizes that God does indeed save those who are faithful and \ depend fully on God to make it through the world. Those who are deviant or arrogant will not be able to stand at the end of the day.

Second, God is the source of the psalmist’s strength (vv. 28–32). God empowers the psalmist with the strength and energy to complete the mission of God. This is important. God will deliver us, but as we struggle through the challenges, God will sustain us. As Paul will write centuries later to the Corinthians about God’s empowerment in times of weakness, “My grace is sufficient” (2 Cor 12:9).

Third, the messiah is able to win an extraordinary victory because of the power and loyalty of the LORD (vv. 33–45). As you read these lines, they are militaristic and contain violent images. It is vital to recognize that it is the LORD who wins the victory. The king is merely the agent through whom God acts. These words do not justify violent acts by us or by any person of faith. They assume that the LORD’s messiah is under heavy assault from the enemies of God. In the ancient world, Israel was a tiny and insignificant nation from a military perspective. If it was successful in war, it was only because of God’s protection and not because of their own power or the superiority of their weapons and tactics. Most importantly, it is vital to remember that this psalm finds its most poignant fulfillment in the death and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah. In Jesus, God won his salvation securing victory by refusing to counter human power with any power other than love. Jesus conquered the grave because God raised his dead body from the grave to demonstrate true power and victory.

Psalm 18 reaches its climax in vv. 46–50 with a final flurry of praise. Again the language is extravagant and audacious. Review the opening three verses and observe the similarities of the praise at the beginning and end of the psalm. The messiah models the mission of God. He praises God for his powerful acts of salvation. He is grateful for the deliverance that he’s experienced. V. 49 also keeps God’s mission to bless the nations in view. Yes, God has rescued his messiah from the hand of enemies, but this deliverance shifts to be a word of witness to the world including those who had acted against the king. The LORD is for God’s people, but this is so that God’s people can serve as his hands, feet, and mouthpieces for the world that does not yet know and sing God’s praises.

How do verses 25–50 teach us praise God?

What is the connection between salvation and mission?

Who in your life needs to hear your testimony of what God has done in your life?

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