Praise be to the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle. He is my loving God and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield, in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me. (Psalm 144:1-2)
Instruments of War?
Musical instruments have a long and storied connection to the history of warfare. From ancient Chinese war drums to Revolutionary fifes, from the cavalry buglers in the Civil War to the trench-warfare whistles of World War 1. In fact, the association between music and warfare is so close that the English monarchy banned the playing of bagpipes in Scotland for a time. In 1746, a piper named James Reid was actually tried for treason and executed—just for playing his pipes.
Whatever you might think of bagpipe music, that seems like a harsh punishment!
Psalm 144 begins, “Praise be to the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle.” At first glance, this sounds like a call to arms. David was indeed a warrior, renowned for his skill in battle. His prowess had actually gotten him into trouble with the previous King Saul, after the young women danced and sang about David’s battlefield exploits. (1 Samuel 18:6-9)
As we read through this psalm, however, it’s not David’s own military accomplishments that stir his heart to song; it’s God’s love and care. “He is my loving God and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield, in whom I take refuge” (vs. 2). The Lord has trained David’s hands and fingers for battle, and yet every victory still belongs to God—every interaction and every intervention points to God’s love for us. He is the one who trains us to face the challenges of life (vs. 1); the one who parts the heavens and comes down (vs. 5); the one who delivers his children from evil (vs. 2, 7, 11); who provides abundantly for us and our families (vs. 12-15); who protects us from future harm (vs. 14).
The “victory” God achieves is born out of God’s love and care for us. The “enemies” God defeats are anything and anyone who would dare stand in the way of a Father’s love for His children. David realizes that even though we may find ourselves in a battle, we have a God who fights for us. How does David respond—how can werespond—to this kind of love?
First, David responds with his gratitude: “Praise be to God!” (vs. 1) Then, he responds with his wonder: “Lord, what are human begins that you care for them, mere mortals that you think of them?” (vs. 3; cf. Psalm 8). Finally, David responds with his worship: “I will sing a new song to you, my God; on the ten-stringed lyre I will make music to you” (vs. 10)
Did you catch it? David’s fingers were “battle-ready,” not simply to carry a sword and shield, but also to carry a lyre and a song—to return and respond to God’s love and care with thankfulness, awe, and worship!
God is still that loving Father who fights for his children. And what he expects from us nothing more and nothing less than our complete, child-like love in return. As Joshua told his people when they had finally subdued the Promised Land, “The Lord your God fights for you, just as he promised. So be very careful to love the Lord your God.” (Joshua 23:10-11) Joshua’s enemies and David’s enemies were real, but so was the God who fought for them. So who is our enemy now, and how should we respond?
“What then, shall we say to these things?” the Apostle Paul asks. “If God is for us, who can stand against us?” (Romans 8:31) Just like David and Joshua, we are called to face our enemies by focusing our attention on God. He is the One who trains our hearts and our hands and our fingers for this battle. We respond by offering ourselves to Him in gratitude, wonder and worship; in faith, trust and humble service to our loving Father.
“Blessed is the people of whom this is true; blessed is the people whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 144:15). He is all we need for the fight, and He is our every hope for the future. He is our Living Water…stay thirsty for Him.
SONG: Our Father