If you have your Bibles with you, I'd invite you to turn with me to Psalm 144. This psalm draws on phrases and words and ideas found in a number of other psalms, at least four, but puts them together in a unique way. It's a royal psalm; a psalm of David. It's a psalm for he and his successor kings lifted up in petition to the Lord for the whole nation. And so it combines the kinds of content that you would expect in a psalm on the occasion of the coronation and installation of the king as well as the king's prayer for the Lord's blessing on the wellbeing of the nation. As we look at this psalm tonight, I'd like you to be on the lookout for these six parts to it.
First of all, in verses 1 and 2, the king gives the Lord credit for his strength. In verses 3 and 4, he expresses his humility. In verse 5 to 8, he comes to the first part of his petition for himself and for the people and it's a prayer for the Lord to come to their aid, for the Lord to come to their rescue. In verses 9 to 11, he virtually repeats that prayer but this time he ties together the Lord's coming to rescue him with the idea of leading the people of God in worship, and especially singing a new song to the Lord. We’ll talk about the significance of that when we get there. The fifth part you’ll see in verses 12 to 14. It's a prayer for God's blessing on the nation. It focuses first on family and then on material prosperity and then on social security — no unrest in the land. And then finally in verse 15 there's an acknowledgement that the greatest blessing that a people, that a nation may have is that the Lord is their God. Look at those six parts as we read the Word together, and let's look to God in prayer before we do just that.
Heavenly Father, we thank You again for the end of Your day, for the refreshment that we have on it, for the privilege of being here together and lifting up our voices to You in song and lifting up our mouths to You in prayer and waiting expectantly, not just with our ears but with our hearts, to receive from You a word. That's what we're doing right now. We’re actively worshiping You as we believingly receive the word from You. As the Word is read, we are hearing You speak directly to us. It is as if You are in this room speaking and the words are coming from Your mouth to our ears. O Lord, grant that we would receive this Word for what it is — not the words of men but the very Word of God. And then grant that the exposition of this Word will be faithful to the intent of the Word which You have written, inspired, because it is inerrant and infallible. We pray this in Jesus’ name, amen.
This is God's Word. Hear it:
Blessed be the LORD, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle; He is my steadfast love and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield and He in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me.
O LORD, what is man that You regard him, or the son of man that You think of him? Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.
Bow Your heavens, O LORD, and come down! Touch the mountains so that they smoke! Flash forth the lightning and scatter them; send out Your arrows and rout them! Stretch out Your hand from on high; rescue me and deliver me from the many waters, from the hand of foreigners, whose mouths speak lies and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood.
I will sing a new song to You, O God; upon a ten-stringed harp I will play to You, who gives victory to kings, who rescues David His servant from the cruel sword. Rescue me and deliver me from the hand of foreigners, whose mouths speak lies and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood.
May our sons in their youth be like plants full grown, our daughters like corner pillars cut for the structure of a palace; may our granaries be full, providing all kinds of produce; may our sheep bring forth thousands and ten thousands in our fields; may our cattle be heavy with young, suffering no mishap or failure in bearing; may there be no cry of distress in our streets! Blessed are the people to whom such blessings fall! Blessed are the people whose God is the LORD!”
Amen, and thus ends this reading of God's holy, inspired, and inerrant Word. May He write its eternal truth upon all our hearts.
This is the king praying for himself and for the nation. Wouldn't you love to have a ruler who prayed for your blessing like this? This is David not just looking for personal protection from his enemies but public protection from his enemies and the enemies of his people. And he looks to the Lord. I'd like to walk through each of the parts of this psalm with you and see what they say to us.
THE LORD IS THE SOURCE OF DAVID’S STRENGTH
The first thing I want you to see is this. In verses 1 and 2, David acknowledges that the Lord is the source of his strength. In fact, he tells us that the Lord is the source of his strength, the Lord is the one who loved him with a steadfast love, with lovingkindness, with covenant love, with everlasting love, with unchanging love, and he tells us that the Lord is the source of his protection. In other words, David, in the first two verses of this psalm, constantly gives the Lord credit for his strength, for his being sustained, and for his being protected. Look at his words. “Blessed be the LORD, my rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle; He is my steadfast love and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield and He in whom I take my refuge, who subdues peoples under me.” This is David at the pinnacle of his strength. The echoes of Psalm 18 are all over these verses. But even at the pinnacle of his strength, the Lord has impressed upon David's heart that David is utterly dependent upon him. It's the Lord who's trained him for battle, it's the Lord who is his fortress, it's the Lord's steadfast love, His covenant love, His lovingkindness that David can depend on and that upholds David, and it is the Lord who is the protection of His people. In other words, David is constantly giving the Lord credit even at the outset of this psalm.
If you are in to reading literature from the Ancient Near East, you can find lots of songs and poems and royal declarations in which kings make great declarations about themselves. Isn't it interesting that this royal psalm begins by saying that God should get the credit for everything? David is strong; God is his strength. David has been upheld in God's lovingkindness; God gets the credit for that. David has been protected and so have his people; God is the one who has done it. And the psalm begins by giving credit to God. And isn't that how we ought to live no matter how gifted we are? No matter what resources have been entrusted to us, they’re not ours, they've been given to us by God, and He ought to get the credit. That's especially important for us who have been endowed with more than most people ever in the history of this world could ever dream of. We may be accustomed to it, we may feel a lack of things in comparison to our contemporaries, but we have been exceedingly blessed and it's easy to take that for granted. And David is reminding us here that the credit must always be given to the Lord and nothing is to be taken for granted.
THE LORD’S CARE IS EXTRAORDINARY
And then the most curious thing happens. David immediately begins to meditate on the issue of the Lord's care. And in verses 3 to 4 he points out that the Lord's care is an extraordinary thing, not to be taken lightly. Having just acknowledged that the Lord is his strength, that the Lord's covenant love upholds him, and that the Lord is his protection, he immediately says, “You know, I wonder why the Lord takes any notice of any of us anyway?” Look at what he says. “O LORD, what is man that You regard him, or the son of man that You think of him?” What David is saying is, “We humans are so small and our God is so big and the universe is so vast. Who are we that God would even take time to think about us?” It's an expression of humility. Several of you have asked about the usage of the phrase or the term, “the son of man.” “The son of man” here is not used as a divine title like it is in the Gospels for Jesus or in the book of Daniel for the one who approaches the Ancient of Days or even a specific title as in the book of Ezekiel. Here, it's simply a poetic way of speaking about human beings.
And the point is this. “Lord, You’re so great. Why in the world do You pay attention to people so small as we are? Why would You take time to care for us? There's nothing in us that deserves this kind of attention from God Almighty.” In other words, David, having reflected on the fact that the Lord has given him strength and covenant love and protection, pauses to say, “I don't deserve this.” It's an expression of humility. And all of us are called to dwell in that kind of humility.
During one of his campaigns running for membership in Parliament, Winston Churchill was accused of being a braggart by his opponents. And he said, in response to this accusation, “My opponent is a humble man. He is a man with much to be humble about.” Touché, Sir Winston! We are a humble people with much to be humble about, and David, at the peak of his power, is expressing his humility. If David does that, surely that's how we ought to live — in humility in relation to the Lord. This is a call for us to dwell in humility.
INTERCESSION FOR DAVID ON BEHALF OF HIS PEOPLE
And then comes the petition, then comes the prayer. Here's the intercession for David on behalf of his people. And you see the first part of it in verses 5 to 8. This is the third section of the psalm. It's a prayer for the Lord to come to the aid of the king and his people. “Bow Your heavens, O LORD, and come down! Touch the heavens so that they smoke! Flash forth the lightning and scatter them; send out Your arrows and rout them! Stretch out Your hand from on high; rescue me and deliver me from the many waters, from the hand of foreigners, whose mouths speak lies and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood.” “You can't trust their handshake. You can't trust their promises. Lord, I need You to rescue me from these treacherous enemies.” This is David seeking the aid of the Lord in the deliverance of his people, not trusting in chariots and in horses but trusting only in the Lord his God. That is something that we have to work at and practice all of our lives. And even when we have once mastered it, it is possible to slip back into trusting ourselves. And so David reminds us here to completely trust on the Lord for deliverance.
A DETERMINATION TO PRAISE GOD
And then fourth, if you look in verses 9 to 11, he does something very interesting. He connects this repeated prayer of deliverance, and you see the repetition in verse 11, with a purpose to praise God. He prays for deliverance with a view to worship. He expresses a determination to praise God for the deliverance once God has given the deliverance. “I will sing a new song to You, O GOD; upon a ten-stringed harp I will play to You, who gives victory to kings, who rescues David His servant from the cruel sword.” In other words, David is saying this. “Lord, when You deliver us, I'm going to praise You for it. I'm going to be the first one leading the congregational singing in praise to You. In fact, I'm going to write a new song!” A new song means a psalm written for a specific occasion of victory. And since David is asking for a new protection from the Lord, a new intervention from the Lord, there will therefore be a new occasion, a specific circumstance for which to give praise to God. And David's saying, “I'm going to write a song about it, Lord. When You deliver us, I'm going to write a new song about it.” And thus this idea of a new song is picked up elsewhere in the Psalter and repeated in the book of Revelation. The new song speaking of the great victory that we have in our Lord Jesus Christ.
But here's what David does. David says, “Your deliverance is going to lead me to praise and I am going to praise You in the midst of the congregation for Your deliverance.” It's a pledge to the Lord that he will worship and honor Him, that he will show devotion to Him, for the deliverance that He grants to His people. He will be the first worshiper amongst all God's people.
PRAYERS FOR THE NATION
And then he moves into specific prayers for the nation and the people. If you look at verses 12 to 14, and notice what he does. First, in verse 12, he prays for families to be fruitful, sons and daughters to be given to the people of God. Then, in verses 13 and 14, he prays for material blessings and prosperity — plenty of sheep and cattle. And then he prays for social wellbeing, that there would be no distress in the streets. He's praying God's blessing on the nation and on his people. God, you see, is the author of national mercies, and even King David knows it. David knows, and you see this in his last prayer, that the king is meant to be a blessing to a people of a nation, but he knows that ultimately those national blessings and mercies come from the Lord. And so he prays for the Lord to bless the families of the land, he prays for the Lord to give prosperity to the land, and he prays for the Lord to give security to the land and safety in the streets. It's a remembrance of the Lord as the author of all our national mercies.
GOD HIMSELF IS THE GREATEST BLESSING OF ALL
And then in verse 15, he turns to acknowledge that God Himself is the greatest blessing of all. “Blessed are the people to whom such blessings fall!” People who receive blessings like that are greatly blessed indeed, but then he concludes the end of verse 15 — “Blessed are the people whose God is the LORD!” God Himself is the greatest blessing of all.
It's interesting that Charles Simeon wrote, as far as I know, only one sermon on this psalm. And the entire sermon was focused on the second half of verse 15. And I want to think with you for just a few moments about why that is such an important verse. Because in that verse we are reminded that God Himself is three things — He is the soul's provision, He is the heart's satisfaction, and He is our lasting portion. I want to think with you about those three things as we close.
First of all, God is the soul's provision. What can the world do for any person? If you are burdened with a sense of your sin, who in the world can remove that load from your heart? If you long for pardon from your sin and peace with God, who in the world can help you with that? If you long for strength to resist temptation, where on earth can you go to acquire that? If you fear death, and death's approach makes you go ice cold and you are longing for something to take the sting out of death, nothing in this world can help you with that. If you long for the security of a certain happy eternity, there's no place on earth that you can go for that. But if you have the Lord for your God, you have pardon and peace and the hope of final glory. The Lord is the soul's provision and nothing in this world can provide the greatest thing that the soul needs but our Lord.
Secondly, the Lord is the heart's satisfaction. You could possess everything that it is possible to possess, materially speaking, reputationally speaking — from the standpoint of ambition and power — you could possess everything that this world has to offer and yet apart from the Lord, there would be an aching void in your life. That's why Jesus looked at that woman in the well and said, “Whoever drinks of the water that I give shall never thirst, but the water that I shall give, shall be to him a well of water springing up to everlasting life.” Nothing on earth can give that kind of satisfaction; only Jesus, only God. He is the heart's satisfaction. “Blessed are the people whose God is the Lord.”
And He is our lasting portion. Whatever we have in this world, however much we have of it, we will be stripped of it when we leave this world, but at death, the believer, the godly person, only then comes into her, into his full inheritance. Think of it, for the believer, on earth however richly blessed you are, you are living only on the allowance. You come into your full inheritance in glory. And so the portion that He gives is greater than anything that we could experience here. Millions of age will not lessen that portion or diminish it. “Blessed are the people whose God is the Lord.” He is the soul's provision, He is the heart's satisfaction, and He is our lasting portion. And that's the greatest message of this psalm. Isn't it interesting that David prays this prayer in the context of a prayer for material blessing? He acknowledges even in the context in which he's asked for God to bless families, bless flocks, and bless with safety, he acknowledges that God is the greatest blessing of all.
It's interesting that in an entirely different context in the Old Testament — if you’d turn with me to the book of Habakkuk and to the third chapter. And in an entirely different context in the Old Testament, the prophet prays a similar prayer. Habakkuk 3:17 — “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail, and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; He makes my feet like the deer's; He makes me tread on my high places.” Between David and Habakkuk, they have learned what Paul called the secret of contentment — the ability to abound and the ability in want to recognize that the greatest blessing that can never be taken from us is the Lord God Himself.
Heavenly Father, we who live with so much have nothing without You and nothing that can compare to You. And those who have nothing as this world accounts it, but have You, have the greatest gift. Grant then, O God, that we like Paul, would know both how to abound and how to be abased and in each circumstance to be content because we have You. Blessed indeed are those who have the Lord for their God. We pray this in Jesus' name, amen.
Would you stand for God's blessing?
Peace be to the brethren and love with faith, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ until the daybreak and the shadows flee away. Amen.