My wife and I are reading through the Psalms in our evening reading and occasionally a nugget of the Psalms jumps out of the page. Don’t you love it when, after years of reading the “Old Book” passages become alive, reinforcing old teachings or simply warming your heart.
This is the book of Psalms, and it is rich.
I pray I can communicate a portion of the blessing we receive from this wonderful book.
To the choirmaster. A Maskil of the Sons of Korah.
O God, we have heard with our ears, our fathers have told us, what deeds you performed in their days, in the days of old:
you with your own hand drove out the nations, but them you planted; you afflicted the peoples, but them you set free;
for not by their own sword did they win the land, nor did their own arm save them, but your right hand and your arm, and the light of your face, for you delighted in them.
You are my King, O God; ordain salvation for Jacob!
Through you we push down our foes; through your name we tread down those who rise up against us.
For not in my bow do I trust, nor can my sword save me.
But you have saved us from our foes and have put to shame those who hate us.
In God we have boasted continually, and we will give thanks to your name forever. Selah
The psalmist is recounting the glory days of Israel in this passage, remembering when the fathers spoke of great victories the Israelites witnessed, or took part in. In some of the victories, Israel was instructed to simply watch, such as the parting of the Red Sea, and in some of the victories, the Israelites took part in, such as the unconventional triumph over Jericho. Other victories may have included a more active participation by the tribe of Israel, yet this did not discount the active participation of the Lord in the fight.
The psalmist claims the Lord was the One who orchestrated Israel’s national status and their possession in the land, and he uses a parallelism to describe the Lord’s duals actions in completing His
Verse two contains this parallelism, and
- you with your own hand drove out the nations,
- The psalmist is speaking of the Canaanites, and of God’s hand pushing the Canaanites out of the land destined for His people
- but them you planted;
- you afflicted the peoples,
- Again, the psalmist speaks of God spoiling the Canaanites occupying the land. The psalmist was not apologetic or sensitive in the describing of the Lord’s actions in clearing the land for His people. The affliction was severe.
- but them you set free;
- This phrase has some ambiguity to it, but to follow the parallelism, the psalmist may be referring to the Israelites being “set free”.
- The word translated as set free has a root meaning of to send, or to send away, but one use of the term is to describe the sending forth of branches, which fits nicely with the metaphor of the Lord planting His people in the land.
God not only brought the family of Jacob out of bondage in Egypt, but emptied a land that had been promised to Abraham, and established the nation of Israel, not only with their great laws and ordinances, given at Sinai, but with the physical land. They were not simply provided a piece of land to fend off enemies from, but God established them, planted them and provided them the ability (and right) to spread their “branches” out. They were to be a permanent witness to the power and strength of the Living God.
In verse 3, the psalmist reiterates that the Israelites had one true resource, one claim to fame, one salvation and strength, and it was not their military power. The evidence was in and the witness from the fathers of old was ringing in their ears – God led and provided the victories, great victories that could not be logically explained away.
The Lord was in the midst of the nation, providing miraculous victories.
The psalmist continues in describing the victories, and the confession of the nations utter helplessness without the Lord. Verse 5 has a great word picture that I must take a few minutes to describe.
5 Through you we push down our foes; through your name we tread down those who rise up against us.
To “push down” in the Israelites thinking was linked to the action of a bull, goring another animal, throwing the animal into the air prior to trampling over it to kill it. Again, for some of us who love animals, this may be a gruesome picture in our minds, but this is the graphic description the psalmist uses of the Israelites victory over their enemies. The psalmist continues with this picture of the ox dominating his victim, by describing the treading down (to the death) of any who rise up against them.
In all of this description, the psalmist identifies the Lord as performing this action, giving the ability to the Israelites to overcome their enemies.
The psalmist continues with confession of their own inabilities, and of God’s actions in saving them from their foes, and putting to shame those who hate them. The nation, the psalmist claims, has continually boasts of the Lords greatness, continually giving thanks to Him for His work in their lives.
Can you identify with the psalmist in the passage we have looked at today? Have you experienced the active saving power of the Lord in your life, and seen your enemies fall before you? (Remember now, we are speaking of enemies in our spiritual lives, not of the flesh and blood creation we exist with on this ball of mud). Has the past been littered with times of great victories by the Lord in your life?
Well, in the psalmist’s mindset, all the past victories were a problem! A big problem! A problem. I fear that is most common in our lives, at least in my life.
Take a few minutes to read the rest of the psalm to identify the problem, and let me know what you find. Of course, you are most welcome to come visit Considering the Bible for our next posting on this Psalm, where we will wade into the next few verses.
Hope to see you then.
Thanks again for coming to visit. I hope you found something of interest in this post and would appreciate a comment, to begin a discussion.