Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Psalm 18

It's been a while since I've posted on the Psalms. Today I looked at Psalm 18.

The difference between David's concept of God and my own amazes me. I don't know if this is a good thing or a bad thing. Psalm 18 is long, so I m not going to include it in its entirety. But here are verses 37–50 (NET):

37 I chase my enemies and catch them;
I do not turn back until I wipe them out.

38 I beat them to death;
they fall at my feet.

39 You give me strength for battle;
you make my foes kneel before me.

40 You make my enemies retreat;
I destroy those who hate me.

41 They cry out, but there is no one to help them;
they cry out to the LORD, but he does not answer them.

42 I grind them as fine windblown dust;
I beat them underfoot like clay in the streets.

43 You rescue me from a hostile army;
you make me a leader of nations;
people over whom I had no authority are now my subjects.

44 When they hear of my exploits, they submit to me.
Foreigners are powerless before me;

45 foreigners lose their courage;
they shake with fear as they leave their strongholds.

46 The LORD is alive!
My protector is praiseworthy!
The God who delivers me is exalted as king!

47 The one true God completely vindicates me;
he makes nations submit to me.

48 He delivers me from my enemies;
you snatch me away from those who attack me;
you rescue me from violent men.

49 So I will give you thanks before the nations, O LORD!
I will sing praises to you!

50 He gives his chosen king magnificent victories;
he is faithful to his chosen ruler,
to David and his descendants forever.

I don't think you can escape the conclusion that David is giving the LORD credit for giving him the power to kill his enemies. Further, Christian tradition has approved of this and canonized this psalm.

In some ways I don't know how to respond. Do I file this psalm away and pretend its not there like that crazy extended relative we all have? Is it evidence that my concept of God is terribly inept? Do I do some kind of exegetical and hermeneutical gymnastics to try to make this psalm consistent with Jesus' teaching on loving your enemies? Or do I just say, "I don't know what is going on here. David killed a lot of people, and God helped him do it. But how that relates to me, I don't know."?

I think I am going to opt for the last one. Like Ferris Buehler, David was a righteous dude. In his day, God chose to wipe out evil-doers through the hands of his king. Today, God wipes out evil-doers through the death and resurrection of His Son. He is wiping them out by transforming them through the power of the Spirit. But we can't forget--God may be gracious, but He can be pretty violent, too.

"40 You make my enemies retreat;
I destroy those who hate me.
41 They cry out, but there is no one to help them;
they cry out to the LORD, but he does not answer them."


"Father, I confess that in many ways we have emasculated You with our weak visions of Your holiness and power. If I had any realistic idea of who You are, my life would be very different. I pray that like David I might be able to say, 'The LORD repaid me for my godly deeds; he rewarded my blameless behavior.' I thank you for Christ. I thank you for His death and resurrection, and the power of the Holy Spirit in conforming me to godliness. We look forward to the consummation of Your kingdom. Come, Lord Jesus. Amen."


John Pleau said...

Good Stuff Matt... I we don't deal with these passages and act as if it is not there.. the skeptics will eat our lunch.

Bro John in Wierd Austin TX

Matt said...

Thanks, John.

Not a fan of Austin, huh?