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Psalm 144 ~ The Prayerful Anticipation Of The King & His Subjects

The Prayerful Anticipation Of The King & His Subjects

a brief study of Psalm 144, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 13 April 2012

Psalm 144 is another psalm of David surrounding the theme of war and victory (cf. Pss 18, 27, 68, 140 etc). Its contents suggest that it was written after David ascended to the throne (v. 2, 10), but before he had completely subdued all his enemies (v. 5ff). There were still some battles to be fought.

On surface reading, we hear King David speaking about the LORD being his strength and the LORD teaching his hands to war as he sought to bring peace to his kingdom. But David spoke by the Spirit of Christ within him. So George Horne must certainly be right that: When we sing this psalm, we should “substitute in our minds, Messiah for David, the church for Israel, and spiritual for temporal blessings.”

This Psalm is given by Christ, the King of the Church,—for His Church to sing in union with Him. The first person pronouns in this psalm point to Christ and His Church.

It is a Psalm of praise, prayer, and anticipation for deliverance and blessings to the Church from Almighty God. We may entitle it: “The Prayerful Anticipation of the King & His Subjects.”

With this in mind, let us consider how this psalm should excite and enlarge our hearts as we sing it. It can be divided roughly into three parts: First, in verses 1-4, we see a word of praise for battles won. Secondly, from verses 5-11, we see a plea for continued help in the battles to be fought. Thirdly, from verses 12-15, we see the prospect of victory and prosperity in God’s hand.

Consider first, …

1. The Praise for Battles Won

This psalm begins with the words:

1 Blessed be the LORD my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight: 2 My goodness, and my fortress; my high tower, and my deliverer; my shield, and he in whom I trust; who subdueth my people under me.

How should we sing these words? It is not very meaningful for us to sing these words with David since the battles he fought happened a long time ago and does not have any direct impact on our life. I mean if we live under the reign of David, it would make sense for us to sing with him when he sings about his victory. But we are not under his reign whether in time or space.

Can we take these words and appropriate to ourselves the way that we may do with modern hymns? Well, we can’t quite do that because of words such as in verse 2—“who subdueth my people under me.”

Unless we understand that Christ is the speaker, we shall find it difficult to sing this psalm meaningfully. This is why you will not find this phrase in modern paraphrase Psalters. These so-called Psalters are written with a different theology of worship from the Christ who inspired the psalms.

On the other hand, when we sing the psalm with the understanding that Christ is the speaker, we can sing meaningfully in union with him. We were once his enemies, but now we are his people. We are His people because He shed his blood for us, and gave us His Spirit to subdue us (v. 2).

Now that we are His people, we can sing with Him and be thrilled in our hearts that God is our strength, our goodness, our fortress, our high tower, our deliverer, our shield in whom we can trust in Christ.

When I sing these comforting words, I am mindful that God is so, because He takes account of the “son of man.” Verse 3—

LORD, what is man, that thou takest knowledge of him! or the son of man, that thou makest account of him!

This verse, we should realize, is a quotation from Psalm 8. And the apostle to the Hebrews argues that the “son of man” in the context refers to Christ.

Christ is our Covenant Head. All the blessings that the Father bestows upon Him as the God-Man, He in turns redirect to us. For this reason, despite our insignificance (v. 4), we can sing these words of confidence gratefully.

Now, this psalm is set in the context of war. As King David was a man of war, so Christ is a man of war who has conquered and is conquering (Rv 6:2). Likewise Christians must be men of war (cf. Rom 8:37).

The Christian life is a life of warfare. It will be so until we reach our heavenly rest. This is why the apostle Paul urges us to “Put on the whole armour of God, that [we] may be able to stand again
st the wiles of the devil” (Eph 6:11).

Christianity is not for the faint-hearted. It is not for those who want peace at all costs. Every child of God is in a spiritual battle and must fight.

But thank God that we do not have to fight alone. We fight with the strength that God gives, for we can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth us (Phil 4:13). And it is God who trains us to fight with the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God (Eph 6:17).

And not only so, but when we enter the battle, we enter it with Christ as the captain of our army (Heb 2:10). As our captain, He has access to the fortress and high tower of God. We will never be defeated because Christ is our shield. Sin and Satan cannot destroy us because Christ has taken upon himself all that is worthy of condemnation in us.

Therefore, despite the spiritual battle that we are in, we serve God with great confidence—for Christ is our King.

But consider now the second part of this psalm where we see…

2. The Plea for God’s Help in the On-Going Battles

With the LORD’s help, David had won many battles. But he was not done yet. There were many more battles to fight before the kingdom had peace, and he knew that only the LORD could give him the victory. Indeed, the LORD can give him dramatic victories. So David cries unto the LORD in graphic terms to help.

5 Bow thy heavens, O LORD, and come down: touch the mountains, and they shall smoke. 6 Cast forth lightning, and scatter them: shoot out thine arrows, and destroy them. 7 Send thine hand from above…

Like David, Christ has conquered and is conquering. The war was won when He crushed the head of the ancient serpent on the Cross. But there are still battles to be fought. So when I sing this Psalm, I do not think so much about the military victory that God gave to David in ancient Israel. I am brought to think upon Christ the King of the Church and how He is leading the Church towards her heavenly rest.

David wrote this psalm when he was still battling the Philistines and also some in his own kingdom who opposed him.

Today, the Church of Christ militant is in the same state. The Church is in the world and the world is to a degree in the church. David speaks about—

Strange children; whose mouth speaketh vanity, and their right hand is a right hand of falsehood” (v. 7-8, 11).

He refers to them twice: first in verses 7-8, then again in verse 11. Modern hymns and choruses repeat stanzas mindlessly. But this is not a modern hymn or chorus, it is the word of God. When God repeats, we must cup both our ears and listen.

Strange children; whose mouth speaketh vanity, and their right hand is a right hand of falsehood” (v. 7-8, 11).

Who are these? David, I believe, must have had in mind the Philistines, and the ungodly men who opposed him within the nation of Israel. You see, the right hand is not only a hand of power. It is also the hand of oath. In Isaiah 62:8, we read that “The LORD hath sworn by his right hand.” So by associating the right hand with falsehood, it is very probable that David is not only speaking of strangers who swear by false gods, but of those in the kingdom, who are not truly loyal to Jehovah and His King, who take their vows lightly and have no qualms breaking their vows.

This gives us an idea, does it not, of who we should have in mind when we sing of these strange children? We should think of the world which opposes Christ. We should also think of those in the church who have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof!

These are they who speak vanity. When they speak they may sound very lofty, but it is the loftiness of clouds without rain.

These are they whose “right hand is a right hand of falsehood.” These are covenant breakers.

David was evidently much troubled by them. Christ the greater David detests them, and the sons of God should likewise desire to be delivered from them, verse 11—

11 Rid me, and deliver me from the hand of strange children, whose mouth speaketh vanity, and their right hand is a right hand of falsehood: 12 That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace…

For the sake of our covenant children; we must pray for peace in the Church. We must pray that the Lord will deliver us from strange children, from those who speak vanity and from covenant breakers.

Oh may the Lord teach us to do that which is right!

But finally, let us consider…

3. The Prospect of Victory & Prosperity in the LORD

The Christian life involves many battles. But help and victory is promised through our king. Blessings await every believer and every church that will fight the good fight of faith. There is a prospect of victory and prosperity for every true church and every believer.

Look at the blessings listed in verses 12-14.

Does not verse 12 speak of covenant boys and girls growing up to be healthy plants in a garden, and beautiful stones in a palace?

Does not verse 13 speak of fruitfulness and growth? “that our garners [or barns] may be full, offering all manner of store,” “that our sheep may bring forth…”

Does not verse 14 speak about peace and tranquility. “That there be no breaking in, nor going out; that there be no complaining in our streets” (v. 14). In the days of David, this would refer to conquest and captivity by foreign enemies, as well as moaning and grumbling in the streets.

Today, we wrestle not against flesh and blood; but do we not see how the enemy tries to disrupt the work of the church by causing discontentment, disunity, backsliding and departures (cf. 1 Jn 2:19; Jude 16).

If God were to pour down His blessings, (1) there will be few murmurers and complainers; (2) the church will grow in grace and numbers, and (3) our children will grow to become spiritual giants.

Is there not a sense in which we are not experiencing these blessings as much as we should? What shall we do?

Shall we not pray? What shall we pray? Shall we not pray as Christ our Lord teaches us? Notice that the threefold blessing in verses 12-14 is conditioned upon God hearing his prayer in verse 11.

Shall we not pray for the peace of Jerusalem, and seek the peace of Jerusalem?

“For my brethren and companions’ sakes, I will now say, Peace be within thee. Because of the house of the LORD our God [which is Christ] I will seek thy good.” (Ps 122:8-9)

Dearly beloved brethren, let us pray specifically as the Lord teaches us. First pray that the Lord will convert yourself. Then pray that he will subdue the unconverted and the covenant breakers. Pray that He will remove them, or He will convert them, for repentance is a gift of God.

Let us believe the word of God, that church life can be full of joy and satisfaction. But let us remember that before we enjoy the blessings of God, difficult prayers must be made and hard decisions may have to be taken by the church.


Let us therefore sing this psalm remembering that Christ our King and elder brother sings with us.

Let us sing it courageously, remembering that we can serve God with confidence because Christ is our King.

Let us sing it prayerfully, desiring that God will give peace to His church by subduing her enemies.

Let us sing it hopefully, believing that Church life can be happy. Let us believe that “happy is that people, whose God is the LORD”—who would humble themselves and submit to His holy will. Amen. W