Psalm: 18:21-50
Gospel: Luke 20:27-40
Patristic Reading: A Commentary on the Diatesseron by St. Ephrem

It’s very hard for me to shut off the academic part of my brain when I read Psalm 18; especially the latter half.

He trains my hands for war,
so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
You have given me the shield of your salvation,
and your right hand has supported me;
your help* has made me great.
You gave me a wide place for my steps under me,
and my feet did not slip.
I pursued my enemies and overtook them;
and did not turn back until they were consumed.
I struck them down, so that they were not able to rise;
they fell under my feet.
For you girded me with strength for the battle;
you made my assailants sink under me.
You made my enemies turn their backs to me,
and those who hated me I destroyed.
They cried for help, but there was no one to save them;
they cried to the Lord, but he did not answer them.
I beat them fine, like dust before the wind;
I cast them out like the mire of the streets. vv. 34-42

It’s pretty clear that this particular Scripture was written to praise the LORD…but more importantly, to ask for his presence in battle with the ancient kings of Israel.

We’re talking RISK style conquest here folks….. with a winner take all attitude……..

Domination was the goal…..With all the slaughtering and beseiging and bloodshed that goes along with it. :S

I have read and heard many interpretations on this Psalm that try and make it about being armed spiritually. The most popular approach is to employ the ” whole armour of God” image that Paul illustrates in Ephesians 6:10-20.

Needless to say, applying that kind of interpretation to the text seems a little fishy to me.

I’m not saying it’s totally useless, or that those interpetations don’t have any spiritual benefit. Heck, the Church Fathers turned the imagery of the Royal Psalms into vast metaphors that alluded specifically to Christ.

It seems to me that taking such an approach is akin to saying something like this:

“When Dickens critiqued English society in the Tale of Two Cities through the eyes of the Revolution, he was actually talking about the rampant over-consumption of the earth’s resources and the collapse of the ozone layer in the 21st century.”

Clearly, that just. doesn’t. work.

So what do we do with these Psalms that speak to a specific time and place? Part of the solution I think is to take them for what they are. To realize that, yes they do speak of military conquest but more importantly God is the one who is always in control.. As confident as the psalmist is in the king’s ability….his central point lies in the fact that no one can do anything without God:

The Lord lives! Blessed be my rock,
and exalted be the God of my salvation,
the God who gave me vengeance
and subdued peoples under me;
who delivered me from my enemies;
indeed, you exalted me above my adversaries;
you delivered me from the violent.

For this I will extol you, O Lord, among the nations,
and sing praises to your name.
Great triumphs he gives to his king,
and shows steadfast love to his anointed,
to David and his descendants for ever (vv. 46-50)

The emphasis is not on violence, but on the ultimate kingship of YHWH. We don’t have to sacrifice the meaning of the original text in order to make sense of this Scripture.

A key part to being Christian is realizing that we are not in total control of the situation….God is.

In the Lord’s Prayer we ask that God’s will be done, and kingdom come…..but how are we supposed to do that if we holding on to tightly to the reins???

I wonder what would happen if we loosened our grip just a little?!? If we just relinquished control. It could result in chaos, it could erupt in violence……but maybe……just maybe….. the Spirit would have room to do things more fantastic and life-giving than we could ever ask for or imagine. +