New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

Psa 144:1
By David-
The LXX title says that it concerns the fight with Goliath of 1 Sam. 17.

Blessed be Yahweh, my rock, who teaches my hands to war, and my fingers to battle-
David gives full credit to Yahweh for the victory. The mention of hands and fingers is appropriate to his use of a sling to kill Goliath, but he attributes his skill to Divine training. He had likely learned to sling stones with accuracy from a child. He attributes that training to Yahweh, showing that God is active in preparing human life from early childhood experiences.

Psa 144:2

my source of grace-
David recognizes that the victory was through Divine grace, not his bravery or skill as a slinger.

My fortress, my high tower, my deliverer-
These are all defensive terms. And yet David is presented as the bold aggressor who proactively seeks out the duel with Goliath. He did so refusing all human armour; because he saw Yahweh as his defence. David sees that Yahweh will be a "high tower" or place of refuge at the day of future judgment (Ps. 9:8,9, quoted about this in Acts 17:31). But David feels God has been like this to him in this life (2 Sam. 22:3; Ps. 18:2; 46:7; 48:3; 59:9,16,17; 62:2; 94:22; 144:2). He therefore sees a seamless experience in his relationship with God in this life, and at the future day of judgment. God saves us right now and is a refuge for us in countless life situations; and this is the guarantee that He will be likewise at the last day.

My shield and He in whom I take refuge-
Again a reference to his refusal to take Saul's shield and defensive armour with him into battle.

Who subdues my people under me-
David's victory over Goliath was what brought the people under him. But instead of basking in any personal glory about that, David thanks God for having given that to him. 

Psa 144:3

Yahweh, what is man, that You care for him? Or the son of man, that You think of him?-
This repeats Ps. 8:4, and as commented there, that Psalm is clearly, as here, David's thoughts as he marvelled at how he had been used to achieve the victory over Goliath. But as explained on Ps. 8:3, he becomes a symbol of the Lord Jesus, the ultimate "son of man". David is here alluding to the earlier words of Job. Probably the only extant scripture at David's time was the book of Job and the Pentateuch, which explains why he so often alludes to the book of Job. Job came to deeply marvel at the fact that despite God's highness, He tests us and meditates upon us every moment of our lives: "What is man, that thou shouldest magnify him?... that thou shouldest visit him every morning, and try him every moment?" (Job 7:17,18). These words became the basis of the thoughts of the Lord Jesus as prophesied here. Like Job, the Lord learnt from the depth of His own inner struggles about the moral greatness of the Father. So even God's own Son, peerless and spotless lamb of God that He was even in mortal nature, recognized that such was God's moral splendour that He was surprised that during His mortality, God was so intensely interested in Him.

As God was "mindful of" (Ps. 8:4) or 'cared for' David and thereby all men in Israel through the victory granted over Goliath, so David urged that in response, they should be "mindful" of God (s.w. 1 Chron. 16:12,15). But "mindful" implies 'to remember', and is a term used for answer to prayer (Jud. 16:28; 1 Sam. 1:11 and often). David is acknowledging that he had prayed for victory, and been granted it- but felt unworthy to have received such an answer.

Psa 144:4

Man is like a breath, his days are like a shadow that passes away-
"Breath" is the word for "vanity". So this may not be a general reflection upon all humanity, but upon the unrighteous, upon whom the judgment of :5,6 is to come. The word is used in Ps. 94:11 "Yahweh knows the thoughts of man, that they are futile". "Vanity" is the word commonly used of idolatry. And this indeed is where modern day idolatry is committed- through having an empty mind, filled with vanity, rather than the things of God's Spirit. And yet all the same, the parallel in Psalm 8 seems to suggest that David marvelled that God had wrought so much through him, a mere mortal man. And his allusions to the language of idolatry and apostacy could effectively be saying that 'Seeing I am a mere mortal, there but for God's grace go I, I am not so much higher than those apostates'. An attitude we all need to remember as we mix with those others would consider the dregs of our societies.

Psa 144:5

Part Your heavens, Yahweh, and come down; touch the mountains, and they will smoke-
It seems at this point that David is praying for a dramatic deliverance from apparently certain death, and he has reminded himself in :1-4 of the victory and salvation granted him over Goliath as an inspiration. He has done this previously in this section of the Psalms; see on Ps. 140:7. He asks for a theophany to save him, no less that what happened at Sinai (s.w. Ex. 19:18-20), when again God had as it were made the mountains smoke by His touch. We marvel at David's spiritual ambition, unafraid to ask for a similar theophany to save him. And he reflects at the end of his life that this prayer was in fact answered (Ps. 18:9). The relevance to the exiles is that Yahweh was prepared to "bow" (s.w. "stretch out") the heavens and "come down" to restore the exiles; but they chose not to make use of that huge potential (s.w. Is. 40:22; 42:5; 64:1). 

Psa 144:6

Throw out lightning and scatter them-
This continues the request for a saving theophany of the magnitude of what was seen at Sinai; see on :5. At the end of his life, David was thankful that this prayer had in fact been answered (Ps. 18:14). David rejoices that Divine "arrows" were sent to destroy his enemies (Ps. 7:13; 18:14; 45:5; 64:7; 144:6), in fulfilment of God's promise to do so to the sinful within Israel (Dt. 32:23,42). But David was to later realize that those same arrows had been fired by God into him in judgment for his sin (Ps. 38:2). This realization was perhaps to help David understand that his rejoicing in Divine arrows of judgment being fired at his enemies had not been mature; for he himself had to realize that he was worthy of the same.

Send out Your arrows and defeat them-
Again the prayer was answered and David thanks God for this at the end of his life (s.w. Ps. 18:14). We cannot locate any particular historical incident of fulfilment; perhaps it was too personal and wonderful to be recorded. Just as a Christian man or woman might feel it inappropriate to record God's most dramatic salvation of them when they write their autobiography. The shooting or sending forth of arrows is only elsewhere used of God doing so against an apostate Judah (s.w. Ez. 5:16). The phrase is also repeatedly used of how Jonathan shot arrows to signal to David that his father Saul was going to try to kill him (1 Sam. 20:20-22). Perhaps the enemies in view are therefore Saul and his men.

Psa 144:7

Stretch out Your hand from above, rescue me and deliver me out of great waters, out of the hands of foreigners-
The "foreigners" may be literal Gentiles, represented as often by "waters". But I suggested on :6 that it is perhaps Saul and his men (such as Doeg, the Gentile Edomite) who may be initially in view. This would continue a major Biblical theme; that the apostate amongst God's people are as Gentiles. See on :8.

As noted on :5,6, Ps. 144 has many points of contact with Ps. 18, here to Ps. 18:16 "He sent from on high. He took me, He drew me out of many waters". At the end of his life, David felt his prayer of Ps. 144:7 had indeed been answered. "Waters" are usually symbolic of armies or nations. David felt he had been surrounded and faced with certain death, but had been as it were airlifted to safety by God. The language here says that God has done this, but it is parallel with David's prayer for this to happen in Ps. 144:7. The triumphant song of Ps. 18 is therefore praise for the prayer of Ps. 144 being answered.

Psa 144:8

whose mouths speak deceit, whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood-
The language of deceit is more appropriate to the apostate within Israel than to Gentiles. See on :7. The mouths who spoke deceit and falsehood are often those of Saul and his men (see s.w. Ps. 7:14; 27:12; 31:18; 35:19; 119:69,78, 86,118 etc.)  

Psa 144:9

I will sing a new song to You, God, on a ten-stringed lyre I will sing praises to You-
This is the song of Ps. 18; see on :5-7. Even in the Old Testament, the idea of living in a spirit of newness of life is to be found. David six times invites us to sing with him “a new song” (Ps. 33:3; 40:3; 96:1; 98:1; 144:9; 149:1 cp. Is. 42:10). Invariably these songs are associated with the experience of God’s redemption (cp. Rev. 5:9). Obviously those ‘new songs’ were intended to be repeatedly sung. Our regular experience of forgiveness and redemption should urge us onwards in the spirit of ‘newness of life’. Like Paul we die daily with the Lord, and the power of His resurrection life likewise daily breaks out in us.

Psa 144:10

You are He who gives salvation to kings, who rescues David His servant from the deadly sword-
Again the allusion is to the victory over the deadly sword of Goliath. David is praying for a dramatic deliverance from apparently certain death, and he has reminded himself in :1-4 of the victory and salvation granted him over Goliath as an inspiration. He has done this previously in this section of the Psalms; see on Ps. 140:7. We note how David on one hand recognizes that he is indeed a king, but more than that, Yahweh's servant. In the thinking of his time, kings didn't need salvation. They were themselves seen as saviours, self sufficient. But David broke this paradigm of thinking, considering himself to be the humble king.

Psa 144:11

Rescue me, and deliver me out of the hands of foreigners, whose mouths speak deceit, whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood-
This repeats :7,8, where I suggested that the people in view are not necessarily Gentiles but Saul, acting as a Gentile, and whose entourage included Gentiles like Doeg the Edomite. "Redeem / deliver me from the hand..." is again a quotation from Jacob's words when he found his relative Esau [not a complete Gentile, although acting like one] barring his path back home (Gen. 32:11,30). And the word is used of David's desire for deliverance from Saul (1 Sam. 26:24); and yet this was a redemption unappreciated by him as it ought to have been (2 Sam. 12:7). Finally David recognized that this prayer was answered (2 Sam. 22:18,49). As David had earlier prayed for redemption / deliverance from Saul and his enemies (Ps. 31:15; 59:1; 144:7), he would later pray for redemption / deliverance from his sins (Ps. 39:8; 79:9).

Psa 144:12

Then our sons will be like well-nurtured plants, our daughters like corner stones carved to adorn a palace-
If indeed Saul and his followers are in view in :11 (see note there), then this will be David's anticipation of what the kingdom of God in Israel would be like when he became king and Saul was deposed, as had been promised by Samuel. This vision of that Davidic kingdom didn't fully come about, partly because of David's own imperfections; but it looks ahead to how things will be in the ultimate Davidic kingdom of the Lord Jesus. Solomon and David's other sons were hardly like "well nurtured plants". The potential was that David's sons would be "planted" eternally (s.w. 2 Sam. 7:10), but this only came finally true in the kingdom of the Lord Jesus. God's people were indeed "planted" in the land (Ps. 80:8) but were uprooted; and the prophecies only come true in the person of the Lord Jesus who is as the plant which grew in the dry land (Ps. 80:15).  

Psa 144:13

Our barns will be full, filled with all kinds of provision; our sheep will bring forth thousands and ten thousands in our fields-
As noted on :12, this is a picture of the kingdom which David hoped to establish after the death of Saul. It is expressed in terms of the blessings for obedience to the covenant; and throughout Ps. 119 David had vowed to be personally obedient to the laws of God which formed the old covenant. But he was overconfident of both his own obedience and that of Israel. And so as explained on :12, these things are reapplied to the final reestablishment of the Davidic kingdom by the Lord Jesus.

Psa 144:14

Our oxen will pull heavy loads, there will be no breaking in and no going away, and no crying in our streets-
The reference is to the breaking in of the Philistines upon Israel and their going away in flight from them, and the crying in the streets after the Philistines had sacked the Israelite villages. This would now be no more, thanks to David's victory. But this vision of the Davidic kingdom didn't last and didn't even fully come about. See on :11,12.

Psa 144:15

Happy are the people who are in such a situation. Happy are the people whose God is Yahweh-
This kingdom of God on earth under David's rulership was indeed the ideal projection of how God's Kingdom in Israel could be. But the people didn't retain Yahweh is their God in a meaningful sense, and so its realization was precluded; it will only come fully true in the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus, which will be a restoration and extension of the Davidic kingdom, with Him reigning eternally on David's throne. This is indeed "the Hope of Israel".