Leap Over Your Wall
Psalm 18:1-3; 28-36
We all know about the difficulties and almost insurmountable obstacles David faced in his life. The most famous of these, of course, was his battle with Goliath. But even after God had placed David on the royal throne of Israel, he was immediately harassed with insurrections by some of his own subjects, and from his own son, Absalom. In addition to all of this, powerful foreign enemies challenged David throughout his entire reign as king.
David would have never endured these calamities had he not been aided by the power of God. Psalm 18 then, is a song of triumph--not a song of triumph in honor of himself, but David exalts and magnifies God, the Author of these victories.
Last Sunday, when we examined Psalm 9, we saw three predominant themes: the praise God deserves, the power God displays, and the protection God promises. Here again, in Psalm 18, we see these three themes repeated.
"I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised", says David in verse 3. This is the praise God deserves. When David describes God as a "rock", a "fortress", and a "shield" in verse 2, he is speaking again of the power God displays. And by preceding each of these metaphors with the word "my", David means to explain that God's power is exercised on his behalf. This is the protection God promises.
What is interesting about this particular Psalm is that it occurs, almost word for word, in 2Samuel chapter 22. From this we are able to conclude that David wrote this Psalm late in life. He likely wrote this Psalm then, not in reference to one particular deliverance, but in reference to all of the times where God delivered David from the hands of his enemies.
And in thinking of all the deliverances by the hand of God, David begins Psalm 18 with the simple phrase, "I love Thee, O Lord". Before David gets into theology, and before David recounts the mighty acts of God, David tells the Lord that he loves Him.
Commenting on this verse, John Calvin writes that "there is no better way of serving God than to love him". This is consistent with what Jesus tells the church at Ephesus in Revelation, chapter 2. We can have excellent doctrine, we can be as busy as spiritual bumblebees doing the work of the church, but if we are not loving Jesus we are missing the point. David understands this point, and so he begins his psalm with the declaration, "I love Thee, O Lord".
This is basic stuff, I realize, but when was the last time you told the Lord that you loved Him? If this is so basic, why are we so negligent in doing something as simple as loving Jesus?
How do we correct this? How do we increase our love for the Lord? David's answer to this is twofold: Consider God's nature and consider God's works.
Consider the fact that the Lord is an immovable rock. Consider the fact that the Lord is a mighty fortress. Consider the fact that the Lord is an impenetrable shield. Consider God's nature.
David would also have us consider God's workings in our life. David recalls the many instances when he was saved from his enemies by the hand of the Lord. David recalls all of those times when his back was against the wall, times when he was "terrified"(v.4), times when he faced opponents who were, by David's own admission, "too mighty for (him)"(v.17).
I want you to consider the fact that God's grace has brought you safe thus far in order that you might gain confidence that His grace will lead you home. Consider God's works.
Again, this may seem to be basic stuff, yet as we look to verse 28 and beyond, we see the need for this reminder. David writes, "Thou dost light my lamp; the Lord my God illumines my darkness". We need to be reminded of God's nature and God's works because it is not easy to do when one is in darkness.
Adversity is a part of life. We all face trials and temptations throughout our life. And, it is during these times, we are prone to forget God's nature. It is usually in the midst of suffering, it is during times of anxiety, that our memory shuts down--we forget God's provisions in getting us this far in the first place.
When speaking of his own trials and obstacles, David speaks of dwelling in "darkness" in verse 28, and he speaks of facing a "troop" and a "wall" in verse 29.
I want us to pause right here. In order for Scripture to speak to our particular situation, we will need to translate these images. David was a military commander, we are not. Our suffering has nothing to do with fighting an actual army or climbing a wall. We don't need help "bending a bow of bronze"(v.34)--some of us just want to get through the day.
These images then, should be treated as metaphors for our own context. What, then, is your darkness? What army are you fighting against? What wall must you climb?
For many of us, our struggle is people. The conflict many of us experience is in our personal relationships. This can be a spouse, a child, a parent, or a sibling. It can be a neighbour or it can be someone we work with or for. This is a relationship that you have given up on, or are thinking of giving up on.
For some of us, our struggle is coping with our failing health or the failing health of someone we love. We find that we aren't physically able to do the things we once took for granted. Our eyesight isn't what it used to be, our hearing isn't great, and we find climbing a set of stairs to be quite a challenge. These things, if we let them, can really injure our morale. Physical setbacks, if we allow them, can rob the Christian of their joy.
Still others are fighting a battle in the mind. Some of us are intimidated by the prospect of simply getting out of bed in the morning and facing the day ahead. Some of us are anxious about the future--everything looks so uncertain and this frightens us. Some of us are lonely and depressed.
Have I mentioned anything that could be described as the wall you must climb? Do any of these things resemble the army you are fighting against?
Even if you answer 'no' to this question, there is one wall that we all face, and that is the power of sin. The apostle Paul reminds us that "our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against . . . the spiritual forces of wickedness"(Eph. 6:12). Every day of our life, we are prompted by self-centred instincts and pride. Whether we recognize it or not, we all have a wall to climb--and that wall is temptation and sin.
Your struggle may be people related, health related, sin related, or a combination of the above. As you face these struggles, the troop may appear too strong. The wall looks too high to climb, and you say to yourself, "I can't do it." You're absolutely right. You can't do it. We will lose this battle unless we enlist God's help.
If we, like David, "call upon the Lord", if we pray to the Lord, we can count on His assistance. We can count on the power God displays. We can count on the protection God promises. David describes this for us in verse 29, "by Thee I can run upon a troop; and by my God I can leap over a wall"(repeat verse).
Notice that God doesn't promise a life without battles or walls, but He does promise strength in the midst of those battles.
I suspect certain people will continue to challenge your patience. Your health, or the health of someone you love, may not improve. Your battle against sin may continue indefinitely. God does not always remove the walls that stand in our way, but He does provide the strength to leap over them. God does provide the strength to endure the battle.
The struggles of this life are just too challenging to tackle on our own. It is not bravery, but foolishness, to try and endure these hardships by our own strength.
The God we love is a Rock--He is our rock, our fortress, and our deliverer. Call upon His strength and you will be able to endure any battle. Call upon His strength and you will be able to leap over any wall. Amen.