When a Nation Goes to War - Page 2 (series: Lessons on Psalms)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

Verses 4 and 5: Unless a leader listens to God, his strategies and decisions will be based on mere human reasoning. The people of Israel was definite about what they wanted in this regard: they wanted their king to be listening to God.

4 Grant thee according to thine own heart, and fulfil all thy counsel.

The only way they could expect God to fulfill the war councils of their king were if those military plans were made in the presence of God.

How can a nation plan the battle properly if its leaders and lawmakers refuse to recognize any kind of dependence on God? The people of Israel told their king that they wanted him to be listening to God so that he could plan the battle properly and thus be victorious.

5 We will rejoice in thy salvation, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners: the LORD fulfil all thy petitions.

“In the name of our God” here means to the honor of God, as the Conqueror.

The word for “banner” is one which occurs only in this psalm and in Song of Solomon 5:1, where it is translated “the chiefest”: “My beloved is . . . the chiefest among ten thousand.” It really means: “The standard bearer among ten thousand.”

This psalm in its prophetic dimension has to do with the Messiah going forth to battle against His foes. Historically, this was the banner the leaders were to lift up, as they prepared the nation for war. The people were to rally around the Standard Bearer, the Chiefest among ten thousand, the living Lord himself. That’s how to go into battle properly. After the battle, raising the banners and waving them was a sign of victory, and “Jehovah our banner” was one of God’s special names (Ex. 17:15-16{5]).

The Lord is our “banner” (Ex. 15:17{1]) and we will succeed if we go forward in His name and for His glory. Verse 5 is the central verse in the psalm, a confident affirmation of victory even before the battle started.

Verses 6-9: The speaker is no longer the people but the king or a prophet. We will learn three things about his prayer.

6 Now know I that the LORD saveth his anointed; he will hear him from his holy heaven with the saving strength of his right hand.

It is not clear whether the king or possibly a prophet present at the liturgy, is speaking; in either case, the note of confidence is intended for the Lord’s anointed one, whom the Lord will answer from heaven by mighty acts of salvation.

The people looked to the king; the king looked to the King of kings. Interesting enough, the word “saveth” is in the past tense. David expressed the truth that the battle was already won because of God’ power and faithfulness, and His love for David and His people. The actual deployment of the army on the battlefield was a mere formality. The battle had already been won the moment the people expressed a sense of their need of God, the moment the king prepared himself to pray.

Kings were “anointed,” priests were “anointed,” and individuals chosen for special duties were “anointed.” God chose David, and this anointed king has now regained his certainty of faith. I know, he says, that God will not let me down. He could say that with certainty because in the covenant God made with David, He had promised him success in battle (2 Sam. 7:11{6]), and David claimed this promise by faith.

7 Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God.

The pronouns are important. David says: “They are trusting in their armaments and in their mobility, but we are trusting in the name of Jehovah our God.” This is the only kind of boasting allowed a believer: “God saved you by his special favor when you believed. And you can't take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it” (Eph. 2:8-9{7]). Israel’s kings were commanded not to acquire great numbers of horses and chariots (Deut. 17:16{8]), a law that Solomon disobeyed (1 Ki. 10:26-27{9]).

So, we trust in our twentieth-century horses and chariots. David trusted in the name of the Lord his God. It would be better for America and the world if we had spiritual giants leading the West instead of politicians, scientists, and military chiefs of staff.

In today’s world, a country which does not have a powerful arsenal with which to confront aggressors would be acting foolishly. David did not disband his armies simply because he had faith in God. But neither did he put his trust in troops as his first and main line of defense. He had some able generals. There was Joab, as tough as any leader who ever took his troops into battle. There were Asahel and Shammah and Benaiah and Abishai. But David’s trust went far beyond men like that: his trust was in the name of the Lord his God. God’s people, in every age, don’t boast of their personal resources, but in the God who alone can save them in

every situation.

8 They are brought down and fallen: but we are risen, and stand upright.
9 Save, LORD: let the king hear us when we call.

The reality that one might die in the coming battle produced tension throughout the army of Israel even as they assembled to plead for victory. In the Bible, assurance never breeds complacency, but rather offers ground for urgent prayer and calling upon God to save.

They were “brought down” from their “horses” and “chariots” in which they trusted. They were unable to stand any longer because of their mortal wounds, but we stand firm on our two legs, and keep the field as conquers use to do.

“God save the king!” It was from that familiar phrase that Great Brittan developed her national anthem. But Brittan, like America, has come a long way down the road to degeneration and disaster since those days when faith in God was the first line of defense.

“They are brought down . . . we are risen . . . God save the king.” Such total deliverance because of total dependence is what we need today.

It is just at that moment when things seem to be at their very worst that in the name of the Lord our God we shall rise and stand upright. What a great statement of faith! God’s right hand was the one that acted for Him. That is why, using this theoretical picture, the New Testament can speak of Christ seated at the right hand of God; for Christ is now the executor of God’s saving love and redemptive judgment.

“Save, LORD!” Let the king—the King eternal, immortal, invisible—let the King hear us when we call. The sense here is either:
1. O Lord, preserve and aid the king so that when we are distressed and call out to him for help, he may be ready and able to help. Or,
2. God, the supreme Monarch, the King of kings, and in a peculiar manner the King of Israel, hear and answer us, when we pray for our king and people.

“Save, Lord,” is Hosanna in the Hebrew. This is a great Hosanna psalm. May God make it real to our hearts.

But before we end our meditation on this psalm and send it off to the Chief Musician, let us remember that these principles apply to our individual lives as much as to our national life. Only, our enemies are spiritual, unseen, and demonic. If we want total deliverance from the problems and powers that beset us, we too must have total dependence. Our first step to victory in spiritual warfare is to trust only in the mercy and grace of God; all who trust in themselves will soon be “brought down.” Believers triumph in God and in His revelation of Himself to them, by which they distinguish themselves from those that live without God in the world.


{1] (Ex. 15:17) Moses built an altar there and called it "The LORD Is My Banner."

{2] (Ex. 3:12, 14) Then God told him, "I will be with you. And this will serve as proof that I have sent you: When you have brought the Israelites out of Egypt, you will return here to worship God at this very mountain." . . . God replied, "I AM THE ONE WHO ALWAYS IS. Just tell them, 'I AM has sent me to you.'"

{3] (Deut. 28:58) "If you refuse to obey all the terms of this law that are written in this book, and if you do not fear the glorious and awesome name of the LORD your God,

{4] (2 Chron. 20:15) He said, "Listen, King Jehoshaphat! Listen, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the LORD says: Do not be afraid! Don't be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God's.

{5] (Ex. 17:15-16) Moses built an altar there and called it "The LORD Is My Banner."
He said, "They have dared to raise their fist against the LORD's throne, so now the LORD will be at war with Amalek generation after generation."

{6] (2 Sam. 7:11) from the time I appointed judges to rule my people. And I will keep you safe from all your enemies." 'And now the LORD declares that he will build a house for you -- a dynasty of kings!

{7] (Eph. 2:8-9) God saved you by his special favor when you believed. And you can't take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.

{8] (Deut. 17:16) The king must not build up a large stable of horses for himself, and he must never send his people to Egypt to buy horses there, for the LORD has told you, 'You must never return to Egypt.'

{9] (1 Ki. 10:26-27) Solomon built up a huge force of chariots and horses. He had fourteen hundred chariots and twelve thousand horses. He stationed many of them in the chariot cities, and some near him in Jerusalem. The king made silver as plentiful in Jerusalem as stones. And valuable cedarwood was as common as the sycamore wood that grows in the foothills of Judah.

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