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Psalms Series Two

Plea For Help

Psalm  144

Lesson audio

The reader might note that in some manuscript traditions this Psalm is attributed to David at the time of Goliath. The oldest and best manuscripts do not have this; however, it is in the Vulgate, and Augustine accepted it as fact. Interestingly, when the Vulgate was translated into the Douay-Rheims version, the notation was omitted. None of the modern translations (including King James) carry this notation.

The Psalm is, however, a model for intercessory prayer.

Foundation: Man and God

The Character of God

Psalms 144:1-2 NIV Of David.

Praise be to the LORD my Rock,

who trains my hands for war,

my fingers for battle. (2) He is my loving God and my fortress,

my stronghold and my deliverer,

my shield, in whom I take refuge,

who subdues peoples [1] under me.

It is no accident that this prayer of intercession begins with the praise of God. If the heart of man is right, it is the normal beginning of prayer; “Our Father, who is in heaven, holy be your name.” Praising the Lord comes naturally to such a soul. Moreover, in every personal relationship there must be an understanding of just who the other party is.

Who, then, does David acknowledge?

  • First, God is his rock – the fortress and stronghold of his life. Remember the Three Little Pigs? God is the house made of brick. Every other person and thing is of no shelter by comparison.
  • God is the one who has given him the skill to become who he is – King of Israel. Note the phrasing: it’s not that God handed him the kingship on a platter, but he enabled David to do it. The experiences of David’s life suited him for the purposes God had planned for him – and David is grateful.
  • In addition to which, God has “subdued peoples” – the phrase may also be translated “subdue my people” – which implies that even with David’s experience and talent, God has been gracious to him in amplifying his gifts.

Work out your salvation; for it is God working within you.

The nature of man

Psalms 144:3-4 NIV O LORD, what is man that you care for him,

the son of man that you think of him? (4) Man is like a breath;

his days are like a fleeting shadow.

If you begin by acknowledging God in your relationship, you must also confirm who you are – at the very least so you are not deceiving yourself.

That confirmation is very humbling. Put shortly, why does God even bother with you, no matter how great you are among men? It’s a standard argument for atheism; if God is so great, why would he bother with you? (The answer is, because God is so great.) The fact is that he does bother with you; it’s just that you don’t deserve it. Man is so much fleeting futility; only the things of God last.

Modern view

That’s David’s view. The modern view is quite a bit different. What we hear today from the pulpit is more like this:

  • Christ is our “good buddy.” We can talk to him as our equal. (The absurdity of this should be obvious.)
  • Our new translations (and even more, paraphrases) make the assumption that we completely understand the Bible – and therefore do not have to translate it word for word, but can use phrase by phrase or even rewrite it to our taste. This would have horrified the translators of the King James. But if this is so, you can see that intercessory prayer really changes.
  • Man is seen as intrinsically worthy. Christ died for you. He did that either because a) you are worthy to have someone die for you or b) he did it out of his great love. My grandchildren do not “earn” the gifts we give them; they are gifts of our love for them.
  • Have you noticed that the words “sin” and “sinner” are now much less frequently mentioned? The postmodern view is that we really can’t say what is or is not sin – it’s all relative. Therefore we can be confident in our ignorance that we are not sinners, but worthy. (Huh?)

Plea for Help

Psalms 144:5-8 NIV Part your heavens, O LORD, and come down;

touch the mountains, so that they smoke. (6) Send forth lightning and scatter {the enemies};

shoot your arrows and rout them. (7) Reach down your hand from on high;

deliver me and rescue me

from the mighty waters,

from the hands of foreigners (8) whose mouths are full of lies,

whose right hands are deceitful.

The condescension of God

Condescension: Webster defined it as “Voluntary descent from rank, dignity or just claims; relinquishment of strict right; submission to inferiors in granting requests or performing acts which strict justice does not require. Hence, courtesy.” This is precisely what we are asking of God:

  • We ask him to “part the heavens” – the words literally mean to “bend” heaven to our desires. The very act of God intervening at all is by definition an act which is contrary to nature.
  • We ask him to intervene – with power. We are not asking him to comfort us in our suffering (though that is proper too) but to use his divine power on our behalf. Indeed, we are asking him to condescend to us.
  • The ultimate condescension is this: that God became the babe of Bethlehem. If you need proof that God will do this, there it is.
Threat Analysis

David now describes the threat about him. It’s not that God doesn’t know; it’s that we need to acknowledge both the threat and our inability to deal with it. There is no sense here of “God, you take care of that and I’ll handle the rest.” David is up against the wall.

  • The first thing he describes is “mighty waters” – a phrase that harks back to Moses and the Red Sea. That’s the mental picture: just how did Moses feel thirty seconds before the waters parted?
  • His enemies are described as foreigners. In the Old Testament, that clearly meant those who were not in covenant with God. It’s a reminder to us: what fellowship can the Christian have with the children of the devil? Should we compromise with them, or appeal to God?
  • His enemies are those who manufacture lies and deceit. Let me give you an example: when Planned Parenthood was campaigning for the legalization of abortion, they told the world that every year 55,000 young women died from back alley abortions – a figure still proclaimed. The year of Roe v. Wade, the Center for Disease Control tallied a total of 13 deaths. Not thirteen thousand, thirteen. David’s problems were evidently not at all unique.

David is making his plea for (at the least) God’s providential intervention, if not his miraculous intervention. As far as I recall David never received any miracles. He probably did not distinguish between the two types. In this there are lessons for us:

  • First, that we should not be afraid to ask God for his intervention.
  • Second, that we should do so boldly.[1]
  • Finally, that this is not presumptuous – if there is faith.

David’s Confidence

The sureness of David’s faith can be seen in his ending: things are going to be so great! This is the prayer of a man of faith; confident in the results.

And the rest of us? I believe; help my unbelief.

Sing a New Song

Psalms 144:9-11 NIV I will sing a new song to you, O God;

on the ten-stringed lyre I will make music to you, (10) to the One who gives victory to kings,

who delivers his servant David from the deadly sword. (11) Deliver me and rescue me

from the hands of foreigners

whose mouths are full of lies,

whose right hands are deceitful.

May we see two things here?

  • Some scholars see the ten-stringed lyre as an image of the Ten Commandments. It is as if David is saying that his praise will be rooted in the commandments of God, not the invention of his own mind.
  • Again, he acknowledges that it is God who gives the victory, and deliverance from trouble. It is a lesson for kings – and perhaps even presidents.
Blessed are the people

Psalms 144:12-15 NIV Then our sons in their youth

will be like well-nurtured plants,

and our daughters will be like pillars

carved to adorn a palace. (13) Our barns will be filled

with every kind of provision.

Our sheep will increase by thousands,

by tens of thousands in our fields; (14) our oxen will draw heavy loads. [2]

There will be no breaching of walls,

no going into captivity,

no cry of distress in our streets. (15) Blessed are the people of whom this is true;

blessed are the people whose God is the LORD.

See the blessings David sees:

  • Perhaps our most important one, our children. All good parents want their children to grow up to be strong, and to live in peace. Even more, that they will be people of prominence in the church and the community.
  • Next are material blessings – expressed here in a very agricultural sense.
  • Finally, there are “military” blessings – that is, the blessing of peace in victory.

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.


May I suggest these steps for intercessory prayer?

  • Begin with the praise and acknowledgement of who God is.
  • Acknowledge your own insignificance to him.
  • Then boldly ask for that which you know you cannot obtain by yourself.
  • Acknowledge that your foes are too great for you, and your troubles beyond your own capability.
  • Acknowledge the sureness of God in replying to you.
  • Praise God for his many blessings.

Praise: the bookends of the prayer of faith.

[1] Hebrews 4:16

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