Plants and pillars, Psalm 144

Reformed folks emphasize the covenant, God’s promises to believers and their children throughout all of history, and Psalm 144 contains two beautiful similes for covenant children: sons like plants full-grown and daughters like a palace’s corner pillars (Psalm 144:12, ESV). What beautiful images of children who grow into godly adults doing what God created them to do: serving and loving the Lord!

David begins this psalm with the song of a victorious warrior:

Blessed be the LORD, my rock,
    who trains my hands for war,
   and my fingers for battle;
he is my steadfast love and my fortress,
   my stronghold and my deliverer,
my shield and he in whom I take refuge,
   who subdues peoples under me (Psalm 144:1-2, ESV).

We’ve heard a lot about God’s steadfast love throughout our look at psalms, but in this passage David calls God our steadfast love. It is one of many nouns David uses in these verses as synonyms for God: rock, steadfast love, fortress, stronghold, deliverer, and shield.

Overcome with God’s gracious provision and protection, David reflects on humanity’s transience.

O LORD, what is man that you regard him,
   or the son of man that you think of him?
Man is like a breath;
   his days are like a passing shadow (3-4, ESV).

Then David turns his mind to God’s power over the forces of nature and wickedness.

Bow your heavens, O LORD, and come down!
    Touch the mountains so that they smoke!
Flash forth the lightning and scatter them;
   send out your arrows and rout them!
Stretch out your hand from on high;
    rescue me and deliver me from the many waters,
   from the hand of foreigners,
whose mouths speak lies
   and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood (5-8, ESV).

Whenever I see pictures or video or hear reports of a smoking volcano, I think of God touching the mountains so that they smoke. Lightning flashes across the sky remind me of God’s divine arrows against his enemies. Floods call to mind the God whose hand stretches out over the waters to rescue his people.

God not only rescues people from natural disasters, he also delivers them from the hand of liars, who are not part of the true church family. Such deceivers appear to extend the right hand of fellowship, but their intent is to manipulate and control under the guise of friendship.

Because God equips, protects, and delivers, the psalmist can sing a new song.

I will sing a new song to you, O God;
   upon a ten-stringed harp I will play to you,
who gives victory to kings,
   who rescues David his servant from the cruel sword (9-10, ESV).

David suffered much at the hands of King Saul, the man appointed by God to rule over his people. He suffered greatly from the deceit of Saul’s supporters. David also fought constantly against foreign enemies. He knew the despair from discovering that someone you trusted was actually a liar and a deceiver. This was such an emotionally charged issue with him that he repeats his earlier plea for rescue from such evil people.

Rescue me and deliver me
   from the hand of foreigners,
whose mouths speak lies
   and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood (11, ESV).

After reiterating his request for deliverance from deceivers, David prays that believers will see covenant blessings in their families, farms, and cities (12-14, ESV):  

May our sons in their youth
   be like plants full grown,
our daughters like corner pillars
   cut for the structure of a palace;
may our granaries be full,
    providing all kinds of produce;
may our sheep bring forth thousands
   and ten thousands in our fields;
may our cattle be heavy with young,
   suffering no mishap or failure in bearing;
may there be no cry of distress in our streets!

God’s people who experience such marvelous mercy from the Lord are truly blessed (15, ESV):

Blessed are the people to whom such blessings fall!
    Blessed are the people whose God is the LORD!

May God be your rock, your fortress, your stronghold, your deliver, your shield, and especially your steadfast love! May he deliver you from deceivers so that you can sing to him a new song! May your sons be like full-grown plants and your daughters like graceful palace pillars! May your work be productive and your business increase. May there be no suffering or mishap or failure in anything you attempt. May there be no cry of distress in your streets!

Even if you don’t see visible signs of God’s blessings, always remember that if you are God’s child you are blessed beyond measure.

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