As we read the Bible, there is a constant challenge of bridging the gap between then and now. Sometimes that gap is very narrow, the words, context, and purpose falls easily in line with our own experience and need. Sometimes the gap is extremely wide as we struggle to connect the thoughts, feelings, and problems of long ago to our modern lives. The verses we’re about to consider contains both.
David wrote, “Praise the Lord, who is my rock. He trains my hands for war and gives my fingers skill for battle. He is my loving ally and my fortress, my tower of safety, my rescuer. He is my shield, and I take refuge in him. He makes the nations submit to me.” (Psalm 144:1–2, NLT)
As I read all of Psalm 144, I can see King David sitting in the palace. A sharpened sword across his lap as he contemplates the upcoming time of war. For most of King David’s reign war was a constant that ebbed and flowed like the seasons. He was truly a warrior king.
So, how do these verses apply to me since I’m about as opposite from King David as you could get? I’ve never trained for war, never even been in a fist fight (unless you count the pre-teen boxing matches between my brother and me). While I don’t go whole hog into pacifism, I do lean that direction. The gap between David’s praise for God training his hands and giving his fingers skill and my own life experience is huge.
The New Testament provides the building material for our bridge. Ephesians 6 comes quickly to my mind, “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12, NLT) And consider “We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:3–5, NLT)
Followers of Jesus are warriors although in a war that is fought in a different place with weapons not made of bronze, iron, or steel. So when I read Psalms 144:1-2 the application is not to physical warfare. Train my hands for war rings to me of intercessory prayer and the spiritual battle of setting captives free. Give my fingers skill for battle takes me to praise and worship, specifically that of playing guitar in worship. But that could also apply to the skill of writing or of anything we may do that can bring glory to God, connect with other folks, and invade the kingdom of darkness.
How has God trained your hands for battle and given your fingers skill? What is the battle? Is the battle distant or at hand? Is Jesus your rock, your ally, your fortress, your strong tower of safety, your rescuer, and your shield? The key is preparation and practice. I doubt that David waited until the day of battle to sharpen his sword. You may feel inadequate for the task, but skill comes with practice and use. So pray, read God’s Word, listen, and care; for those are the weapons of our warfare.