My ongoing pastoral concern is that our doxology and praise is inadvertently introducing competitions and cancellations of various parts of the counsel of God. God does not deny Himself, and neither does His Word deny itself. Psalm 144 is a wonderful, tutorial, doxological look that consolidates various features of the Christian life that we have too often compartmentalized or set in opposition one with another.
In recent years I have incorporated Psalms (not exclusively) in the sung worship of God’s people at the church where I serve. Out of all the Psalms, I have come to find myself looking forward to the singing of Psalm 144 the most. The chief reason why I find this Psalm so exciting and useful is due to its ability to bring together various elements of the Christian faith cooperatively that are often made out to be irreconcilable dichotomies.
Piety & Polemics
The themes of warfare and worship, piety and polemics dance together harmoniously. Verses 1 and 2 speak about being trained for warfare and verses 5 to 8 speak about God’s judgments while verse 9 speaks about pious devotion to the Lord. It seems that it is often the case that piety and polemics, warfare and worship are polarized and/or presented as antithetical to one another. Yet Psalm 144 shows how true piety demands spiritual warfare with darkness, and also how spiritual warfare with darkness always demands devotion. Devotion devoid of spiritual warfare is superficial and sentimental, and spiritual warfare devoid of devotion is simply vain self-interest.
Deliverance & Destruction
The themes of deliverance and destruction also dance together harmoniously in the Psalm. You will notice how pleas for rescue in verses 7 and 11 are accompanied with pleas for judgment in verses 2 and verses 6-8. The deliverance of God’s people goes hand-in-hand with judgment of the ungodly (think of Israel’s exodus out of Egypt). A worship that celebrates judgment devoid of deliverance is contrary to God’s decree and covenant of grace, and yet a worship that sings of deliverance devoid of divine judgment is humanistic. The songs of God’s people praise His deliverance that is destructive and yet speak of a destruction that is redemptive. God’s redemption in every sense of redemption is always through judgment.
Heavenly & Historical
The heavenly and the historical also hold together harmoniously in the Psalm. There can be a tendency for our songs to see God exclusively in the heavenly and the consummate realm as we sing praises unto Him. However, what can be seen here in verses 5-7 and 10-11 is that the Lord above is actively intervening in time and space. God’s people are not merely praising a God who sits in heaven and is one day returning; they are also praising a God who rends the heavens and comes down and intervenes according to His will and ways in history.