God, Our Helper
(H) For the director of the choir, a Maskil of the sons of Korah. (1) God, we have heard with our ears, our fathers have recounted for us, the work you did in their days, in the days long ago. (2) You, by your hand, dispossessed the nations, but them (Israel) you planted. You afflicted the peoples and sent them away, (3) for not by their own sword did they take possession of the land, nor did their own arm deliver them. But (it was by) your right hand and your arm and (by) the light of your countenance, for you took delight in them. (4) You are my King, O God. Command salvation for Jacob! (5) Through you we will attack our enemies. Through your name we will trample those who rise up against us, (6) for not in my bow will I trust, nor can my sword deliver me. (7) Rather you have delivered us from our foes and have put to shame those who hate us. (8) In God we boast all the day, and we give thanks to your name forever. (Selah)
We should note the interplay of singular and plural pronouns throughout these eight verses. The psalm begins in the plural as the author recounts Israel’s history, using “we” (vss. 1-3). He then employs the singular in declaring, “You are my king, O God” (vs. 4). The psalmist returns to the plural “we” (vs. 5) and then reverts back to the singular “I” (vs. 6). The final two verses of the segment are again expressed in the plural (vs. 7 & 8). This reminds us of the two dimensions of our spiritual experience, one personal and the other corporate. As individuals each of us must place our faith in God, not trusting in our own efforts (vss. 4 & 6). At the same time, as members of the covenant community, we must together learn to depend on God in the present (vss. 5, 7, & 8) just as our forefathers did in the past (vss. 1-3).
Two repetitions should also be noted. First, we find “arm” mentioned twice (vs. 3). In the first instance “arm” refers to the strength of the Israelites. The second use of “arm” refers to God’s power. Not by human strength but by divine enablement Israel took possession of the land. Later we find a second repetition of “your name.” First, Israel overcomes her enemies by trusting in God’s great name (vs. 5). Then those who are victorious give thanks to God’s name for their triumphs (vs. 8).
I. Recalling God’s faithfulness in establishing the nation (1-3)
II. Relying on God’s faithfulness to deliver us (4-8)
Remembering God’s faithfulness in the past encourages us to rely on him in the present and for the future.
A well known hymn written by one of England’s most famous sacred poets, Isaac Watts, begins with this couplet: “O God, our help in ages past, / Our hope for years to come...” These lines aptly summarize the message of today’s segment. Knowing that God has been faithful in the past should give us great confidence in the present and for the future.
However, there is an important condition attached to this promise. If we are to see God work in the present as he did in the past, we must trust him as our forefathers did, both personally and corporately. At the time when Psalm 44 was composed, God’s chosen people had to learn to trust in God together as a nation. Today, the community of believers, the church, must likewise learn to depend on him as the body of Christ empowered by the Holy Spirit. Church unity is important for many reasons. Our joy, our testimony, our effectiveness in ministry all depend on our oneness in Christ. Even more, victory over our enemies and true spiritual success, measured not in money or mortar but in spiritual growth and lives impacted for the Gospel, will arise from our trusting God and working together.