Perfected in Weakness
(H) Of David. (1) Blessed (be) Yahweh, my rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle. (2) (He is) my steadfast love and fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield in whom I seek refuge, who subdues my people under me. (3) Yahweh, what (is) man that you know him, the son of man that you are mindful of him? (4) Man is like a vapor. His days (are) like a passing shadow. (5) Part your heavens, Yahweh, and come down. Touch the mountains so that they smoke. (6) Send forth lightning and scatter them. Launch your arrows and confuse them. (7) Stretch out your hand. Free me and deliver me from the mighty waters, from the hand of foreigners, (8) whose mouths speak lies and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood.
As in the previous psalm, David’s three invocations of Yahweh’s name provide an outline of this portion of the psalm (vss. 1, 3, & 5). In the first two verses, David describes the character of Yahweh with several descriptive terms: “my rock” and “the one who trains me for war” (vs. 1), “my steadfast love and fortress,” “my stronghold,” “my deliverer,” and “my shield” (vs. 2).
In the second segment, David asks Yahweh the same question he asks in Psalm 8:4, “What is man?” (vss. 3 & 4). Here he uses two Hebrew words for man, “adam” twice as well as its synonym, “ish,” in contemplating the temporality and frailty of humanity.
In the third segment, David petitions Yahweh to intervene directly in order to deliver him from his enemies (vss. 5-8). He refers to three breath-taking phenomena in the natural world to describe what he seeks from Yahweh: the heavens splitting apart, mountains smoking (volcanos?), lightning striking like launched arrows (vss. 5 & 6). In the next two verses, David asks that Yahweh’s powerful “hand” be stretched out against his enemies so that he might be delivered from their evil “hand” (vs. 7). He then pleads for Yahweh’s protection against the deceit of his enemies who rely on the “right hand of falsehood” (vs. 8).
I. David’s confidence in Yahweh’s ability to deliver (1 & 2)
II. David’s confession of personal frailty (3 & 4)
III. David’s concern regarding the deceitfulness of his enemies (5-8)
When feeling vulnerable and weak because of our enemies, we cry out to our powerful God to deliver us.
One of Paul’s most striking confessions is his candid admission of personal weakness in learning to trust God in spite of his “thorn in the flesh.” While Paul never revealed the specific nature of this affliction, many feel that it was some sort of physical disability which God had refused to heal in spite of Paul’s earnest prayers for relief on three separate occasions: “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (12:9 & 10). The apostle needed to learn that God’s plan was better than his. Rather than remove the thorn, the Lord would supply him with the strength to endure the pain and frustration. As we mature in Christ, we need to learn the difficult truth that God’s power may be more clearly manifested in our weaknesses and failures than in our strengths and successes.
One of David’s thorns was being besieged throughout his life by a constant stream of enemies who were seeking to destroy him. God’s plan was not to remove those enemies but to use them to draw David into a greater sense of dependence on Yahweh’s power to deliver. Without enemies, David would never have grown as close to the Lord as he did, would never have written the psalms which he wrote, would never have had the heart to pursue God as he did. We need to learn, like David, like Paul, the difficult truth that Yahweh's grace is sufficient for us whatever difficulty we might be facing.