As we turn our hearts towards worship, guest writer Mike Senders takes us to Psalm 118, where shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous…
Ps 118:15-16 (NASB)
“The sound of joyful shouting and salvation is in the tents of the righteous; The right hand of the LORD does valiantly. The right hand of the LORD is exalted; The right hand of the LORD does valiantly.”
In our passage today, the Psalmist exalts the LORD for his prowess in battle. He takes rest and refuge in the knowledge that it is the LORD who goes out to battle before the armies, and no accomplishment lies in himself. Our Psalmist is no doubt looking to the Song of Moses (Ex 15) as his inspiration; for like the battle the LORD fought against the mighty Pharaoh of Egypt, so again it is the Lord who conquers over the enemies of King David.
When the LORD is acknowledged as he who fights for us, the blessings of the triumph go out to those who are also under our care. Abraham sought a spiritual land rather than an earthly one (Heb 11:8-10); for it was not he who fought as a warlord- conquering- but rather, by faith he sought out for a foreign land and his children reaped the benefit. So as for us, when we look to the Lord to fight our battles for us, and acknowledge him as our champion, those who in our “tents” will also joyfully shout for the salvation of the Lord.
Three times the right hand of the Lord is here exalted. The words “does valiantly” can also be translated, “conquers.” The idea here is exactly as Moses put it, “The LORD is a man of war.”(Ex 15:3) Acknowledging the Lord’s right hand is to acknowledge his sword-hand, his battle-prowess, his place as a warrior-king. He does not fight behind us, driving his slaves with a whip, but goes out before; it is only by his might that the battle is won. It should be noted here that not once does David claim victory for himself, not once does he praise his own might, but instead he heaps all the glory upon God who fights his battles in his stead. Once again, this is in comparison to Moses and Pharaoh. In Egyptian art (and in many other eastern cultures), it was common to depict the king in the image as larger than the rest of the army, and also to attribute the entirety of the victory to the king. In one image, one can see Pharaoh charging an enemy, though his entire army fled, driving the discouraged enemy into the sea. Moses mocks this, for the LORD owns the sea, and rather than simply driving Pharaoh into it, he raised it up against Pharaoh, and brought it down upon him. (Ex 15:1-5) After this, we see Moses, like David, praise the Lord’s right hand, “Your right hand, O LORD, is majestic in power, your right hand, O LORD, shatters the enemy.” (Ex 15:6) We can trust that the LORD fights for us, the he goes out before us, and that he is a foe against which no enemy can stand. In this, all the righteous can take heart.
LORD, our King, we thank you for your protection you give us as your children. It is you, and you alone, who fights our battles for us. We are so weak, and like sheep, are so prone to wandering, and fleeing in terror from those who would harm us. We pray to you, our sovereign God, that you would continue to protect us, and that we may take delight in your victory. We thank you for all that you have done for us, and it is in Jesus’ precious Name that we pray, Amen.
For more of Mike’s enjoyable teaching: