Psalm 44

“O God, we have heard with our ears, our fathers have told us, what deeds you performed in their days, in the days of old: you with your own hand drove out the nations, but them you planted; you afflicted the peoples, but them you set free; for not by their own sword did they win the land, nor did their own arm save them, but your right hand and your arm, and the light of your face, for you delighted in them… For not in my bow do I trust, nor can my sword save me. But you have saved us from our foes and have put to shame those who hate us. In God we have boasted continually, and we will give thanks to your name forever. Selah”
Psalm 44:1-3,6-8 (ESV)

The Psalmist recounts God’s works of redemption for the nation of Israel, most probably referring to God choosing them as a nation; their exodus out of Egypt; their inheritance of the promised land and the subsequent defeat of their enemies. This should immediately remind us of God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3.

It is significant that the outworking of this promise didn’t stop with Israel – it is accomplished in its fullness in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God chose us as believers to be His people, even before the foundations of the world (see Ephesians 1:4-5); He saved us out of our slavery to sin by becoming sin in our place through His death on the cross (see 2 Corinthians 5:21); and through Him we have the inheritance of Eternal Life, with Him defeating the last enemy, death (1 Corinthians 15:26).

With regard to Israel’s redemptive history, the Psalmist emphasizes the fact that the people actually had nothing to do with it: “…for not by their own sword did they win the land, nor did their own arm save them, but your right hand and your arm, and the light of your face, for you delighted in them…” (emphasis added) This should make us pause to think twice about our own salvation history or testimony, its grounds and the part (if any) that we played in it, if we are saved indeed.

Similar to the Psalmist’s words, Paul reiterates in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” In view of that, our salvation and reconciliation was achieved not by anything that we had done or may do, or through any moral characteristics that made us loveable, but through Christ and Christ alone. Indeed, God saved us while we were still His enemies (Romans 5:8-10) and delighted in us while we were still sinners.

We very often forget that the Gospel doesn’t only save us, but that it sustains us as well. We tend to think that after we have been saved by Jesus, we might be able to fend for ourselves through human capabilities. The Gospel simply doesn’t work like that. Tullian Tchividjian, the grandson of Christian evangelist, Billy Graham, wisely said that “Once God saves us He doesn’t move us beyond the gospel, but He moves us more deeply into the gospel.”  If we trusted in Jesus to save us, we can trust Him that He will keep us.

The Psalmist knew this. Just as the Israelites were redeemed in the past “not by their own sword”, he will not endure into the future and beyond through his own strength – “For not in my bow do I trust, nor can my sword save me.”

Are we trusting Jesus to sustain us through our current circumstances? Or have we started to put our hopes in education, governments, the legacy of Nelson Mandela, the police, army, or even our own neighbourhood watches? None of these things are bad in and of themselves –  many civilians have been thanked for putting their lives on the line when riots were shaking our country and I appreciated their efforts likewise. But these things cannot and will not sustain us or give us true peace and comfort. There is only one Prince of Peace and Comforter of our souls.

Take some time to reflect on the past few weeks… What caused anxiety in your heart? Who or what made you feel safe? Whereto did you turn in your desperation? Did it help? Have you perhaps been treasuring earthly things more than God? Who sustains you?

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