I have to admit that I like the picture. My foot on the neck of my enemies. Destroying all who hate me. Grinding them up as fine as dust and sweeping them into the gutter like dirt. I like it, even though I grew up in the Mennonite pacifist tradition. And even though today I am an even stronger believer in Jesus’ way of non-violence.
I like the picture, because as I read the verses in Psalm 18 describing this scene, I long for such victories over my spiritual enemies, those powers that hate me and are out to destroy my soul. I do want to see them ground up and blown away like dirt. I want my foot on their neck!
I want Psalm 18 to be a model for my own warfare.
The Psalm begins with wonderful, confident words:
I love you, Lord, you are my strength.
The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior;
my God is my rock, in whom I find protection.
But things weren’t always so good, as we find out by reading further. There were bad times, fearful times, desperate times:
The ropes of death entangled me; floods of destruction swept over me.
The grave wrapped its ropes around me;
death laid a trap in my path.
Sound familiar? I can recall similar feelings at a certain time of my life. Trapped by the enemy. Tangled in ropes of death. Not much hope.
But in my distress I called out to the Lord; yes, I prayed to my God for help. (v. 6)
God heard, and came thundering from heaven to reach down and rescue “from those who hated me and were too strong for me.”
Christ rescued me from the clutches of those who hate my soul, from those too strong for me. He broke all those powers and offered me freedom from their slavery.
But wait… there’s more!
God arms me with strength, and he makes my way perfect.
He makes me as surefooted as a deer, enabling me to stand on mountain heights.
He trains my hands for battle;
he strengthens my arm to draw a bronze bow.
You have given me your shield of victory.
Your right hand supports me;
your help has made me great.
You have made a wide path for my feet to keep them from slipping.
God is teaching us to fight this great battle, and He’s arming us with the strength to do it! The next verses create the picture of resounding victory over those enemies who at one time overwhelmed us, held us captive, and were intent on destroying us. Now we chase them down, grind them up like dust and blow them away!
Oh, yes, Father. That’s what I want for my own warfare. Christ has rescued me. Now I want more than rescue. I want to turn around and chase the enemy to defeat. I want to do battle with Your strength.
And I believe we’re given strength to fight not only for our own souls but also on behalf of others who are under attack from the same enemies we know. Each of us has become intimately familiar with particular strategies of the enemy — we can use that knowledge to help others in their battles.
Training for battle? God does that in many different ways, but always through the connection of the Spirit working in us. And, as a disciple of Jesus, I see Him giving us a powerful example — He often retreated to “a lonely place” to pray and be with His Father.
I need that time alone with my Father and Teacher. I need that time to keep my connection to the Source of all strength alive and powerful.
Look down and have mercy on me.
Give strength to your servant.
(from Psalm 86:16)
© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, and Lana Turner for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)