"The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Most High uttered his voice, hailstones and coals of fire."
We've arrived at Psalm 18, a long, epic, triumphant, martial song. A version of it is first introduced in 2 Samuel 22, at the very end of David's reign, as he reflects on what God has done for him throughout his life and reign. In the psalm, God is portrayed with images and language that we're more likely to associate with the Revelation to John, or with some of the most ecstatic parts of Isaiah and Ezekiel's visions. God is volcanic and dark and thunderous, riding monstrous cherubim, and causing such devastation that the sea drains and the earth opens to its foundations. His arrows, mixed with flaming hail, fly across the world. This terrifying conqueror comes in response to David's prayers for help and deliverance. He comes as an invincible God of war to establish his king, David, and David's heirs forever.
If this description seems foreign to you, or incompatible with the meek and gentle Jesus whom you love, then you're missing the one true God. This warrior is the one who submitted himself to death. The one who gently died is also this terrible, fire-shouting conqueror. We'd do well to pay attention.
And the description of God in Psalm 18 isn't the only thing that should get us shaking in our boots. Toward the end of the psalm, David magnifies God precisely because when his enemies "cried for help... there was none to save; they cried to the Lord, but he did not answer them." Like the goats in Matthew 25, these enemies are people who call on God, but find themselves in the place of his enemies. God does not hear their prayers or know them as his own, though they call out to him. When we pray, are we on the Lord's side, or are we fighting his Anointed One?
But for all our proper fear, this Psalm also provides incredible hope. Just as God is both Triumphant Warrior and Gentle Victim, our great fear and a massive hope should fit together. Like in Psalm 17, this psalm gives us access to a kind of confidence in our standing with God that might seem extreme. David –the same David who murdered Uriah– says, "The Lord dealt with me according to my righteousness," and "I have kept the ways of the Lord," and "the Lord has rewarded me... according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight." He even says "I was blameless before [God]," using the exact same word to describe himself that he later uses when he says, "This God– his way is perfect." David has not forgotten his sins, nor has he erased the past. Instead, his past sins are compatible with present confidence in his righteousness and blamelessness. David fears God well, and hopes absolutely in God's forgiveness too. And we can be sure: God is not just big enough to fill the heights of David's hope and the depths of his fear; God remains greater by far. "Great salvation he brings."
- How would you go about describing the power of God to save his people?
- Do you remember that our God is a God of war? What does it mean for you to love him?
- If you remembered that (as with the goats in Matthew 25) God does not hear the prayers of the enemies of his chosen king, how would it change the way you pray?
- What does it mean that David has "kept himself from his guilt"? How could you keep yourself from your guilt?
Read the whole Psalm at the bottom of this update
Wheatstone's requests and praises:
Peter and Lisa - We continue to run Wheatstone while understaffed. Pray for energy, health, and wisdom for the two full-timers as we work hard to stay faithful to our mission and fruitful in our goals.
THE ACADEMY CAMPS
Summer Camp Registration - We're a little behind on our registration goals. Pray that God would fill the camp with students and leaders who need its ministry, and tell your friends! Please pray specifically that God would send more Leaders to attend the Leaders Track.
CHRISTIAN ADULTHOOD TRAININGS
Christian Adulthood 101 - Two weeks ago, we launched our newest, most foundational training! Pray that God would bless it as it goes out to help youth ministries all around the country, and pray for good attendance at our first public event in June. (www.wheatstoneministries.com/101)
Fall Trainings - Pray that God would continue to fill up our fall calendar with these vital events for new school and church partners!
New 2017 Benefactors - We need to find additional benefactors this year in order to grow. Pray that God would bring a few friends along who want to make Christian adulthood ministry part of their legacy.
New 2017 Monthly Givers - We're behind our goal to cover all fixed costs with Monthly Gifts. Pray that God would bring a new community of friends to give a little bit to Wheatstone every month, forming a more secure foundation for Christian adulthood ministry.
This Week's Psalm
I love you, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
and I am saved from my enemies.
The cords of death encompassed me;
the torrents of destruction assailed me;
the cords of Sheol entangled me;
the snares of death confronted me.
In my distress I called upon the Lord;
to my God I cried for help.
From his temple he heard my voice,
and my cry to him reached his ears.
Then the earth reeled and rocked;
the foundations also of the mountains trembled
and quaked, because he was angry.
Smoke went up from his nostrils,
and devouring fire from his mouth;
glowing coals flamed forth from him.
He bowed the heavens and came down;
thick darkness was under his feet.
He rode on a cherub and flew;
he came swiftly on the wings of the wind.
He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him,
thick clouds dark with water.
Out of the brightness before him
hailstones and coals of fire broke through his clouds.
The Lord also thundered in the heavens,
and the Most High uttered his voice,
hailstones and coals of fire.
And he sent out his arrows and scattered them;
he flashed forth lightnings and routed them.
Then the channels of the sea were seen,
and the foundations of the world were laid bare
at your rebuke, O Lord,
at the blast of the breath of your nostrils.
He sent from on high, he took me;
he drew me out of many waters.
He rescued me from my strong enemy
and from those who hated me,
for they were too mighty for me.
They confronted me in the day of my calamity,
but the Lord was my support.
He brought me out into a broad place;
he rescued me, because he delighted in me.
The Lord dealt with me according to my righteousness;
according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me.
For I have kept the ways of the Lord,
and have not wickedly departed from my God.
For all his rules were before me,
and his statutes I did not put away from me.
I was blameless before him,
and I kept myself from my guilt.
So the Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness,
according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight.
With the merciful you show yourself merciful;
with the blameless man you show yourself blameless;
with the purified you show yourself pure;
and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous.
For you save a humble people,
but the haughty eyes you bring down.
For it is you who light my lamp;
the Lord my God lightens my darkness.
For by you I can run against a troop,
and by my God I can leap over a wall.
This God—his way is perfect;
the word of the Lord proves true;
he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.
For who is God, but the Lord?
And who is a rock, except our God?—
the God who equipped me with strength
and made my way blameless.
He made my feet like the feet of a deer
and set me secure on the heights.
He trains my hands for war,
so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
You have given me the shield of your salvation,
and your right hand supported me,
and your gentleness made me great.
You gave a wide place for my steps under me,
and my feet did not slip.
I pursued my enemies and overtook them,
and did not turn back till they were consumed.
I thrust them through, so that they were not able to rise;
they fell under my feet.
For you equipped me with strength for the battle;
you made those who rise against me sink under me.
You made my enemies turn their backs to me,
and those who hated me I destroyed.
They cried for help, but there was none to save;
they cried to the Lord, but he did not answer them.
I beat them fine as dust before the wind;
I cast them out like the mire of the streets.
You delivered me from strife with the people;
you made me the head of the nations;
people whom I had not known served me.
As soon as they heard of me they obeyed me;
foreigners came cringing to me.
Foreigners lost heart
and came trembling out of their fortresses.
The Lord lives, and blessed be my rock,
and exalted be the God of my salvation—
the God who gave me vengeance
and subdued peoples under me,
who rescued me from my enemies;
yes, you exalted me above those who rose against me;
you delivered me from the man of violence.
For this I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations,
and sing to your name.
Great salvation he brings to his king,
and shows steadfast love to his anointed,
to David and his offspring forever.