Sep 28 2018
Psalm 23: A Praise for Spiritual Warfare
The 23rd Psalm is familiar to many. It is a reminder of God’s faithfulness and evokes beautiful mental imagery. We can imagine beautiful hillsides, lush pastures, and the peaceful streams. Even in our Biblically illiterate culture, if people know any passage of Scripture, it is likely to be this one.
It is encouragement in times of trouble, but more than that, it is a declaration of victory.
We have been studying Psalms 23 for the past eight weeks in our third grade Sunday school class, going through it verse by verse. It talks about God’s love and care for us, who He is and the roles He takes in our lives. He is our Shepherd, our Provider, Our Protector, and our Guide. If you’ve read the Psalm once, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know.
But more than that, this Psalm is a battle cry. It is a song of warfare. It is a song of faith where David “calls the things that are not, as though they were.” (Romans 4:17)
David’s Back Story
To understand the full import of the Psalm, we have to look at David’s back story.
He grew up in Bethlehem during the reign of King Saul, the first king of Israel. He was the youngest of eight brothers, and while they were off taking care of other responsibilities for the family, he had the lowly job of shepherd of his father’s flocks (the same job Rebekah was performing when Abraham’s servant happened across her. Genesis 24 )
Saul had been skating back and forth across the line of God’s commands (1 Samuel 13:7-14,) and finally he went too far. He was to completely destroy the Amalekites, but instead, he kept the plunder for himself (1 Samuel 15). Because of that willful action, the kingship of Israel was removed from his family.
God sent Samuel the town of Bethlehem and invited Jesse, David’s father, to come as Samuel made a sacrifice. As each son came out before he, Samuel thought, “He must be the one,” but each time God said no. Like the Prince searching for Cinderella, Samuel asked, “Is there anyone else?” and so David was sent for. He didn’t even rank high enough in his family’s mind that they didn’t include him until asked. ( Samuel 16:1-13 )
When David came before Samuel, God told him, “He is the one”
However, unlike Cinderella who left her pots and pans and rode off with her prince into the sunset, David went back to his sheep. And there he stayed, we don’t know exactly how long, but time passed until there was trouble at the border with the Philistines. When David was sent to take supplies to his brothers at the front, he heard the Philistines, led by Goliath, mocking the Israelites. (1 Samuel 17:22-23)
This infuriated David and he asked, “Who is this pagan Philistine anyway, that he is allowed to defy the armies of the living God?” (1 Samuel 17:26) His brothers, both dismissive and indignant, asked him who he thought he was and what he could possibly do about it. (1 Samuel 17:28)
Goliath had challenged Saul’s army to a one on one combat. He would face their champion and the winner would decide the war. David volunteered to be this champion, and when again mocked by his brothers, he insisted.
You see, Goliath was not the first big and scary thing that David had faced. While he was out alone in the fields with his sheep, other predators had come against him. He said, “God was with me when I killed a bear and a lion, he will be with me here.” (1 Samuel 17:34-36)
These little things, facing wild animals to protect dumb ones, were preparation, a building of faith . . . the making of a hero . . . for when he faced a giant and where the outcome determined the course of a nation. No pressure.
You know the story. He declined the weapons of war that Saul wanted to give him and instead,