Psalm 144:1-2 - He Prepares My Fingers For Battle
Blessed be the LORD, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle; he is my steadfast love and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield and he in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me. Psalm 144:1-2
When I played high school football I was usually so concerned about the opponent that I ignored all the little details that my coach was trying to teach me. For example, I played offensive center in high school. Most people would never guess that I played that position because I was so small. Every practice the coaches would stress one particular thing to me and not much more. They would often try to teach me the little details pertaining to the way I stood and how to use my hands to gain an advantage over my opponent. They even went as far as telling me how to use my fingers to win the war in the trenches.
To be honest, that all seemed like pretty insignificant stuff to me back then. One day I played against a nose guard who went on to play at OSU and he was 6’6” tall and outweighed me by a significant amount. In the days before the game I thought the last thing that I needed to know about was hand positions and what my fingers should be doing.
David, however, as he begins Psalm 144 by saying, “Blessed be the LORD, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle…” Let me make three observations. First, God is David’s rock. David's feet are standing upon solid ground. He cannot slip or loose his footing in the Lord. David trusts in the same God who turned the dry ground that the Israelites walked through in the Red Sea back into mud again and swamped the army that was coming against His people.
God’s people are servants of God who are in a spiritual battle. It should not surprise us that we are in a face to face battle with the enemies of God. We may not wish to find ourselves in this position but God trains His people for battle. He gives us weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left. We might wish that God would win this battle by some means through which we would not have to see battle but that is not always the case. God trains our hands for battle and our fingers for war. There is also a blessing in this type of close combat. In dealing with people face to face we are moved to compassion and mercy more than we would otherwise be. If all we had to do is throw hand-grenades at the enemy we might loose many to friendly-fire.
Someone once asked a former detective if a church should encourage people to carry firearms into church. The man had an interesting response. He said, “Yes and no. Yes if they have been trained well on it and if they practice often. No if they simply filled out the form and got a license to carry a gun.” He went on to explain that having a gun and knowing how to use it in a moment of distress can be two totally different things. He mentioned that training creates muscle memory which allows the hands to do the right thing instinctively under duress.
With this in mind, aren’t you glad that God taught David how to use his hands in war and his fingers in battle.
Thirdly, God is to be praised for these things. In this psalm, David is in battle. Yet he cries to God in prayer and in praise. May David be our example in life. Prayer and praise are as fitting on the lips of a soldier as they are on the lips of the choir member. They are needed on the battleground just as much as they are needed anywhere else. Prayer and praise need to be heard in the hospital room and in the board room. They need to grace the lips of a person who just received a blessing and upon the person who is in a trial.
There is a New Testament passage that reminds me of this text in Psalm 143. It is 1 Corinthians 9: 24-27,
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
Here Paul speaks of a marathon runner. All contestants run for a prize but only one wins the gold. Paul encourages every runner to run that he or she would obtain the prize. An athlete exercises self-control in all things so that they can win a perishable prize. Paul did not run aimlessly; he did not box as one hitting the air with his hands. He disciplined his body and kept every aspect under control. He ran to win and did not run in such a manner that would bring disqualification.
Little things matter in a competition. I remember watching the Summer Olympics a few years ago. There was a bicycle race in which the leader was far ahead of anyone else with a mile to go. The announcer on television said that this cyclist in the lead had made a big mistake by getting so far ahead of the three cyclists behind her. Immediately I thought that this announcer was crazy. But his words proved to be true. In that last mile the three cyclists caught up and overtook her lead right at the finish line. It was later explained that the leader had to work harder outside of the pack to overcome the wind and course. The three overtook her because they worked off of each other to break the wind. As a result, they could go faster without wearing out.
Little details matter. Little decisions make a big difference as we approach the finish line. Hand placement, finger movement, our relationship to other believers and the world.