“To the faithful You show Yourself faithful,
to the blameless You show Yourself blameless,
to the pure You show Yourself pure,
but to the devious You show Yourself shrewd.
You save the humble but bring low those whose eyes are haughty.
You, Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.
With Your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.”
Psalms 18:25-29 NIVUK
Verses 25 and 26 of Psalm 18, at first sight, seem a bit difficult to understand. What was the psalmist, David, getting at? He used words such as “faithful”, “blameless”, and “pure”. Was he perhaps implying that the qualities he lists have to be in our characters before we can see them in God, even though they are a part of His nature? Perhaps a faithless person wouldn’t see a faithful God because they wouldn’t understand what being faithful was all about. An impure person wouldn’t understand the purity of our Heavenly Father. But is God “shrewd”? Perhaps that is how He appears to someone with devious qualities, whether He is or not. The Psalmist goes on to explain that the quality of humility leads to salvation, unlike that for the proud, the haughty. A sentiment exemplified by Jesus, in the words of the Apostle Paul in Philippians 2:8, “And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!”
David continued with positive statements about the impact God had, and continued to have, on his life. Reading the Psalms written by David, you can see that he had many dark moments but here he is declaring that God had turned around his depression into a condition of lightness. In addition, God had empowered David to take on seemingly impossible tasks, in battle for example. Think about the Goliath episode. David’s logic as explained to King Saul, was breathtakingly simple, as we can read in 1 Samuel 17:36-37, “Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” Almost as an aside, David didn’t appear before Goliath with a slingshot, never having used one before. As a shepherd, he spent hours perfecting the art of projecting a stone with a sling, and he probably set himself up a target and persevered, aiming and hitting, until he had the confidence in his ability. And when a lion or bear appeared on the scene a well-aimed stone would soon discourage them. So when Goliath stood before him, he forensically looked for a chink in the armour, found it above Goliath’s eyes and clinically proceeded to despatch him with a single small stone. But. A big but. David knew that he could do nothing on his own account. He needed God in his life to lead and guide and help him achieve what he had to do. David slung the stone. God helped it to the target. David built up his faith in God in the sheepfolds, on the open hills, in the pastures, as he protected a flock of sheep from predators. And that faith stood him in good stead as he took on the battles in war-torn Palestine. He knew that with his little ability and God’s limitless resources, he could have the confidence to take on tasks that would frighten most of his peers.
To be able to trust God for whatever life throws at us, equipping us for the battles ahead, takes two steps. Firstly, like David, we must develop the skills needed for our lives. Getting an education, learning a trade, practising playing a guitar, and so on, all the time keeping our eyes on our calling, focusing on our vocation. The Apostle Peter was a fisherman, but Jesus taught him how to use those skills to be a “fisher of men”. Sometimes we will perhaps get discouraged, thinking that our simple skill can’t be of any use to God. But God has a way of turning our little into great things for Him. Secondly, we need to spend time with our Heavenly Father. By being diligent in Bible reading and prayer, communicating and building a relationship with Him, testing our faith as we go, we learn to trust Him more and more. A toddler doesn’t leap out of the cradle one day saying that he is going to walk. There are some interim challenges he faces on the way, through crawling, sitting, and getting knocks and bumps, before the big day when he stands. And then he makes the first wobbly steps. Faith doesn’t appear overnight – it takes diligence and perseverance through the knocks and bumps as we grow.
So back to today’s verses. He keeps our lamps burning, if we let Him. And that wall in front of us, or that Goliath in the office – they are not as big a problem as the enemy would have us think. That mountain might just turn out to be a molehill. Because God is on our side.