2 When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell.
3 Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.
I’ve written a bit in the last few days about David’s authorship of the Psalms. Many of the Psalms are attributed to him in the bible text, but there is apparently some disagreement among scholars about what the actual evidence – or lack thereof – suggests about who actually wrote which psalm. I’ve noted that CS Lewis remarked that there appears to be a general agreement that David is the actual author of Psalm 18. That notion really resonates with me.
I am not saying that I line up with those who hold that all the Psalms that are attributed to David in the biblical text were not actually written by him. I have not heard the arguments. I guess my default position would be to view the plain meaning of the text as authoritative.
But Psalm 18, as I said before, is distinctive. That Psalm, more than others, I think, is so full of the experience of physical battle that it is easy for me to think that it is the product of King David’s imagination. Psalm 18 has a different feel to it.
This morning, continuing my Psalm-a-day practice, I came upon Psalm 27. Not a particularly well-known Psalm. If someone had asked me cold to quote something from Psalm 27, I could not have done it. Having said that, however, there are verses in this Psalm – particularly verses 1, 4, 8 and 14 – that resonate like ringing bells when read.
If I were involved in some project to determine which of the Psalms were actually the work of David, I would tend to put this one into his column. It’s attributed to him in the note above the text, but it is also full of the imagery of war and battle. It is apparently a Psalm that is written based upon vivid and consequential personal experience. The writer speaks of being delivered from enemies. There is, in this psalm, an expression of profound love of God. The writer longs to “gaze upon the beauty of the Lord.”
This writer has been in battles. David’s sincere and gut-level love of God comes out of his trust in God and his experience of God’s deliverance from the foe. He knows danger and he knows deliverance. This is what is missing from so many modern lives, I think. We do not see life as a battle. Or, if we do, we see it as a battle that is long-since lost or one that we have no hope of ever winning.
That’s not how David saw things and that is not the perspective of faith. David fought and won. He bet the ranch and won. Time and time again.
As Christians, we know that the final battle against evil has been fought and won on the cross of Jesus Christ. But we nonetheless are faced with our own existential battles as we live our lives, day by day. There is the battle for meaningful and fulfilling relationships. The battle for understanding. The battle for sustenance and survival. The battle against sin on our own lives – against pride and laziness, for starters. These battles, if we are to take David’s poetry as authoritative, may be won or lost. Yes, of course, we will trust in God. But we must not ignore the stakes of life. Something real is at stake in every day, in every conversation, in every effort. Faith means having the hope that we may win.