“For they did not gain possession of the land by their own sword, nor did their own arm save them; but it was Your right hand, Your arm, and the light of Your countenance, because You favored them.”
Even a casual reading of the Old Testament will lead to the conclusion that Israel did not win their battles on their own. When armies are overthrown by the rushing waters of the Red Sea, walls toppled with rams horns, and a shepherd defeats a warrior with a sling and stone, it is clear that the hand of God is behind the victories. There are times when Israel went to battle in their strength, but those are the times of failure, not of triumph. It is hard to forget the Battle of Ai. Joshua sent the troops into battle without first seeking guidance from the Lord, only to see his army retreat and many soldiers lose their lives (Joshua 7:2-6). Clearly, the strength behind the success of the nation of Israel was the leading and empowering hand of God.
There are many differences between our relationship with God through Christ, and Israel’s relationship under the first covenant. We are not a nation that has been given a land, and promised victory in physical battles. That does not mean the battles we face are any less difficult. Every Christian knows what it is to face spiritual battles with an enemy as real as Goliath.
Paul described this battle to the Christians in Galatia, “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish” (Galatians 5:17).
The battle we face is a battle within. It is between our desire to do what is right and pleasing to God, and our desire for what is unholy, sinful and destructive. Just as Israel’s success was not found in bigger armies, more advanced weaponry, or treatise with other nations, so our victories will not be won with determination or increased will power. To win the battle against the flesh, we need to apply God’s battle tactics.
Again the words of Paul instruct us: “For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life” (Galatians 6:8).
In other words, if we spend our time feeding the flesh, the flesh will become stronger; and in battle, the flesh will win. We will find ourselves defeated again and again. On the other hand, if we spend our time feeding the spirit with a healthy diet of God’s Word, prayer, fellowship and service, we will find greater and greater victory in the times of spiritual battle. I believe what we do in times of peace, determines who will win in the times of heated conflict. Too many Christians spend little time making daily spiritual investments in their lives, and wonder why they find themselves defeated over and over every time temptation rises.
The ways of God will never change. His victories are always accomplished in His strength. When we take the time to sow to the Spirit, we will have victory over the lusts of the flesh. If we don’t, we will continue to struggle, fail, fall, and be constantly riddled with guilt and weakness. You don’t have to live like that any longer. His arm will be your strength.
Questions for Psalm 44
- How are the truths of God delivered from one generation to the next?
- How are you involved in passing on the truth of God to others?
- In verse 3 – 8, what does the Psalmist attribute Israel’s victories to?
- Despite the victories, the Psalmist is describing the times of defeat. What does he do to remedy the situation?