I must admit that upon first reading, this psalm can be a bit disturbing, particularly from verses 6 on.
It is a psalm that first calls on God’s people to praise him. To rejoice in him because he is our Maker and our King. It then says to praise him with dancing and musical instruments.
It’s always cool for me to see people praise God through dance, although personally it’s not something I think I could ever do. But to see the joy of people as they dance is such a blessing for me just watching them.
And to hear the beauty of instruments played for the glory of God helps draw me close to God as well. At our church, we sometimes have a professional violin player join in with the worship band, and it really adds something to the experience that I can’t properly express in words.
But as much as I delight in these things, God delights in them even more. Even for those who can’t keep a tune, or play an instrument, or dance, the psalmist says,
The LORD takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with salvation. (4)
The Lord doesn’t delight so much in what we can do. He delights in what he sees in our hearts. When he sees people who love him and rejoice in him, that’s what he takes pleasure in.
And when we humble ourselves before him, putting our trust in him, he crowns us with his salvation. The psalmist tells us that we should rejoice in this honor he has given us. Though we deserve nothing from him, he has given us life.
But then comes the disturbing part. For while the psalmist calls people to worship, it also calls them to war. To war against those who would set themselves against God, and carry out his judgment.
Now for the Israelites coming into Canaan, that is exactly what God called the people to do. For years, God waited with patience for the Canaanites to turn from their sin, but instead the situation became worse and worse. And when they reached their “full measure of sin” (Genesis 15:16), God sent his people to exercise his judgment on them.
But we are not the Israelites, for whom this psalm was originally written. So what does this mean for us?
The thing we need to remember is that we are in a spiritual war. And as I’ve mentioned before, our battle is no longer against flesh and blood. People are not our enemies. But there are spiritual powers and forces out there using people as their pawns. This is what we are fighting.
And ours is not a literal two-edged sword that we hold, but rather the two-edged sword of the Word of God, a sword that,
penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
We use it not to fight against people, but to fight for their souls that they may be saved.
And we bring a message of salvation and judgment. To those who believe, Jesus has given us the authority to proclaim their forgiveness in his name. To those who reject his word, he has given us the authority to proclaim their coming judgment if they do not repent. (John 20:23).
So let us never forget. We are called to worship, that is true. But we are also called to fight. To fight for the lives of those who are lost. So as I’ve said before, let us run to the battle.