Psalm 145 – Praise of God in the Millennium

David’s Psalm of praise.

1 I will extol thee, my God, O king; and I will bless thy name for ever and ever.

2 Every day will I bless thee; and I will praise thy name for ever and ever.

3 Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; and his greatness is unsearchable.

4 One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts.

5 I will speak of the glorious honor of thy majesty, and of thy wondrous works.

6 And men shall speak of the might of thy terrible acts: and I will declare thy greatness.

7 They shall abundantly utter the memory of thy great goodness, and shall sing of thy righteousness.

8 The LORD is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy.

9 The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.

10 All thy works shall praise thee, O LORD; and thy saints shall bless thee.

 11 They shall speak of the glory of thy kingdom, and talk of thy power;

12 To make known to the sons of men his mighty acts, and the glorious majesty of his kingdom.

13 Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and thy dominion endureth throughout all generations.

14 The LORD upholdeth all that fall, and raiseth up all those that be bowed down.

15 The eyes of all wait upon thee; and thou givest them their meat in due season.

16 Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing.

17 The LORD is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works.

18 The LORD is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth.

19 He will fulfill the desire of them that fear him: he also will hear their cry, and will save them.

20 The LORD preserveth all them that love him: but all the wicked will he destroy.

21 My mouth shall speak the praise of the LORD: and let all flesh bless his holy name for ever and ever.

We aren’t to trust in men, but in God alone.  Learning to praise the Lord for all His attributes and virtues in the glory of His kingdom.

Psalm 144 – The True Fountain of Strength & Warfare in the Ancient World

A Psalm of David.

The Parthenon is a temple on the Athenian Acropolis, Greece, dedicated to the goddess Athena, whom the people of Athens considered their patron.

Its construction began in 447 B.C. when the Athenian Empire was at the height of its power.

It was completed in 438 B.C., although decoration of the building continued until 432 B.C.

1 Blessed be the LORD my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight:

2 My goodness, and my fortress; my high tower, and my deliverer; my shield, and he in whom I trust; who subdueth my people under me.

3 LORD, what is man, that thou takest knowledge of him! or the son of man, that thou makest account of him!

4 Man is like to vanity: his days are as a shadow that passeth away.

5 Bow thy heavens, O LORD, and come down: touch the mountains, and they shall smoke.

6 Cast forth lightning, and scatter them: shoot out thine arrows, and destroy them.

7 Send thine hand from above; rid me, and deliver me out of great waters, from the hand of strange children;

Athens is one of the oldest named cities in the world, having been continuously inhabited for at least 7000 years.

Situated in southern Europe, Athens became the leading city of Ancient Greece in the first millennium B.C. and its cultural achievements during the 5th century B.C. laid the foundations of western civilization.

During the early Middle Ages, the city experienced a decline, then recovered under the later Byzantine Empire and was relatively prosperous during the period of the Crusades (12th and 13th centuries), benefiting from Italian trade.

Following a period of sharp decline under the rule of the Ottoman Empire, Athens re-emerged in the 19th century as the capital of the independent Greek state.

8 Whose mouth speaketh vanity, and their right hand is a right hand of falsehood.

9 I will sing a new song unto thee, O God: upon a psaltery and an instrument of ten strings will I sing praises unto thee.

10 It is he that giveth salvation unto kings: who delivereth David his servant from the hurtful sword.

11 Rid me, and deliver me from the hand of strange children, whose mouth speaketh vanity, and their right hand is a right hand of falsehood:

12 That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace:

13 That our garners may be full, affording all manner of store: that our sheep may bring forth thousands and ten thousands in our streets:

History of the Peloponnesian War
Written four hundred years before the birth of Christ, this detailed contemporary account of the struggle between Athens and Sparta stands an excellent chance of fulfilling the author’s ambitious claim that the work “was done to last forever.”

The conflicts between the two empires over shipping, trade, and colonial expansion came to a head in 431 b.c. in Northern Greece, and the entire Greek world was plunged into 27 years of war.

Thucydides applied a passion for accuracy and a contempt for myth and romance in compiling this exhaustively factual record of the disastrous conflict that eventually ended the Athenian empire.

14 That our oxen may be strong to labor; that there be no breaking in, nor going out; that there be no complaining in our streets.

15 Happy is that people, that is in such a case: yea, happy is that people, whose God is the LORD.

A Psalm of praise to the infinite majesty of God.  Fighting the good fight of faith for the sake of being in the state of a happy church life.

Warfare in the Ancient World 

Modern readers may be shocked at the opening verse of Ps 144, but warfare is a prominent theme in Psalms.

The first intact chariot was discovered in 1829 in a tomb whose owner remains unknown and is now on display at the Museo Archeologico in Florence, Italy.
The Florence Chariot has wheels of four spokes and is considered to be of earlier construction and design than other chariots found, which have six spokes.

The earliest wars were conducted with crude weapons of wood and stone.  Horses were of limited value during heavy combat because the stirrup had not yet been invented and a rider could easily fall. 

Chariots were not used extensively until the Bronze Age.  An Egyptian chariot conveyed two men, a driver and an archer (chariots from the Levant [Syria] also accommodated a shield-bearer).  Massed chariots used shock value and speed to demoralize and scatter an enemy.  Chariots were prominent in New Kingdom Egypt.

A revolution in military technology occurred at the beginning of the Iron Age.  Massed armies of heavy infantry with the discipline to hold their ranks appeared on the scene.  They could withstand and rout a chariot charge, making the chariot obsolete except as a prestigious vehicle for commanders.

Battles were often short, lasting only as long as one side or the other had the stamina to maintain face-to-face combat.  Frequently one side would break ranks and flee.  Panic was common, exacerbated by the commanders’ poor control, having to rely as they did on shouted voice commands or signals.

The State Chariot of King Tutankhamun
The discovery of six chariots in the Tomb of King Tutankhamun was a significant find, as only two others have been found, as well as fragments of chariots discovered in the various tombs of the Valley of the Kings.

The State Chariot is made of wood, which was then gessoed and gilded to give it its fine golden finish.

The engravings were then impressed on top to complete the decor of the chariot.

In keeping with the hilly terrain they inhabited, the Israelites relied primarily on infantry.  Light infantry soldiers wore little or no armor and typically used projectile weapons, like stones and arrows.  They moved in loose formations, relying on speed (see Jud 20:15-16; 2 Cho 14:8).

Heavy infantrymen wore full armor and often carried heavy swords and long spears.  They moved in large, close formation, with spears lowered to form a wall of pikes, in effect creating an ancient version of a The Greek hoplite (heavily armored infantry soldier) marching in his phalanx was a classic example of heavy infantry in action.

Normally a heavy infantry unit would rout a light infantry corps, but out in the open a single heavy infantryman could be at a disadvantage when pitted against a light infantryman, due to the latter’s mobility and ability to strike at a distance.

The greatest armies combined heavy and light infantry with cavalry.  Alexander the Great and Hannibal were masters at using their heavy infantry as a solid center for their armies, employing cavalry to flank an opponent.

The Roman legions rejected the long pike in favor of a short sword.  These legions had the weight and impact of heavy infantry but were much more mobile.

Ancient Egyptian Battle of Axes
The mace was the common weapon used for primary close combat with the opponent.

However, ancient Egypt battle axes was a practical weapon that replaced the mace as Egyptian’s military close combat weapon. Ancient Egypt cutting axes is a blade that was fastened to a sizable handle.

In addition to fighting pitched battles in the open field, armies sometimes laid siege to walled cities that were often situated atop hills.  How long a city could hold out depended on how much food it had in storage and upon whether it had direct access to underground springs.

Plague could strike a besieged city, as happened to Athens during the Peloponnesian War in 430 B.C.  Often the besieging army would seek to bring down a city by building a siege ramp and attacking the walls with siege towers.

Reproduction of Spartan Armour.
Reproduction of an ancient Greek Spartan Heavy Infantry Armour from 490 B.C.

Includes Crested Helmet, Long Spear, Shield and Cuirass.

Ancient armies were often made up of citizen soldiers called up in times of emergency.  These citizens could fight with dedication but were poorly trained and armed and often needed to return home on short order to tend their crops.  Citizen-soldier armies served Israel during the judges period.

Ancient societies tried to give their armies a core of professional soldiers with long-term enlistments.  Kings would also hire mercenaries.

The Spartans had a novel solution to the recruitment problem: Every man served in the army full-time and lived in the barracks through most of his adult life (farming was handled by slaves called helots).

Ancient city-states often fought each other in “wars” that lasted a single day.  Casualties could be light, and frequently nothing more was at stake than setting a property claim. 

Other wars could be catastrophic.  The Peloponnesian War lasted 27 years, destroyed the Athenian Empire and devastated the Greek world.  Victorious armies might slaughter cities and take survivors as slaves, effectively destroying peoples and cultures with deliberate genocide.

Armed conflict was indeed a fact of life for the peoples of ancient times.  Against this reality David had ample reason to thank God, who trained his hands for war.

Psalm 143 – Prayer Out of Deepest Distress

A Psalm of David.

1 Hear my prayer, O LORD, give ear to my supplications: in thy faithfulness answer me, and in thy righteousness.

2 And enter not into Judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.

3 For the enemy hath persecuted my soul; he hath smitten my life down to the ground; he hath made me to dwell in darkness, as those that have been long dead.

4 Therefore is my spirit overwhelmed within me; my heart within me is desolate.

5 I remember the days of old; I meditate on all thy works; I muse on the work of thy hands.

6 I stretch forth my hands unto thee: my soul thirsteth after thee, as a thirsty land. Selah.

7 Hear me speedily, O LORD: my spirit faileth: hide not thy face from me, lest I be like unto them that go down into the pit.

8 Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee.

9 Deliver me, O LORD, from mine enemies: I flee unto thee to hide me.

10 Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness.

11 Quicken me, O LORD, for thy name’s sake: for thy righteousness’ sake bring my soul out of trouble.

12 And of thy mercy cut off mine enemies, and destroy all them that afflict my soul: for I am thy servant.

The prophet praises God and prays to be delivered from his enemies.  No worldly happiness is to be compared with that of serving God.  Learning how to interact with the Lord and pray through when we are overwhelmed by the enemy.

Psalm 142 – Jehovah, the Refuge of the Lonely Ones

Maschil of David; A Prayer when he was in the cave.

1 I cried unto the LORD with my voice; with my voice unto the LORD did I make my supplication.

2 I poured out my complaint before him; I shewed before him my trouble.

3 When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then thou knewest my path. In the way wherein I walked have they privily laid a snare for me.

4 I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul.

5 I cried unto thee, O LORD: I said, Thou art my refuge and my portion in the land of the living.

6 Attend unto my cry; for I am brought very low: deliver me from my persecutors; for they are stronger than I.

7 Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise thy name: the righteous shall compass me about; for thou shalt deal bountifully with me.

The psalmist in tribulation calleth upon God for his delivery.  The seventh penitential Psalm.  Learning how to be transparent with God in prayer when in trouble and at the same time acknowledging the Lord’s bountiful dealing.

Psalm 141 – Prayer of the Just Amidst the Wicked

1 LORD, I cry unto thee: make haste unto me; give ear unto my voice, when I cry unto thee.

2 Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.

3 Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.

4 Incline not my heart to any evil thing, to practice wicked works with men that work iniquity: and let me not eat of their dainties.

5 Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head: for yet my prayer also shall be in their calamities.

6 When their Judges are overthrown in stony places, they shall hear my words; for they are sweet.

7 Our bones are scattered at the grave’s mouth, as when one cutteth and cleaveth wood upon the earth.

8 But mine eyes are unto thee, O GOD the Lord: in thee is my trust; leave not my soul destitute.

9 Keep me from the snares which they have laid for me, and the gins of the workers of iniquity.

10 Let the wicked fall into their own nets, whilst that I withal escape.

A prayer of David in extremity of danger.  Being sensitive to the Lord and open to be dealt with by other members of the Body, while keeping our eyes upon the Lord.