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Posts Tagged ‘Psalm 18:35’

“You have given me the shield of your salvation,

and your right hand supported me,

and your __________ made me great.”

–Psalm 18:35 (EST)

What word would you put in that blank?

  • Power?
  • Grace?
  • Mercy?

The word chosen most often by translators* may surprise you. It certainly surprised me.

“Your GENTLENESS made me great.”

In addition to being surprised, I was puzzled. How can God’s attribute of gentleness make a person great?

A good place to begin our search for understanding is the background of this psalm.  It was written by King David, perhaps during his later years. He may have been pondering the incredible progression of his life from lowly shepherd boy to exalted king.

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Surely, young David never even daydreamed of becoming the most powerful man in Israel, as he sat on the hillsides of Bethlehem, watching over his father’s sheep.

Neither could he have known at least fifteen years would pass between his anointing as king (a ceremony indicating a setting apart) and his actual coronation.

And contrary to human logic, those intervening years would not be spent as a student in preparation, but as a fugitive and outlaw, running for his life.  Seems like such a waste of time, doesn’t it? As David hid from King Saul in the Cave of Adullam, did he wonder, Lord God, what ARE you doing?

In hindsight we can see that God was gently teaching and preparing David his way, with practical, hands-on lessons such as:

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  • The Lord hears the prayers of the afflicted and encourages them (Psalm 10:17).
  • The Lord’s unfailing love can be trusted (Psalm 13:5).
  • The Lord gives wise counsel (Psalm 16:7).
  • The Lord is like a rock. His people can take refuge in him (Psalm 18:2).
  • There is no need to fear evil, because the Lord is always present with his own (Psalm 23:4).

One definition of gentle is “considerate or kindly.” God certainly demonstrated gentleness of this nature by endowing David with certain character traits–traits that would serve him well as monarch over Israel:

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  • Courage—most obvious, perhaps, when teenaged David took on nine-foot-plus Goliath (1 Samuel 17)
  • Perseverance—when he spent those years waiting for God’s plan to be fulfilled, all the while fleeing from Saul’s vengeful rage (1 Samuel 19-2 Samuel 1)
  • Cleverness—on display when David pretended madness in order to avoid death at the hands of the Philistines (21:10-15)
  • Restraint—when he twice resisted the opportunity to kill Saul before the king killed him (chapters 24 and 26)
  • Respectability—During his years as a fugitive, six hundred men gathered in support of David and fought with him (27:3-4).

Another definition of gentle is “tender hearted.” No doubt it was with a tender heart that God:

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  • Bestowed upon David  the gifts of poetry and music (1 Samuel 16:18)
  • Demonstrated his wonderful love (Psalm 31:21)
  • Forgave David (32:1-2)
  • Remained faithful to him (57:3)
  • Protected David in the shadow of his wings (61:4)

But here’s even better news about God’s gentleness: It wasn’t reserved just for David or other Bible heroes. God displays his gentle nature to all of his children, every day.

In hindsight, we, too, can often see God’s gentle teaching and preparation for what he has called us to do. (If you’re in the middle of that process, rest assured those tough life-lessons you’re enduring now will not be for nothing!)

Second, with kind and gentle consideration, God has bestowed upon each of us specific character traits that qualify us to accomplish his plans. (And that plan isn’t complete until we hear the angels sing!)

Third, God has surely demonstrated his gentle, tender-hearted love for us, beginning with the death of his Son on a cross and ending with…

…well, there is no end to his faithfulness, grace, mercy, attentive care, peace, joy, and more.  How glorious is that?

And though it’s very doubtful you or I will ever be great monarchs like David, we can aspire to greatness in God’s eternal kingdom.

How? By serving him wherever we are with the specific gifts and traits he has given us.

Jesus spoke that truth very clearly:

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(“The greatest among you will be your servant.” –Matthew 23:11)

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

I praise you, God, for your gentleness that tenderly prepares us for our purpose, kindly endows us with attributes for that calling, and graciously showers us with the benefits of your character, all throughout life.

Help me, I pray, to be compliant under your tender hand, ready and willing to follow your gentle lead, and generous to bestow upon others the graces of your character which I have enjoyed.  Amen.

(Photo and art credits:  www.panoramio.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.donnarios.com; http://www.plusii.blogspot.co.uk; http://www.pinterest.com.)

* www.biblehub.com provides easy access to twenty translations of the Bible. Fifteen out of twenty include the word “gentleness” at the end of Psalm 18:35, or a synonym: humility, lowliness, or meekness.

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See if this sounds familiar:  You’re reading along in the Bible when you come upon a phrase you’ve seen before, maybe even many times.  But suddenly the realization dawns.  You don’t really know what that phrase means.

That was my experience as I read this verse:  “I have set the Lord always before me.  Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken” (Psalm 16:8).  Can you pick out the two words that caught my attention?  Right hand.  I had to wonder, what is so significant about God’s right hand?

After a bit of research, here is what I discovered.

1) In Bible times, the position to the right was considered a place of honor.  This concept is seen at its finest in Hebrews 1:3 where Jesus “sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.”  But according to Psalm 16:8 (above), he is in the place of honor in my life and yours.  With our reverence and obedience we can demonstrate our honor of him.

2) If a man has God at his right hand, it means God’s shield is next to him.  God’s sword arm is free to deal with the enemy.  Visualize yourself walking behind that impenetrable shield.  And in his right hand, God wields His sword, ready to strike down the enemy—Satan and his demons.  “He stands at the right hand of the needy one, to save his life from those who condemn him” (Psalm 109:31).  I love that visualization of God on the offensive for us.

3) A bride stands with the groom on her right, symbolizing the groom’s protection.  The Lord Jesus is our Bridegroom and we, his church, are the bride (Revelation 21:1-3).  David proclaimed God’s protective right hand in Psalm 17:7.  “You…save by your right hand those who take refuge in you from their foes,” he said.  God is our undefeated defense.

4) For many of us the right side of our bodies is stronger than the left.  Perhaps David had that idea in mind when he wrote, “Your right hand sustains me” (Psalm 18:35b).  And what does sustain mean?  Uphold, encourage, and affirm.   Imagine God’s right hand upholding you—day in and day out.  Just the warmth and strength flowing from his touch has the power to encourage and affirm.

5) In addition to extra strength on the right, most of us have extra dexterity in our right hands.  We use that hand for writing, drawing, cutting, and other such tasks.  Any good handwork is accomplished with that dominant hand.  So what comes from God’s right hand?  The psalmist proclaimed:  “Your right hand is filled with righteousness,” (48:10).  Everything God does is good and morally correct.  He always gives his best to his work.

I thank you, Father, for the many times I have been protected, sustained, and blessed by your right hand.  If you never lifted your hand again on my behalf I would have no cause for complaint.  And yet you have promised us “eternal pleasures at your right hand.” (Psalm 16:11c).  I bow before you in wordless wonder.

(Photo credit:  sonfeld.wordpress.com.)

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