That David had great responsibility for ensuring an able-bodied army was ready to take on the enemies of God’s people is a given. That, as commander in chief, he needed to have a plan for taking down the city at Edom was to be expected. That, when the time came, it would be he and his men who were sword to sword in battle was understood. But what David also knew, beyond any shadow of doubt, was that regardless of the preparation . . . no matter how good the planning . . . even if, on paper, they possessed the greater power . . . vain is the salvation of man!
Oh grant us help against the foe, for vain is the salvation of man! With God we shall do valiantly; it is He who will tread down our foes. (Psalm 108:12-13 ESV)
Kind of captivated by the progression in this song of David. It would seem that not all has been going well on the military front . . . that recent defeat has been known(v.11). And yet David’s song begins with praise . . . “I will sing and make melody with all my being . . . I will give thanks to You, O Lord . . . I will sing praise to You among the nations” (v.1-3). Though things have not been going well of late, David still knows that God’s “steadfast love is great above the heavens” and that His “faithfulness reaches to clouds” (v. 4).
And then praise is followed by prayer. “Give salvation by Your right hand and answer me!” pens the songwriter. And David seeks such favor that God might be exalted and that His glory would be over all the earth (v.5-6). The battle ultimately was the Lord’s because at stake was the reputation of the Lord. And so after praises and prayer, David recalls the promise.
God had “promised in His holiness” to divide up the land and portion it out among His people (v.7). David had made great preparation for the battle because God had given great promises concerning His people. And though the battle had not being going well, David knew that God’s promises would stand . . . and so he prayed for God’s presence . . . and he praised God for His steadfast faithfulness.
And David did this because, despite his great army of men of valor, without the presence and power of God in the midst of battle, they battled in vain. They were prepared, they had a plan, they were purposeful as to entering the fray. But useless are people’s attempts at their own deliverance.
Note to self: that includes me. In my own strength, by my own determination, through my own wisdom, empty is the prospect of any real victory. At best, fleeting will be the moment of triumph. Any mountain top I scale will shortly be followed by a valley that consumes me. At worst, I walk away bruised, battered, and bewildered.
But with God we shall do valiantly (do I get an “Amen!” from the people on that?). Only with God in our midst will we do mightily. The army we prepare, the plans we put in place, the purpose with which he move forward only have strength as they are infused by the presence and power of the God who promises.
Oh I know that lesson . . . but how I need to learn that lesson.
Hear it again Pete: Needful are the praises, the prayer, the promises, and the power as we head into battle.
Vain is the salvation of man. Great is the victory through God.
For Your steadfast love is great above the heavens;
Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let Your glory be over all the earth! (Psalm 108:4-5 ESV)