psalm xviii (b) – equipped to be conduits

A mistake we often make is thinking that God equips us in the way our employer equips us. An employer, depending on your role, might provide you a computer or a shovel or an office or a microscope or a gun. With this equipment you are expected to then use it to satisfy your employer’s many demands. How well you use these pieces of equipment will help determine your job security, promotion prospects and relationship with your employer. God manages to equip us while He’s doing all the work. How?

We see it play out in this Psalm. God equips and trains David. Then David goes to work, defeating his enemies. Destroying them. Yet he attributes the victory to God. It was God who subdued the people, while David “ground them to dust.” What honest employee attributes the entirety of their work to the boss (unless they’re trying to suck up)? No one. If not for personal pride, then out of honesty. It wouldn’t or couldn’t be true. It is not possible for two humans to share the intertwined action of God and David that we see in this passage.

So, God’s ‘equipping’ is different somehow. An action can have two ‘actors’, one divine and one human. Somehow. So much so that David can pierce the heart of an enemy with his sword, feel the weight of the steel in his own hands and smell the metallic aroma of blood through his own nostrils. His first hand, visceral experience is turned over as God’s own work. This isn’t just reverence, like saying “I couldn’t have done it if not for God’s help.” It’s realer than that. The actors aren’t differentiated.

This is the mystery of God’s work in the world. All goodness flows from God. The flowers seem to grow by the light of the sun and the water in the soil, but they actually grow by God’s own personal good will and attention to detail through these physical means. Nothing good happens on its own, but only by God’s providential care. When a creature does wrong, she sees herself as her own actor and distorts her good purpose. This is all evil is. Self-will. 

But when a creature acts in accordance with her good purpose defined by Her Creator, as David did here, she becomes a transparent conduit of God’s will. This is what Jesus was, God enfleshed, the man in complete congruence with the Father’s will. He was equipped by God, and did only as the Father desired (jn 8:29). Now, we are not Christ, but we do image Him.

And we are equipped by God in such a way that He has chosen to work through our actions in this profoundly unintelligible way. Two actors, one action. The Source of good and its human conduit. David knew this truth deeply, as you can see from his writing. You are not equipped to do anything, but to be a conduit for God’s goodness. Yet this isn’t passivity and sitting around, but constant work. Just know the work is not yours, nor is the equipment.

This might take some thinking. If you take two things away from this, take this.

  1. God desires you to do His will as revealed and illuminated by the Holy Spirit in Scripture.
  2. Any of God’s will you do was simply His goodness made manifest through you as a physical instrument. You produced none of it and deserve no credit for it, for it was Christ in you (gal 2:20).

With the merciful you show yourself merciful;
with the blameless man you show yourself blameless;
with the purified you show yourself pure;
and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous.
For you save a humble people,
    but the haughty eyes you bring down.
For it is you who light my lamp;
    the Lord my God lightens my darkness.
For by you I can run against a troop,
    and by my God I can leap over a wall.
This God—his way is perfect
    the word of the Lord proves true;
    he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.

For who is God, but the Lord?
    And who is a rock, except our God?—
the God who equipped me with strength
    and made my way blameless.
He made my feet like the feet of a deer
    and set me secure on the heights.
He trains my hands for war,
    so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
You have given me the shield of your salvation,
    and your right hand supported me,
    and your gentleness made me great.
You gave a wide place for my steps under me,
    and my feet did not slip.
I pursued my enemies and overtook them,
    and did not turn back till they were consumed.
I thrust them through, so that they were not able to rise;
    they fell under my feet.
For you equipped me with strength for the battle;
    you made those who rise against me sink under me.
You made my enemies turn their backs to me,
    and those who hated me I destroyed.
They cried for help, but there was none to save;
    they cried to the Lord, but he did not answer them.
I beat them fine as dust before the wind;
    I cast them out like the mire of the streets.

You delivered me from strife with the people;
    you made me the head of the nations;
    people whom I had not known served me.
As soon as they heard of me they obeyed me;
    foreigners came cringing to me.
Foreigners lost heart
    and came trembling out of their fortresses.

The Lord lives, and blessed be my rock,
    and exalted be the God of my salvation—
the God who gave me vengeance
    and subdued peoples under me,
who rescued me from my enemies;
    yes, you exalted me above those who rose against me;
    you delivered me from the man of violence.

For this I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations,
    and sing to your name.
Great salvation he brings to his king,
    and shows steadfast love to his anointed,
    to David and his offspring forever.

psalm xviii:25-50

<— psalm xviii (a) psalm xix —>