I pursued my enemies and overtook them; I did not turn back till they were destroyed. I crushed them so that they could not rise; they fell beneath my feet. You armed me with strength for battle; you humbled my adversaries before me. You made my enemies turn their backs in flight, and I destroyed my foes. They cried for help, but there was no-one to save them—to the Lord, but he did not answer. I beat them as fine as windblown dust; I trampled them like mud in the streets. You have delivered me from the attacks of the people; you have made me the head of nations. People I did not know now serve me, foreigners cower before me; as soon as they hear of me, they obey me. They all lose heart; they come trembling from their strongholds. (Psalm 18:37–45, NIV)
When I first decided to write Bible reading notes for Psalm 18, I thought what a wonderful Psalm in which to delve. But I didn’t want to write on the above verses. They are just so graphic: destroying of foes; beating as dust; trampling in the mud. Not exactly refreshing morning reading.
I looked to the commentaries for some help, but they seemed to skip over this section. But in Gleason L. Archer’s Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties I gained some insight. He makes a compelling argument for the right to self-defense by law-abiding citizens. As he says, “How could God be called ‘good’ if He forbade His people to protect their wives from ravishment and strangulation … or to resist invaders who have come to pick up their children and dash out their brains against the wall?” (p. 219) More graphic images, I know. But we live in a fallen world that often doesn’t follow God’s rule, so we need to face up to these painful realities.
You may completely disagree with Archer’s theory, or you may embrace it as your own. Whatever position we hold, we can affirm that the Lord yearns for shalom – his holistic peace – in all its fullness, whether in our nations, communities, or families.
Prayer: Lord, we pray for the war-torn areas of the world and the many victims of fighting: the women who are raped; the men who are killed; the children who are maimed and orphaned. Bring peace, we pray.