Reading: Psalm 18
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… You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand supported me, and your gentleness made me great.
We don’t often think of gentleness producing greatness. Because it’s so unusual, many commentators and translators have sought to make it say something else. But it’s true. The gentleness of God produces greatness in men.
David is a warrior and this psalm is about his victory over Saul which came by the delivering hand of the Lord. It is especially for men. Men believe that a warrior must always be tough, that he must always have a hard nose, and be intolerant of mistakes, especially in himself. A man must project strength and have a show of force always at the ready.
There is plenty in this psalm which displays the might of the Lord: he shakes the foundations of the earth (v.7), he burst forth like a volcano (v.8), he postures himself against David’s enemies like thunder in a storm (v.9-12). The Lord is truly great and awesome to behold.
But it was God’s gentleness to David that made him great. It was his tender, merciful care of David, his intense interest in David’s sufferings, his placing David under the shadow of his wings and keeping him the apple of his eye (17:8). The Lord is a rock, a stable foundation for David, firm and strong, to be counted on in times of trouble. He is this, though, precisely because he is gentle.
Many men don’t know how to be gentle, or struggle to be gentle. We treat ourselves with hardness in an effort to achieve discipline and to accomplish great things. But when we do that, we fail to see that God is not hard with us, and that if he was, it would simply destroy us. And thus, we don’t see how our hardness damages others, especially those we lead, like our wives and children.
God will equip us with strength and make our way blameless. But it doesn’t come through an iron rule. Instead, it comes by the way of Jesus who came to his glory and power by submitting to unjust humiliation and death (Philippians 2:6-11). Likewise, we become great by becoming gentle.
But beware. If this is not the way that you see God, then you need to examine your heart. For “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 your self seem tortuous. For you save a humble people, but the haughty eyes you bring down” (vv.25-27).
Father, I perceive the hardness in my own heart and in my actions and attitudes of others. You are the great rescuer; please rescue me even from my own foolish ways. Forgive my insecurities and teach me to depend upon you as my rock and my fortress. Teach me the way of Jesus, who was tender and gentle with those in need. Let your gentleness make me great.