I’ve been thinking about strength a lot lately—partially because COVID-19 stole much of mine from me. It’s hellacious trying to regain those losses. My legs scream after I hike for just a half hour.
The source of our strength
Our legs bear our weight and support our back as we lift. But strength often comes from unapparent places. Take the elephant for example. It can lift more than 700 pounds, but it doesn’t get that strength from its tree-trunk-sized legs. Its strength is in its trunk, replete with more than 40,000 muscles.
While I need to regain physical strength, my latest day-job assignment has kept me on my knees asking God for mental and spiritual strength. It moved me to study Psalm 18, which David starts with, “I love You, O Lord, my strength.”
Yes, our strength should come from the Lord. But what did David really mean?
What strength means
I looked up the Hebrew word for strength (chezeq) used in verse 1. It appears only ONCE in the entire Bible. There in Psalm 18:1!
The word geek in me went into overdrive. Chezeq must mean something special. So I scoured several Bible dictionaries to dig into the definition.
Guess what they said?
Why would David pick that word over others he could have used?
I think the answer comes in the next verse: “The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer. My God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”
Look at how many words David used to describe strength:
Horn of salvation.
David penned three groups of descriptors to elaborate on “strength.” Notice how he interspersed them—alternating names of practically impenetrable objects with names of activities only God can do (deliver, save).
David needed all those physical and spiritual words to flesh out what God’s strength meant to him. What he’d experienced personally.
(Side note: The Hebrew use of “horn” is a fascinating study in strength. Read more about it here.)
David needed more than a slingshot and good aim to be king of Israel. Yet God had already imbued him with what he needed to succeed as king. David planted a flag with verse 2, saying he knew God was the source of every kind of strength—physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. David was also confident about tapping into that strength.
Read through the entire psalm, and you’ll see David
- Relied on that strength (vs. 2)
- Availed himself of it (vs. 3)
- Leaned into it (vs. 31, 32, 35 36)
- Called upon in battle (vs 34, 39)
- Praised it (vs. 46, 49)
- Enjoyed its blessings (vs. 50)
Putting a pin in strength
Mention strength in terms other than the physical and people empty boxes of pushpins attaching other words to it: grit, fortitude, mettle, stout-heartedness, valor, courage. All those apply to some extent. And there’s strength of character … a highly desirable trait.
As I mull those words, I can’t help but think about Aaron’s spiritual strength versus Samson’s physical strength. Both delivered Israel in different ways. But the length and breadth of their influence differed greatly.
Does it always take extended times of testing to cultivate that spiritual strength?
I would hazard a “yes.”
David’s path to Israel’s throne was through fifteen years of survival training in the mountains. Joseph’s path to Egypt’s palace was through a prison. Abigail’s path to David’s side was through years of a loveless marriage to a boorish, racketeering first husband. Paul’s path to his fourth missionary journey was through a shipwreck and multiple imprisonments—ending in his path to glory instead of Spain. But his prison epistles reached infinitely more people than he could have if he had reached his intended earthly destination.
So what does that mean for you and me? How can you put feet to Psalm 18?
- Recognize God’s strength.
It’s always there, but it begins when ours ends.
- Rely on His strength.
- Lean into it.
- Ask for whatever measure you need for whatever challenge you’re facing.
- Claim God’s promise of being your strength.
- Praise God for His provision.
- Thank Him in advance for using it for His glory and your benefit.
- Rest in Him as He works with and through you.
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His Strength Is Perfect (featuring Steven Curtis Chapman)