In the Old Testament there is talk of salvation. Quite often, this salvation isn't the kind that we typically speak of in 2012. These days we tend to speak of being saved and having salvation in a strictly 'spiritual' sense. However, for the ancient Israelites salvation was more tangible.
When we read the Psalms we repeatedly see David crying out or giving thanks for God's salvation. He does this not because he is afraid of hell but because he is afraid of Sheol (the grave) and he wants to live. He is afraid of his enemies. He doesn't want to die and lose the life he is currently living. Salvation for David is a rescuing from a troubling or threatening times. It's a very literal and physical saving. God saves David from enemies, from death, from violent and wicked men.
We rarely speak of salvation in this way nowadays. Unless we're preaching a prosperity gospel or immensely reformed theologically we shy away from talking about God's deliverance from hardships and the power he has in this world and in our lives. Privately we pray about it, but a lot of our congregations don't talk about it. Yet, salvation is multifaceted. We need rescuing from a great many things.
What strikes me as beautiful about David and the Old Testament is that we repeatedly see God delivering his people (saving them from evil or some type of destruction) throughout the scriptures without the people doing much of anything to help. Millard Lind writes about this in his book Yahweh is A Warrior. God fights for his people and saves them. He does it in unique and mysterious ways. He brings down entire city walls with trumpets and nothing more. He splits seas, steals away the sun, gives an abundance of insects and amphibians, and so on. God does not need the strength or violence of his people to help him.
David knows this, in a sense. He often praises God for being his all in all, everything he needs. When he has trouble he goes to God for salvation, for rescue. When God helps him out he praises God for being the one who saved him. Even when he does the killing he praises God for making him a good warrior. It comes back to his Creator, Provider, Defender, Salvation.
In Psalm 18 David writes, "I love you, O Lord, my strength.The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies."
The rest of the psalm is fascinating and poetically beautiful. It gives us a real glimpse of who David was and how he saw God. I love this song because when I read it I don't think I need to pick up arms and lay waste to nations like David, rather, I remember all the times God delivered his people without the use of armies, or with the use of small and inadequate armies.
So often God proves to us that we don't need anything but him for our deliverance, be it spiritual or physical or whatever. He gives us life, both now and forever. He gives us refuge, now and forever. He gives us strength, now and forever. What's even greater is that he is himself our strength, refuge, and life. I have only to rely on God for everything. Must I still act? Yes. When it comes to my trouble, to violence, to threats on my well-being, I should begin with prayer, move in faith, and see God work the way he has worked in the past for Israel and the way he has worked through Christ.
I once wrote an article about how nonviolence is more about faith in God and the reality that he says we live in (as opposed to faith in weapons and the reality that humans say we live in). The article was called Reality vs. The Nonviolent Dream. In it I lay out the idea that we can be nonviolent because we have a God who doesn't require our violence and possibly even calls us away from it. The scriptures we adore show us a God who is more than capable to be our salvation in times of trouble with our having to act unloving towards our enemies.
When I read David's words they remind me that God is my strength, my rock, my refuge, my fortress, my deliverer, my shield, my stronghold, the horn of my salvation. He protects me. Nothing else does (be it nonviolent tactics or violent tactics). He wins my battles, I do not. Even if he equips me, he does the work when I cry out to him and honor him with my life. He enables me to love and to live.
It's easy to find our strength, refuge, fortress, deliverance, shield, stronghold, horn of salvation, in anything but God. We fool ourselves a lot into thinking our weapons, our hands, our brains, our friends, our money, our anything can save us. We think we can save ourselves. Whether we be afraid of hell in eternity or hell presently on earth, God is our salvation and will pull us out of death's dark waters and place us on a rock (Christ). David knows better than to think he is his own salvation. May we love our Lord as David did, declaring who God is and in so doing declaring that nothing else can be what God is to us.