A Meditation on Psalm 18: 31-35

Kevin J Youngblood
For who is God, but the YHWH?
And who is a rock, except our God?—
32 the God who girded me with strength
and made my way blameless.
33 He made my feet like the feet of a deer
and set me secure on the heights.
34 He trains my hands for war,
so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
35 You have given me the shield of your salvation,
and your right hand supported me,
and your humility made me great.
(Psalm 18:31-35)
The Bible is full of paradoxes. This is at once both a frustration and a fascination (itself a paradox). On the one hand, paradoxes interfere with my attempts to wrap my faith up in a nice little package and tie it up with a bow. It just doesn’t all fit my prefabricated packages and boxes. On the other hand, it stimulates constant thought and reformulation that makes Scripture and the Christian faith anything but boring. 

Psalm 18:35 hit me with a new adjective, and with it a new paradox for YHWH that I have seldom if ever used – humble. How can the perfect, glorious God who is worthy of all praise and adoration be humble? Now don’t get me wrong. It is not that it has never occurred to me that Jesus is humble. Yes, certainly I have often thought of God the Son as humble – the God who came to us incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth. The God who stooped to wash filthy human feet is certainly humble. I had not, however, transferred this adjective to God the Father. I had not really thought of God as humble UNTIL the incarnation. The God of the OT, however, never really struck me as humble. David, however, recognizes divine humility long before the incarnation! The only reason Jesus exhibits such humility is precisely because it is at the heart of divinity – it is who God is and always has been – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Whatever humility Jesus embodied and exhibited he learned from his Father, YHWH, God of Israel, God of the OT.

Not only this, but this divine attribute comes out of nowhere in this psalm. David is talking about how YHWH suited him up in armor, armed with an arsenal, and trained him for war. He makes YHWH sound like a drill sergeant. This is not my typical picture of humility. What is going on here?

As I reflect on this, a certain mental picture begins to formulate in my mind. I see a father playfully wrestling with his son on their living room floor or playfully boxing with his son, all the while coaching him to keep his guard up, not to drop his fists from protecting his face. Fathers, at their best, coach their sons for life, prepare their sons to do battle with the enemies of life, cultivate and call out of them a strength they didn’t even knew they had. David recognized the divine humility in the fact that the Divine Warrior, who is perfectly capable of single-handedly winning battles, who never needs a human agent or necessitates either a human or angelic army, nonetheless, delights in parenting us, coaching us into better, stronger versions of ourselves capable of navigating life well, strategically. Just as a father limits his strength and ability when wrestling or boxing with his sons in order to give them the chance to learn, grow, progress, and taste the satisfaction of success, so God the Father, YHWH, God the OT has always condescended to coach us, train us, prepare us for the hard knocks of life that we might grow into the best version of ourselves and join him in his battle against evil. It is not that we improve God’s odds of winning this battle by joining his army. His victory was never in doubt. It is that his humility in training us and recruiting us to his cause delivers us from the deception of evil and ensures our sharing in his victory.


I praise you for your humility, for your willingness to condescend to dwell with Israel, your willingness to shepherd David through the wilderness when he was on the run from Saul’s lethal jealousy, your willingness to use such flawed and feeble human agents to advance your cause, not because you need our help but because we need the experience, the opportunity to grow into the best version of ourselves. Father, thank you for being the source of the humility exhibited in every member of the Godhead. Lord Jesus, thank you for clothing divine humility in flesh and blood so that we could see it in action and imitate it, approximate it for ourselves. Having seen humility perfectly exhibited in the Father and in you, we now know what a distorted understanding of humility we have often had which is why we were capable of only false humility. Holy Spirit, thank you for condescending to make your home in us as we make this pilgrimage to the Father’s house. Please cultivate in us the fruit of the Father’s humility, a true humility that is secure in its strength and gentle in its exercise of power.