- Psalm 18 gives us the first explanation concerning what the writer was going through as he penned the psalm. It is my personal wish that this kind of heading was given to all the psalms so we could know the circumstances the writer was going through. At least we have such information in psalm 18. David is the author of the psalm, who wrote this at the time that God had rescued him from Saul and his other enemies.
- This information sets the historical setting for us. In fact, we know exactly when this psalm was penned. Turn to 2 Samuel 22 and notice that this is the same song recorded here in its historical setting. We can notice by surveying these chapters that David is near the end of his life and seems to be reflecting upon what God has done for him throughout his life.
- It is curious to notice that psalm 17 was David’s prayer for deliverance as he described his enemies being like lions that surrounded him. Psalm 18 will now describe the deliverance he has received from the Lord.
I. Praise to God (1-3)
A. “I love you, Lord”
- David begins this psalm by stating his love for the Lord. It is a very simplistic statement that we seemingly should pass by. However, the language that David uses to describe his love is unique. In psalm 17 we saw David describe God’s covenant love. This is God’s love that is so strong that He keeps His promises even though we violate His laws and covenants.
- But the word for love that David uses in this passage means to yearn for. In fact, in a very literal sense, this Hebrew word means “to fondle.” Therefore, David is describing a very deep spiritual emotion and connection with God. David is saying that he has his arms around God. David describes for us the close love that he has for God. This is certainly the type of love that we must develop in our lives, a love so strong that we can confidently say that we have our arms around Him.
- As we read the first three verses of this psalm, we immediately notice the repetition of the word “my.” This is David’s nine-fold description of what the Lord is to him. David says the Lord is “my strength,” “my rock,” “my fortress,” “my deliverer,” “my God,” “my mountain,” “my shield,” “my salvation,” and “my stronghold.”
- In these nine images David describes God as his helper. Notice the strength and security that is found in these images. God is David’s rock, fortress, mountain, and stronghold, all of which are symbols of power and strength. God is also David’s deliverer, shield, and salvation, which denotes the defense and aid that God gives. We see that power communicated more fully in the statement that the Lord is David’s “horn of salvation.” Horn always represents power, as it is the power of an animal. God is David’s power of salvation and deliverance. Therefore, David is going to praise God for who God is.
- This is further amplified by David’s speaking of God as a place “where I seek refuge.” If you have been keeping up with us in this study of the psalms, you will recognize that nearly every psalm of David up to this point has made a reference to God as being a refuge. God is the place we must turn to for strength and protection in every trial and decision of our lives.
C. I will call upon the Lord
- God is worthy of praise. He is worthy of praise for all He has done. David specifically points out here that he has been saved from his enemies, and God is worthy of praise. Praising and serving God because He is worthy is the essence of worship. Worship is to honor something or someone because they are worthy of such treatment.
- When the spiritual beings of heaven worship God, we see they say the very same words. “Our Lord and God, You are worthy to receive glory and honor and power because You have created all things, and because of Your will they exist and were created” (Revelation 4:11 ). “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals” (Revelation 5:9). “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:12). We must always remember that we are to be praising God because He is worthy of our praise. God deserves our service. There is no other person that we can say that about. We often will talk about why a person deserves something or special treatment. But God is truly the one deserving of our focus, praise, and service because of all He has done. Our song books have the song “I Will Call Upon the Lord” whose lyrics are taken from these first three verses. Let us sing that song at this time.
II. God Delivers (4-19)
A. Confrontation with death
- David now describes how dire his circumstances were. David says, “The ropes of death were wrapped around me; the torrents of destruction terrified me. The ropes of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me.” We are able to see how dark a time it was for David in his life.
- We have no doubt about the validity of his feelings. We read in the scriptures about Saul chasing David like a wild animal throughout the land of Palestine . We read of David’s own son, Absalom, seizing the throne of David and attempting to kill David. David had enemies during his reign that would attempt to seize the throne and destroy him and his nation.
- David tells us in verse 6 that in the midst of all this distress and feelings of death he called out to the Lord. David cried out for help and God heard David’s voice and reached down to help him.
B. God’s marvelous deliverance
- From verse 7 to verse 19, David describes the magnificent deliverance of the Lord. With reference to David, we cannot say that these are literal actions the Lord took to deliver David from Saul or his other enemies. Instead, these are figures of speech that are commonly used in the scriptures to describe the majestic actions of the Lord.
- Instead of David simply recording that God saved him, David uses the glory of creation to speak of the actions of God. In verses 7-11 David uses language similar to the time when God descended upon Mount Sinai before the people of Israel . David describes the mountains shaking, smoke rising, and God parting the heavens and coming down. What a beautiful scene that we wish we could visibly see when we are in our distress! David points out that this is the victory God is bringing to aid us in our distress, though it is not visibly seen. We have faith that God is moving in this world to help us in our times of need.
- Verses 12-15 describe in figurative language the warfare of God against the enemies of David. The images we read are very similar to prophecies found in the minor prophets, including the first two chapters of Joel. These are images of God going to battle for the righteous and being victorious.
- Verses 16-19 describe God’s actual deliverance of David as David is rescued from the pits of despair and the enemies. David describes his deliverance as God reaching down, taking hold of David, pulling him out of the waters, and setting him in a wide open place.
- Do you feel like you are drowning in a sea of sorrows? Do you feel that your enemies are too strong for you to overcome? Do you feel that you are submerged in a world of problems? God can help. If we will submit to the Lord, God has promised to be our support and not allow us to endure more than we can handle (1 Corinthians 10:13 ). This will be the very point that David makes in the next section.
III. Reasons For God’s Deliverance (19-24)
A. Because He delighted in me
- David says that God took delight in him. God takes delight in His children. It is a beautiful statement. Just as we take delight in the actions of our children when they do well, so God also takes delight in us when we are obedient to His words.
- We must adopt an attitude that sees God as our Father who wants the best for us. When we are suffering and in difficulties, God is there and is not unmoved. But we must be obedient to be His delight. David says that he was God’s delight, and that was one reason for his deliverance.
B. Because God rewards righteousness
- David also points out that God is a rewarder of the righteous. God repays us according to our actions. We often only think about God repaying according to our actions in the final day of judgment. But that is only the final repaying that we will receive.
- David reminds us that God is constantly repaying us according to our actions. This principle may not be executed as swiftly as we believe it ought to be. But we must recognize that, generally speaking, we will be rewarded in this life for our righteousness. God will take care of us, give us peace, maintain our hope, and deliver us through trials and from Satan–when we are living righteously.
- By the same token, if we are living wickedly and rebelliously toward God, we are going to be repaid in this life. We will go through some suffering. We will endure difficulties and consequences based upon our poor choices. We stand accountable to God daily.
C. Because David kept the ways of the Lord
- This is the point that we have been making, and now David clearly states the principle. We have hope and confidence that God will rescue us when we have not turned from God into wickedness. We have reasons to look for God’s deliverance when we have been keeping the ways of the Lord.
- This is the thrust of the rest of these verses in this section. David says, “I have kept all His ordinances in mind.” God’s laws are always before his face. David does not let the word of God leave his mind. This reminds us of our need to be diligent in our Bible reading so that we can also keep God’s commands in front of our eyes and always on our minds.
- Furthermore, David says that he has been blameless toward God. We mentioned this trait in psalm 17, since David used the expression there also. David is not saying that he has lived a sinless or perfect life. But David has a heart that is right with God, always wanting to do right, even though the weakness of the flesh may cause him to stumble. To emphasize this need for a righteous life before God, David repeats verse 20 in verse 24. Deliverance will come to the righteous. Violators of God’s law have no reason or hope for God’s help.
IV. Reverse Parallel
A. Reasons for God’s deliverance (25-29)
- David now is going to reargue these points in reverse order that he presented them in the first half of this psalm. David states that God delivered because He is faithful to the faithful, blameless to the blameless and pure to the pure.
- The last line of verse 27 is very interesting because God even acts shrewdly with those who are crooked. God does not repay evil for evil, but God will deal with them according to their own folly.
B. God delivers (30-45)
- David returns to the theme of using the majestic imagery of God’s actions toward his enemies. David uses this language to show God conquering over the enemies of God and the enemies of David. God’s victory is complete, subduing the enemies, crushing the enemies, wiping them out, and trampling them like mud in the streets.
- God will conquer the enemies. We must remember that vengeance belongs to the Lord and not to us. We are not to exact retribution upon our enemies. But God will deal with our enemies so that we will be made to stand.
C. Praise to God (46-50)
- In the final section, David returns to praising God in the same fashion that he did in the first three verses. God again is described as a rock and David’s salvation. Because of the mighty works of God, David says that he will praise God. Not only will David praise God, but he will praise God among all the nations. David will declare the glories of the Lord to all he knows.
- This is a powerful reminder that we are called to share the wonders and majesty of God with others. We are to praise God, not only in our hearts, but also among all the peoples. This is our great showing of honor and worship when we proclaim His name before all the peoples.
V. Prophecy of the Work of the Messiah
A. Romans 15:9
- After going through this psalm and seeing the beauty of God’s deliverance to the righteous, we must take a step back and notice that there is much more that this psalm is addressing. Many psalms have a duality to them in which David is not only speaking of his own condition, but is also prophesying about the coming Messiah. That is the case in this psalm.
- We know this is also a Messianic psalm because Paul applied this psalm to Christ in Romans 15:9. Turn to Romans 15 and look at the context by reading verses 7-13. Paul is describing the new relationships and new way of life that Christ brought. The Gentiles may glorify God because of the work of reconciliation accomplished in Christ. Paul quotes four passages which show that through Christ, the nations (Gentiles) would glorify God. Jesus brought salvation and deliverance to the Gentiles.
B. Looking again at the psalm
- Since Paul tells us that this was a Messianic psalm, we now must go back to psalm 18 and look at it not only through the eyes of David as what happened to him, but through the eyes of Christ as what happened to Him. We see many new truths in light of this information.
- First, we understand that love which is being described in verse 1 more fully. Now we see the intimate relationship that exists between Christ and the Father. We see the great dependency that Christ had upon the Father.
- Second, we see the suffering of Christ. The ropes of death were around Jesus as death did confront Him. We see Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane calling to the Lord in His distress and learn that God heard His voice and answered Him.
- Third, we see the deliverance that Christ received. Now these figurative images in verses 7-19 come to life as we see the reaction of the Father to the suffering and death of Christ. We see the earth quake and the mountains shake at the moment Jesus breathed His last. We see the darkness over the earth from noon to three in the afternoon while Jesus was hanging on the cross. In verses 16-19 we see Jesus triumphing over death, crushing the head of Satan, and becoming victorious over all.
- Fourth, we see the reasons why God delivered. Jesus was the perfect lamb of God. In Him there was no sin, no spot, and no blemish. He proved Himself to be blameless and pure, keeping the ways of the Lord. Therefore, Jesus was repaid according to His righteousness, being raised from the dead and seated at the right hand of God. This is the great message of this psalm: the victory that is found in Christ.
- Therefore, the words of verse 50 are most fitting as a conclusion to this psalm. “He gives great victories to His king; He shows loyalty to His anointed, to David and his descendants forever.” God would give the greatest victories to Jesus, the Lord’s anointed king. These promises of deliverance and victory were not only promised to us, to His anointed, but to God’s descendants forever. Let us see the victory and deliverance that we have received in Jesus that we may worship the Lord, for He is worthy of praise. Let us fully put our trust in God, knowing that He will hear our cries and will take action on our behalf. The Lord lives and blest be the rock and let the God of my salvation be exalted. (HSCB)