Psalm 18: the grateful retrospect
For the director of music. Of David the servant of the LORD.
He sang to the LORD the words of this song when the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. He said:
(1)I love you, LORD, my strength.
(2)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.
(3)I called to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and I have been saved from my enemies.
(4)The cords of death entangled me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.
(5)The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me.
(6)In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.
(7)The earth trembled and quaked, and the foundations of the mountains shook; they trembled because he was angry.
(8)Smoke rose from his nostrils; consuming fire came from his mouth, burning coals blazed out of it.
(9)He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet.
(10)He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind.
(11)He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him–the dark rain clouds of the sky.
(12)Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced, with hailstones and bolts of lightning.
(13)The LORD thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded.
(14)He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy, with great bolts of lightning he routed them.
(15)The valleys of the sea were exposed and the foundations of the earth laid bare at your rebuke, LORD, at the blast of breath from your nostrils.
(16)He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters.
(17)He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me.
(18)They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the LORD was my support.
(19)He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.
(20)The LORD has dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me.
(21)For I have kept the ways of the LORD; I am not guilty of turning from my God.
(22)All his laws are before me; I have not turned away from his decrees.
(23)I have been blameless before him and have kept myself from sin.
(24)The LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight.
(25)To the faithful you show yourself faithful, to the blameless you show yourself blameless,
(26)to the pure you show yourself pure, but to the devious you show yourself shrewd.
(27)You save the humble but bring low those whose eyes are haughty.
(28)You, LORD, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.
(29)With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.
(30)As for God, his way is perfect: The LORD’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him.
(31)For who is God besides the LORD? And who is the Rock except our God?
(32)It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure.
(33)He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he causes me to stand on the heights.
(34)He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
(35)You make your saving help my shield, and your right hand sustains me; your help has made me great.
(36)You provide a broad path for my feet, so that my ankles do not give way.
(37)I pursued my enemies and overtook them; I did not turn back till they were destroyed.
(38)I crushed them so that they could not rise; they fell beneath my feet.
(39)You armed me with strength for battle; you humbled my adversaries before me.
(40)You made my enemies turn their backs in flight, and I destroyed my foes.
(41)They cried for help, but there was no one to save them–to the LORD, but he did not answer.
(42)I beat them as fine as windblown dust; I trampled them like mud in the streets.
(43)You have delivered me from the attacks of the people; you have made me the head of nations. People I did not know now serve me,
(44)foreigners cower before me; as soon as they hear of me, they obey me.
(45)They all lose heart; they come trembling from their strongholds.
(46)The LORD lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be God my Savior!
(47)He is the God who avenges me, who subdues nations under me,
(48)who saves me from my enemies. You exalted me above my foes; from a violent man you rescued me.
(49)Therefore I will praise you, LORD, among the nations; I will sing the praises of your name.
(50)He gives his king great victories; he shows unfailing love to his anointed, to David and to his descendants forever.
As one of the longest psalms in the Psalter, this is a gem. There is so much in this psalm. In fact, I have the whole thing highlighted on the Bible app.
First of all, this psalm, like many others, is dedicated to the “Chief Musician” but also to God Himself. This psalm is a good example of why many believe God is the “Chief Musician” that David refers to in the dedications.
Interestingly, the words of Psalm 18 are found in another place in the Bible. David seems to have written this and sung it to the Father/Chief Musician upon the end of his struggle with Saul (Psalm 18) and then again at the end of his life (2 Samuel 22 records David’s last words).
On a side note, if you’re a history buff like me, read on in Chapter 23 (of 2 Samuel). The Bible remembers David’s mighty warriors; “the three” and “the thirty.” Mighty warriors, yes (if you read some of the crazy battles of the three, geez), but these guys must have been fully devoted to David. They followed him his whole life; on the run, hiding in caves, as well as, living in palaces. That’s dedication.
The words of this psalm are a testimony to David’s life, and his utmost faith in the Lord. David does not talk about his own royalty nor does he attribute victories to his own ability. It’s all God! You can tell through these words (mentioned twice in the Bible!) that David counted his greatest accomplishment as his relationship with God. Wow.
David Guzik reminds us of David’s struggles, “since he was taken from the sheepfold and anointed future king of Israel, David had lived some 20 or so years as a fugitive, and as a man who had lost everything. He lost his safety, he lost his youth, he lost his family, he lost his career, he lost his rights, he lost his connection with the covenant people of God, he lost his comforts…”
No one knows for sure but David was “just a boy” when he was anointed king by the prophet Samuel (1 Samuel 16). If we put ourselves back in Bible times, this would be under 15 years old, some say closer to 10, which is why Jesse wouldn’t have even thought to bring him before Samuel as one of his sons who could possibly become king. David took on Goliath in the battle with the Philistines (1 Samuel 17) still “just a boy.” In fact, he took supplies out to the battlefield first to his three oldest brothers who were of fighting age (20 years old or more). But remember there were four brothers between him and those older ones. It’s very likely that David was about 15 years old when he faced down the giant warrior of the Philistines.
The Bible records that David became king of Judah at 30 years old.
From age 10 to 30 David was just trying to trust in God. He was God’s chosen one to lead the people of Judah. But through the most formative years of life, David was in hiding, running, fighting… probably anxious, afraid and lost. But God walked beside him.
That’s all he had. Plus some really great friends who just happened to be some of the greatest warriors remembered in the Bible.
I love you, LORD, my strength.
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. (V1-2)
Commentators talk about this “list of 9 titles” that David gave to God just in two verses of this wonderful psalm.
My strength, the LORD is my rock, my fortress, my deliverer, my God is my rock, my refuge, my shield, the horn of my salvation, my stronghold…
Different translations of these Hebrew words: my buckler, my high tower, my mountain, my steadfastness, my defender, my helper, my hope.
The 19th century English preacher Alexander Maclaren says, “Rather the whole is one long, loving accumulation of dear names, a series of invocations, in which the restful heart murmurs to itself how rich it is and is never wearied of saying, ‘my delight and my defence.'”
Why the difference in names for God? A little history on ancient Hebrew, but I am NO expert.
LORD, Lord, and lord are actually three different Hebrew words.
The word “lord” (adon) means lord or master and refers to men (see Genesis 18:12 as example).
Lord (Adonai) is referring to God. Adonai is a name attributed to God alone and a plural of the word “lord” (adon). That’s interesting.
LORD (YHWH) is the name of God. It’s interesting that the true pronunciation for YHWH has been lost in antiquity. Ancient Jews decided it was too sacred to say out loud and therefore have lost how it was said. We now translate this word as Yahweh or Jehovah. This is the most sacred name of God.
Now it gets real interesting (at least to me) when the Bible puts “Lord God” or “LORD God” together, but we won’t discuss all that here.
Here are a couple of interesting articles if you want to read more:
I guess the reason that ancient Hebrew’s might have stopped saying the name YHWH (also if you write it, it cannot be erased or thrown away) is an interesting interpretation of the Commandment: thou shalt not take the name of the LORD your God in vain. Modern Jews won’t write God either but instead write “G-d.”
Whatever the exact meaning of the words in this list of 9, David is calling upon God in all the names he knows and listing all the ways he has been blessed. When you think of it that way, it’s an incredibly meaningful poem/song.
Verses 7-15 paint a picture of David’s deliverance looking back. Although it’s quite possible that David experienced some of these events; smoke and fire and earthquakes, during the time he was hunted by king Saul. The Bible doesn’t say. But looking back now, David sees his great and consistent delivery from the hands of his enemies by his loving and mighty Father.
One can also see the parallel of Jesus’s resurrection and ultimately, His return. Right?
The 18th century English bishop George Horne explains this well,
“When a monarch is angry, and prepares for war, his whole kingdom is instantly in commotion. Universal nature is here represented as feeling the effects of its Sovereign’s displeasure, and all the visible elements are disordered. The earth shakes from its foundations, and all its rocks and mountains tremble before the majesty of their great Creator, when he ariseth in judgment. This was really the case with the resurrection of our Lord from the dead, when the Evangelists inform us, ‘there was a great earth quake,’ and the grave owned its inability any longer to detain the blessed body, which had been committed, for a season, to its custody. And what happened at the resurrection of Jesus, should remind us of what shall happen, when the earth shall tremble, and the dead shall be raised at that last day.”
“…it will be clear that a greater than David is here. Reader, you will not need our aid in this respect, if you know Jesus you will readily find him in his sorrows, deliverance, and triumphs all throughout this wonderful psalm.” Charles Spurgeon
Some of the wording in the psalm does sound similar to John’s predictions in Revelation of the return of Jesus. Hmm…
Let’s just talk for a moment about verses 20-24 as it seems that David is claiming he is blameless before God, sinless and pure. How can that be? Even if we just talk about David singing this song to God as a young man when he was finally put on the throne of Judah. Even then, we know he could not have been sinless. There is no way that through all those years of war and conquest that he didn’t carry blood on his hands. And he sang this song again at the end of his life after we know of his sin with Bathsheba and his ultimate betrayal of her husband, Uriah.
David was not sinless. So what does this mean?
Here’s the thing…David didn’t care what other people thought of him. He only cared about his relationship and his standing with the Lord. You and I read about David’s moments of weakness and we pass human judgment.
Thankfully that is not how God works.
David was right before God and that is all that mattered to him. I can imagine meeting David in heaven and asking him what it was like to have his greatest sins listed in the Bible for generations of people to read…
He might say, “well, God and I talked about it, and we had it all worked out.”
Benjamin Franklin wrote in Poor Richard’s Almanack, “Many princes sin with David, but few repent with him.”
David’s grief and sadness at what he’d done to Uriah are evident in a couple of places in the Bible (Psalm 51, 2 Samuel 12). But he took it up with the Lord, not with men.
This is all such a good reminder to be right with God, no one else matters. Am I walking with the Lord? Does He know my heart? Do I know His? Am I close enough that when I screw up I hear His voice and reconcile myself to Him? Am I quiet enough to hear His voice?
You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand supported me, and your gentleness made me great. (v35 ESV)
I like this translation of that verse. Other translations say: thy goodness, thy help, thy providence (the Septuagint uses “thy discipline”).
“Your gentleness has made me great.” How did God’s gentleness make David great?
Charles Spurgeon shares these two thoughts on this verse and we will end here,
“We are so little that if God should manifest his greatness without condescension (to willingly lower oneself to another’s level), we should be trampled under his feet; but God, who must stoop to view the skies and bow to see what angels do, looks to the lowly and contrite, and makes them great….
“…David ascribes all his own greatness to the condescending goodness and graciousness of his Father in heaven. Let us all feel this sentiment in our own hearts, and confess that whatever of goodness or greatness God may have put upon us, we must cast our crowns at his feet and cry, ‘thy gentleness hath made me great.'”
Father in heaven, may we seek your favor instead of those around us. May we give you all the glory for all that you’ve given us. May we be humble sinners like David, that when we sin, we hear your voice, repent, and move forward in the light of your grace. May your gentleness make us great. Father give us strength today. Father, heal the world of this virus, protect our loves ones, and strengthen your church during these difficult times. We trust in you and we seek your face and your will for our lives and for today. Amen.