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‘For the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David the servant of YHWH, who spoke to YHWH the words of this song in the day that YHWH delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. And he said,’
This Psalm, dedicated to the Choirmaster, and therefore now prepared for public worship, is a revision of 2 Samuel 22:1-51. It was a Psalm written in the first place in order to express David’s gratitude to God for all his deliverances once he had reached the plateau of security as king and ruler over his wide dominions, and to begin with he had in mind especially his deliverance from the hand of Saul. All his trials and problems now seemed behind him, and he gave glory to YHWH.
And indeed in the future he would continue to be victorious, over all but himself. But like all men, although he was able to conquer his world, he was not able to conquer the sin within. And through that, great king though he was, he would continually learn the grace of God to a repentant sinner. In this he was different from the greater David who would one day come to be the Saviour of the world, for He would be the One ‘Who knew no sin’. And this greater David is also in mind, for the blessing David is describing is not just for himself. It is for his seed for evermore (Psalms 18:50).
But his own failure is not the theme of the Psalm, the whole aim of which is to glorify YHWH for what He is to His own, and what He does for them. Everything is concentrated on that. Everything that has happened in his packed life is seen in that light. It is all about what YHWH has done and will continue to do.
His greatest delight was in the fact that he was ‘the servant of YHWH’, a mirror of the great Servant yet to come (Isaiah 42:1-4; Isaiah 49:1-6; Isaiah 52:13 to Isaiah 53:12). It was this that gave meaning to his life. This above all is why his life was significant, because YHWH had chosen him and called him to serve Him. And he delighted in doing so. And this is his testimony. The title ‘servant of YHWH’ is a rare one in Scripture, used regularly of Moses, and twice of Joshua. It was a title of high honour.
And yet all of us may in our own way (or should we say in His way) be ‘servants of YHWH’. The position is open to all who will respond.
For in the end this is not just a personal psalm. It may have been initially but it has become a part of the worship of God’s people. Each one who is faithful to Him can apply its thought to himself. Each one can, as it were, step into David’s skin and experience what he has experienced, and partake in God’s blessings to the king.
David Expresses His Trust in YHWH (Psalms 18:1-3 ).
‘I love you, O YHWH, my strength.’
These words are added to the beginning of the original Psalm. They are not found in the parallel Psalm in 2 Samuel 22:2-51. They are a declaration of personal faith and dedication, especially suitable for expressing worship. In them both the worshipper’s genuine love for YHWH, and his personal dependence on His strength are both stressed. Love towards God and trust in His provided strength are the basis of all spiritual life. Blessed is the man who can truly say to God, ‘I love you’ (Deuteronomy 6:5-6) and can also say, ‘YHWH is my strength’, the One Who makes him strong.
‘YHWH is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer,
My God, my rock, in whom I will take refuge,
My shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower.
I will call on YHWH, who is worthy to be praised,
So shall I be saved from my enemies.’
David now multiplies metaphors in order to bring out the wonder of what it means to trust in the Almighty God, and the people enter into the experience with him. He twice describes God as a rock, the first time as a strong and firm foundation, the second as a useful hiding place. The idea is firstly of a rock which is firmly a part of the mountain of which it is the expression, firm, solid, dependable, unbreakable and sure. He had cause to know. He had spent much time in the mountains, and knew the strength of those solid rocks in the face of adversity. But he saw God as the great Rock, stronger and more dependable than all.
God was also his fortress, the place where he could go to find refuge so that he could look out on his enemy without fear. Once he was in his fortress he could laugh in the face of the enemy. And He was also his Deliverer, his Saviour. For God not only protects, He also delivers those who are His own.
The second mention of the rock has the idea of it as a place of refuge. It is still firm and strong, but it is a place where the fugitive may hide in its crevices, kept safe from those who would hunt him down.
The fact that the Psalm was introduced into public worship is an indication that we can each take these promises to ourselves. We too can depend on the Rock, take refuge in the Fortress and respond to and rejoice in the Saviour.
‘My God (El), my rock, in whom I will take refuge.’ Above all YHWH is his God, the ever-reliable, the ever-dependable, the impregnable, the One in Whom is the place of total safety. Nothing can harm us when we are hidden in God, for when we are with Him all that would affect us must come through Him. It may seem fearful, but it is under His control, and can only enter with His permission.
‘My shield, and the horn of my salvation.’ A shield is in a sense a personal fortress which we can carry around with us. It protects from all attacks, both by arrow, sword or spear, indeed from all assaults of the enemy (Ephesians 6:16). And a horn is the expression of personal strength which we bear, as it were, on our foreheads (as the wild ox does) and with which we can defend and deliver ourselves. It may well be that warriors wore horns on their headgear as an expression of their ferocity. But here our horn is God Himself. Nothing can stand before Him. Thus deliverance is sure. The promise is to each individual as well as to all. We will each be delivered because YHWH shields us and gives us saving strength, and acts as our horn with which to defeat the enemy. For the idea of the horn compare among other references Psalms 28:7-8; Deuteronomy 33:17; Luke 1:69.
‘My high tower.’ And finally we reach the ultimate in security, ‘the high tower’. That mighty fortress which men built for maximum security, made even more secure by the fact that this particular high tower is God Himself. No vulnerability here.
‘I will call on YHWH, who is worthy to be praised, so shall I be saved from my enemies.’ Thus David knows that he can call on this mighty Rock, this Fortress, this Deliverer, this Shield and Horn, this High Tower, the One Who is worthy of all praise, and will then in one way or another be saved from all his enemies. And all who sing the psalm with him know it too.
Troubles and Death Had Pressed In On Him (Psalms 18:4-6 ).
‘The cords of death encompassed me,
And the floods of ungodliness (literally ‘worthlessness’ - belial) made me afraid.
The cords of Sheol were round about me,
The snares of death came on me,
In my distress I called on YHWH,
And cried to my God.
He heard my voice out of his temple,
And my cry before him came to his ears.’
David now describes the sore situation in which he had found himself time and again, especially when he had been hunted by Saul. The general nature of the description enables us to apply it to all difficult situations in which the people of God find themselves. All but the most fortunate at some time find themselves in this kind of situation, when life seems to be pressing in on them and there seems to be no solution.
‘The cords of death encompassed me, and the floods of ungodliness (literally ‘worthlessness’) made me afraid.’ David had felt the cords of death closing around him. It happened again and again in his attempts to avoid the vengeful Saul, and then also with the Philistines. He had regularly been at the point of death, only to escape with his life, and he had been continually aware that the cords of death could entangle him at any moment. He had lived in the constant shadow of death.
‘The ‘cords of death’ (see also Psalms 116:3) may have reference to the ropes that bound a man who was destined for execution (compare Judges 15:13-14), the ropes which Saul planned for David, a prospect that entered David’s mind whenever Saul’s searchers came into sight, or they may signify the ropes used to hem in wild animals in preparation for the kill, ropes by which David constantly felt himself hemmed in. In both cases they were arbiters of doom.
And the floods of destruction or of moral wickedness too had almost overwhelmed him and had made him afraid. The word belial (worthlessness) may indicate physical destruction or moral wickedness. That Saul’s behaviour had been particularly evil supports the second interpretation. It was not only his actions but the sense of the evil behind them that had shaken David to the core. In 2 Samuel 22:0 it is ‘the waves/breakers of death’ rather than ‘the cords of death’, which better parallels the next phrase. However the alteration to ‘cords’ connects more closely with the next verse and the whole thought.
‘The cords of Sheol were round about me, the snares of death came on me.’ He had felt continually trapped and ensnared. The cords of the grave had reached out to him, the snares of death had seemed about to close on him. The whole description is vivid, the picture of a man fighting for his very existence, with death a hairsbreadth away.
‘In my distress I called on YHWH, and cried to my God. He heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry before him came to his ears.’ In his distress David cried to God. The significance of the tense is of repeated prayer. He was to succeed by steady, confident praying. And from His heavenly Temple God heard his cry (compare Psalms 11:4; Isaiah 6:1; Isaiah 29:6; Isaiah 63:15; Micah 1:2; Habakkuk 2:20). God’s ears were not deaf to his need. Though the answer was not instantaneous, David was confident that it would come. He knew that God had heard him and so it would have to come. We are always so impatient, thinking that God should act at once, but God’s purposes must move through to fruition in their own way. We are not the best arbiters of what is right for the world. It was during this period that he formed and trained the band of men, ‘his men’, who would prove his mainstay into the future. What we learn and achieve in these periods is regularly the mainstay of our futures. David could never have become what he did had he not gone through these experiences.
And all who sang the psalm knew something of these experiences. For all face the vicissitudes of life. And each could testify to his own personal experiences and rejoice in the certainty of God’s continual deliverance.
God Had Intervened On His Behalf (Psalms 18:7-19 ).
David’s description of God’s intervention portrays the situation from Heaven’s point of view. Little was necessarily seen on earth, but David was aware of the mightiness of God active on his behalf in powerful ways. He looked back to the experiences of his forebears, and remembered how God had revealed Himself then, and is confident that He will do so again (Exodus 19:16-18; Judges 5:4-5. Compare also Psalms 68:7-8; Psalms 77:16-18; Isaiah 29:6; Isaiah 30:27-30; Isaiah 64:1-3; Habakkuk 3:3-6). He thinks of it in terms of a great and vivid storm and possibly a thundering earthquake, as YHWH’s power unfolds, but YHWH Himself is also seen as essentially there and active. He was thinking of the most powerful forces he knew with which to depict the powerful activity of God.
And through his times of tribulation he was confident that God was acting, and that unseen heavenly forces were intervening in his behalf. That was why he knew he could not fail. In the quietness of our lives we too can be sure that God is active in the same way. Thus we must trust Him and not be afraid.
‘Then the earth shook and trembled,
The foundations also of the mountains quaked,
And were shaken, because he was angry.
There went up a smoke from his nostrils,
And fire from his mouth devoured,
Coals were kindled by it.’
The fierceness of God’s anger over the treatment of His anointed is expressed in terms of the quaking earth and the mountains shaking to their very bases, in the thick, swirling clouds that sometimes come down to cover the earth and the fire and smoke resulting from bolts of lightning which start fierce fires on it, and the lightning that strikes the very ground. It is intended to be an awe-inspiring scene. As Saul sought to track down David and kill him he was oblivious to this. He was unaware of the vengeance he was bringing down on himself. To him the heavens seemed silent. God was pushed from his mind. What he overlooked was that the mills of God were grinding, and that though they ground slowly, they ground exceeding small, and with great power.
And the people of God knew that when they went through deep trials they too could know that, that while often nothing may seem to be happening, God had not forgotten them. Around them, though they cannot see it, are His thunders and His lightning as He reveals His anger against sin in the world. And God is ever building up to the final showdown when His people will finally triumph.
For the smoke compare Psalms 18:15; Psalms 74:1; Psalms 80:4. The smoke from the nostrils may be intended to indicate the smoking breath of a wild animal, angry, steaming and intent on its adversary. Fire regularly indicates God’s anger (Psalms 97:3; Exodus 15:7; Deuteronomy 32:22; Hebrews 12:29).
‘He bowed the heavens also, and came down,
And thick darkness was under his feet,
And he rode on a cherub, and flew (‘swooped’),
Yes, he soared on the wings of the wind.’
God was in the midst of the invisible storm. The heavens bowed under His presence, as He descended to earth. Thick darkness was under His feet (Exodus 19:16; Exodus 20:21; 1 Kings 8:12; Psalms 97:2). All was power and awe and mystery, for the world was not to be allowed to see Him. God works in His own mysterious ways. He is not to be fathomed by man. When God ‘comes down’ that is the indication that He is about to act (Genesis 11:7; Genesis 18:21; Exodus 3:8; Isaiah 64:1).
‘And he rode on a cherub, and flew. Yes, he soared on the wings of the wind.’ When God came it was on His transportable throne, borne by ‘a cherub’, probably a composite singular indicating all the heavenly escorts, the guardian cherubim that bear His throne (see Ezekiel 10:0 and compare Ezekiel 1:0). These heavenly beings were symbolised by a powerful wind, bearing YHWH along in majesty.
‘And flew.’ The word suggests the swooping of a bird of prey (Deuteronomy 28:49; Jeremiah 48:40; Jeremiah 49:22). The picture is vivid. It is as though God swooped down like the great eagle and then soared up again on the wings of the wind (Psalms 104:3-4) having taken the prey. Victory was certain and would be His.
‘He made darkness his hiding-place, his pavilion round about him,
Darkness of waters, thick clouds of the skies.
At the brightness before him his thick clouds produced,
Hailstones and coals of fire.’
Again the emphasis is on darkness, the darkness of hiddenness, of mysterious working. Darkness and thick clouds were His hiding place and His enveloping tent, His protection and His cover. Man cannot see God and live. But before Him within the cloud and darkness was the brightness of His majesty, which pierced the cloud cover and produced hailstones and thunderbolts, the missiles of God. God’s glory could not be fully hidden. His glory shone through and He smote as He would.
‘YHWH also thundered in the heavens,
And the Most High uttered his voice,
Hailstones and coals of fire.
And he sent out his arrows, and scattered them,
Yes, manifold lightnings, and discomfited them.
But having completed His first sally His activity went on. He thundered in the heavens, and ‘spoke’ as the Most High, accompanied again by hailstones and thunderbolts. And He sent out His lightnings like arrows, scattering His enemies, indeed so many were His lightnings that they were discomfited. For it was the time for deliverance.
‘Then the channels of waters appeared,
And the foundations of the world were laid bare,
At your rebuke, O YHWH,
At the blast of the breath of your nostrils.’
The scene is now pictured as like a great all prevailing flood of adversaries in which David is almost overwhelmed, a flood portraying the men of Saul, the armies of the Philistines, the other enemies round about, but when YHWH rebuked them and blew on them in His anger, channels appeared in the waters, and dry land appeared to ensure David’s safety. No flood could stand before the Almighty.
Here David had perhaps in memory the deliverance of Israel at the Sea of Reeds, in poetic form, when the mighty flood had swept back and made a way through for God’s people, only for it then to swamp the enemy (Psalms 78:13-14; Psalms 106:9; Exodus 15:8; Nahum 1:4, compare Psalms 104:5-7).
‘He sent from on high, he took me,
He drew me out of many waters.
He delivered me from my strong enemy,
And from those who hated me,
For they were too mighty for me.
They came upon me in the day of my calamity,
But YHWH was my stay.
He brought me forth also into a large place,
He delivered me, because he delighted in me.’
He may well have had in mind here some particular incident when the rains had come suddenly, turning a quiet valley into a raging torrent before his eyes, catching men up in its irresistible stream and from which they had struggled to escape (compare Judges 5:5; Judges 5:20-21). He may himself have had an amazing escape from such. And he sees it as having been repeated in his deliverance from his foes.
So David had been delivered from enemies who at the time had seemed all-powerful. God had sent from on high and had drawn him from the midst of the many waters that would have overwhelmed him, delivering him from his strong enemy, and from all who hated him. All his foes had in the end been swept aside by YHWH.
He admits that at the time they had appeared too mighty for him, for they had come on him when he was weak and ill-prepared as a result of his flight. But he had found that YHWH was there. He had been his stay. And He brought him out into a large place, and delivered him, because He delighted in him. Things always look worse at the time than when we look back on them, having been delivered.
He was brought into ‘a large place’. No longer hemmed in and crowded, caught within narrow bounds, but free and triumphant, with the world at his feet, and space to move. So through YHWH’s power victory would eventually come out of seeming defeat, and triumph out of seeming disaster. Leaving those craggy mountains that had been his home for so long, and the dry dustbowl of the wildernesses where he had taken refuge, he would ascend the throne in glory and expand his kingdom from the River Euphrates in the north down to the Wadi of Egypt in the south. Everything would be transformed.
So all who sang the psalm were declaring that for all who trust in God there is a large place waiting for them if only they will persevere, as it had waited for David. Darkness may come first, they were declaring, but the morning will always follow.
David’s Gives The Explanation For His Triumph (Psalms 18:20-24 ).
David’s explanation for YHWH’s intervention on his behalf is simple. His attitude had been right towards God. He had been faithful to YHWH and His covenant. He had walked in YHWH’s ways and had sought to please Him, not in order to earn His favour, but because he looked to YHWH as his life, and was ready to do His will, and maintained his life in cleanliness through the God provided means. It is only if we walk rightly as David sought to do that we can have the same confidence towards God that he had.
This was not boasting. It was indicative of a quiet confidence in God. He knew where his heart lay. There may be times when we are perplexed and overburdened by sin, but the man of God knows whether his heart is set right to seek to please God. He may sometimes regrettably fail, but he knows the intentions of his own heart. He loves God and wants to please Him.
‘YHWH has rewarded me according to my righteousness,
According to the cleanness of my hands has he recompensed me.
For I have kept the ways of YHWH,
And have not wickedly departed from my God.’
For all his ordinances were before me,
And I put not away his statutes from me.
I was also perfect with him,
And I kept myself from my iniquity.
Therefore has YHWH recompensed me according to my righteousness,
According to the cleanness of my hands in his eyesight.’
His words are not boasting, but a solid declaration of trust and faith. He had been YHWH’s man from the beginning, brought up to faith by a godly father, and he had lived out that faith in uprightness and truth. Now he is receiving his reward. This central theme is vital to his whole message. It is only those who would be righteous who can depend on God’s deliverance. In Psalms 18:50 the Psalm is applied to all Davidic kings who will follow him. But the indication is that if they are to enjoy the blessings, they too must be righteous like David. And when the greater David came, He would triumph because He was wholly righteous.
‘YHWH has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands has he recompensed me. For I have kept the ways of YHWH, and have not wickedly departed from my God.’ David has no doubt in his heart that he has always sought to please God, because he loves Him. There may have been the momentary failure, but such was an aberration, and he sought forgiveness then with strong crying and tears. And it was because of such a life, lived out in honesty and right living, that he was certain that YHWH would reward and recompense him as a forgiven and repentant sinner. God is always good to His own if their hearts are right, weak and failing though they may sometimes be.
He was not saying that he had never sinned. Indeed he had good cause to know that he had. But when he had sinned he would come to God in repentant faith, and offer the appropriate sacrifices, and make the appropriate cleansing. Thus was he kept righteous and clean before Him. He did not linger with sin. He dealt with it straight away. ‘If we walk in the light as He is in the light --- the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin’ (1 John 1:7).
‘And have not wickedly departed from my God.’ Note the ‘my God’. David’s personal faith shines through. He had ‘kept the ways of YHWH’. To have departed from Him would to David have been the utmost wickedness. That was the final evidence of his character.
‘For all his ordinances were before me, and I put not away his statutes from me. I was also perfect with him, and I kept myself from my iniquity.’ David had loved God’s Instruction (Torah, Law). He had kept His ordinances before his eyes, he had clung to His statutes, not putting them from him, he had studied His word, he had meditated on His Instruction (Torah) day and night (Psalms 1:2). And he had sought to live out all His teachings fully and do what was right, and keep from all that would displease God. And we must remember that this was God’s testimony of him too, that his heart was right before Him (1 Samuel 16:7). By ‘perfect’ he does not mean literally so, but wholehearted and true.
‘Therefore YHWH recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his eyesight.’ So, confident that his heart had been right towards God, he repeats boldly what he had said in Psalms 18:20. YHWH rewarded and recompensed him because he walked rightly before Him, kept his hands clean from sin, and kept himself spiritually clean in His eyes, utilising the means that God had provided. He had not been perfect, but he had been true.
How important it was that the singers recognise this. Their hope too must lie in the fact of their righteous response to God. They too must recognise that God required them to be wholly righteous. It was only then that they could share David’s experiences of blessing.
He Declares That What A Man Sows He Will Reap (Psalms 18:25-27 ).
David was confident that righteousness must triumph simply because of what God is. Like him we too can know that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
‘With the merciful you will show yourself merciful,
With the irreproachable man you will show yourself irreproachable,
With the pure you will show yourself pure,
And with the wayward you will show yourself perverse.’
He looks to God and declares that in the end He will respond to what men are. Man looks at the outward appearance, but God sees the heart. All men essentially choose the way in which they will walk, they choose their attitudes and what they set their hearts on. They choose whether they will seek God and serve Him, or whether they will be perverse and wayward. And God sees and responds to what they are.
This is the picture of the ideal. David is not claiming to be sinless. He knows he has at times fallen short. But he is expecting God to be merciful to him, as he seeks to be merciful to others, to behave irreproachably towards him as he seeks to live an irreproachable life, to behave with purity towards him as he strives to keep himself pure. All this is apparent also from his other psalms. He knew as most of us do the periods of darkness and doubt, of self reproach, and deep conviction of sin. But he also knew what it was to rise above it and set his heart on God. And he knew that a true walk with God involved mercy, and irreproachability, and purity, made possible by God’s grace, and that to such God would respond.
This is, of course, looking from the manward side. Men are revealed by how they behave. By their fruits they will be known. If a man walks with God his life will reveal it.
And the contrary side is that ‘with the wayward you will show yourself perverse’. Not for David the idea that God will overlook sin in all. Those who are wayward in respect of God’s ways must expect God to behave waywardly with them (Leviticus 26:23-24; Isaiah 29:9-12; Proverbs 3:34).
‘For you will save the afflicted people,
But the haughty eyes you will bring down.’
But he did not doubt that these hopes required the grace and power of God exercised on his behalf. It is God Who will save the afflicted people, and will bring down the haughty. In the end all is of God. The afflicted people are the humble and needy, those whom the world treats badly, those who face the struggles of life, and are aware of their need, and who in their need seek God. And David knows that God will step in to deliver such, and he sees himself as one of them. He puts on no great airs. He is humble before God. Without Him he knows that there is no hope. But the haughty, those who are self-seeking and seek to put God in His place, will discover that in the end they are brought down. For God is over all.
Indeed It Is Through God That We Will Triumph (Psalms 18:28-29 ).
‘For you will light my lamp,
YHWH my God will lighten my darkness.
For by you I run on a troop,
And by my God do I leap over a wall.
Here is the Godward side. David is confident that it is God Who will deliver him. Note that his reliance is all on God. It is He Who will light his lamp, showing him the way in the darkness and giving him guidance as to how he should walk, and illumination as he seeks God. What seemed at the time dark around him would be illuminated by God. ‘God is light’ said John (1 John 1:5), ‘and in Him is no darkness at all’. And David had found it true in experience. It was because God had shone within him, and would continue to shine within him, that he had hope. What he was, was because God had shone within him. Note the change from ‘you’ to ‘YHWH my God’. As he speaks man to God he is suddenly filled with awe to think Who it is he is speaking to. It is not just anyone, but YHWH, Who will lighten his darkness.
There may be here the thought of the lamp in the Tabernacle which was lit daily in the evening (Exodus 30:8) to represent God as a light to His people. As each day began the lamp was lit, the lamp that illuminated Israel. God’s illumination was continually with them, repeatedly renewed, and he shone out for them. So was David confident that He would light his lamp daily too.
‘For by you I run on a troop, and by my God do I leap over a wall.’ The twofold thought here is of success in warfare. He had not chosen warfare but it had been forced on him. And he knew that his success had been of YHWH. To run on a troop is to chase, attack and defeat them, as he did the Amalekites (1 Samuel 30:0), to leap over a wall describes his taking of cities like the Jebusite city of Jerusalem. The walls were no hindrance to him. He, as it were, simply leapt over them. And it was because YHWH was with him. He gave all the glory for his success to God.
And it will ever be thus. The singers were confident, as they entered into David’s experience, and we too may be sure, that whatever foe we face, whatever obstacle lies before us in the spiritual realm we also can ‘run on’ them or ‘leap over’ them by the power and sustenance of God.
David Gives A Summary of What God Is And Of All God’s Blessings to Him (Psalms 18:30-36 ).
‘As for God, his way is perfect,
The word of YHWH is tried (tested and proved true),
He is a shield to all those who take refuge in him.’
David knows that God’s way is perfect. Thus to walk in that way is to walk the perfect road. He desired no other. For he knew that God’s word had been tried and tested and had never failed. Each of us similarly can enjoy the perfection of God’s way, and enjoy the security and blessing that comes from it. And in that way we too enjoy the security of His word. God has spoken and will fulfil it, as many have continually proved. His word, what He has said, has been tried and tested, and has always proved sure.
Similarly God’s word is perfect however it expresses itself. His Instruction (Law) is perfect, restoring the soul (Psalms 19:7), as is His work, for He does the right and is faithful and just (Deuteronomy 32:4). Those who follow Him have the perfect workmaster and guide, know that His word is true, and are secure in His trustworthy and tested promises.
And what is more, in that way we are protected by God as our shield. Those who look to Him and rely on Him, will find in Him the perfect protection. The arrows of misfortune and evil may pour down on us, but the shield of YHWH will prove all sufficient for those who are hid with Christ in God.
‘For who is God, save YHWH?
And who is a rock, besides our God,
The God who girds me with strength,
And makes my way perfect?’
For there is none like Him. It is only YHWH Who is the true God. And no rock, no place of safety, stability and security can be like Him, for He is firm and strong and totally dependable. And David knew that this God also girded him with strength, renewing him on the way, and made the way before him perfect with His own perfection, as He will to all who trust in Him.
He knew it was the perfect way because it was God’s way. It will have every unnecessary obstacle removed, leading surely in the course of a man’s destiny. For God knows the way that we take (Job 23:10). Sometimes it may appear hard and difficult, as David had himself known, but it is the way by which He perfects His own so that He may bring them through triumphantly, so that they are made holy and without blemish.
‘He makes my feet like hinds' feet,
And sets me on my high places.
He teaches my hands to war,
So that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
David had proved it. God had brought him through the difficult days, and now he was strong. It had begun with a lion and a bear (1 Samuel 17:34). Then it had been Saul and the Philistines. And now he was sure of foot, like the hind on the mountainside, swift and sure footed, skipping from slippery gradient to slippery gradient, with never a falter, and thus, like the hind, standing on high places, from where he can look down in triumph. For the one who serves God truly will always find himself on the high places, above the mundaneness of the world.
Thus David was made skilled and given strength in war and able to bend that ultimate test of a man’s strength, a bow of bronze (Job 20:24 lets us know how powerful such a bow was). Israel’s antagonists, who had always been a thorn in their side, had to submit to his power. Their foes had been put under his feet. God had made him what he was, and would continue to maintain him in that place, so that Israel might prosper. And his dependence was still all on YHWH. To David God was all, both in times of distress and in times of triumph and vigour.
When we are going through the time of trial it behoves us to look ahead to what will be. And when we have achieved it, it behoves us to remember Who has done it, and Who maintains us there.
‘You have also given me the shield of your salvation,
And your right hand has held me up,
And your gentleness has made me great.
You have enlarged my steps under me,
And my feet have not slipped.’
He is conscious that God has done all for him. God’s deliverance has been his shield, the guarantee of his protection and of his ability to deal with the missiles of the enemy. God’s strong right hand has held him up so that he did not fail. God’s ‘gentleness’ has made him great.
‘And your gentleness has made me great.’ The word for ‘gentleness’ means lowliness, meekness, a humbling of Himself. See for this Psalms 113:6. ‘Who is like to YHWH our God, Who has His seat on high, Who humbles Himself to behold what is in heaven and in the earth?’ The idea is that God is so great on His throne that He has to humble Himself to have dealings with the heavens and the earth, and especially with men and women. He Who is in the high and holy place condescends to stoop to those who are of a contrite spirit (Isaiah 57:15). And David is aware that the Almighty has stooped to make him great.
It must ever be the wonder of our hearts that the Almighty God Himself has taken the trouble to reach down to us and save us. And it should be especially so to us as we face the fact that in doing so He gave us His Son to die for us.
‘You have enlarged my steps under me, and my feet have not slipped.’ He has enabled David to stride forward with confidence, without stumbling. Nothing has stood in his way. Every step has been a giant one, and yet he remains firmly grounded. His way has been sure.
And the singers participated in his triumphs. How grateful we too should be that God has humbled Himself and stooped towards us, calling us by name and making us His own. With this knowledge we too can go forward in confidence, making great strides with God and yet remaining sure-footed.
He Declares That YHWH Has Given Him Victory Over All His Enemies (Psalms 18:37-42 ).
We should note as we consider this cry of triumph that this is not describing peaceful nations who are being subjugated by a tyrant, but nations who ‘rose up against me’. David’s world was a violent place, with neighbouring nations always on the lookout for weaknesses in their fellow nations so that they could take advantage of it. And Israel had in general been the whipping boy, as a glance at the Book of Judges will reveal. Aram, Canaanites, Edom, Moab, Amalek, Midian, Arabians, Philistines, all had had their bite of the pie. Each in turn had, it is true, been defeated, but undoubtedly only to return again at any sign of weakness, and constantly attacking the peripheries. But now God has raised up His champion to deliver Israel, and make her safe, and this champion acknowledges that he does so by the help of YHWH.
‘I will pursue my enemies, and overtake them,
Nor will I turn again until they are consumed.
I will smite them through, so that they will not be able to rise,
They will fall under my feet.’
With YHWH’s help he is confident of victory. His enemies will not be able to escape, he will pursue and overtake them and not withdraw until he has utterly defeated them. Then, and then only, can Israel feel permanently secure. He will smite them through so that they cannot recover. They will be subjected to him.
Note that the emphasis is on his victory with the help of YHWH. It is the latter which is his prime concern here. He succeeds because God is with him.
‘For you have girded me with strength for the battle,
You have subdued under me those who rose up against me.
You have also made my enemies turn their backs to me,
That I might cut off those who hate me.’
It is God Who has girded him with strength for the battle. It is God Who subdues his enemies. It is God Who makes them turn and flee, turning their backs on him and thus enabling David to deal with those who hate him. And they have demonstrated their hate by their invasions. But now they have learned that YHWH is with him. They will be cut off and invade no more.
And it was the singers’ hope that God would do this for them too. We too can hope like this. Unlike David our battles may rather be spiritual ones and not physical but we too can have David’s confidence. No weapon that is formed against us can prosper, even though it seem to do so for a time as it did with David. But in the end God will subdue our enemies too, and we will triumph.
‘They cried, but there was none to save,
Even to YHWH, but he answered them not.
Then did I beat them small as the dust before the wind,
I cast them out as the mire of the streets.’
These people were so harried that they cried to their gods, and when those failed they got so desperate that they cried to YHWH. This is sarcastic. They saw how powerful YHWH was on his behalf and they hoped that they could steal his God and undermine him. (compare 2 Kings 18:25). But it was a vain hope. They were not the faithful of YHWH. He could not be manipulated. He acts for those who are true to Him.
The result was overwhelming victory. His enemies were like beaten dust, blown by the wind (compare 2 Kings 13:7), they were like rubbish tossed into the streets, turning to mire. They were as nothing before YHWH.
David Describes His Widespread Victories Which Are All Due To God (Psalms 18:43-45 ).
‘You have delivered me from the strivings of the people,
You have made me the head of the nations,
A people whom I have not known will serve me.
As soon as they hear of me they will obey me,
The foreigners will submit themselves to me.’
The foreigners will fade away,
And will come trembling out of their close places.’
First he was delivered from civil war in Israel and from the strivings of his own people against him, and then from the strivings of those further afield (2 Samuel 22:0 has ‘from the strivings of my people’, but this widens the idea). But then the ultimate is reached. His throne has been established, he has defeated Israel’s constant enemies, and now his hand reaches wider and he subdues the ever threatening larger neighbours. He has been made the head of the nations, and the people no longer strive to overcome Israel and David (2 Samuel 8:1-14). Indeed he has become so great that his name has become known to those who had not previously been aware of him. They had not known him, but now they will know him, for they will serve him. As soon as they learn of his name they will submit. The word contains the idea of unwilling submission (compare Psalms 66:3). They dare not dispute with him. He has reached the zenith of his power.
‘The foreigners will submit themselves to me. The foreigners will fade away, and will come trembling out of their close places.’ The foreigners are those who were not neighbours. They too will submit. All their courage will fade away, and they will come submissively and tremblingly out of their walled cities and from their previously closed gates, the places which should have kept them close and safe, for they will recognise that there is no point in resistance. Those who would once have mocked at him now fear his name. Such is what God does for His own. Thus was David’s kingdom widely established. Out of unlikely beginnings God can do great things for those who trust Him.
Even when Israel and Judah reached their darkest hours they sang of this as their hope for the future. They were certain that one day God would again work for their deliverance. One day a greater David would arise to bring it all to fruition.
David Closes The Psalm By Rejoicing in the God Who Has Done So Much For Him And will Continue To Do For His Descendants (Psalms 18:46-50 ).
David finishes the Psalm with a paean of praise to YHWH.
‘YHWH lives, and blessed be my rock,
And exalted be the God of my salvation,
Even the God who executes vengeance for me,
And subdues peoples under me.’
David reiterates the essence of what he has previously declared. Firstly that Yahweh is the living God, the One Who is. ‘YHWH lives’. Thus all is well for His own. Then he blesses Him that He is to him a Rock, a firm and sure foundation, and exalts Him that He is a Delivering God, a Saviour. Surety and deliverance is the essence of what He is for those who are His.
Thus He executes vengeance for His own against those who have misused him, and subdues all peoples under him. This is not a vindictive statement. It is rather a cry of gratitude and wonder. He had known what it was to be trodden down and in fear of his life. And now the tables have been turned. God has taken vengeance on those who did it, and it is he who subdues people. And what is true for David is true for all His own. God will finally triumph on behalf of all His people.
‘He rescues me from my enemies,
Yes, you lift me up above those who rise up against me,
You deliver me from the violent man.’
And God is the One Who continually rescues him from his enemies. They have been many, but God has delivered him from them all. The thought overwhelms him and he begins speaking directly to God. ‘Yes, you are the One Who lifts me up above those who rise up against me. It is You Who delivers me from the violent man.’ It is YHWH Who is his personal Deliverer.
‘Therefore I will give thanks unto you, O YHWH, among the nations,
And will sing praises to your name.’
And because of this he will continually give thanks to YHWH among all the nations, and give universal praise to His name, that all may see his gratitude and honour the One Who has been so good to him. And because of this the people continued to have hope.
‘Great deliverance gives he to his king,
And shows covenant love to his anointed,
To David and to his seed, for evermore.’
The ultimate in the Psalm has been reached. God has given great deliverance to His king, the one whom He has chosen to rule the nations, the one whom He has anointed, setting him aside for Himself, the one with whom He has dealings through the covenant, and He will continue to do so. In this is Israel’s confidence.
And this delivering goodness of God is not only for David but also for his seed after him for evermore. His house is to enjoy an everlasting rule. Here is seen the confirmation of God’s promise in 2 Samuel 7:12-16. In the short term the assumption is, ‘while they are faithful’. But the triumph of God in David is not just a passing thing of history, not something that is left to man’s initiative, it carries within it the seeds of God’s permanent blessing for the whole world, for all who will be His people. Davidic kings may fail temporarily in the future, but in the end God will prevail and a Davidic king will arise Who will be true, triumphant and the source of all God’s blessing. This was the hope of the future.
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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Psalms 18". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/