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Bible Commentaries

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

Psalms 18

Verses 1-3

1. God’s character 18:1-3

David began his praise by verbalizing his love for God for being so good to him. He proceeded to describe how much the Lord meant to him by using many metaphors. Yahweh was the source of his strength, stability, safety, and salvation. He was the one in whom David sought refuge, his defense, his power, and his protection. Because God had proved to be such a reliable Savior, the psalmist regarded Him worthy of his praise.

"One of the great tragedies of the human spirit is to become a prisoner of ingratitude, for ingratitude shuts the human spirit up in a world lightened only by the self, which is no light at all." [Note: Ibid., p. 162.]

Verses 1-50

Psalms 18

As the title indicates, David wrote this psalm after he had subdued his political enemies and had established the kingdom of Israel firmly under his control. In this poem, David expressed his delight in the Lord and thanked Him for giving him the victories he enjoyed. This royal thanksgiving psalm also appears in 2 Samuel 22. The slight variations may be due to changes that Israel’s leaders made, under divine inspiration, when they adapted this poem for use in Israel’s public worship. Other individual psalms of thanksgiving are 30-32, 40, 66, 92, 116, 118, and 120.

"The two components essential to the [individual thanksgiving] genre are: (1) the psalmist’s report about his crisis, and (2) the statement or declaration that the crisis has passed and his deliverance is an accomplished fact. The latter element is that which distinguishes these psalms from the lament." [Note: Bullock, p. 152.]

Verses 4-5

Death had previously had him in its grip, as rope binds a prisoner. The forces of ungodliness terrified David, as when one finds himself in a wadi (dry stream bed) during a spring thunderstorm and discovers a wall of water coming toward him. He pictured himself trying to pick his steps through a field full of traps that hunters had set to trap animals.

Verses 4-29

2. God’s deliverance 18:4-29

In this extended section, David reviewed how God had saved him in times of danger. In Psalms 18:4-19 he described God’s supernatural deliverance, and in Psalms 18:20-29 he explained it as he saw it through the lens of his faith in God.

Verses 6-15

David cried out in terror, and in His heavenly temple God heard his call for help. The Lord came rushing to the psalmist’s defense. His deliverance was as a thunderstorm in that it was the supernatural invading nature. The figures of speech in Psalms 18:7-15 picture a violent storm with lightning, thunder, high winds, torrential rains, black skies, and flooding. [Note: See Michael E. Travers, "The Use of Figures of Speech in the Bible," Bibliotheca Sacra 164:655 (July-September 2007):277-90.] All of this illustrates God’s dramatic intervention for David, punishing those who opposed His anointed.

"The most vivid descriptions of God as warrior occur in so-called theophanic passages, which depict the Lord coming in splendor and power to fight for His people. . . .

"Psalms 18:7-16 is the most detailed of these theophanic texts." [Note: Chisholm, p. 296. Cf. Psalms 18; Psalms 29:11; 68:4, 33; 77:16-19; 97:3-5; 104:3-4; 114:3-7; 144:5-7.]

Verses 16-19

God delivered the writer as a lifeguard rescues a drowning man from the water that threatens to overwhelm him. David’s host of enemies almost swallowed him up, but God removed him from their clutches and brought him to a place of safety out of their reach.

Verses 20-24

As God had promised to bless those of His people who walked in obedience to His will (Deuteronomy 28), so he blessed David who followed the Lord faithfully. By recounting his own righteousness David was not implying that he merited God’s favor simply because of his good works. He was showing God’s faithfulness to His covenant promises to Israel. These verses would have encouraged the Israelites to follow David’s example of righteous behavior so they, too, would experience God’s favor (cf. 2 Timothy 4:6-8).

". . . David could quite properly use this language within a limited frame of reference, [but] the Messiah could use it absolutely; and the psalm is ultimately Messianic . . ." [Note: Kidner, p. 93.]

Verses 25-29

God responds in kind as people act toward Him (cf. Galatians 6:7). He rewards them because of their characters and deeds. He is always just. Those who try to twist God to make Him serve their ends will find that He will bend them to fulfill His will (cf. Jacob and Balaam). [Note: See Robert B. Chisholm Jr., "Does God Deceive?" Bibliotheca Sacra 155:617 (January-March 1998):11-28.] He saves the humble and humbles those who think they can save themselves.

"The psalmist does not say that God shows himself ’shrewd’ ([NASB "astute"] Psalms 18:26) in the sense that he deals wisely with the wicked but that he ’acts corruptly’ (’crooked’) with those who are ’crooked.’ Even as God deals lovingly with those who love him, he lets the crooked acts of the wicked boomerang on their own heads. They receive their just deserts." [Note: VanGemeren, p. 174.]

"The way we relate to the Lord determines how the Lord relates to us (Psalms 18:25-27)." [Note: Wiersbe, The . . . Wisdom . . ., p. 124.]

God kept the lamp of David’s life burning by delivering his life from the hands of his enemies. Moreover He enabled His servant to advance against his foes and to overcome their defenses.

Verses 30-31

God’s way is perfect, and His Word is trustworthy. He is the only true God, a reliable defense and a solid foundation for His people (cf. Deuteronomy 32:4; Deuteronomy 32:31).

Verses 30-50

3. God’s blessings 18:30-50

The psalmist rejoiced over God’s character and His blessings to him (Psalms 18:30-45), and he vowed to continue to praise Him forever (Psalms 18:46-50). The purpose of the psalm is praise, not boasting.

Verses 32-42

We should probably read Psalms 18:32 with Psalms 18:33 rather than with Psalms 18:31. David gave the Lord credit for enabling him to be a strong and effective warrior. God was responsible for David’s successes in battle.

Verses 43-45

God had even extended David’s victories beyond the borders of Israel. The king had been able to subdue other kingdoms and bring them under his control. David’s greatest Son will be able to echo these sentiments when He rules on earth during the Millennium.

Verses 46-50

Only a living God could do all this for David. Consequently the king promised to praise Him among those who did not know Yahweh. God’s deliverance and His loyal love are the final gifts David mentioned as those he treasured above all others. He was confident, because of what God had done for him, that Yahweh would prove faithful and deliver David’s descendants, as He had promised as well (2 Samuel 7).

God’s people should always acknowledge the magnificent multifaceted character of our God. We should also recount His awesome acts of deliverance for us. Furthermore, we should continue to rely on His future faithfulness in view of who He is and what He has done for us.

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Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Psalms 18". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". 2012.