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This psalm is also found, in almost identical terms, in 2 Samuel 22. David testifies in this psalm of Who the LORD is to him and what He has done for him. It is also the expression of the feelings of those who have been in similar circumstances and have been rescued from distress and want to praise God for it.
There are four ways in which we can look at this psalm, and this applies to many other psalms. It has already been said in another way in the introduction, but it is good to draw attention to it again, especially with this psalm:
1. In this psalm, David recounts his personal experiences. We have here a historical description because it is about the history of David.
2. Parts of this psalm have been fulfilled in the life of the Lord Jesus on earth and in His death and resurrection. Other parts will be fulfilled when He returns to earth to establish His realm of righteousness and peace.
The whole psalm is about Him. David is a picture of Him here. This psalm expresses the feelings of Christ. The Spirit of Christ is at work in David as he writes this psalm.
3. In direct connection with this, we also see here the feelings of the faithful remnant of Israel in the future. With them the Lord Jesus, the Messiah, that is the Anointed, unites Himself in an intimate way.
4. Finally, there is the application for us personally as New Testament believers. The Lord Jesus has also joined us with Himself, and in an even more intimate way. Here we must remember that we are joined with Him in heaven, while the remnant is joined with Him on earth. We have to deal with spiritual enemies, while the remnant has to deal with enemies of flesh and blood. Salvation from the power of the enemy occurs for the earthly people through the coming of the Lord to earth to judge those enemies, while He delivers us from our enemies by taking us up to Himself out of the world in the air (1Thes 4:15-17).
David is remembering all that God has been to him, what he has found in Him in his needs and dangers. He reflects on the power of God that has been at work on his behalf and what the blessed result of that power is. This is all expressed in this song, an expression of feelings that find their full fulfillment in Christ.
The psalm begins and ends with a song of praise. It is a psalm of gratitude. We hear a story of sorrow and suffering that ends in joy and triumph. The psalm can begin with a praise to the LORD because it reflects past experiences and does not describe a current situation.
David describes what he went through, his suffering and distress, his cry for help, followed by deliverance and victory, and finally his coronation. In this he is a type of the perfect Servant of the LORD from the book of Isaiah: the Lord Jesus. He has been delivered by God from the dead. He will defeat His enemies and be crowned King of kings and Lord of lords. David is also a type of the faithful remnant who will be delivered from the hands of the false king of Israel, the antichrist.
Who the LORD Is to David
As in Psalm 3 and Psalm 7, this psalm mentions the occasion for its writing (Psa 3:1; Psa 7:1). The psalm begins with the statement that it is “for the choir director”, a statement we have encountered several times before. The psalm begins by saying – and thereby emphasizes – that it is intended for others who have been in similar circumstances as the writer. See further the explanation at Psalm 4:1.
It is “a [Psalm] of David the servant of the LORD”. He speaks of himself as “the servant of the LORD” (cf. Psa 36:1; Deu 34:5; Jos 24:29). The whole psalm breathes God’s greatness. Toward Him, David does not call himself “king” but “servant”. He realizes that it is a great honor to serve God in his kingship.
This also applies to us, who have also become a kingdom (Rev 1:6). We do not yet exercise kingship, but we do possess its dignity. That dignity is expressed in serving Him Who is our Lord. It is a special privilege to serve Him Who has all authority in heaven and on earth. Anyone who is somewhat impressed by God’s majesty will gladly be His servant and call himself so.
David “spoke to the LORD the words of this song”. Here it says that this song is “spoken” to the LORD. This implies an important lesson. We see here that to sing songs means to speak to God. To sing songs is also to speak to people. This is what Paul says to us in the letter to the Colossians (Col 3:16). All of this underlines the fact that it is primarily about the words.
The reference to a “song” reminds us of the introduction to Moses’ song after Israel’s deliverance from Egypt (Exo 15:1) and the song that Barak and Deborah sang after their victory over the enemy (Jdg 5:1).The similarity between these three songs is that they are songs of deliverance, praising God for the deliverance He has wrought. Singing is the privilege of a redeemed people. The first time a song is sung in the Bible is in Exodus 15 (Exo 15:1) and the last time in Revelation 14 (Rev 14:3).
David spoke this song to the LORD “in the day that the LORD delivered him”, that is, immediately after his rescue. Likewise, we should praise God immediately after we experienced His help. David not only mentions the time of the deliverance, “in the day that”, but also the occasion of it. For the LORD “delivered” him from the hand of ruthless enemies. To deliver means that the LORD has snatched David from the hand of his enemies, pulled him out. This deliverance is the occasion for his song.
The enemies are not few in number. David speaks of “the hand of all his enemies”. These are enemies of hostile nations who sought to prevent him from accepting his kingship. They are also enemies who have wanted to remove him from the throne after he became king.
David mentions one enemy by name: Saul. The LORD also delivered him “from the hand of Saul”. He mentions this enemy last, although Saul is his first enemy. From Saul he has experienced the longest and fiercest enmity. Saul, in connection with the believing remnant, is a type of the antichrist, the false king, who is hostile to the great Son of David.
If we want to serve the Lord in faithfulness, we need not marvel that we have enemies (Jn 15:18-19). We will experience all the more His help and deliverance in it, giving us all the more reason to praise Him.
All the deliverances from the grip of all kinds of enemies, and from the hand of Saul in particular, bring out in David a song of praise, a psalm. His first reaction to his deliverance is to say to the LORD: “I love You, O LORD” (Psa 18:1b). This is a special ‘declaration of love’ to the LORD personally. Such a thing occurs only once more, in different terms, in Psalms (Psa 116:1). It is a declaration of love expressing that the intimacy of the relationship is based on experience.
The word for “love” here is a spontaneous, emotional love based on what David has experienced and seen. It is not love at first sight, but a love because He first loved us (cf. 1Jn 4:19). This is evident from David’s experiences. He speaks of this in Psa 18:19.
We can deduct this from the large number of names by which David mentions the LORD. In doing so, he expresses all that the LORD means to him. With this he substantiates, as it were, his declaration of love. In this way he has come to know God and, as a result, has come to love Him more and more. The LORD has so many other names than those mentioned by David. The reason David specifically mentions these names is because they are particularly appropriate in the context of this song, which is about flight, battle and victory.
As he names Him, so he has experienced Him in those situations. There he also experienced the personal relationship with God in a special way. This is evident from the repeated use of the possessive pronoun “my”. He experienced and experiences God as he reflects Him in every name by which he names Him. Similarly, Paul speaks of God as “my God” (Phil 4:19). The Lord Jesus also speaks of “My God” and “My Father” (Jn 20:17).
The first name that David mentions, he speaks to God. He does not call Him “my Beloved”, but “my strength”. This shows that David’s love for the LORD is based on Who He is for him in battle. The following names are consistent with this. Only by doing so he is not addressing God, but by doing so he is testifying to others of Who the LORD is to Him.
The name “my strength” connects directly to his declaration of love. This is what God has been to him in the presence of his adversaries. David has overcome all his opponents because God has been and still is his strength. He owes his safety to Him alone. He testifies to this in the names he mentions next.
1. In the first ‘testimony name’ he says: “The LORD is my rock” (Psa 18:2). By this he is saying that the LORD is his unshakable foundation (cf. Isa 17:10; Mt 16:18; 1Cor 10:4). The Hebrew word for rock here is sela. It is a word for high rocks, layered by sediment. The rock here is a type of the exalted Christ. On that rock David stands. He owes that high position to God.
2. Then he calls Him “my fortress” – Hebrew mesuda, cf. Masada. A fortress is a mountain fortress. It is a location so fortified that an enemy cannot approach it. That is what God has become to David. He is with God, as it were, ‘in safe keeping’. He is safe and secure with Him from all his persecutors.
3. At the same time, he can call the LORD “my deliverer”. He is well guarded in the fortress and is therefore free from his persecutors.
4. He is, says David, “my God”, that is, the One in Whom I have found all that I can imagine of Who God is: the Almighty, Omnipresent, Omniscient, Who knows me and is much stronger than the dangers that threaten me. He is always with me. The Christian expresses this when he says “Abba, Father”.
5. Then David calls Him “my rock” once more (see 1.). The Hebrew word for rock here is tsur. This is a word for low rocks of solid black basalt stones. We can see the rock here as a picture of Christ in humiliation.
David adds that he “takes refuge” in Him. Here we see an action of David. We can know that in God we have an unshakable rock, but we must resort to it. David does not say that he “took refuge” in Him, but “takes refuge” in Him. He has done it in the past and continues to do it. He continually seeks safety and protection from Him.
6. “My shield” (cf. Psa 3:3; Gen 15:1) means protection from the arrows the enemy fires at him (cf. Eph 6:16). Arrows penetrate the body and paralyze or kill. But what arrow can pass through the LORD? Who can hit Him? He Himself is untouchable and therefore any attack on one of His own is doomed to utter failure.
7 “The horn of my salvation” means that God’s power – the horn is a picture of strength, with which an animal defends itself – guarantees the salvation of His own. The concept is that God is to the psalmist what the horn is to animals, the means of defense. What enemy can stand up to God?
8. “My stronghold” (cf. Psa 9:9) is a high place from which David can observe the enemy. It is a natural sentry post that is at the same time unreachable for an enemy attack and therefore provides complete security (cf. Isa 33:16; Pro 18:10). The LORD is his guaranteed security.
The aforementioned ‘military features’ of God can be described as follows: security, unshakability, preservation, deliverance, protection, strength, invulnerability, safety. All this is contained in the name ‘strength’.
David has called upon this Person, Whom he has described so extensively as his strength (Psa 18:3). After all his experiences with Him, he cannot help but first point out again that He is worthy of praise. His heart is full of praise for Him Who has made Himself known in the way he has expressed in the names. At the same time he calls upon all to whom he testifies to praise Him as well.
The LORD has heard his cry. He has stood up for David and delivered him from his enemies. In the next few verses, David proceeds to speak of the great distress in which he has been and from which God has delivered him. This makes it all the more clear how worthy the LORD is of the names by which David mentioned Him. It helps anyone who is in distress and has been delivered from it by the LORD with deeper understanding to praise Him for His deliverance. It is, after all, a psalm “for the choir director”.
The Distress Brought to God
These verses describe the feelings of David during the time when the enemy was out to kill him. It are also the feelings of the faithful remnant of Israel during the great tribulation. We see something similar with Jonah when he is in the stomach of the fish (Jona 2:3-10). Above that, these verses describe in particular the feelings of the Lord Jesus in Gethsemane, where the suffering of death is presented to Him in the cup of suffering that the Father shows Him there. Of Him we read that “in the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death” (Heb 5:7a). This is Gethsemane.
In what David experienced – he describes his experience as of someone in the process of drowning (Psa 18:4) – we see what Christ experienced in perfection and far deeper than David. No one like Him knows what “cords of death” are. David felt these cords in regard to physical death. In 2 Samuel 22 he speaks of “waves of death” (2Sam 22:5). These are strong powers that wanted to pull David into the depths of the realm of the dead.
Christ felt these cords and waves in the fullest sense of the word: being separated from God. The same applies to the “torrents of ungodliness” that “terrified” David. In a literal sense, these are the sudden, fast-flowing waters in the wadis in the wilderness that drag everything along and destroy it. The torrents of ungodliness, or destruction – literally it says “streams of Belial” – refer to the endless stream of corrupted people who, led by satan, hunted him down to kill him.
Christ was not afraid of all physical suffering and physical death. Otherwise He could never have encouraged His own “not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul” (Mt 10:28). He had no fear of what people would do to Him. What made Him fearful was the anger of God that would come down on Him in the three hours of darkness, during which He would be made sin. The “cords of Sheol”, – Sheol is the realm of the dead – surrounded Him in a way that was far more intense than David could ever experience (Psa 18:5).
The same is true of the “snares of death”. David felt like a bird caught in a snare. The more he tried to pull away, the tighter the snare was stretched. Death could make its appearance at any moment. The snares of death also threatened and distressed the Savior (cf. Lk 12:50). That is why in Gethsemane He called upon His God in His distress. And He heard Him and delivered Him – not of death, but – from death, and this because of His piety (Heb 5:7b), that is, because of His full devotion to God
David, after describing his distress, speaks of calling upon the LORD in his distress and crying “to my God” (Psa 18:6). His distress was so great that he despaired of life, for death threatened. The enormous powers he faced were beyond human control. All he could do was cry to God, for he had a God to Whom he could cry.
The call for help is followed immediately, without pause or hesitation, by God’s answer (cf. Mt 14:30-31). This answer is the awareness that his voice, which cried from the depths of the dead (Psa 18:4-5), is “heard” by God “out of His temple”, the house of His government in high heaven. God was not too busy with other things. The cry for help had His full attention. David knew that he was making his cry for help before God, that is, in His presence. Therefore, it came into His ears that were open to the distress call of His chosen king.
[Hint for the reader: To get an impression of the LORD’s answer, it is good to read the whole of these verses in one go. So rather than studying verse by verse in detail, first read the whole in quiet succession. Then the experience that Elijah had is gained: the LORD did not appear to him in the storm, fire or earthquake, but ultimately in the sound of a gentle blowing (1Kgs 19:11-13)].
In these verses David tells us that the LORD listened to his cry for help (cf. Psa 17:13) and how He answered. God’s response to deliver David and His people is His mighty appearance. He describes what became visible of God when He began to act on his behalf. It did not make David anxious, but filled him with awe. That God was acting for him! Smoke and fire, wind and waters, thunder and lightning, all these natural phenomena God put into action for his deliverance.
God’s action begins with the earth shaking and quaking (Psa 18:7). “The foundations of mountains”, which symbolize the immobility and stability of the earth, “were trembling and were shaken”. God only has to touch them with a finger and the earth loses everything a man thinks he can hold on to. It is not a question of a slight fluctuation, but of an uncontrollable violent shaking back and forth, so that everything staggers and falls over. This happens “because He was angry”. It shows His exalted majesty, whereby man in his pride shrivels up to nothing.
It is quite possible that God helped David through such natural phenomena to defeat his enemies or escape them. David sees God’s hand in this, which is true, while the enemies, and all men without God, speak only of remarkable phenomena in nature. All kinds of plagues and disasters that will afflict mankind when the believers are caught up , and which are described in the book of Revelation, will be explained by the unbelievers in this way. The believing remnant clearly sees the hand of God in that. We see the same thing with the plagues that came upon Egypt. They were used as judgment on Egypt, while for the Israelites they were signs and wonders of God.
Further emphasis is given to God’s anger by the smoke that went up out of His nostrils and the fire that came from His mouth (Psa 18:8; cf. Isa 65:5). The fire did a devouring work, which is proven by the coals that were kindled by it. The smoke and the consuming fire make it clear that He is judging the enemies. Fire is invariably a picture of the judgment of God that consumes everything that resists Him. Also “our God is a consuming fire” (Heb 12:29).
By bowing the heavens He brings them closer to the earth (Psa 18:9). It is a poetic and human description of His coming down to earth to act on behalf of His godly man. In Him, heaven came to earth. That meant judgment for the wicked persecutors and deliverance for the righteous. The thick darkness under His feet emphasizes that He came to judge.
Another indication that He came to judge is that “He rode on a cherub” (Psa 18:10). Ezekiel sees that cherubim are attached to the throne chariot of His government (Eze 1:5-14; Eze 10:1). These heavenly beings have great power and are associated with the execution of God’s government and the maintaining of His righteousness. We see this particularly displayed in the cherubim looking down on the mercy seat on top of the ark in which the law is (Exo 25:22).
Cherubim have wings that allow them to move quickly. They are consequently also connected to heaven while performing their work on earth. God is swift in executing judgment when the appointed time for it has come. He moves with the speed and inimitability of the wind toward His goal (cf. Psa 104:3-4).
David continues in figurative language his impressive description of God in His action to deliver His anointed. God has wrapped Himself in the darkness of the night to hide Himself in it (Psa 18:11). That hiding is like a canopy. That canopy consists of “darkness of waters, thick clouds of the skies”. Everything speaks of the threat of judgment.
God announces His action in “the brightness before Him” (Psa 18:12). God can cover Himself in darkness. The threat that emanates from it can inspire awe and work repentance. When man does not take that threat seriously, God appears in judgment. Then He appears as a blinding light. Out of the light glow of His holiness come “hailstones and coals of fire”. We also see such a combination at the seventh plague on Egypt (Exo 9:22-23).
The dark, obscure clouds began to speak majestically, deafeningly: “The LORD also thundered in the heavens” (Psa 18:13). From heaven He made His voice sound through “hailstones and coals of fire” which were also mentioned in the previous verse. The repetition indicates that it happened regularly. He is “the Most High”, He is exalted above the universe. God speaks through His judgments; in them His voice is heard (Psa 29:3-9). During the thunders, He shoots His arrows in the form of lightning flashes in all directions (Psa 18:14; cf. Psa 77:18; Psa 144:6; Hab 3:11). Thus He scattered the enemies, disrupting their order and confusing them, rendering them powerless.
As a final act, David describes that through the action of God the channels of water became visible and “the foundations of the world were laid bare” (Psa 18:15). It is a thundering final act, as it were, in which God demonstrates that there is no area in all of nature that can resist when He deals with it. It is a picture of His dealing with hostile powers. As He makes visible the channels of water, so He uncovers all the hostile powers. He rules over the foundations of the world. He is the glorious and victorious King over all powers in heaven, on earth and in the sea. His rule cannot be questioned by anything or anyone.
All of the foregoing acts were done by God as “rebuke” against the opponents of the righteous for whom He stands up. For that rebuke He uses from the universe what He needs, for the entire universe is under His authority and at His disposal. He only has to blow against a single element with the breath of His nostrils and it is stirred up to an all-destructive storm against which no shelter can stand.
The Great Deliverance
After the impressive description of the intervention of God in His omnipotence (Psa 18:7-15), David describes in these verses in an equally impressive way his deliverance by God from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. That deliverance is expressed by several verbs in this section: “sent from on high”, “took me”, “drew me out”, “delivered me”, “brought me forth” and “rescued me”. In all these actions God proves His faithfulness. David experiences deliverance in an almost tangible way.
The words “drew me out” also appear in Exodus 2. There it is in connection with Moses being pulled out of the waters of death by Pharaoh’s daughter (Exo 2:10).
The fearful action of the LORD that David described in the previous verses did not make him fearful. It has been a “deliverance” operation, in which his enemies have been eliminated and he has been delivered. In Psa 18:16 we recognize Israel’s deliverance from Egypt. The going of Israel through the Red Sea is like the raising of the people out of great waters. It is represented pictorially in this way, that from on high, from His holy palace, God reached out His mighty hand, seized the people and drew them out of the Red Sea and placed them in the freedom of the wilderness. This is how David experienced his deliverance.
The “many waters” are a picture of many difficulties and dangers. It was indeed a “strong enemy” with whom he had to deal (Psa 18:17). Added to this were others who “hated” him. They were people “too mighty for” him. Their threat was so intense that he knew the day of his ruin had arrived if the LORD did not intervene (Psa 18:18). The distress had risen to a climax. “But” then there was the LORD, He was there to support him, He held him up, so that he would not fall and fall into the hand of the enemy. This Divine “but” indicates a reversal that God works in a situation where a man can do nothing more (cf. Eph 2:1-4).
Instead of his downfall, David experienced the support of the LORD. Instead of being surrounded by his enemies, the LORD brought him forth into a broad place (Psa 18:19). Instead of falling into the hand of his enemies, he has experienced the rescue of God. He owes everything to God and nothing to himself. And what prompted God to intervene in this exalted way and rescue him? David acknowledges it with great gratitude and amazement: “Because He delighted in me.” David knew himself to be the object of God’s love.
What David tells of his deliverance from the cords of death by the power of God is a clear picture of the deliverance of Lord Jesus from death by the power of God. Paul writes of this when he says that we would know “what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. [These are] in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly [places], far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come” (Eph 1:19-21).
Through the cross, the Lord Jesus defeated all powers (Col 2:14-15). God answered that victory by raising Christ from the dead. It was His joy to do so. Not only the power of God, but also the glory of the Father raised Christ from the dead (Rom 6:4). Because Christ glorified Him on earth, the Father, in response, glorified Him and did so immediately by taking Him up into heaven (Jn 13:31-32). His glorification on earth is yet to come. We see a further illustration of this in this psalm in what God is doing to David.
God’s Righteous Reward
This passage is about the perfection of the Lord Jesus. David was sincerely devoted to the LORD and remained faithful to Him, but he was not perfect. As a weak picture of Christ, he speaks as a prophet of Him Who is truly and only perfect. What David is in perfection, he owes to the LORD; what the Lord Jesus is in perfection, He is personally. By virtue of that, He is King.
The conclusion of Psa 18:19 is the introduction to Psa 18:20-24. In these verses David says why God delighted in him and stood up for him. As mentioned, this description in its fullness is only true of the Lord Jesus. To Him fully applies what David says of himself in these verses. He was absolutely spotless and perfectly obedient to God’s ways and ordinances.
In a certain sense David can say without presumption: “The LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands He has recompensed me” (Psa 18:20). We must then remember that he is referring to the way he dealt with his greatest enemy, Saul. As long as David was not on the throne, he always acknowledged Saul as God’s appointed king.
In this way he did righteousness, that is, he acted in accordance with the law of God, giving Saul the due respect. He has always kept his hands clean, even though he was twice stimulated to take the law into his own hands (1Sam 24:5; 11-14; 1Sam 26:9-11; 18). In reward for this, God rescued him.
We see in David a dim shadow of Christ. What is true with David, but not always, is always, in all circumstances and perfectly, true with the Lord Jesus. Therefore, in these verses we see Him above all. He has been heard, as quoted above, for the piety that He demonstrated uninterruptedly in His life on earth. That was His righteousness and it was rewarded to Him by God.
Christ received His reward from God according to the purity of His hands, which always did only what God had told them to do. Never have His hands done anything impure. His hands were so pure that He could touch an unclean leper, thereby healing that leper of his leprosy and cleansing him (Mt 8:3).
David, in his attitude toward Saul, had “kept the ways of the LORD” and “had not wickedly departed” from his God (Psa 18:21). He has done so because he has kept all of God’s ordinances in mind and has not put away His statutes from him (Psa 18:22). He has not always been perfect in going the way of the LORD, nor has he always kept God’s ordinances, but this is again about his attitude toward Saul.
In going the ways of the LORD and keeping God’s statutes, he was “blameless with Him” (Psa 18:23). It never occurred to him to do anything against Saul because he was integrous before God. He lived in fellowship with God, which kept him from evil. This is especially true of the evil of taking the law into his own hands and getting Saul out of the way. The latter indicates that he was aware of the possibility of committing iniquity.
Here we see that a believer’s walking in the way of the Lord without deviating from it is inseparable from obedience to the Word of God. We stay in the way of the Lord when we have His Word constantly before our eyes (cf. Deu 8:6).
This too was practiced in perfection by our Savior. He always, uninterruptedly, walked in the ways of His God and had His law before Him throughout His life on earth. With Him this was not to give iniquity no chance to do it. He was and is without sin and had and has no tendency to sin in Him.
In Psa 18:24 David speaks again of the cleanness of his hands as his righteousness and that God “recompensed” him on that basis, that is, rescued him. He did the same in Psa 18:20. The fact that he mentions it again may be because he could have killed Saul twice, but did not do it both times. Both times he proved that he has clean hands. He is not a murderer and has no murderer’s blood on his hands. God saw that, it was “in His eyes”. Therefore, God has given him according to his righteousness.
Psa 18:25-26 give the general principle according to which God acts. God did that in the life of David and always does with every person. As we behave toward other people, so God will act with us. In other words, the Lord Jesus says the same thing: “For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return” (Lk 6:38b).
If we show lovingkindness to others, God will show lovingkindness to us. We will reap what we sow (Gal 6:7b-8). Here we are talking about an attitude toward someone who has harmed or hurt us. “Kind” here is the Hebrew word that means faithfulness to the statutes of the covenant. The LORD says that He will certainly keep the statutes of that covenant if His people do the same. He is the faithful God of the covenant.
God is blameless toward one who is blameless, that is, inwardly focused on God and displays that in his dealings with his fellow men. It means that God stands up for such a person when he is slandered or persecuted. The pure person is one who is pure, unmixed in his thoughts, motives and behavior; he keeps himself separated from the world. God shares His own purity with him; there is fellowship with Him, without anything of sin being able to disturb that fellowship.
He who is crooked, literally “corrupted”, in the sense of perverse, follows wrong, twisted ways and tries to deviously drag others into his ways. He is not straight, he is a hypocrite. Such a person faces God as One Who is competing against him. He will deal with him according to what he is: depraved, twisted, wicked. What he has sown, he will reap (Gal 6:7b).
God Is and Does Everything for the Righteous
Psa 18:27 can be seen as the final conclusion of Psa 18:20-26. The verse is also the transition to the next section. Beginning in Psa 18:27, the glorious consequences of the work of the Lord Jesus are told. In the previous section He was delivered, in the coming section He is the Deliverer. We also hear in these verses a wonderful testimony of the Spirit of Christ in the believing remnant of Israel in the end time. This remnant receives from Christ, Who unites Himself to them in the Spirit, strength in the great tribulation to endure and overcome against all enmity.
After David has told us Who God is and how He has acted in the rescues, he sings in Psa 18:27-36 about Who God is to him. In Psa 18:27 we hear how David attributes salvation to God and not to his own military skills. The emphasis is on “You”, which is God. He speaks of himself and those who are with him as “an afflicted people”. There is no boast, but the sense of great helplessness. He was a weak man who was totally dependent on God’s help to be saved from his enemies. Opposite to his misery is the pride of his enemies. He knows that God humiliates them for this reason.
That his lamp lights, he owes to God (Psa 18:28). Here too the emphasis is on “You”. God did it, not he. With his “lamp” he can mean his light of life. God has ensured that there is still, or again, light in his life. Through Him, Whom he calls “my God”, the darkness has disappeared and the sky has been cleared. God has come in darkness in judgment for His enemies, with the result that the darkness that His enemies caused has been cleared up.
It is no longer about saving David, but about a counterattack. The circumstances have changed. Now David is going to pursue and destroy his enemy. Prophetically, we are dealing with a situation just before the realm of peace when the faithful remnant will first be saved and then used to destroy the last enemies (Mic 5:4-8).
Because God came to him and was with him, he was able to break through the hostile troop of armies that had surrounded him (Psa 18:29). He has been able to fight and overcome because God was with him. He also says “by You”. By Him, Whom he again calls “my God”, he also can leap over a wall. When God is with you, no obstacle is too high. We can think here of an entrenchment that his enemies had built to protect themselves and prevent a further breakthrough if he had broken through the first lines. Thus every victory leads back to God. He gets all the glory and it also belongs only to Him.
The way of persecution and battle is not the way he chose for himself. God determined that way for him, because it served to educate him. Now that he stands behind that way and looks back, he cannot help but say: “As for God, His way is blameless” (Psa 18:30). To declare God’s way blameless or perfect is the secret of resting in Him. If we can say this with our hearts, we are sure that God is not out of control.
Added to that, we may remember that God’s way is always parallel to His Word. That is what the second line of Psa 18:30 says. His word “is tried”, perfectly pure. With silver and gold, purification takes place by heating these metals in fire multiple times, to purify them. Each time, impurities are removed. With God’s Word, the fire is only there to prove and demonstrate that it is completely pure.
The purity of God’s Word has been tried in many ways throughout the ages, but always found to be perfectly pure. It is reliable through and through. It has never been otherwise, but every test of purity, every attack on it, provides additional proof of its reliability time and again. We can trust it. God never deviates from His Word. He always acts, whether with the single person or with His people as a whole, in accordance with what He has said.
It may happen that we encounter surprises in the way we go. Often the cause is that we do not know God’s Word, in which He tells us how He sees things, or we have forgotten what He tells us in it. When we surrender to God in the way He goes with us as the best way and we trust in His Word, we take refuge with Him and He proves Himself to be “a shield”.
We see in this Psa 18:30 that God gives us some special tools by which He encourages us. His way is a way in which you never err; His Word is full of His promises that never fail; He Himself is like a shield through which we need not fear any enemy (cf. Gen 15:1). Let us make use of these tools again and again.
The descriptions of the goodness of God lead the psalmist to exclaim: “Who is God, but the LORD?” (Psa 18:31). This is more than a rhetorical question. It is a Hebrew form of solemn assurance, meaning that there is absolutely no god besides the LORD. The answer to the question, “who is a rock, except our God?” is of similar tenor: ‘There is absolutely no other rock, but only our God’ (Exo 15:11; Deu 33:26; 1Sam 2:2; Isa 45:5a).
In Psa 18:32-36, the psalmist explains why God is incomparable, comparable to no one. It is God Who “girds” him “with strength” (Psa 18:32; cf. Job 40:7). He does not have to make his way out of need in his own strength. God “makes” his “way blameless”. He does not have to figure out for himself which way to choose. God helps to carry out his plans so that they will succeed.
God makes it so that his “feet” are like those of hinds (Psa 18:33). Hinds have the ability to navigate impassable rock formations with playful ease. In doing so, they are quick and agile with a special intuition for danger. In line with this, David says that God sets him upon his “high places”. There he is safe, for there he is unreachable for persecutors. This does not mean that he does not have to fight. God “trains” his hands “for battle” (cf. Psa 144:1) so that his “arms can bend a bow of bronze” (Psa 18:34).
God fights for His own. Sometimes He does it for them, instead of them (Exo 14:14), but often He does it through them, that is, by helping them in their fighting His wars. He trains their hands for that purpose. Not only the strength to fight comes from God, but also all the ability. This also applies to spiritual warfare (2Cor 10:4-5).
To bend a bronze bow requires additional strength. A bow is the symbol for a fight with an opponent who is far away from you. To eliminate him you need special strength. Then God comes to David’s aid and ensures with His strength that he can keep the bow bend (cf. Gen 49:23-24).
In battle he has been able to count on God’s salvation (Psa 18:35). God gave him His salvation as a shield. His salvation was solid as a rock and was the guarantee of victory. He experienced the support of God’s right hand. As a result, he has remained standing.
David realized that God had dealt with him with “gentleness”. Only because of this did he have all his prosperity in life. He had no claim on it with God. There was no merit with him, no own strength or prowess that made him so exalted. It was all just because God had dealt gently with him. What this means for us is that we must trace all the success in our lives back to its origin: the gentle favor of God.
In his exalted position, God gave him space to walk, without anything lying over which he could stumble (Psa 18:36). All previous distress had vanished, all obstacles that made it difficult for him to go his way had been removed. He could now walk freely. His ankles did not wobble, while he could walk vigorously. It was as if he were a paralytic who had been given strength by God to walk.
God Gives the Victory
In Psa 18:32-36 we see Christ in the picture of David, the risen and glorified Lord, equipped by God for the battle. In the verses which now come before out attention, we see in the picture of David that Christ completely defeats and destroys His enemies (Psa 18:37-42). He then establishes His kingdom on earth and reigns as King of kings and Lord of lords (Psa 18:43-46; 1Cor 15:25; Rev 19:11-16; Rev 20:7-10). He is Head of His people and of all the nations. All the nations submit to His rule, even if by many this is done only feignedly, insincerely, hypocritically.
Through the exercise of battle, the sustaining power of God and a broad place for His feet, David is ready to sing of the victory over his enemies. With great speed and power he had pursued and overtaken his enemies (Psa 18:37). He did not turn back until he had destroyed all his enemies. There was no doubt about the outcome of the battle. No enemy remained who had any strength left to resist, let alone defeat him, for he “shattered them, so that they were not able to rise” (Psa 18:38). They fell under his feet, which means that he completely submitted them to him. It was a complete victory.
He owed that total victory to God. He says so in Psa 18:39-40. God had girded him with strength for battle (Psa 18:39). We are told to fight the good fight of faith (1Tim 6:12). We can also achieve victories in the spiritual fight only if we strengthen ourselves in the power of His strength (Eph 6:10; cf. 2Tim 2:1).
God has subdued under David those who rose up against him. He had forced the enemy to surrender. He had caused his enemies to flee from him (Psa 18:40). A footnote in the Dutch Bible Translation says that of God’s dealings with the enemies it literally says “gave for me the neck” of the enemy. The translators have interpreted that as ‘showing the neck’ or fleeing. But the translation ‘giving of the neck’ seems to render the meaning better. It means that David could put his foot on the neck of his opponents as proof that he had completely subdued them (cf. Jos 10:24; Gen 49:8).
David completely subdued his enemies. He did not kill everyone on whom he had set his foot. He distinguished between leaders and followers. The leaders were those who hated him. Them he destroyed and thus ended their power and the possibility of organizing another rebellion against him.
In Psa 18:41, David expresses the total helplessness and hopelessness of the defeated enemies. They cried for help, for mercy, to be allowed to live. But there was no one to help them so that their lives might be spared. Even when finally, as a last straw for salvation, they cried to the LORD, they received no answer from Him. God knows that had He saved them, they would reject Him again. There was no sincerity in their cry.
He always answers and saves one who is in need and cries to Him sincerely. We see this with David, whom He answered and saved. God did not answer these enemies because they only wanted to be spared from the sword. They wanted to stay alive. They did not cry to God because of their sinful deeds with the acknowledgment that they did not deserve to stay alive. People who give up their right to life, while acknowledging that they deserve death, find life.
David’s enemies got what they deserved. He “beat them fine as the dust before the wind” (Psa 18:42; cf. Dan 2:35; 44). His enemies were made into grit, powerless, like dust blown away by the wind in all directions. As powerless as they were, so worthless and vile they were also. He “emptied them out as the mire of the streets”. Mire is something that you clear away. It makes you dirty and you take it with you, thereby defiling others and leaving a trail of defilement behind you. That is why you clean away mire. Mire also doesn’t offer any grip. David treated his enemies like mire (cf. Isa 10:6).
David was also “delivered” by the LORD “from the contentions of the people” (Psa 18:43). Apart from the fact that his enemies actually fought him, they also tried to indict him. Indictments are a powerful means of demolishing a person’s spiritual strength. God did not allow this to happen. He stripped the denunciations of their power by giving David His unconditional support. If God is for someone, who will be against him and be able to bring accusations against him (Rom 8:31; 33)?
Instead of letting the contentions do their pernicious work, God “placed” David “as head of the nations”. God had not only confirmed him in his kingship over Israel, but also given the nations around Israel under his authority (2Sam 8:1-14). It is prophetically the fulfillment of what is written in Psalm 2 (Psa 2:8). His name and fame extended far beyond the borders of Israel as a result, and every single nation with which he had not been in contact before served him.
The terror for him was so great (cf. Psa 2:8-10), that there was immediate obedience among those nations, as soon as their ear heard of him (Psa 18:44). There was no thought of opposition to him. They were seeking his favor. The “foreigners”, those who were not among God’s people, feigned submission to David. They bowed with their heads, but not with their hearts. It was a calculated, hypocritical submission. They shuddered at his strength and power. It was honoring out of self-preservation, out of self-love, and not out of love for David. David accepted it, although he knew their hypocrisy. He did not let himself be deceived.
In the prophetic application we see here an indication that not all people who enter the realm of peace are also born again. Many will only submit outwardly to the government of the Lord Jesus (cf. Psa 66:3).
These strangers will eventually be exposed (Psa 18:45). They may persist in hypocrisy for a long time, but the hour of truth will come. They will succumb to the pressure of the truth and come “trembling out of their fortresses”, the places of their own pursuits and security. Because there is no relationship of love with David, they will not have a lasting relationship with him and will miss the ultimate blessing.
Giving Thanks to God
David concludes his song with a giving thanks to God. Because God has given Him the strength for the victories, David gives Him all the glory for it. That “the LORD lives” (Psa 18:46), He certainly showed in all His actions in favor of David.
How wonderful it is to know, and to realize as a reality daily in our hearts, that we have a Lord Who lives! He is the living God (Deu 5:26; Jos 3:10; 2Kgs 19:4; Psa 42:2; Mt 16:16; 1Thes 1:9). This is in contrast to the dead idols of the nations. The gods of the nations were not able to help their worshipers. Of course not, because they are not alive. They don’t even exist, they are vanity, emptiness.
Once again David praises the LORD as “my rock”. With that name for God, he began his song (Psa 18:2). In the psalm, David has demonstrated that God is worthy of that name to the fullest. He therefore mentions that name again. God has rescued him from all distress, helped him defeat his enemies, and given him a high position. God has done everything as the unshakable rock. At the same time, the end result is thus unshakably fixed. No one will ever be able to change that.
By saying “blessed” or “praised” he also calls on others to praise God for being his rock. The same applies to “exalted be the God of my salvation”. Here it refers to his salvation that God has worked for him. What God has done for him and with him, is also a reason for others to praise Him. David directs his attention to the One Who has been so good to him. It is truly the case that God has done everything. Therefore He alone deserves all the glory.
In Psa 18:47 he addresses God directly as “the God who executes vengeance for me”. David never took the law into his own hands. He left vengeance, or righteous retribution, over the evil done to him to God (Deu 32:35). This principle is also held out to us New Testament believers (Rom 12:19). God has subjected nations to him. God did that by giving David the power to subdue those nations. David is well aware of that. He takes no credit for himself, but gives God all the credit.
The same goes for the deliverance of his enemies and the exalted place he takes above those who rise up against him (Psa 18:48). Instead of being dominated by them, he rules over them. He is exalted; they are humbled. A special word David devotes to “the violent man” from whom God has delivered him. It may be that David is thinking of Saul in this context. It is also possible that he is thinking of his own son Absalom. Prophetically, we can apply this to the antichrist or the king of the North, the Assyrian. Both are men of much violence.
Because of the deliverance he sang about in the previous verses, David says to the LORD in Psa 18:49: “Therefore I will give thanks to You among the nations, O Lord, and I will sing praises to Your name.” Paul quotes this verse to make it clear that the coming of the Lord Jesus – of Whom David in this psalm is a remarkable picture in so many ways – means blessing not only for Israel, but also for the nations (Rom 15:9).
For God, the work of His Son is so great that He cannot restrict its effects to Israel (Isa 49:6). He wants all nations to share in the mercy that has come to people through Christ and is offered to all people. The result is that God is glorified and exalted everywhere. That is exactly what this verse says and why Paul quotes it. It is about the deliverance of the remnant by God from the hand of the enemy. This deliverance is the occasion for them to confess God’s Name among the nations.
David is aware that his “great deliverance” is given to him by God and that it is the result of the “lovingkindness” shown “to His anointed” (Psa 18:50). ‘Lovingkindness’ here is again the translation of the Hebrew word chesed which means ‘covenant faithfulness’.
From the New Testament, we understand that the LORD can give His blessing in accordance with the covenant because the Mediator of that covenant has fulfilled everything. It is not only to Him, it is also through Him. This lovingkindness will never fail because in fact it is about the Anointed, the Lord Jesus, the Christ, the Man of God’s good pleasure. In Him all the promises of God are yes and amen (2Cor 1:20).
Because of “His anointed”, Christ, God will also show lovingkindness “to David and his descendants forever”. What an awesome prospect. God’s faithfulness to His Anointed is also the basis for us that God will act in our favor. There is nothing in or of ourselves, everything is from Him and through Him. To Him be all the praise and glory for all eternity!
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Psalms 18". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13