A. Part one: praise, deliverance, and the reason for deliverance.
1. (1) Introduction to the psalm.
Then David spoke to the LORD the words of this song, on the day when the LORD had delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul.
a. Then David spoke to the LORD the words of this song: For many reasons, most commentators assume that this was a psalm David wrote and sung many years before and was inserted at the end of 2 Samuel, out of its chronological place. This is a possible explanation, but not a necessary one.
i. “The psalm appears almost as David’s final words. Hence, it is a summary thanksgiving for God’s many deliverances of him through his long life of service.” (Boice)
b. The words of this song: With minor variations, this psalm is the same as Psalm 18. It is likely that David composed this song as a younger man – perhaps when Saul died, and he first took the throne, as described in 2 Samuel 8:14, when David had subdued all his enemies, and the LORD preserved David wherever he went. Yet in his old age, David could look back with great gratitude and sing this song again, looking at his whole life.
i. This psalm is a great summary of David’s whole character and attitude through life. “Such convictions – of the absolute sovereignty of Jehovah, of His omnipotent power to deliver, of the necessity for obedience to His law, and of assurance that in the case of such obedience He ever acts for His people – constituted the underlying strength of David’s character.” (Morgan)
ii. “We have another form of this Psalm with significant variations…and this suggests the idea that it was sung by David at different times when he reviewed his own remarkable history, and observed the gracious hand of God in it all.” (Spurgeon)
2. (2-4) David praises the God of his deliverance.
And he said:
“The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;
The God of my strength, in whom I will trust;
My shield and the horn of my salvation,
My stronghold and my refuge;
My Savior, You save me from violence.
I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised;
So shall I be saved from my enemies.
a. My rock and my fortress and my deliverer: David piled title upon title in praising God. God’s work for David was so big and comprehensive that it couldn’t be contained in one title.
i. “In the opening sentence, which we have emphasized, the sense of truth is reinforced by the final words, ‘even mine.’ By them the singer revealed the fact that all he celebrated in song was more than theory, it was experience.” (Morgan)
ii. David experienced the LORD’s deliverance:
· God delivered David from Goliath.
· God delivered David from Saul.
· God delivered David from backsliding.
· God delivered David from Israel’s enemies.
· God delivered David from Absalom.
· God delivered David from David’s own sinful passions.
b. In whom I will trust: When we see God for who He is, it is easy to trust Him. When we know He is our rock and fortress and deliverer and shield and stronghold and Savior, it is natural to then trust Him completely.
i. Faith does not completely depend on knowledge, but the right knowledge of God gives great strength to faith.
c. My Savior, You save me: Each title was meaningful to David because God fulfilled the meaning of each title in David’s experience. This isn’t a list of the names of God one might find in a systematic theology; this is the knowledge of God combined with the right experience of God.
d. I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: “It is well to pray to God as to one who deserves to be praised, for then we plead in a happy and confident manner. If I feel that I can and do bless the Lord for all his past goodness, I am bold to ask great things of him.” (Spurgeon)
3. (5-20) David’s deliverance comes from God.
“When the waves of death surrounded me,
The floods of ungodliness made me afraid.
The sorrows of Sheol surrounded me;
The snares of death confronted me.
In my distress I called upon the LORD,
And cried out to my God;
He heard my voice from His temple,
And my cry entered His ears.
“Then the earth shook and trembled;
The foundations of heaven quaked and were shaken,
Because He was angry.
Smoke went up from His nostrils,
And devouring fire from His mouth;
Coals were kindled by it.
He bowed the heavens also, and came down
With darkness under His feet.
He rode upon a cherub, and flew;
And He was seen upon the wings of the wind.
He made darkness canopies around Him,
Dark waters and thick clouds of the skies.
From the brightness before Him
Coals of fire were kindled.
“The LORD thundered from heaven,
And the Most High uttered His voice.
He sent out arrows and scattered them;
Lightning bolts, and He vanquished them.
Then the channels of the sea were seen,
The foundations of the world were uncovered,
At the rebuke of the LORD,
At the blast of the breath of His nostrils.
“He sent from above, He took me,
He drew me out of many waters.
He delivered me from my strong enemy,
From those who hated me;
For they were too strong for me.
They confronted me in the day of my calamity,
But the LORD was my support.
He also brought me out into a broad place;
He delivered me because He delighted in me.
a. Waves…floods…. Sorrows…snares: Danger surrounded David on every side – physically, spiritually, emotionally, socially – David was on the brink of ruin when he cried out to God.
b. In my distress I called upon the LORD: The enemy of our soul wants us to believe that we can’t call upon the LORD in our distress – as if we had to be right with God and sitting peacefully in a prayer chapel to pray rightly. David knew that God hears our distress signals.
c. He heard my voice: For David, it was that simple. He cried out to God, and God heard. David also knew that God could not hear the distress of His people without taking action on their behalf.
d. Then the earth shook: God was so concerned about David’s problem that it seemed to David as if He shook the earth to meet his need.
i. “What is most impressive…is the magnificent way the psalmist describes God rising from his throne in heaven in response to his servant’s cry, parting the clouds, and descending to fight the king’s battles accompanied by earthquakes, thunder, storms, and lightning.” (Boice)
e. He rode upon a cherub, and flew: David pictured the LORD coming to meet his need, coming with glory and speed. He came so fast to David that it seemed that God traveled upon the wings of the wind.
i. “In the original of this sublime passage, sense and sound are astonishingly well connected…. The clap of the wing, the agitation and rush through the air are expressed here in a very extraordinary manner.” (Clarke)
f. The Most High uttered His voice: When God came He spoke up on David’s behalf, commanding all creation to respond to His passionate desire to deliver His child.
i. All this is a reflection of David’s confidence in the love of God. David sees a God so loving that He won’t tolerate the distress of His beloved. When things aren’t right for His beloved all creation will see His passion and urgency to meet the need of His beloved.
g. He took me…He drew me…. He delivered me: David saw God apply all that majesty and strength to the meeting of his need.
h. They were too strong for me…. the LORD was my support: David knew that the victory was due to God’s hand, not due to his own ingenuity or ability. Without the LORD for support, David would fall.
i. He delivered me because He delighted in me: David had a sense of God’s delight in him. His plea for deliverance was rooted in relationship, not merely in a desire to survive.
4. (21-25) Why God delivered David.
“The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness;
According to the cleanness of my hands
He has recompensed me.
For I have kept the ways of the LORD,
And have not wickedly departed from my God.
For all His judgments were before me;
And as for His statutes, I did not depart from them.
I was also blameless before Him,
And I kept myself from my iniquity.
Therefore the LORD has recompensed me according to my righteousness,
According to my cleanness in His eyes.
a. According to the cleanness of my hands: These words are one reason why many people believe David could only sing this psalm before his sin with Bathsheba. Yet the text seems to indicate that David sang this towards the end of his days, when the LORD had delivered him from the hand of all his enemies (2 Samuel 22:1).
i. We might say that David simply believed what the prophet Nathan told him in 2 Samuel 12:13: The LORD also has put away your sin. David knew he was a forgiven man, and that the cleanness of his hands was because God cleansed them, not because they had never been dirtied.
ii. “If we were to remind David of his sin with Bathsheba, he would claim it as an illustration and a proof of this principle since he suffered in a variety of ways as a consequence of that great sin. But even though that happened, just as similar transgressions are committed by us all, on the whole he was nevertheless a man after God’s own heart and was greatly blessed by God.” (Boice)
b. I have kept the ways of the LORD…. I was also blameless before Him: David isn’t claiming sinless perfection. He spoke of his general righteousness and of his righteousness as it contrasted with the wickedness of his enemies.
i. “Before God the man after God’s own heart was a humble sinner, but before his slanderers he could with unblushing face speak of the ‘cleanness of his hands’ and the righteousness of his life.” (Spurgeon)
ii. We can come to God in prayer with the same claim, but not on the basis of our own righteousness, but the righteousness we have received in Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:30 and 2 Corinthians 5:21).
c. I kept myself from my iniquity: Some think this is arrogance or pride on David’s part. Spurgeon quotes one commentator who wrote, “Kept himself! Who made man his own keeper?” Yet we know there is certainly a sense in which we must keep ourselves from sin, even as Paul spoke of a man cleansing himself for God’s glory and for greater service (2 Timothy 2:21).
B. Part two: the reason for deliverance, deliverance, and praise.
1. (26-30) Why God delivered David.
“With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful;
With a blameless man You will show Yourself blameless;
With the pure You will show Yourself pure;
And with the devious You will show Yourself shrewd.
You will save the humble people;
But Your eyes are on the haughty, that You may bring them down.
“For You are my lamp, O LORD;
The LORD shall enlighten my darkness.
For by You I can run against a troop;
By my God I can leap over a wall.
a. With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful: Jesus discussed this principle in the Sermon on the Mount but from the perspective of man instead of from God: For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. (Matthew 7:2)
i. “In these words we have revealed the principles of relationship between God and man. God is to man what man is to God.” (Morgan)
ii. David didn’t only sing about this principle; he also lived it and benefited from it. God showed David great mercy because he showed great mercy to others, like Saul (1 Samuel 24:10-13) and Shimei (2 Samuel 16:7-12).
iii. “Note that even the merciful need mercy; no amount of generosity to the poor, or forgiveness to enemies, can set us beyond the need of mercy.” (Spurgeon)
b. With the devious You will show Yourself shrewd: Translators have trouble with this sentence because it communicates a difficult concept. It’s easy to say that if a man is pure towards God then God will be pure to him. But you can’t say that if a man is wicked towards God, then God will be wicked towards him because God can’t do anything wicked.
i. “David expresses the second half of the parallel by a somewhat ambiguous word, the root meaning of which is ‘twisted.’ The verse actually says, ‘To the twisted (or crooked) you will show yourself twisted (or crooked)’…. The idea seems to be that if a person insists in going devious ways in his dealings with God, God will outwit him, as that man deserves.” (Boice)
c. You will save the humble people; but Your eyes are on the haughty, that You may bring them down: David proclaims his confidence in the principle repeated in Proverbs 3:34, James 4:6, and 1 Peter 5:5: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
i. There is something in true humility that prompts the grace and mercy of God and there is something in pride and haughtiness that prompts His resistance and displeasure.
ii. Humility isn’t necessarily a low opinion of self; it is a combination of an accurate opinion of self and simple self-forgetfulness. Humility is others-centered not self-centered.
d. The LORD shall enlighten my darkness: When God met David’s need He first brought light. Great strength and skill don’t help much at all if we can’t see in the midst of the struggle.
e. By You I can run against a troop; by my God I can leap over a wall: When God met David’s need He brought strength. One man should not be able to battle a troop, nor should he be able to leap over a wall protecting a city.
i. David knew the principle of Ephesians 6:10 long before Paul penned the words: Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. God has a resource of power (His might) that He makes available to us by faith. We don’t have to be strong in our might, but we can be strong in His might.
2. (31-46) David’s deliverance comes from God.
As for God, His way is perfect;
The word of the LORD is proven;
He is a shield to all who trust in Him.
“For who is God, except the LORD?
And who is a rock, except our God?
God is my strength and power,
And He makes my way perfect.
He makes my feet like the feet of deer,
And sets me on my high places.
He teaches my hands to make war,
So that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
“You have also given me the shield of Your salvation;
Your gentleness has made me great.
You enlarged my path under me;
So my feet did not slip.
“I have pursued my enemies and destroyed them;
Neither did I turn back again till they were destroyed.
And I have destroyed them and wounded them,
So that they could not rise;
They have fallen under my feet.
For You have armed me with strength for the battle;
You have subdued under me those who rose against me.
You have also given me the necks of my enemies,
So that I destroyed those who hated me.
They looked, but there was none to save;
Even to the LORD, but He did not answer them.
Then I beat them as fine as the dust of the earth;
I trod them like dirt in the streets,
And I spread them out.
“You have also delivered me from the strivings of my people;
You have kept me as the head of the nations.
A people I have not known shall serve me.
The foreigners submit to me;
As soon as they hear, they obey me.
The foreigners fade away,
And come frightened from their hideouts.
a. He is a shield to all who trust in Him: When God met David’s need He brought protection. David could see with light and stand in God’s strength, but he still needed supernatural protection. David’s trust was the vital link in receiving this protection from God.
b. He makes my feet like the feet of deer, and sets me on my high places: David thought of how deer seem to skip from place to place and never lose their footing. God gave him the same kind of skill in working through the challenges brought by his enemies.
c. So that my arms can bend a bow of bronze: David thought of the strength needed to bend a bow made of bronze. God gave him the same kind of strength to overcome the challenges brought by his enemies.
d. Your gentleness has made me great: For David, it wasn’t only about skill and power. It was also about receiving God’s mercy and enjoying a relationship with the God of great gentleness. This also was a resource of strength for David.
i. “We might brave the lion; we are vanquished by the Lamb. We could withstand the scathing look of scorn; but when the gentle Lord casts on us the look of ineffable tenderness, we go out to weep bitterly.” (Meyer)
e. I have pursued my enemies and destroyed them: David relished the place of victory he had in the LORD. He wasn’t hesitant to proclaim it, either out of false humility or out of an uncertainty of possessing the victory. He knew that enemies might rise again, but he looked back at the field of battle and said, “They have fallen under my feet, and when they were under my feet I trod them like dirt in the streets.”
f. You have also delivered me from the strivings of my people: David didn’t only have to battle with problems from enemies, but also with the strivings of his own people. In the midst of the battle he had to endure the contention of his own people, but God sustained him through that also.
g. You have kept me as the head of the nations: David knew that the throne belonged to God. David knew, “The throne is not mine. Not to have, not to take, not to protect, and not to keep. The throne is the LORD’s.” (Edwards) Therefore, when David had the throne, he knew it was God who gave it to him.
3. (47-51) David praises the God of his deliverance.
“The LORD lives!
Blessed be my Rock!
Let God be exalted,
The Rock of my salvation!
It is God who avenges me,
And subdues the peoples under me;
He delivers me from my enemies.
You also lift me up above those who rise against me;
You have delivered me from the violent man.
Therefore I will give thanks to You, O LORD, among the Gentiles,
And sing praises to Your name.
“He is the tower of salvation to His king,
And shows mercy to His anointed,
To David and his descendants forevermore.”
a. The LORD lives! Blessed be my Rock: David thought of the great victory of God on his behalf and could only worship.
b. It is God who avenges me, and subdues the peoples under me: David emphasized the thought, “This is the LORD’s victory. He won it for me. The glory goes to Him.”
c. He delivers me from my enemies. You also lift me up: We see in this psalm that David constantly moved back and forth from speaking about God (He delivers me) to speaking directly to God (You also lift me up). David didn’t seem to have a problem moving between the two aspects, indicating that there is a place for both in praise.
d. And sing praises to Your name: “To be saved singing is to be saved indeed. Many are saved mourning and doubting; but David had such faith that he could fight singing, and win the battle with a song still on his lips.” (Spurgeon)
i. Paul quotes 2 Samuel 22:50 (Psalm 18:49) in Romans 15:9.
e. And shows mercy to His anointed: David ended the psalm understanding his position in mercy. Though earlier in the psalm he proclaimed his own righteousness, he came back to the foundation of God’s mercy. David’s relationship with God was based on God’s great mercy, not upon David’s own righteousness.