Psalm 18 – Great Praise from a Place of Great Victory
This is a long psalm; there are only three psalms longer in the entire collection (78, 89, and 119). Its length is well suited to its theme, as described in the title. The title itself is long, with only one longer in the psalter (Psalm 60): To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David the servant of the LORD, who spoke to the LORD the words of this song on the day that the Lord delivered him from the hand of all of his enemies and from the hand of Saul. And he said:
In the title David tells us whom the psalm was written for: God Himself, who is the Chief Musician. He tells us more about himself, that we should consider him the servant of the LORD. He tells us the occasion for the writing of the psalm – possibly not only the immediate aftermath of Saul’s death (described in 1 Samuel 31; 2 Samuel 1), but also of the period leading to David’s enthronement (2 Samuel 2-5). He tells us also something about Saul, who out of great, undeserved kindness on David’s part, is not explicitly counted among the enemies of David (from the hand of all of his enemies and from the hand of Saul).
This psalm is virtually the same as the psalm sung by David at the very end of his life, as recorded in 2 Samuel 22. It is likely that David composed this song as a younger man; yet in his old age David could look back with great gratitude and sing this song again, looking at his whole life.
A. God’s past deliverance for David.
1. (1-3) David praises the God of his deliverance.
I will love You, O LORD, my strength.
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;
My God, my strength, in whom I will trust;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised;
So shall I be saved from my enemies.
a. I will love You, O LORD: This was a triumphant declaration made in a season of great triumph. It is true that David decided to love the LORD, but even more true that he simply felt compelled to love the LORD who delivered him so wonderfully.
i. Since he was taken from the sheepfold and anointed the future king of Israel, David had lived some 20 or so years as a fugitive, and as a man who had lost everything. He lost his safety, he lost his youth, he lost his family, he lost his career, he lost his rights, he lost his connection with the covenant people of God, he lost his comforts, and at times he even lost his close relationship with God. Despite all, he remained steadfast to the Lord, and God – in His timing – delivered David and fulfilled the long-ago promise of his anointing.
ii. In saying, “I will love You,” David used a somewhat unusual word. “This word for love is an uncommon one, impulsive and emotional. Found elsewhere only in its intensive forms, it usually expresses the compassionate love of the stronger for the weaker.” (Boice)
iii. “Hebrew, I will love thee dearly and entirely…from the very heart-root.” (Trapp)
iv. “The precluding invocation in vv. 1-3 at once touches the high-water mark of Old Testament devotion, and is conspicuous among its noblest utterances. Nowhere else in Scripture is the form of the word employed which is here used for ‘love.’ It has special depth and tenderness.” (Maclaren)
v. David said, “I will love You” to the God who delivered him, not only for rescuing him from his trial, but for all God did in and through the trials to make him what he was. David wasn’t bitter against God, as if he said, “Well, it’s about time You delivered me.” Instead he was grateful that the years of trouble had done something good and necessary in his life.
b. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer: David knew this to be true before, but he knew it by faith. Now David sang from a perspective that knew this by experience in a greater way than ever before.
i. When David said, “The LORD is my rock,” he likely meant it in more than one sense. A rock was of help to the ancient Judean in several ways.
· It could provide essential shade, always needed in the merciless sun and heat of the desert (as in Isaiah 32:2).
· It could provide shelter and protection in its cracks and crevasses (as in Exodus 33:22 and Proverbs 30:26).
· It could provide a firm place to stand and fight, as opposed to sinking sand (as in Psalm 40:2).
c. My God, my strength, in whom I will trust: David knew the triumph of God’s strength over the long trial. Many people fall under the excruciating length of an extended season of trial, and David almost did (1 Samuel 27; 29-30).
i. That fact that David saw his God as his strength reminds us of the promise later expressed through Paul: Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might (Ephesians 6:10).
d. My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold: As David listed honoring name for God upon honoring name (we can count nine just in these first few verses), we get the feeling of a flood of praise and emotion from David. He can’t say enough about who God is and the great things He has done for David.
i. It is revealing that David can speak so eloquently about his God and what God has done for him. As Maclaren says, “The whole is one long, loving accumulation of dear names.” This means that David both knew God and had experienced God.
ii. In these nine titles, we see what God was for David:
· His strength, the One who empowered him to survive against and defeat his enemies.
· His rock, which indicates a place of shelter, safety, and a secure standing.
· His fortress, a place of strength and safety.
· His deliverer, the One who made a way of escape for him.
· His God, “my strong God, not only the object of my adoration, but he who puts strength in my soul.” (Clarke)
· His strength, but this uses a different Hebrew word than in Psalm 18:1. According to Clarke, the idea behind this word is fountain, source, origin.
· His shield, who defends both his head and his heart.
· His horn, meaning his strength and defense.
· His stronghold, his high tower of refuge where he could see an enemy from a great distance and be protected from the adversary.
iii. “When he was conscious that the object of his worship was such as he has pointed out in the above nine particulars, it is no wonder that he resolves to call upon him; and no wonder that he expects, in consequence, to be saved from his enemies; for who can destroy him whom such a God undertakes to save?” (Clarke)
e. I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised; so shall I be saved from my enemies: In previous psalms David cried out to God from times of intense crisis; now he cries out to God with the same strength to praise Him for His deliverance. It is sad to say that many are far more passionate in asking for help than they ever are in giving thanks or praise.
i. The thought, “So shall I be saved from my enemies” did not always come easily for David. Not very long before this great season of victory, he said to himself: Now I shall perish someday by the hand of Saul. There is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape to the land of the Philistines (1 Samuel 27:1). This shows that there were times when David deeply doubted the final victory he now enjoyed; but it also shows that in the end, his faith – and more importantly, God’s strength – was greater than his weakness.
ii. Therefore, at this point, it is all a song of praise for David. “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)
2. (4-6) The danger that made David cry out to the LORD.
The pangs of death surrounded me,
And 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 came before Him, even to His ears.
a. The pangs of death surrounded me, and the floods of ungodliness made me afraid: David described two threats: first, the threat of death, and second the floods of ungodliness. The overwhelming presence of ungodliness was a significant trial to David.
i. This reminds us that despite the fact that David was a true warrior, he was also a sensitive soul who was troubled by the deeds and words of the ungodly.
b. The sorrows of Sheol surrounded me: This was another way of saying that David was threatened with death. Sheol is another word for the grave or death.
c. He heard my voice from His temple: This was long before the later building of the temple in the days of Solomon. The city of Jerusalem wasn’t even in Israeli control at the time David wrote this (not until 2 Samuel 5:6-10). Yet David knew that God had a temple, a heavenly temple that was the model for the tabernacle and the later temple (Exodus 25:9, 25:40), and that God heard prayer from heaven.
i. What did God hear from His temple? God heard David’s cry (cried out to my God). “This same poor man cried, and the cry set Jehovah’s activity in motion. The deliverance of a single soul may seem a small thing, but if the single soul has prayed it is no longer small, for God’s good name is involved.” (Maclaren)
3. (7-15) The majestic deliverance God brought to David.
Then the earth shook and trembled;
The foundations of the hills also 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.
And He rode upon a cherub, and flew;
He flew upon the wings of the wind.
He made darkness His secret place;
His canopy around Him was dark waters
And thick clouds of the skies.
From the brightness before Him,
His thick clouds passed with hailstones and coals of fire.
The LORD thundered from heaven,
And the Most High uttered His voice,
Hailstones and coals of fire.
He sent out His arrows and scattered the foe,
Lightnings in abundance, and He vanquished them.
Then the channels of the sea were seen,
The foundations of the world were uncovered
At Your rebuke, O LORD,
At the blast of the breath of Your nostrils.
a. Then the earth shook and trembled: David describes the dramatic deliverance God brought to him. It was marked by earthquakes, the indignation of God (He was angry), smoke and fire, and the personal intervention of God (He rode upon a cherub, and flew).
i. “When a monarch is angry, and prepares for war, his whole kingdom is instantly in commotion. Universal nature is here represented as feeling the effects of its sovereign’s displeasure, and all the visible elements are disordered.” (Horne)
ii. Smoke went up from His nostrils: “A violent [Middle Eastern] method of expressing fierce wrath. Since the breath from the nostrils is heated by strong emotion, the figure portrays the Almighty Deliverer as pouring forth smoke in the heat of his wrath and the impetuousness of his zeal.” (Spurgeon)
iii. He rode upon a cherub, and flew: David here emphasized the speed of God’s deliverance. “As swiftly as the wind. He came to my rescue with all speed.” (Poole) We may fairly wonder if it seemed speedy to David at the time.
iv. This terminology of David emphasizes the judgment of God; but since the judgment is directed against David’s enemies, it means deliverance for David. God won this victory against David’s strong enemy, against those who hated David (Psalm 18:16-17).
v. There is a larger principle here: understanding that deliverance for a righteous person or people often means judgment against those who oppress them.
b. The LORD thundered from heaven: David set phrase upon phrase in describing the great work of God on his behalf. According to David’s description, God moved heaven, sky, earth, and sea to deliver David.
i. When David described help coming to him through earthquakes, thunder, storms, and lightning, he clearly used poetic images from the way God delivered Israel from Egypt, at Mount Sinai, and during the conquest of Canaan under Joshua. Yet it is also entirely possible – if not probable – that he also literally saw such phenomenon sent from God to protect and fight for him. Though such events are not recorded in 1 or 2 Samuel, we remember that there were long periods of David’s life (such as when he was hunted as a fugitive from Saul) of which we have few descriptions of events. He must have experienced God’s deliverance again and again in a variety of ways.
ii. The way David describes it all leaves us with two impressions. First, he really believed those things happened as recorded in the Bible. Second, he saw the same God do similar things for him in his own day.
iii. Significantly, we might say that David could only really see this once his deliverance was accomplished. In the midst of his trial, David had many reasons and occasions to wonder where the delivering hand of God was. God’s deliverance is always seen most clearly looking back; looking forward it is often only seen by faith.
4. (16-19) David set in safety.
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. He took me; He drew me out of many waters. He delivered me from my strong enemy: David felt that he was drowning when the strong hand of God picked him out of many waters. Like a man caught up in a flood, David knew that his enemies were too strong for him, but that God could deliver him.
i. “Some will not see the hand of God, but I warrant you, brethren, those who have been delivered out of the deep waters will see it. Their experience teaches them that God is yet among us.” (Spurgeon)
b. He also brought me out into a broad place: The strong hand of God not only plucked David from the flood, but it also set him in a safe place.
c. He delivered me because He delighted in me: We can say that David meant this in two ways. First, he delighted in David in the sense that He chose him, anointed him, and set His marvelous lovingkindness (Psalm 17:7) upon David. Second, he delighted in David because he lived a righteous life, as explained in the following verses.
i. “Deliverance from sin, deliverance from evil propensities, deliverance from spiritual enemies – each deliverance bears evidence of God’s love to us…. How much he delights in you it is not possible to say. The Father delights in you, and looks upon you with doting love; like as a father takes pleasure in his child, so does he rejoice over you.” (Spurgeon)
5. (20-24) God delivered David because of his righteousness.
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 I did not put away His statutes from me.
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 the cleanness of my hands in His sight.
a. The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness: During his long season of affliction under Saul, David was challenged to respond in unrighteous ways. He had many opportunities to strike out against Saul as a matter of self-defense. Yet David consistently conducted himself in righteousness and knew that God rewarded him because of it.
b. I have kept the ways of the LORD, and have not wickedly departed from my God…. I was also blameless before Him, and I kept myself from my iniquity: This was not a claim of sinless perfection on David’s part. In fact, the year or so before the death of King Saul was spent in some significant measure of spiritual and moral compromise (1 Samuel 27; 29-30). Yet through it all David kept a core of integrity toward God, was correctable despite his failings, and most importantly did not fail in the greatest test: to not give in to the temptation to gain the throne through killing or undermining Saul.
i. We believe this psalm – twice recorded in Scripture, with minor variations, both here and in 2 Samuel 22 – actually speaks from two contexts. Here, according to the title, it was sung first from David’s victory over Saul and receiving of the throne of Israel. In 2 Samuel 22 David sang it as a grateful retrospect over his entire life. He can say “I have kept the ways of the LORD, and have not wickedly departed from my God” in both contexts, but with somewhat different meaning. It meant one thing to say it before his sin with Bathsheba and against Uriah; it was another thing to say it after that sin.
ii. Spurgeon explained how the statement could be true both before and after the scandal with Bathsheba: “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.”
iii. Nevertheless, we can largely agree with Adam Clarke: “The times in which David was most afflicted were the times of his greatest uprightness. Adversity was always to him a time of spiritual prosperity.”
c. I kept myself from my iniquity: Some think this is arrogance or pride on David’s part. Spurgeon quotes one commentator who protested, “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).
i. We may see a personal danger in the words, my iniquity. It shows that there is iniquity in every person, and that we must be on special guard against our own tendencies to sin, to practice iniquity. It is true that all we like sheep have gone astray; but we have also turned each one to our own way. Our iniquity may be in us from birth; it may have been educated into us by a bad family or by bad company. Our iniquity may come to us through temptations, through adversity, or through prosperity – even by our blessings.
ii. These words of David also tell us of a special guard. David was determined to keep himself from his iniquity. “Be resolved in the power of the Holy Spirit that this particular sin shall be overcome. There is nothing like hanging it up by the neck, that very sin, I mean. Do not fire at sin indiscriminately; but, if thou hast one sin that is more to thee than another, drag it out from the crowd, and say, ‘Thou must die if no other does. I will hang thee up in the face of the sun.’” (Spurgeon)
iii. One may object: “Yet David did not keep himself from his iniquity, and some years after this he sinned with Bathsheba, and he grievously sinned against Uriah.” That is true, and David was disciplined greatly for that sin. Nevertheless, we never hear of him sinning in a similar way after his repentance from that terrible transgression. There is a real sense in which after his repentance, David did keep himself from his iniquity. As Benjamin Franklin wrote: “Many princes sin with David, but few repent with him.”
d. Therefore the LORD has recompensed me according to my righteousness: David resisted the remarkably strong temptation to depose Saul and take the throne promised to him by either violence or intrigue. This was the consistent expression of righteousness that the LORD rewarded by giving David a throne that could not be taken from him.
i. David here simply testified to his clean conscience, which is a good and wonderful thing. “A godly man has a clear conscience, and knows himself to be upright; is he to deny his own consciousness, and to despise the work of the Holy Ghost, by hypocritically making himself out to be worse than he is?” (Spurgeon)
6. (25-27) An abiding principle of God’s dealing with man.
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.
For You will save the humble people,
But will bring down haughty looks.
a. With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful: David understood a basic principle of God’s dealing with men; that God often treats a man in the same way that man treats others.
i. Jesus explained this principle in the Sermon on the Mount: 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). Human nature wants to use a small measure of mercy with others, but wants a large measure of mercy from God. Jesus told us to expect the same measure from God that we give to others.
ii. “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)
iii. “The attitude of God towards men is created by their attitude towards Him.” (Morgan) This principle works in a positive way; those who show great mercy are given great mercy. It also works in a negative way: with the devious You will show Yourself shrewd. One illustration of this was how God used the shrewd Laban to educate the devious Jacob (Genesis 27-28).
iv. It is significant that this appears in the psalm that celebrates David’s victory over Saul. Both sides of this principle (God’s dealing with the merciful and the devious) were mightily illustrated in the lives of David and Saul through their ongoing conflict.
v. Translators have had trouble with the second half of Psalm 18:26, because it communicates a difficult concept. It’s easy say that if a man is pure toward God, then God will be pure to him. But you can’t say that if a man is wicked toward God, then God will be wicked toward him, because God can’t do wickedness. So, “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)
vi. Leviticus 26:23-24 promises such a thing: And if by these things you are not reformed by Me, but walk contrary to Me, then I also will walk contrary to you, and I will punish you yet seven times for your sins.
b. You will save the humble people, but will bring down haughty looks: God loves to give grace to the humble, and likewise resists the proud (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5).
i. Humble people: The idea behind the Hebrew word ani refers to the poor, afflicted, and needy ones. God’s care for these humble people is found in several psalms (Psalm 10:2, 22:24, 35:10, 68:10), though the Hebrew word ani may be translated differently in different places.
B. God’s present and future power for David.
1. (28-30) God gives His light and word to empower David.
For You will light my lamp;
The LORD my God will enlighten my darkness.
For by You I can run against a troop,
By my God I can leap over a wall.
As for God, His way is perfect;
The word of the LORD is proven;
He is a shield to all who trust in Him.
a. For You will light my lamp: David now moves from joyful thanks for the past to confidence in the future. The same God who brought him to the throne would give him the light he needed to rule and enlighten his darkness.
b. For by You I can run against a troop, by my God I can leap over a wall: This gives thanks for past victories, and thanks God for present strength. One might think that after the 20-some years of living as a fugitive from Saul, David would simply be exhausted. This was not the case; God empowering him, he felt strong enough to accomplish superhuman feats.
i. “By thee I have broken through the armed troops of mine enemies. I have scaled the walls of their strongest cities and castles, and so taken them.” (Poole)
ii. “With faith, how easy all exploits become! When we have no faith, though, to fight with enemies, and overcome difficulties, is hard work indeed; but, when we have faith, oh, how easy our victories! What does the believer do? There is a troop, – well, he runs in faith, then, to fight with enemies, and overcome difficulties is hard wall, what about that? He leaps over it. It is amazing how easy life becomes when a man has faith. Does faith diminish difficulties? Oh, no, it increaseth them; but it increaseth his strength to overcome them. If thou hast faith, thou shalt have trials; but thou shalt do great exploits, endure great privations, and get triumphant victories.” (Spurgeon)
c. His way is perfect; the word of the LORD is proven: David spoke of the great things he could do as empowered by God, but he came back to the thought of the greatness of God. He considered the perfection of His way, and the proven character of His word.
i. The word of the LORD is proven: “Literally tried in the fire. It has stood all tests; and has never failed those who pleaded it before its author.” (Clarke)
ii. David could say “the word of the LORD is proven” from his personal experience. The word given to David – that he would be the next king of Israel, plus hundreds of smaller promises – had been proven true.
iii. Many do not know this from their own experience because they will never allow themselves to be put in a situation where God must prove His word true. David knew the truth of this from the extreme circumstances of his life.
2. (31-36) God gives David strength and skill.
For who is God, except the LORD?
And who is a rock, except our God?
It is God who arms me with strength,
And 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 right hand has held me up,
Your gentleness has made me great.
You enlarged my path under me,
So my feet did not slip.
a. For who is God, except the LORD? David here celebrated the reality of the God of Israel against the illusions of the gods of the nations. The Philistines, the Moabites, the Edomites, and all the rest had their gods; but only Yahweh (the LORD) is God.
i. “Vain were the idols of the ancient world, Baal and Jupiter; as vain are those of modern times – pleasure, honour, and profit. They cannot bestow content, or make their votaries happy below; much less can they deliver from death, or open the everlasting doors above.” (Horne)
b. It is God who arms me with strength…. He makes my feet like the feet of deer: David knew by experience the strength of God given to him, and also the skill to use such strength. This skill was like the skill that deer have, who can run effortlessly upon the high places.
i. David sang about the way God helped him make war (as in 2 Samuel 8). God gave him strength, helped him run swiftly and on a secure path (makes my way perfect…feet like the feet of deer), made him strong enough to bend a bow of bronze, and gave him the shield of Your salvation. As a warrior, David knew God as one who helped him make war triumphantly. As God gave David what he needed (physical strength and skill), God will also give us what we need.
ii. Kidner suggests that the bow of bronze was actually a wooden bow that was reinforced with metal.
c. Your right hand has held me up; Your gentleness has made me great: David was held by the strength and skill of God’s right hand, and made great by the gentleness of God.
i. We don’t often think of someone being made great by the gentleness of God. It is easy to underestimate the power of God’s gentleness, and we often want a more evidently spectacular work from God. Yet David – this great warrior – received from and responded to the gentleness of God.
ii. We can say this was the gentleness of God in at least two respects. It was the gentleness that God showed to David, and the gentleness that David learned from God and showed to others. “While it was the gentleness God exercised that allowed David his success, it was the gentleness God taught him that was his true greatness.” (Kidner)
iii. God had shown His gentleness to David in many ways, and there were even more ways after his victory over Saul and taking of the throne.
· God’s gentleness was great to David when he was a despised member of his family, neglected, ignored, tending the sheep in solitude.
· God’s gentleness was great to David when He consoled his soul when Saul began to envy and hate him.
· God’s gentleness was great to David when He gave him a friend like Jonathan.
· God’s gentleness was great to David when He allowed him to have the holy bread at the tabernacle as he was fleeing from Saul.
· God’s gentleness was great to David when He told Abigail about Nabal, thereby keeping David from slaughtering a foolish man and his family.
· God’s gentleness was great to David when He granted him the self-control to spare Saul’s life – twice.
· God’s gentleness was great to David when He protected him even when he was foolish, such as when he acted like a madman in the court of a Philistine ruler.
· God’s gentleness was great to David when He prevented him fighting on behalf of the Philistines against Saul and Israel.
· God’s gentleness was great to David when He comforted him after David had lost all at Ziklag; where David encouraged himself in the LORD and afterwards recovered all.
iv. We notice also what this gentleness of God did: it made David great. We can say that the gentleness of God makes every believer great also, more than they often consider.
· In this world, some people are thought to be great because of their royal birth; who has a greater claim to royal birth than the son or daughter of the King of Kings?
·In this world, some people are thought to be great because of their election; what greater election is there than to be the elect of God?
· In this world, some people are thought to be great because of their wealth; who has greater riches than the children and heirs of the God who owns all?
· In this world, some people are thought to be great because of their victories; who has achieved greater victory than the one who is in unity with Jesus Christ, the greatest champion of all?
· In this world, some people are thought to be great because of their influence; who has greater influence than the child of God who can move the hand of God with his faithful and righteous prayers?
· In this world, some people are thought to be great because of their discoveries; who has discovered anything greater than the nature of the infinite and eternal God?
· In this world, some people are thought to be great because of their history; who has a greater heritage than a member of the body of Christ as it spans through the ages and generations?
· In this world, some people are thought to be great because of their destiny; who has a more glorious and amazing destiny than the heirs of His glory, those who are His own inheritance?
3. (37-42) God gives David victory over his enemies.
I have pursued my enemies and overtaken them;
Neither did I turn back again till they were destroyed.
I have 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 up against me.
You have also given me the necks of my enemies,
So that I destroyed those who hated me.
They cried out, 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 before the wind;
I cast them out like dirt in the streets.
a. I have pursued my enemies and overtaken them: Here David had in mind those other than Saul. David knew that as King of Israel he would have to face enemies from surrounding nations, and here he celebrated the past victories God gave him against his enemies.
b. Neither did I turn back again till they were destroyed…. You have also given me the necks of my enemies: David fought as a true warrior, and sought to utterly defeat the enemies of Israel on the field of battle. He properly believed that God gave him the victory over these enemies.
i. “Thou hast made me a complete conqueror. Treading on the neck of an enemy was the triumph of the conqueror, and the utmost disgrace of the vanquished.” (Clarke)
ii. “Of David we may say, as one did of Julius Caesar, you may perceive him to have been an excellent soldier by his very language; for he wrote with the same spirit he fought.” (Trapp)
4. (43-49) God establishes David’s throne.
You have delivered me from the strivings of the people;
You have made me the head of the nations;
A people I have not known shall serve me.
As soon as they hear of me they obey me;
The foreigners submit to me.
The foreigners fade away,
And come frightened from their hideouts.
The LORD lives!
Blessed be my Rock!
Let the God of my salvation be exalted.
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.
a. You have delivered me from the strivings of the people: David knew that taking the throne of Israel was more than just a matter of removing Saul. There were also the strivings of the people, of those who did not immediately support David as king over a united Israel (2 Samuel 2-5).
b. You have made me the head of the nations; a people I have not known shall serve me: David also knew that God would raise him up not only as the King of Israel, but as a regional power with authority over neighboring nations who brought him tribute.
i. Isaiah 55:3-5 (and other passages) tell us that this promise will have an even greater fulfillment in the millennial kingdom of Jesus Christ, when David will be the king over the millennial Israel, which will be exalted above the other nations of the earth.
ii. As soon as they hear of me they obey me: We could say that Psalm 18:44 tells us how we should obey Jesus. This not only tells us of the obligation of the believer, but also that one can immediately come to Jesus Christ, be converted, and live obediently to God. No probation period is necessary.
iii. “If any of you have thought that trusting Christ does not involve obeying him, you have made a great mistake. They do very wrong who cry up believing in Christ, and yet depreciate obedience to him, for obeying is believing in another form, and springs out of believing.” (Spurgeon)
c. The LORD lives! Blessed be my Rock: All of this made David love and honor the LORD more than ever. He gave praise to God for the great things He had done. He had truly delivered David from the violent man, most notably the murderous Saul who hunted him.
i. “If we begin with ‘The Lord is my Rock,’ we shall end with ‘Blessed be my Rock.’” (Maclaren)
d. Therefore I will give thanks to You, O LORD, among the Gentiles, and sing praises to Your name: On one level, this was David praising God for his deliverance and safety among his neighboring kingdoms. On a second level, Paul quotes this in Romans 15:8-12 as the first of four Old Testament prophesies demonstrating that the work of Jesus Christ was not only for the Jewish people, but for the Gentiles also.
i. “And therefore David is here transported beyond himself, even to his seed forever, as it is expressed in Psalm 18:50, and speaks this in special relation to Christ.” (Poole)
ii. “While David may have thought only of Yahweh’s fame spread abroad, his words at their full value portray the Lord’s anointed (Psalm 18:50), ultimately the Messiah, praising Him among – in fellowship with – a host of Gentile worshippers.” (Kidner)
iii. “At this point we are encouraged to look back over the entire psalm for messianic meanings.” (Boice) We can see many pictures of Jesus and His work in this psalm:
· Psalm 18:1-6 suggests His death (the pangs of death encompassed me…the sorrows of Sheol surrounded me; the snares of death confronted me).
· Psalm 18:7-18 suggests His resurrection (the earth shook and trembled; the foundations of the hills also quaked and were shaken…. He sent from above, He took me; He drew me out of many waters. He delivered me from my strong enemy).
· Psalm 18:19-27 suggests His exaltation (I have kept the ways of the LORD…. I was also blameless before Him…. Therefore the LORD has recompensed me according to my righteousness).
· Psalm 18:28-42 suggests His victory (For by You I can run against a troop…. I have pursued my enemies and overtaken them). Jesus was strong enough to run against a troop and be victorious; the enemies against Jesus were strong and disciplined; yet Christ confronted them and defeated them. Jesus was great enough to jump over a wall: the wall of God’s holy law that separated us from Him. He didn’t destroy the wall; instead with His holy life He jumped over it and fulfilled the law on our behalf.
· Psalm 18:43-50 suggests His kingdom (You have made me the head of the nations…. The foreigners submit to me…. You also lift me up above those who rise against me…. Therefore I will give thanks to You, O LORD, among the Gentiles).
iv. While the use of Psalm 18:49 in Romans 15:9 does show that the Holy Spirit spoke of Jesus and His work here, it also has a unique application to David himself. “There is a sense in which it applies particularly to David, well observed by Theodoret: ‘We see,’ says he, ‘evidently the fulfilment of this prophecy; for even to the present day David praises the Lord among the Gentiles by the mouth of true believers; seeing there is not a town, village, hamlet, country, nor even a desert, where Christians dwell, in which God is not praised by their singing the Psalms of David.’” (Clarke)
5. (50) God blesses His anointed king.
Great deliverance He gives to His king,
And shows mercy to His anointed,
To David and his descendants forevermore.
a. Great deliverance He gives to His king: David could say this with confidence, not only that God would give him deliverance, but also more importantly that he was His king. David knew this because he did all that he could to make sure that he did not seize or usurp the throne. He let God give it to him in time. David therefore had the blessed benefit of knowing that he was God’s king, and not one of his own making.
b. And shows mercy to His anointed: David perhaps thought back some 20 years before, when he was first anointed for the throne that he now received. It had been a long, but important journey between the time of his anointing and his receiving the throne.
c. To David and his descendants forevermore: Here David understood something by either intuition or by faith, something that would not be specifically promised to him until later. The promise was that David (and not Saul) would begin a hereditary monarchy in Israel, and that his descendants would also sit on the throne of Israel. This was the promise to build a house for David that God explicitly made in 2 Samuel 7:1-17.
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org