What is the background of Psalm 18?
This song of David, also found in 2 Samuel 22 (with minor variations), was sung by David in thanksgiving for his many victories over his enemies. Succeeding Davidic kings in thanksgiving over their victories in battle may also have sung this song. The psalm has a strong militaristic ring. Spurgeon called this Psalm, “The Grateful Remembrance.”
18:1 “I love Thee, O Lord, my strength,”
18:2 The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
18:3 I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
And I am saved from my enemies.
This psalm begins in a beautiful way: “I love Thee, O Lord.” As David looked back over his life and many victories in battle, He gave God the credit and the glory. David’s great faith in God and understanding about God is seen in his seven metaphorical references to God: “strength … rock … fortress … deliverer … shield … salvation … stronghold.” Notice the use of the possessive pronoun “my,” which accentuates that David saw God as his personal deliverer. The “horn of salvation” in verse 2 is probably a reference to the horns of the altar, which guaranteed protection to any who grasped them. They symbolized protective refuge.
Practical Consideration: Our love for God should be greater than all other loves. The foremost object of David’s love was God. He loved God more than humanity. He loved God more than self. He loved God more than the world. God was the chief object of his love. David loved God with a boundless, intense, and affectionate love springing from the depths of his heart. Someone has noted, “Nothing must we love above God, or so much as God, much less against God.”
18:4 The cords of death encompassed me,
And the torrents of ungodliness terrified me.
18:5 The cords of Sheol surrounded me;
The snares of death confronted me.
18:6 In my distress I called upon the Lord,
And cried to my God for help;
He heard my voice out of His temple,
And my cry for help before Him came into His ears.
David testified of a period when he was in great distress. The “torrents of ungodliness” threatened to destroy him (see also verse 16b). This is a reference to the great numbers of wicked men who sought to do David harm. He was terrified. Death was stalking him like a hunter with a cord and net. He was completely surrounded by danger. But he knew where to turn for help. He “cried to [his] God for help” and God heard his voice “out of His temple” (that is, out of heaven).
Practical Consideration: We should look up when things look down! When David was surrounded by danger and things looked down, he looked up. When David saw danger at every turn, he turned to God. When things were going wrong he looked in the right direction. He did not petition or look to any other deliverer but God. And God heard and responded to his cries for help. Someone has written. “In our dark days the door of hope is a door which opens to heaven; let us knock at that door, and wait for help which is never denied.”
18:7 Then the earth shook and quaked;
And the foundations of the mountains were trembling
And were shaken, because He was angry.
18:8 Smoke went up out of His nostrils,
And fire from His mouth devoured;
Coals were kindled by it.
18:9 He bowed the heavens also, and came down
With thick darkness under His feet.
18:10 And He rode upon a cherub and flew;
And He sped upon the wings of the wind.
18:11 He made darkness His hiding place, His canopy around Him,
Darkness of waters, thick clouds of the skies.
18:12 From the brightness before Him passed His thick clouds,
Hailstones and coals of fire.
18:13 The Lord also thundered in the heavens,
And the Most High uttered His voice,
Hailstones and coals of fire.
18:14 And He sent out His arrows, and scattered them,
And lightening flashes in abundance, and routed them.
18:15 Then the channels of water appeared,
And the foundations of the world laid bare
At Thy rebuke, O Lord,
At the blast of the breath of Thy nostrils.
Someone commented, “Our enemies may be too strong for us, but they are not too strong for Him.” God responded to David’s urgent cry for help in a swift and magnificent display of power that struck terror in the hearts of his enemies. God came to David’s aid in an earthquake (verse 7), fire (verse 8), and a storm and wind (verses 9-15) that laid bare the foundations of the world. Psalm 119:91 states, “For all things are Thy servants.” God can marshal the forces of nature to carry out His divine work (see Psalm 104:2-4).
Practical Consideration: God is bigger than anything or anyone that comes against us. We must always keep in mind the fact that God is bigger and stronger than anyone or anything that comes against us. We should always view the things that oppose us against the backdrop of God’s omnipotence.
18:16 He sent from on high, He took me;
He drew me out of many waters.
18:17 He delivered me from my strong enemy,
And from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me.
18:18 They confronted me in the day of my calamity,
But the Lord was my stay.
18:19 He brought me forth also into a broad place;
He rescued me, because He delighted in me.
God delivered David. He rescued him “out of many waters,” that is, out of “the torrents of ungodliness” (verse 4b) that earlier threatened to destroy him. God delivered him from his strong enemies and those who hated him. God rescued him from the tight spot he was in and set him in “a broad place.” God’s presence also inspired him with confidence as evidenced in the phrase, “But the Lord was my stay” (verse 8). According to verse 19, the reason God rescued David is because God delighted in him (the following verses elaborate on this).
Practical Consideration: God makes the difference. When David found himself overwhelmed by his enemies he confidently declared that the Lord was his stay. The little conjunction “but” in verse 18b is the hinge on which the door of his confidence swung: “But God. . .” makes all the difference. It does not matter who or what is against us if the Lord is our stay.
18:20 The Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness;
According to the cleanness of my hands He has recompensed me.
18:21 For I have kept the ways of the Lord,
And have not wickedly departed from my God.
18:22 For all His ordinances were before me,
And I did not put away His statutes from me.
18:23 I was also blameless with Him,
And I kept myself from my iniquity.
18:24 Therefore the Lord has recompensed me according to my righteousness,
According to the cleanness of my hands in His eyes.
These verses expound on verse 19. David saw God’s deliverance as a reward for his moral and ethical purity, faithfulness, and integrity. David honored God and God honored David.
Practical Consideration: Faithfulness honors God and God honors faithfulness. David honored God by living a faithful life. God in turn honored David by delivering him from the hand of the wicked. Faithfulness and integrity are important to God. He blesses the righteous man (see Psalm 5:12 and Psalm 84:11).
18:25 With the kind Thou dost show Thyself kind;
With the blameless Thou dost show Thyself blameless;
18:26 With the pure Thou dost show Thyself pure;
And with the crooked Thou dost show Thyself astute.
These verses express that God gives measure for measure. He rewards the faithful and punishes the wicked. God deals with men as they deal with one another (see also Matthew 6:14-15). With the good, He is good. With the blameless, He is blameless. With the pure, He is pure. With the perverse, He can be very difficult!
18:27 For Thou dost save an afflicted people;
But haughty eyes Thou dost abase.
18:28 For Thou dost light my lamp;
The Lord my God illumines my darkness.
18:29 For by Thee I can run upon a troop;
And by my God I can leap over a wall.
God exalts the humble and opposes the proud (see also 1 Peter 5:5). Those who find themselves in darkness should look to God for light. Verse 29 accentuates the fact that with God we can attempt and accomplish what seems impossible (see Joshua 6 regarding the conquest of Jericho). With God’s help we can deal with obstructions.
18:30 As for God, His way is blameless;
The word of the Lord is tried;
He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him.
18:31 For who is God, but the Lord?
And who is a rock, except our God,
18:32 The God who girds me with strength,
And makes my way blameless?
18:33 He makes my feet like hinds’ feet,
And sets me upon my high places.
18:34 He trains my hands for battle,
So that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
18:35 Thou hast also given me the shield of Thy salvation,
And Thy right hand upholds me;
And Thy gentleness makes me great.
18:36 Thou dost enlarge my steps under me,
And my feet have not slipped.
David gave God the credit for his victories in battle. It was God who was his shield (verse 30), girded him with strength (verse 32), and gave him stability (verse 33) and skill (verse 34) in battle. That is the reason why David was victorious in battle.
Practical Consideration: We should give credit where credit is due. David fought many battles and experienced many victories, yet he was careful to give God the credit and the glory for these deliverances and victories. He was not so proud or presumptuous as to forget to give God the glory after a victory. Learning to recognize God’s working in our lives and in our difficulties should prompt us to express our gratitude to Him.
18:37 I pursued my enemies and overtook them,
And I did not turn back until they were consumed.
18:38 I shattered them, so that they were not able to rise;
They fell under my feet.
18:39 For Thou hast girded me with strength for battle;
Thou hast subdued under me those who rose up against me.
18:40 Thou hast also made my enemies turn their backs to me,
And I destroyed those who hated me.
18:41 They cried for help, but there was none to save,
Even to the Lord, but He did not answer them.
18:42 Then I beat them fine as the dust before the wind;
I emptied them out as the mire of the streets.
18:43 Thou hast delivered me from the contentions of the people;
Thou hast placed me as the head of the nations;
A people whom I have not known serve me.
18:44 As soon as they hear, they obey me;
Foreigners submit to me.
18:45 Foreigners fade away,
And come trembling out of their fortresses.
Although David did his part in battle (verses 37-38), the victory came from the Lord (verses 39-41). In desperation, his enemies even cried to the Lord for help, but to no avail. Spurgeon comments, “Prayer is so notable a weapon that even the wicked will take to it in their fits of desperation.” The only credit David took was that he trusted God. The defeated enemies acknowledged David’s sovereignty and paid homage to him (verses 43-45).
18:46 The Lord lives, and blessed be my rock;
And exalted be the God of my salvation,
18:47 The God who executes vengeance for me,
And subdues peoples under me.
18:48 He delivers me from my enemies;
Surely Thou dost lift me above those who rise up against me;
Thou dost rescue me from the violent man.
18:49 Therefore I will give thanks to Thee among the nations, O Lord,
And I will sing praises to Thy name.
18:50 He gives great deliverance to His king,
And shows lovingkindness to His anointed,
To David and his descendants forever.
David expressed his gratitude to the Lord by praising Him (verses 46-48) and promised to sing God’s praises among the nations.