Psalm 18: An Exposition
This Psalm is a psalm of David. David is a servant of the Lord, that is, He is committed to serving Yahweh. As well as David recognizing Yahweh to be his master and Lord, Yahweh is also His God in whom he takes refuge.
The words contained in this Psalm was addressed to the LORD on the day when the LORD rescued David from the hand of all his enemies and in particular, from the wretched hands of Saul. Saul was a despiser of God's anointed although once anointed himself, yet it pleased the LORD to discard Saul as His anointed because of his awful rebellion against the commandments of God. God rejected Saul as his king and instead established the throne of David which the Lord blessed forevermore by crowning Christ, the King of peace as the inheritor of the throne forever. Saul, upon hearing of his chastisement should have purchased an humble spirit and submitted to the will of Yahweh - he should have uttered the words of Eli, "Let the LORD do whatever is pleasing in His sight", and then Saul should have lingered upon the alter of mercy and plead with ashes and sackcloth for forgiveness. Instead we witnessed the result of a hardened soul, namely, a continual living against the will of God and against his anointed. We who are called the saints of Christ, called according to the purposes of God ought to learn a great deal from the life of Saul - that perhaps if we fall because of our grievous sins and are thus delivered over to Satan for the destruction of our flesh, let us be quick to repent, to turn and love the church of Christ and submit to the will of God, lest we be destroyed and make shipwreck of our faith.
Saul pursued David and God delivered David from the hands of Saul. After such a deliverance David said to God his strength 'I love you'. These words were pronounced with a strong hearty affection like a child very much moved by the love of their parents or a wife to her husband and vice-versa. God was very much in the heart of David, very much in his thinking and contemplation, God was his vision and God was his strength and deliverer. I love you O God, I love you should be our hearts song every day of our existence for behold how God has loved us - He loved us so much that He withheld nothing from us but made us heirs with his precious Son and bruised his beloved Son so that we may be healed. We have every reason to love God and he has none to love us but He does. His disposition towards us is love, it is love and nothing more or less.
David in loving the LORD saw God as his rock, fortress and deliverer. Psa 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. If God is for us who shall be against us? God is the strongest being in existence and nothing can gain a victory over him. Therefore David takes refuge in Him, he hides in God, he runs to his arms for protection as a child flees the terrors of the darkness to his Father's arms.
Psa 18:3 I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies. Those who have eyes to see the glory of God will know in their hearts that God is worthy to be praised. God is not just to be studied and contemplated on with a philosophical mind, but He is to be praised, He is worthy of such a praise because of his exceeding excellencies and worth. He is unequalled, He is unique and the originator of all things. God is to be praised, He is worthy of your highest affection. Your desires were inserted in you so that you may desire God and thus to find your satisfaction in him - He is the end of all pleasures, He is the ocean to whom all the rivers run. Call upon the Lord and you shall be saved. David was delivered from his enemies and although it was not at once yet it was a surety. His deliverance came as a marathon not a sprint - and Christ in all of his loveliness and kindness has delivered us from all of our enemies. He has graciously wounded the enemy on our behalf - He has dealt the deciding blow that the enemies future is not disputed. The devil, sin and death will at last be slain and executed in the deepest parts of hell; mercy has no portion for them, grace has no desire to see them and love is requesting to destroy them. Dear saints, when the cords of death encompasses you and the chains of life begin to strangle you, call upon the name of the LORD, who is worthy to be praised.
Psa 18:4-6 David describes his condition before his deliverance, he tells of his horrible distress of when his godless enemies pursued him - 'the cords of death encompassed me, the torrents of destruction assailed me, the sanres of death confronted me'. Can you picture dear saint the anguish of David's heart, the restlessness of his evenings, his constant watching over the hills, his lack of comfort, his continual travelling with the bare necessities? Troubling times are times of rapidity and scarcity. In these hours, a man would only dare to take what he needs and nothing more - the immeasurable gold of Egypt in this hour would be a burden for they would weigh down the instinct of survival. Treasures are only good when secure for if they are posses in times of trouble, they can only be useful if they are hidden and buried. David drank the bitter cup of men's hatred and this made him a distressed pilgrim. In his hour of conflict he called upon the name of the LORD - He cried for help with tears of urgency. And God sitting in his temple heard the cry of David. At David's long prayers did God's ears tingle and bid his heart to have mercy on suffering David. God was full of anger at David's enemies and therefore rose to vindicate his servant.
Psalm 18:7-15 David uses poetical language to describe his experience of God's delivering power. Nature has nothing more devastating than its earth splitting earthquakes and volcanic splitting ashes. And it is to these kind of metaphors does David allude to show the omnipotent magnifying terror of Yahweh when he descends to shatter his enemies. God bowed the heavens and came down, he rode on a cherub and flew, and he sent out his arrows and scattered them.
God rescues his anointed with a mighty hand. Psa 18:16 He sent from on high, he took me; he drew me out of many waters.
Psa 18:17 He rescued me from my strong enemy and from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me. David's enemies, possessing superior armies and weapons were superior to him. His enemies were established, they had governments and wealth, the people paid their taxes to them and to David there was but a few loyal friends. This conflict should have been resolved quickly and decisively by his enemies were it not for God and his condescending grace towards David. David should have long drowned in the sea of his enemies but God reached out his hand to draw him out of the raging sea - only God can still the storm and only Christ can calm the wind.
When these two foes, namely, the storm and the sea confronts us in the day of our calamity, God is our support. David found a pillar in God and we have a pillar in Christ. We do assert with a great un-flinching assent that God is three in one. Salvation belongs to the trinity with each working together to accomplish it as a whole. It was not the mere works of the Father or the Son but a Trinitarian triumph. We see with Christ that on the day of his cross, yea on the day of his calamity to some, that God his Father was his support - it was on that tree where he was glorified. It was the love of his father which sustained him.
God supported David in his narrow suffocating street and thus Psa 18:19 He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me. God's deliverance is never done with a frowning expression, nay, it is done with great pleasure and joy. It is done in the Spirit of that man who voyages the seven seas in order to free his beloved; and was it done because of a frowning disposition, nay, it was done in love and when one loves, yea truly loves another then there is joy. It is questionable if one says that they love a person but they never have joy towards them. What they have is not love but something else, they have perhaps a form of religion, a sense of duty but not love. Love rejoices, love glows with nature's warmth and when God delivers a soul from hell it is because He loves to do so and because He delights in them. David saw this truth clearly upon his reflection on the merciful deliverance of God from his enemies that God saved him, yea that God rose from his throne because he delighted in him.
This truth is held in question by our hearts for you will say to me that surely I cannot utter with David that I am righteous; and my heart is filled with all kinds of depravity that surely God cannot delight in me. It is true that God doesn’t delight in wickedness, nay, he abhors it as the Jew the touching or eating of pigs; but here is the fountain of truth, that is, that in Jesus Christ you are made righteous, and how righteous are you made? You are made perfectly righteous because Jesus Christ is perfect. Therefore God delights in you, he rejoices over you and sings a song over you because you are found in Christ.
This by no means negate your responsibility to be holy, you are still commanded to live a holy life for this delights the heart of God; and a holy life will save you many sorrows and pitfalls as David's human righteousness earned him his reward as he saw it in vs 20.
God at times may deal with us according to our righteousness as He caused Ananias and Sapphira to fall because of their deceitfulness, as he took away Saul’s kingship because of his disobedient, as he cursed the house of David because of his murder and adultery and as he rewards those with faith because of their faithfulness. Our personal righteousness is something to be accounted for, we are exalted to live holy lives but we must not for one second think that our righteousness could earn us our salvation for who has given a gift to God that he should repay. Your personal righteousness may grant you a safety from the calamity of the law but it is not full proof. For poor Job, despite his exceeding watchfulness was at an instant stricken from heaven with a judgement. It is all of Grace, no merits of our own, it is all of grace for our salvation. And whatever righteousness we may have of our own we may ultimately say that it was by grace that we possess it. David himself acknowledges this in vs. 32 when he says it is God ‘who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless.’ David lived a righteous life and received his reward, so too let us be encouraged to live righteous and holy lives so that we may be mature in Christ and not carnal, that we may not fall asleep but grow in holiness and kindness and have our crowns not taking from us.
One way we can live righteous life is by following the example of David. Psa 18:21 For I have kept the ways of the LORD, and have not wickedly departed from my God. Psa 18:22 For all his rules were before me, and his statutes I did not put away from me. David committed to remembrance the ordinances of God; He had them before him so as to never forget them and to keep them diligently. A sure way to miss an appointment is to forget that you have one and a way to not follow the ordinances of God is to not remember them. Therefore it is with an earnest exaltation that I exhort all the saints of Christ today that we should order our steps and minds in ways that seeks to have all of the rules of Christ before us so as to never forget them but to keep them. And are the laws of Christ burdensome? nay - they are not. The sum of it is summed up in this 'love one another as I have loved you.’ Only do this, only remember this in all of your duties and you shall find yourself to love your enemies, to forsake sexual immorality, to be humble, to be poor in spirit, to be hungry and thirsty for righteousness. By loving, yes, by loving as Christ commanded us to love shall be the means we would be found blameless before God. Thus when Christ comes to visit us as he did the seven churches, he may say unto us that he has found us to be blameless before God his Father; and if your heart condemns you we do have an advocate Jesus Christ himself who cleanses us and makes us whole. His Father himself is committed to complete the good work he started in us; so poor sinner, never despair as to feel yourself eternally damned over your sins but believe and trust in his righteousness which will bring you to eternal life everlasting.
David was blameless before God, there was no sin committed against the Almighty which could have warranted his condemnation. All the charges brought against him by his enemies were untrue therefore Psa 18:24 the LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight. The reward of David was his vindication, it was God's rising from his sovereign throne to deliver David and to show him mercy for Psa 18:25 With the merciful you show yourself merciful; with the blameless man you show yourself blameless; Psa 18:26 with the purified you show yourself pure; and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous.
It is true that to the wicked and sinful man God seems like a harsh taskmaster. He is seen as that unloving head-teacher who loves to punish wayward pupils or those students who are neither good nor bad. The crooked have a mean view of God and accordingly so because to them God has only been a Judge who condemns their vileness and misdirected pleasure. God is a killjoy and this view is prominent in our modern culture. The atheist being deluded in his own understanding is quick to denounce God as a tyrant and malevolent. God’s existence he believes is only for their misery, but how they have misunderstood God - only if they were merciful in heart and blameless then they would begin to see the beauty and awesomeness of God.
But of course God also shows himself merciful to the wicked for David understood this in another Psalm when he wrote that '“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin". Even to the wayward God shows himself to be merciful and how happy they become when they have seen and clashed with the mercy of God. They become like that blessed apostle who after his conversion considers all things as loss for the surpassing pleasure of knowing Christ his Lord. They have now seen the purity of the Lord and know for sure that God is pure and they themselves live to be pure.
Vs 27-29 describes How God saves a humble people and the method by which he executes it. David writes, for you save a humble people, but the haughty eyes you bring down. Those who look to God with pride, God will cut out their eyes for such arrogance but those who beat their chest in humility, God will welcome and save from all of their miseries. This here should cause us to have a humble disposition at all times - why dear sinner should you give way to the wrath of God in your prideful arrogance. Be humble.
And to those who are being saved it is God who lights their lamp. The LORD their God lightens their darkness. This is a way of God in saving a person for without light one is lost in the darkness; and all men are naturally in darkness because of their sins and without the light of Christ one will eventually fall from the road into hell. Therefore to the saints, to those who have been redeemed, God is the one who lighted their lamp, it was him who came to them in their distress of the darkness and torched their lamp. The lamp is bright for it lightens the darkness as to extinguish it forever and at once the saved, the redeemed put their feet on the narrow path and follow the way of Christ possessing now a light to see. This undeserved condescension is all of mercy and grace. And when this grace is given there is also a power imparted unto them which makes them believe exceedingly like David that Psa 18:29 For by you I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall. There will not be an enemy or a foe that the child of God will not say if full of faith or perhaps if possessing that mustard faith that they cannot leap over them or run against them even though by their own strength it is impossible but by God it is as effortless as the flattening of an ant.
And then David reflects taking a pause to consider this God who has delivered him and made him feel that with his power nothing can stand against him. Psa 18:30 This God--his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.
God is perfect. Jehovah is exceedingly flawless that all of his actions are all done and executed to perfection. A perfect being cannot produce flawed actions or flawed decisions by erring in judgment. All of his deeds and purposes are of the highest orders, they may be scrutinised for a million years and yet each tier is found to be just as the rest, namely, flawless. God is perfect and his words prove true. Has God made you a promise in his words, has he told you that he has begun a good work in you and will complete it? Yes he has and his words will prove true. You have no reason to doubt, you have no shades in the promises, there is no reason to compromise but reason itself will usher you exceedingly to believe this promise and the only conclusion and end of it is this, that it will prove true. Hide yourself in his tower, run quickly like the righteous man into his abode and take refuge in him (God) for he is a shield and a rock. Only God, yes only Yahweh is God, only He is the rock. If you run to take refuge in other towers as in other god's or even in man’s loftiest military defence, then sooner or later your defence will be breached by the men of this world or by the devils or angels and if not by them then God himself will smash your shields in pieces for there is no one stronger than him. But if you take refuge in God Almighty, then no one, devils nor angels can prevail against him. You are forever secured and protected.
Psa 18:31 For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God? Here is a challenge for any man, angel or devil to find another God except Yahweh, to find another rock except our God. For Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance? With whom, then, will you compare God? To what image will you liken him? But David has heard that the Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
It is this God, Yahweh who Psa 18:32 equipped David with strength and made his way blameless. Psa 18:33 He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights. Psa 18:34 He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. Psa 18:35 You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand supported me, and your gentleness made me great.
Only this God, this Yahweh can save. He is the one who equips with strength and makes our way blameless. The blameless man will in the final analysis attribute his blamelessness to God. When the saints at last reach the shores of paradise and the question is asked of them of the ultimate reason of their perseverance and holiness, they would say it is all of God, it is all of grace. It was God Almighty who made our ways blameless, it was his work from the start to the finish. Even all of our spent efforts were all by him, he made our feet like the feet of a deer when it was time to flee sin and he set us secure on the heights of faith and holiness. It was him that trained our hands for war, so that our arms can bend a bow of bronze against sin, the devil, world and flesh. He placed in our hands the shield of salvation and with his Almighty right hand he supported us when we was nearly to faint and his patience and gentleness with us caused us to love him more. He is the reason why we are considered great in his kingdom.
Of course for David his battles were physical and God trained his hands for war. He defeated all of his enemies with supernatural aid from the unstoppable right hand of the majestic and glorious God.
God's provisions and support knows no termination, for after training David’s hands for war he also Psa 18:36 gave a wide place for my steps under me, and my feet did not slip. David pursued his enemies and overtook them and did not turn back till they were consumed. What great lessons we can learn here while we traverse this earthly abode - we can learn a very vital and important lessons in the utter fierceness and focus in killing sin. Let us not turn back until we have killed our sins, until we have buried her in hell's graveyard. Let us slash her neck, let us suffocate her until she has no more breath left to breathe in our lives for she is the misery of the saints, she is the constant thorn in their side if they will not part with her. David consumed all of his enemies, he thrust them through to ensure their deaths that they were unable to rise. They were inept to lift up their heads even if David had desired to offer them a consoling drink in their last hour, they fell under his feet. And such should be sin before us, lying dead and thrust through, having no blood left to bleed, unable to lift her head.
It is God who equips us for such a battle, such endeavour cannot be fought with the common strength as sin is a powerful foe. The aid of the Spirit purchased for us by Christ is our strength - God has equipped us with such a helper that it brings a great misery to my soul when I gaze at the dear saints of Christ take to battle without the Spirit.
Those who hated David he destroyed, Psa 18:41 They cried for help, but there was none to save; they cried to the LORD, but he did not answer them. David was the Lord's anointed and all who were against him were as if they were against the LORD. God would protect his servant and those who seeks to destroy him were destroyed instead. And does sin not hate you O saint of Christ, does it not abhor you that if it were not for sovereign grace, she would have ruined you to hell. She would have dammed you with a smile, she would have your soul rot in hell forever without pity. And now when she cannot see you in hell's prison she wishes to rend asunder your assurance, she wishes to make your life sorrowful, killing all your dreams for Christ by enticing you. O sinner kill her now, destroy sin with the sword of Christ, when she cries out to you for mercy it is then that you should have no pity - burn her to the fire or she will burn you. Beat her fine as dust before the wind; cast her out like the mire of the streets. Sin is not to be found in your house.
Thanks be to God who rescues and delivers us. Psa 18:43 You delivered me from strife with the people; you made me the head of the nations; people whom I had not known served me. David praises God for the unity and peace which now dominates his kingdom. Such work of unity was not done merely by his hands and wisdom but by God Almighty. Wherever we may see that pearl called unity in the church we should lift up holy hands giving praises to God.
God excelled the reign of David in making the hearts of the people ready and willing to obey him, Psa 18:44 As soon as they heard of me they obeyed me; foreigners came cringing to me. Psa 18:45 Foreigners lost heart and came trembling out of their fortresses. David had gained a surmountable victory all because Psa 18:46 The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock, and exalted be the God of my salvation.
David ends his thanksgiving psalm with a praise to God which we would be wise to imitate. Exalted be the Psa 18:47 God who gave me vengeance and subdued peoples under me, Psa 18:48 who delivered me from my enemies; yes, you exalted me above those who rose against me; you rescued me from the man of violence. Psa 18:49 For this I will praise you, O LORD, among the nations, and sing to your name.
Psa 18:50 Great salvation he brings to his king, and shows steadfast love to his anointed, to David and his offspring forever.
And has God not bestowed us with a great salvation? Has he not made us priest and kings? Has he not blessed us with riches glorious and incorruptible . David had the heart and inclination to give thanks to God exceedingly for a earthly victory and how much more should we give thanks to God who has rescued us from the jaws of death and hell.