We come today to Psalm 18, which — like many of the other psalms which we’ve already studied — is a psalm of David. However, it’s unlike many of the other psalms we’ve studied so far in the fact that it’s a psalm of thanksgiving. Most of the psalms we’ve already studied have been lamentations, when the psalmist has called out to the Lord for help because of the trouble he’s in. However, in Psalm 18, David is giving thanks to the Lord for the ways God has helped him.
It’s also a fairly long psalm. Most of the psalms so far has been short: 20 verses or less. This one has 50 verses.
It’s also unusual in that this psalm appears in another part of the Bible. The whole psalm — with some minor modifications — appears in 2 Samuel 22 and it’s introduced there in the same way as it’s introduced here in the psalter. Here in the psalter and also in 2 Samuel it’s described as a song of praise which David sung to the Lord after the Lord had delivered him from the hand of his enemies and from the hand of Saul. David faced many enemies during his lifetime, including Saul who turned against him and tried on several occasions to kill David. But the Lord was with David and enabled him to triumph over Saul and over every other enemy. And so, after the Lord helped him, he sang this song of praise to the Lord, a song which is recorded here in the psalter as well as in 2 Samuel.
So, this psalm is in some ways unusual. However, like all the other psalms — like every psalm and every other part of the Bible — this psalm is about the Lord Jesus. David, God’s Anointed King — who wrote this psalm under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit — was writing as a prophet; and he wrote about the suffering and the victory of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is God’s True Anointed King. And so, this psalm is about Christ the Lord. Let’s turn to it now.
Verses 1 to 3
And the psalm opens with verses 1 to 3 where David expresses his love for the Lord. The Bible is full of expressions which make clear God’s love for his people. But here is David expressing his love for the Lord. And in the following lines David makes clears why he loves the Lord. He loves the Lord, because he is David’s strength. The Lord is the one who strengthened David and who gave him victory over his enemies. In addition, he loves the Lord because the Lord is David’s rock and fortress and deliverer and refuge and shield and horn and stronghold. Everything else around us changes, but the Lord is a rock who does not change and we’re able to cling to him for stability and security. That’s a geographical image, but the others are military images: he’s a fortress to which we can run for protection; he’s the one who delivers us from danger; he’s the one we can turn to for refuge from trouble; and he shields us from our enemies. The horn of salvation signifies God’s strength and power and his ability to save us from danger. And so, he’s our stronghold, who keeps us safe. When David was pursued by his enemies, and when he went into battle and faced hostile armies, he trusted, not so much in his armour and in his human strength, but he trusted in the Lord who watched over him and kept him safe. ‘I call to the Lord’, he says in verse 3, ‘who is worthy of praise. And I am saved from my enemies.’ No wonder he loves the Lord, because the Lord has helped him again and again and again. He helped him when David was only a shepherd-boy and faced wild animals. He helped him when David faced the giant Goliath. He helped him when Saul turned against David and hunted him like an animal. He helped him when David and his army went to war against their enemies. And he helped him when David’s son Absalom conspired against him. David discovered that when he called on the Lord, the Lord saved him.
Verses 4 to 6
And in verses 4 to 6, David describes a time when it seems that he was about to die. ‘The cords of death entangled me’, he says. It’s as if death got a hold of him and was dragging him down to the grave. Death was like a flood which threatened to overwhelm him. The cords of the grave wrapped around him and the snares of death confronted him, so that wherever he turned, death was ready to trap him. But then, in his distress, he called to the Lord his God for help. And the Lord — in his heavenly temple — heard his cry.
Verses 7 to 15
And in the following verses — verses 7 to 15 — David describes how the Lord came to help him. And he uses this vivid language to convey to us the overwhelming power of God. So, the earth trembled and quaked, and the foundations of the mountains shook and trembled. They trembled and shook like that, because the Lord was angry with those who were threatening David’s life. Smoke rose from God’s nostrils and fire came from his mouth. The Lord doesn’t have nostrils or a mouth, because he’s a spirit without a body. But David is using these images to convey to us his intense anger. And in his anger, he parted the heavens and came down to rescue David. The clouds, which are above us, were below God, because he’s so great and mighty. And he flew down on the back of his angels. And his appearance was a mixture of darkness and bolts of lightning. And his voice was like the sound of thunder and he fired bolts of lightning like arrows to scatter his enemies. And at the blast of his breath, the depths of the seas and the foundations of the mountains were laid bare and exposed. He’s the mighty King who rules over the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything trembles before him. And this great and mighty God is coming down from heaven to help David, his Anointed King, who called on him in prayer.
Verses 16 to 19
In verses 7 to 15, David describes God’s descent. And in verses 16 to 19, he describes how the Lord reached down from on high and took hold of David. Whereas it once seemed that death was like a flood which was about to overwhelm him, the Lord now drew David out of those deep waters and he rescued David from his enemies. His enemies confronted David in the day of disaster, but the Lord was his support, upholding him and helping him to withstand his enemies. The Lord brought him into a spacious place, he says in verse 19. We can imagine him, with his back to the wall, with his enemies getting closer and closer, pressing in on him; and he’s doomed. But then, the Lord came and brought him away from his enemies to a spacious place. The Lord rescued him, because the Lord delighted in him.
Verses 20 to 29
Let me pause for a moment to remind you of what I said at the beginning that David, God’s Anointed King, was writing as a prophet to foretell the suffering and the victory of the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s True Anointed King. David the King points to Christ the King of kings, who throughout his life on earth faced enemies who hated him and who conspired against him. From the moment of his birth, when King Herod wanted to murder him, through the time of his testing in the wilderness, when the Devil tempted him, through the times when the Pharisees and Sadducees and teachers of the law challenged him and then arrested him and tried him, through all those experiences and right up to the time when he was handed over to be crucified, the Lord Jesus faced one enemy after another, so that throughout his life, the cords of death were around him, pulling him towards the grave, until at last he was killed on the cross and buried in the ground. And in his distress, he called on the Lord his God, praying to him in the Garden of Gethsemane, and crying out to him on the cross. And when the time was right, God the Father came down from his throne in heaven to raise his Anointed King from the grave. God the Father reached down from on high and took hold of him and he drew the Lord Jesus from the deep waters of death. God rescued the Lord Jesus from death, that powerful enemy, which had laid hold of him for a time. And God the Father brought the Lord Jesus out of the grave and into a spacious place. God rescued the Lord Jesus, because God delighted in him.
And we can imagine the Lord Jesus saying the words of verse 20, can’t we? We can imagine him saying that the Lord dealt with him according to his righteousness; and according to the cleanness of his hands, the Lord rewarded him by bringing him up from the grave to sit at his right hand in heaven. After all, the Lord Jesus never did anything wrong. He was perfectly righteous, doing all that his Father commanded; and he was obedient in all things, even to the point of death on the cross. He kept the ways of the Lord and he never did evil by turning from his God. All of God’s laws were before him and he kept himself from sin. And so, because he was obedient to his Father in heaven, his Father rescued him from the grave and exalted him to the highest place. God was faithful to him; and God saved his Anointed King, who humbled himself in this way. God turned his darkness into light by raising him from the dead.
King David suffered during his lifetime. But when he wrote this psalm under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he was writing as a prophet to foretell the suffering and victory of the Lord Jesus Christ, King David’s Greater Son. And by faith, you are united to Christ the Lord and you share in his righteousness. So, though you may have done everything wrong in your life, God now treats you, for the sake of Christ, as if you have done everything right. Though you are a sinner who deserves to be condemned forever, God now delights in you for the sake of Christ, who has paid for your sins in full. God now delights in you and is willing to rescue you when you call on him. And he promises to be your strength and your rock and your fortress and your refuge and your shield and your horn of salvation and your stronghold. Though you will face many troubles and trials, you know that you can call on the Lord to give you the help and strength you need to cope with all of this life’s troubles. And for the sake of Christ who died for you, God will hear and answer you.
So, do you need a rock to cling to? Do you need a fortress to hide inside? Do you need a refuge from life’s troubles? Do you need a shield to protect you? Do you need strength? Do you need safety and security? Well, just as God was all of those things for King David and for Christ the King, he will be all of those things for you too, because you can come to him in the name of Christ. And for the sake of Christ and his perfect righteousness — which covers you by faith — God delights in you and will help you to endure all things in this troubled life.
And then, after you die, and your body is laid in the grave, God will one day reach down from on high and take hold of your body and raise it from the grave so that you will live with him in body and soul forever and forever. He will surely do it, not because you deserve it, but because of Christ’s perfect righteousness which has become yours through faith.
David wrote as a prophet to foretell how God the Father would rescue the Lord Jesus from death and the grave. God rescued him because God delighted in his Son who was perfectly righteous and who never did anything wrong. And through faith in Christ, you are declared right with God. Despite your sins and shortcomings, he now delights in you, for the sake of Christ your righteousness. And so, you can count on God to rescue you.
Verses 30 to 50
In verses 30 to the end of the psalm, David goes on to speak of the victory which God gave to his king. So, at one point, it seemed that the king was about to die, but then the Lord reached down from on high and rescued him. And not only did God rescue the king, but the Lord gave him such power and authority that he began to rule over the world.
So, God armed his king with strength and made him like a deer, who is able to stand on the heights. He trained his king for battle and shielded him from danger and stooped down from heaven to make his king great. He prepared the way for his king, so that the king did not stumble or fall. And so, the king was able to pursue his enemies and to overtake them, which means he was able to defeat them. The king did not turn back until all his enemies were destroyed. With God’s help, the king crushed his enemies so they could not rise, but fell before his feet. God armed his king with strength for battle and made all his adversaries bow at his feet. They turned back in flight and were destroyed. There was no one to help them, even when they cried for help. And so, the king was able to beat them as fine as dust and they were poured out like mud on the streets.
God the Lord delivered his king from the attacks of the peoples; and he made his king the head, not just of Israel, but of the nations. So, his kingdom and his reign extended throughout the world People he did not know — that is, people from other nations — came and bowed down before him in submission. They obeyed him and cringed before him. Though once they were against the king, and apposed him, they now surrender to him.
And since this is true, the king offers praise to the Lord in verse 46:
The LORD lives! Praise be to my rock! Exalted be God my Saviour!
And so, the king rejoices, because the Lord has avenged him and has subdued nations under him and has saved him from all his enemies. God has exalted the king above his foes and has rescued him. And so, the king will praise God among the nations, because he gave great victories to his king and showed him unfailing kindness to David and his descendants forever.
Once again we need to remember that David wrote as a prophet about the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the True Anointed King. As proof of this, we only have to turn to Romans 15:9 where Paul quotes Psalm 18:49 and puts it on the lips of the Lord Jesus. In other words, Paul interpreted Psalm 18 to be about the Lord Jesus, whom God rescued from death by his resurrection from the grave. And now — having received power and authority over the heavens and the earth — the Lord Jesus has sent his messengers into all the world to declare the greatness of God and to offer salvation to all who will repent and believe in his name; and to warn those who will not believe of the judgement to come. And all over the world, men and women and boys and girls in every nation have given up their rebellion and have trusted in Christ as the only Saviour of the world. People he did not know — people across the world — have submitted to him. As soon as they heard of him, they bowed before him and began to obey him as their king. Instead of opposing him, they yielded to him. Instead of resisting him, they believed in him. And so, his kingdom is growing throughout the world. And he will continue to build his kingdom and to call men and women and children to repent and to enter his kingdom by faith until he comes again.
And when he comes again, he will indeed overtake his enemies; and he will not turn back until they are destroyed. Whereas he came the first time in weakness, so that he could be taken away and killed, the next time he will come with power and great glory to destroy his enemies. Satan will be defeated. All of Satan’s demons will be defeated. And all who did not believe in Christ and who sided with the Devil will the defeated. The Lord Jesus will crush them so that they will not rise; and they will fall beneath his feet; and he will beat them as fine as dust, borne on the wind. They will be sent away to be punished. And then, Christ the King will rule over the redeemed: men and women from every nation, who heard of him and who believed in him and who trusted in him for eternal life. He will rule over them in a new heaven and earth.
David wrote as a prophet and he foretold the suffering and the victory of the Lord Jesus Christ: who was raised from the dead to live for ever and who will one day destroy his enemies, but who gives eternal life to all who believe in him.
And here’s the thing. If it were not for God’s grace and mercy to you, then you too would be among those who are destined to perish when Christ comes again, because you too are a sinner; and every day you disobey the Lord in thought and word and deed. By nature you were a sinner and a child of wrath. But God was merciful to you, and not only did he send his Son to suffer and to die for you, but he sent his Spirit into your life to enable you to believe the good news and to trust in Christ for salvation. And the moment you trusted in him, God set you free from the condemnation you deserve; and he washed and cleansed you from all your guilt; and he promised you eternal life as an inheritance which you did not deserve and could not earn, but is yours because of Christ and which is kept in heaven for you. God was gracious to you, and so instead of destroying you, which is what you deserve, he invites you to come to his table and to eat with him and to drink with him and to have fellowship with him in the name of Christ the Saviour.
And so, as we come to the Lord’s Table on Sunday, remember to give thanks to God for his kindness to you, because instead of destroying you, which is what you deserve, he has saved you and promised you eternal life with Christ the King. And out of gratitude to him for his kindness to you, you should give up your sins and live a life of obedience to Christ the King.