Psalm 18 is classed as a Royal Psalm and is packed with the power of Jehovah’s might over nature and in the deliverance of His people. In this Psalm our emotions run from utter despair in the face of certain death to the ecstasy of victory under impossible circumstances and rejoicing in Jehovah’s Power and Deliverance.
The verses can be broken down into about six divisions and because of its length, we will investigate this Psalm by each of those sections. I must admit, however, that since some sections are recapitulations of what has been described in earlier verses, I have just given a mention and have not repeated what has already been pointed out or discussed.
The six sections in this Psalm are:
1-3: Jehovah’s Deliverance (and an introduction to the Psalm).
4-5: A Brief Description of Troubles.
6-19: Now Comes the Glory and Power of Jehovah.
20-30: David’s Vindication and His Righteous Cause
31-45: David Reviews What God has Done for Him.
46-50: Praise and Thanksgiving.
Jehovah’s Deliverance (Psalm 18:1-3)
Let’s start right up-front with the introduction. There are no instructions to the chief musician, but it identifies the author and the occasion of the Psalm. It must be one of the most complete introductions of any of the Psalms we will ever see – it is full of information. Look at what we know from this beginning:
- David wrote it;
- He considers himself a servant of Jehovah;
- David, himself, spoke these words to Jehovah;
- He spoke them on the day that the Lord delivered him from his enemies;
- He delivered him from the hand of Saul.
In the Hebrew language, “the servant of the Lord” precedes “David.” In Greek, whatever you wish to emphasize should be placed early-on in the sentence and my understanding is that the Hebrew is the same. Thus David wishes to emphasize that he is a servant of Yahweh first, making sure that everyone knows the chain of command. The word, love, and it is signified by racham meaning to love deeply, be compassionate. David also designates God as the source of his strength because Yahweh has given power to David to defeat his enemies.
See how David’s praise really gets going in the next two verses as he lists the ways Yahweh has assisted him and in the ways He is important to him. David is not explaining to us in these verses how God helped him and what God means to him, instead, this is David’s praise of His (and our) Creator, Provider, Sustainer and Redeemer. Look at some of the words and their meanings as they pertain to this Psalm:
David gives his praise to Yahweh right at the beginning of this Psalm and while it was not his intent to teach us about praying, we are given clues about how we, too, should approach Yahweh in our prayers by beginning our prayers with praise.
This isn’t the first time David called on God. When he wrote this Psalm, it was later in his life and he had a long history of looking to God for protection and salvation and for guidance. He knows that Yahweh will come to his aid. He is saying here, that he will continue to call on Yahweh who is worthy of praise because he knows he will continue to find his deliverance from enemies and salvation in God. The word for ‘call’ is qara meaning: to call, call out, recite, read, cry out, and proclaim.
A Brief Description of Troubles (Psalm 18:4,5)
Verses 4 and 5 describe David’s troubles and indeed, there were troubles. Although the language is figurative, the situation is real and from David’s perspective, he and his followers are in dire straits. The “sorrows of death” can be defined as cords of death that are pulling at him and holding him, not letting him go. Perhaps these cords are the plans of the enemy that has surrounded and trapped David and his company. We see his troubles multiplied through the use of images that describe the army of ungodly men that came rushing at him like torrents of water that engulfed him threatening to destroy him.
The blackness of hell seemed to surround him and the traps of death seemed to anticipate every move he made. (prevent = qâdam: to meet, come or be in front, to be beforehand, anticipate or forstall)
Now Comes the Glory and Power of Jehovah (Psalm 18:6-19)
David calls on Jehovah and Jehovah hears. His prayers present themselves to God in His heavenly temple and He responds mightily.
The earth shakes with His anger. The Hebrew word for angry is charah meaning, to be hot, furious, burn, to be incensed. The image of smoke rising out of the nostrils of God emphasizes His extreme anger. Fire pours from his mouth and devours what it touches, turning it into coals.
Whenever Yahweh speaks, the earth shakes and everything trembles. Check out Exodus 19 and 20. The Israelites didn’t want God to talk to them directly, so they insisted Moses be the intermediary. I can’t help but think that if the children of Israel had just stiffed-it-out and listened directly to God when He wanted to talk to them, they wouldn’t have gotten in as much trouble as they did throughout the centuries. This reflects our attitude, too, doesn’t it? I don’t care how “spiritual” you are, because of your fallen nature, you do not want to listen to God – you want to listen to yourself. Just look at how Israel fared.
Jehovah’s anger was complete: He bowed the heavens, bending them down close to the earth, making it look like a cloud had covered the land with darkness. He came on a cherub riding the wind of a storm. He hid Himself in the dark thickness of the clouds. This is not the only place we find this, look at Deuteronomy 4:11 and Psalm 97:2. In Exodus 14:19,20, Jehovah protected the Israelites from the armies of Pharaoh at the crossing of the Red Sea in which He utilized thick and dark clouds in which to “hide”. When the Egyptian armies were held back by the pillar of clouds and fire, all the Egyptian charioteers saw was the thick darkness of the cloud, while the Israelites were bathed in light so they could see their way.
Lightnings and Hail stones of fire and thunder all combined to confuse the enemy and all of this was topped-off with an earthquake that made enough water gush from fissures in the earth that swept people away. In spite of all this, David was still in mortal danger. It appears he was down and an enemy was ready to kill him, but he was saved by God’s hand. David says God reached down and pulled him out of the torrent of the waves of the enemy.
Commentators think this refers to Ishbi-benob, a son of the giant and who was thought, by his comrades, to have slain David. David was in absolute mortal danger here, but Abishai killed the Philistine. (2 Samuel 21:15-17) It was at this battle as described in 2 Samuel that David’s men would no longer allow him to accompany them into war because they were afraid for the future of Israel if David should be slain.
David’s Vindication and Righteous Cause (Psalm 18:20-30)
David claims his righteousness in dealing with Saul as the reason Jehovah saved him. While Saul dealt unrighteously with David, he, in contrast, had always dealt righteously with Saul. David kept the ways of Jehovah and didn’t deviate from them; he kept the laws of God; he kept himself upright before God and this is why God delivered him.
Here again, David proclaims the attributes of God: To the merciful, He will be merciful; to the pure, He will show Himself pure; He will save the oppressed and bring down the proud; to the froward, He will be froward (froward meaning: adverse); He will light the way; He has made David’s feet swift and able to run through the marauding band and has enabled him to scale high walls.
David Reviews what God has done for Him (Psalm 18:31-45)
God’s way is perfect: he is a shield for protection and a rock for refuge and gives strength and makes the way whole or complete (perfect). He teaches the hands to war and gives strength to his hands and arms and has provided a shield. Jehovah’s right hand holds him up and has made the path under his feet easy to navigate.
Jehovah has enabled him to pursue and overtake his enemies and even though the enemy may have cried to Jehovah, he did not answer them and David was victorious. Jehovah has set David above people he did not even know, total strangers. When they hear of what he (David) has done, they will listen and obey. But they are of little consequence in the greater scheme of things. They will fade soon fade into the past.
Praise and Thanksgiving (Psalm 18:46-50)
Anything I could say about this last section pales in comparison to what the Psalmist, himself, wrote:
46: The Lord lives; and blessed be my God; and let the God of my salvation be exalted.
47: It is God that avenges me, and has subdued the nations under me;
48: my deliverer from angry enemies: thou shalt set me on high above them that rise up against me: thou shalt deliver me from the unrighteous man.
49: Therefore will I confess to thee, O Lord, among the Gentiles, and sing to thy name.
50: God magnifies the deliverances of his king; and deals mercifully with David his anointed, and his seed, for ever.
A Thank You and a Last Word
This Psalm is a record of just one of the many experiences that David had had in which he witnessed the power and the deliverance of God. If you are reading this and you do not know Jesus, you need to seriously reconsider your position and decide to accept Him. As contradictory as it sounds, there is nothing more freeing than confessing your sins and claiming Jesus as your savior and coming under the ruler ship of the one true God.
Thank you for reading. This is a great and victorious Psalm about Yahweh’s love for the righteous and hatred of the unjust. I encourage you to consider using more praise in your prayers – even praising Jehovah for the events that make you think life is against you.