In Psalm 18 David gives testimony of God’s faithfulness in his life. He talks about some hard times that he went through. He was not exempted from those. But in the midst of that trouble, he found God to be a very present help the moment he called on Him. The title of this Psalm, which by the way is inspired Scripture, gives some helpful information. (1) the Psalm was given to the Chief Musician. It was, no doubt, put to music and sung as a part of the Hebrew worship. In fact, the title refers to it as a song. This is a majestic song or psalm of praise. (2) the context in which David spoke these words was “on the day that the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul.” So what we’re about to read is a celebration of victory, a declaration of praise to God for bringing him through the battles. And as we read this chapter, think about God’s faithfulness in your own life. Has He brought you through some things? Did you learn some things about God in those experiences? Are you grateful for what He has done? And will you let all that serve as a basis for trusting Him in the now?
I. In verses 1-2 we see the Lord who Delivers.
“I will love You, O LORD, my strength. 2 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.”1
David provides eight descriptions of the Lord in those two verses.
(1) “my strength” – David will make his boast in the Lord during this Psalm. He will talk about his own faithfulness to the Lord. He will talk about defeating his enemies. But right here up front he is acknowledging that all of that was by the grace of God. The strength he had to do those things was not his own strength, but the strength that God gave him. It’s important to know that when we read those verses later in this Psalm.
(2) “my rock” – The source of David’s stability was God Himself. You’ve heard the phrase, “solid as a rock.” It is something that stands firm. Jesus contrasted building on the sand verses building on a rock.2 God is that firm foundation that sustains us in contrast to the shifting sand of other things in this world. One insurance company named itself after the Rock of Gibraltar because that sends the message of steadfast reliability. “The LORD is my rock….” And:
(3) “my fortress”—a fortified position in a strategic location—like a castle. It’s a place of defense and safety.
(4) “my deliverer”—this fits David’s overall theme in this Psalm. The point is God delivered him from enemies that were too strong for him. Remember how Saul was determined to kill David. David had only done Saul good. When nobody else would fight Goliath, David stepped forward and defeated Saul’s enemy for him. When Saul was tormented with an evil spirit, David would play his instrument under the anointing of the Holy Spirit and drive the evil spirit away. Yet Saul did everything he could to destroy David. David only had a few men. Saul had the whole army of Israel. At one point it got so bad, and David got so discouraged, that he said “One of these days I will be destroyed by the hand of Saul” (1 Sam. 27:1). That’s
when he fled to the Philistines. What I want you to see is that David’s trials were just as real and just as threatening as yours are. There were times he got discouraged just like we do. Yet God proved faithful through it all and delivered him from all his enemies.
(5) “my God” – Hebrew word is 'el which can be translated Almighty.3 The power of God is emphasized throughout this Psalm.
(6) “my shield” – the one who protects me.
(7) “the horn of my salvation”—a horn speaks of power. The rhinoceros, the bull, uses his horn to assert strength. So David is saying that the Lord is the power behind his salvation. It wasn’t his own bow; it wasn’t his sword or spear. Those weapons may have been involved. But David knew God was the ultimate source of deliverance and victory.
(8) “my stronghold” – a place we can retreat into and be safe. Some of these terms are synonyms. David is not making a didactic list. He is overflowing with celebration and appreciation of God’s salvation in his life. He is singing worship unto the Lord in this Psalm.
Notice the prevalence of the personal pronoun “my.” David’s relationship with God is not theoretical. It comes out of the nitty gritty of life. It flows out of personal experience with God. “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer….”
Standing on that revelation of God, David commits himself to do two things.
(1) Psalm 18:1 “I will love You, O LORD, my strength.” The Hebrew word translated “I will love You” is racham. Its root meaning was “to fondle” like a mother/child relationship. David is talking about the “tender affection”4 that is in his heart toward the One who has taken care of him in this way. The day I met the Lord I loved Him. There came an immediate revelation of His love for me; the response was to simply love Him back. But it was an immature love on my part at that point. I mainly loved Him for what He could do for me. Over the years and through my experiences, I love Him much more for who He is. He is altogether lovely. He is the Lilly of the Valley, the Bright Morning Star of my life. He is the Fairest amongst 10,000, the Lover of My Soul, my Redeemer, My Deliverer, my coming Bridegroom. So in verse 1 David says to Him, “I will love You, O LORD, my strength.”
(2) Then in verse 2 “in whom I will trust.” If you can say those two things this morning with all sincerity, you’re in a pretty good place. It’s mostly about loving the Lord with all your heart and trusting Him in all circumstances. The old Andre Crouch song said, “Through it all I have learned to depend upon the Lord.” I don’t care who you are, that is a major lesson God is teaching you. I don’t know how well I have learned to do that; but I have had many lessons on the subject. I should know it by now. David is declaring his experiences with the Lord, declaring who His God has proven to be, and then says “I will love Him and I will trust Him.” In the next verse he tells us something else he will do.
II. In verses 3-6 we see the Lord who Hears.
“I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised; So shall I be saved from my enemies. 4 The pangs of death surrounded me, And the floods of ungodliness made me afraid. 5 The sorrows of Sheol surrounded me;The snares of death confronted me. 6 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.”
Let David’s testimony give courage to your heart, especially those who are going through floods of troubles or surrounded by sorrows. David was in the pit of despair. Yet he called on the Lord and the Lord answered him and delivered him from all his fears. Poor old Jeremiah was in prison for giving God’s word to the nation of Israel. There in that prison (Jerm. 33:3) God said to him, “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” Sometimes at your lowest point, the Lord gives you a word like that. You may still be in the prison, but you know that you know it’s gonna’ be alright!
Neither Jeremiah, nor David (choice people of God) were exempted from hardship. But they found God in those low places. They cried out to Him and He heard their cry.
David said, “The pangs of death surrounded me, And the floods of ungodliness made me afraid. 5 The sorrows of Sheol surrounded me; The snares of death confronted me.” Those are not the words of a pretty, metro boy. Those are the words of one the greatest warriors in history. He was dealing with some stuff. It didn’t look like he was going to make it. It was a place of stress and distress. “In my distress….” Have you ever been there? “In my distress I called on the LORD.” That’s the only effective thing to do.
“Is anyone in trouble,” James asks, “let him pray.” Others can pray as well. But most of the time, if I’m in trouble, God is wanting me to pray. My great grandmother Clayton was a prayer warrior. For many years, as a widow, she spent almost all her time in prayer. When anyone in the extended family got in trouble, their response was to have “Little Granny” pray about it. Of course, she did and many of those prayers were answered. But I know now that those people needed to pray themselves. Don’t put it all on “Little Granny.” You, get down on your knee and get acquainted with God yourself! The trouble is designed to get you there. I remember two of my dad’s cousins borrowing his hot rod pick up for a test drive. Half drunk and going at breakneck speed, they crashed and totaled the pickup. They came back all skint up; and I heard somebody say, “We had better get Little Granny to pray. Nobody said anything about drunk driving and speeding. Probably in answer to her prayers, both those guys eventually got a rich relationship with the Lord. They finally learned to do some of their own praying.
III. Verses 7-19 is a marvelous demonstration of the God who Defends His people.
“Then the earth shook and trembled; The foundations of the hills also quaked and were shaken, Because He was angry. 8 Smoke went up from His nostrils, And devouring fire from His mouth; Coals were kindled by it. 9 He bowed the heavens also, and came down With darkness under His feet. 10 And He rode upon a cherub, and flew; He flew upon the wings of the wind. 11 He made darkness His secret place; His canopy around Him was dark waters And thick clouds of the skies. 12 From the brightness before Him, His thick clouds passed with hailstones and coals of fire. 13 The LORD thundered from heaven, And the Most High uttered His voice, Hailstones and coals of fire. 14 He sent out His arrows and scattered the foe, Lightnings in abundance, and He vanquished them. 15 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.”
I was sitting with “Little Granny” when I was in my 20’s. She was in a comatose state and dying. I felt led to read Psalm 18 out loud even though she was unconscious. As I read there was a little movement in her eyelids. I thought, “She can hear this!” So I continued reading. When I began reading verse 7, I got concerned, “Then the earth shook and trembled; The foundations of the hills also quaked and were shaken, Because He was angry.” Woe, I thought “That’s not what someone needs to hear when she’s dying. God is angry.” I read further. Verse 8, “Smoke went up from His nostrils, And devouring fire from His mouth; Coals were kindled by it.” I stopped again. “This cannot be good. Devouring fire going out of God’s mouth cannot be comforting to a dying woman.” Then something amazing happened. She had not been able to move; and with all her strength she lifted a hand slightly signaling me to continue. After it was all said and done, I realized that what David describes here, she was experiencing as I read the words. God was coming down in her defense and defeating her enemy. I don’t know everything that was going on; but there was a battle happening and God rescued her as the word was being read. She died peacefully.
At that time, I did not understand that the imagery here was God’s wrath being unleashed in defense of a saint of God. At that time, I understood God’s wrath as something against people who had sinned. What David is describing is the wrath of God against the Devil and his demons, in defense of God’s people. Parent, how would you respond to a pedophile molesting your child? That’s how God is responding here. The “hailstones and coals of fire” are unleashed against that adversary who was trying to destroy David. “He that touches you touches the apple of His eye” (Zech. 2:8). God is very defensive of His own. A predator does not want to mess with the cubs of a she bear. Mama bear will tear that thing to pieces in behalf of her cubs. The God who put that in her, will tear the Devil up who attacks one of His own. There is privilege in belonging to God and walking with Him.
Follow with me as we read verses 16-19.
“He sent from above, He took me; He drew me out of many waters. 17 He delivered me from my strong enemy, From those who hated me, For they were too strong for me. 18 They confronted me in the day of my calamity, But the LORD was my support. 19 He also brought me out into a broad place; He delivered me because He delighted in me.”
Did you catch that last phrase in verse 19? “He delivered me because He delighted in me.” Now David expands on that.
IV. In verses 20-27 we see the Lord who Delights in those who serve Him.
“The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness: According to the cleanness of my hands He has recompensed me. 21 For I have kept the ways of the LORD, And have not wickedly departed from my God. 22 For all His judgments were before me, And I did not put away His statutes from me. 23 I was also blameless before Him, And I kept myself from my iniquity. 24 Therefore the LORD has recompensed me according to my righteousness, According to the cleanness of my hands in His sight. 25 With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful; With a blameless man You will show Yourself blameless; 26 With the pure You will show Yourself pure; And with the devious You will show Yourself shrewd. 27 For You will save the humble people, But will bring down haughty looks.”
God deals with people on the basis of their choices. Jesus restated Ps 18:25 in these terms, (Matt. 5:7) “Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.” (Matt 7:1-2) "Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” What goes around, comes around. I am much gentler with people than I was 30 years ago. I am much more careful about passing judgement on others than I was in my younger years. For one thing, I found out it makes life quite a bit easier on me. I may need some mercy tomorrow; so I might want to sow some today. It doesn’t mean we condone sin. It does mean we are gentle, compassionate, and redemptive toward others.
You have to read this section in the context of the whole Psalm. David is not saying that he had earned deliverance by his good behavior. He has declared the Lord to be his strength throughout this Psalm. The whole Psalm is a declaration of God’s faithfulness. He is saying that he responded to God’s grace in his life and embraced the boundaries God had set in his word. David was of a pure heart and sought to please God. His walk was not perfect; but it was genuine and sincere. God, who looks upon the hearts, saw in David a humility and sincerity that pleased Him.
God will deliver you, not because you deserve it, but because He delights in you and you’re calling upon Him for that deliverance.
V. In verses 28-42 we see the Lord who Strengthens His people.
“For You will light my lamp; The LORD my God will enlighten my darkness. 29 For by You I can run against a troop, By my God I can leap over a wall. 30 As for God, His way is perfect; The word of the LORD is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him. 31 For who is God, except the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God? 32 It is God who arms me with strength, And makes my way perfect. 33 He makes my feet like the feet of deer, And sets me on my high places. 34 He teaches my hands to make war, So that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. 35 You have also given me the shield of Your salvation; Your right hand has held me up, Your gentleness has made me great. 36 You enlarged my path under me, So my feet did not slip. 37 I have pursued my enemies and overtaken them; Neither did I turn back again till they were destroyed. 38 I have wounded them, So that they could not rise; They have fallen under my feet. 39 For You have armed me with strength for the battle; You have subdued under me those who rose up against me. 40 You have also given me the necks of my enemies, So that I destroyed those who hated me. 41 They cried out, but there was none to save; Even to the LORD, but He did not answer them. 42 Then I beat them as fine as the dust before the wind; I cast them out like dirt in the streets.”
This is a powerful passage for spiritual warfare.
Notice three things about David’s testimony.
(1) He didn’t get to play a passive role in the battle.
He was running against a whole troop. He was leaping over a wall. His arms were bending the bow of bronze. He was pursuing and overtaking the enemy. He was beating that enemy as fine as dust; casting them out like dirt in the street. That’s why God tells us to take on the whole armor of God. We’re in the battle.5 Paul said that a great door of opportunity was opened to him AND there were many adversaries (1 Cor. 16:9). If you think you’re going to have David’s experience sitting on a lounge chair, sipping tea, then you don’t understand how this works. Paul told Timothy to endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ (2 Tim. 2:3-4). Joshua took the Promise Land; but he didn’t do it without a fight. And in our text, David was actively involved in the process.
(2) God supplied the strength to win. David could have never overcome on his own. He clearly says in verse 17 that the enemies were too strong for him. So even though David was active in the process, it was God (in verse 29) who enabled him to run against that troop. It was God who enabled him to leap that wall. Verse 32, it was God who armed him with strength and made his feet like the deer that doesn’t slip on the mountain rocks. Verse 34, it was God who taught his hands for war; it was God who strengthened his arms to bend that bow. So, there is no place for self-exaltation and self-glory. To God be all the glory. David is not glorying in his own accomplishments. He is reporting what happened and boating in God alone. Verse 40, “You have also given me the necks of my enemies.” You can put your foot on the neck of an enemy only if he is down and conquered.
(3) David did not settle for half a victory. He utterly destroyed the adversary. He kept coming even when the battle was hot. Even when the enemy was backing off and in retreat David kept pursuing him. Now the battle you and I fight is not against flesh and blood (Eph. 6:12) “but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” And God wants those enemies utterly defeated. It’s ok to hate the Devil. There is wisdom in how we express that; but that’s not just my enemy, that’s my Lord’s enemy. Ps 139:21-22 “Do I not hate them, O LORD, who hate You? And do I not loathe those who rise up against You? 22 I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them my enemies.” We are at war in the spiritual realm; make no mistake about that.
VI. Verses 43-48 gives honor to the Lord who Exalts His people.
“Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God and He will exalt you in due time (I Pet. 5:6).
Psalm 18:43-48, “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. 44 As soon as they hear of me they obey me; The foreigners submit to me. 45 The foreigners fade away, And come frightened from their hideouts. 46 The LORD lives! Blessed be my Rock! Let the God of my salvation be exalted. 47 It is God who avenges me, And subdues the peoples under me; 48 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.”
If we let God subdue our enemies, rather than trying to do it in the flesh, in due time he will not only put down the opposition, but He will raise you up and honor you. He alone knows when that needs to happen. But there is a principle laid down in the Word that God does honor. You humble yourself and God will at the proper time raise you up. Of course, there is the other side of that as well. Jesus said, “…whoever exalts himself will be humbled” (Matt 23:12). So, all of that depends upon our response to situations. When God puts you in humbling circumstances, just humble yourself and wait for Him to turn it around. That’s easier said than done, but I’m sure that’s the right way to handle it. According to Phil. 2, Jesus did that. Joseph did that. And if you study David’s life you will see that he did that as well.
Your day is coming. Stay humble. Stay faithful. Keep trusting God for the end result.
David begins this Psalm talking about three things he intends to do: (1) Love the Lord (2) Trust the Lord (3) Call on the Lord. Now he concludes with a couple of other things he intends to do: (1) Give thanks to the Lord (2) Sing praises to His name.
Verses 49-50, “Therefore I will give thanks to You, O LORD, among the Gentiles, And sing praises to Your name. 50 Great deliverance He gives to His king, And shows mercy to His anointed, To David and his descendants forevermore.”
May God add His blessing to the word today?
1 All Scripture quotes are from the New King James Version unless indicated otherwise.
2 Matt. 7:24-27
3 OT:410 (Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.)
4 See Strong’s OT: 7355 definition and Brown Driver & Briggs Hebrew Lexicon, Copyright (c)1993, Woodside Bible Fellowship, Ontario, Canada. Licensed from the Institute for Creation Research.).
5 Eph. 6:10-20; 2 Cor. 10:3-6; 2 Tim. 2:3-4.