A Meditation on Psalm 18
This week’s psalm is the longest that we have meditated on up to this point, so rather than print the psalm in this space, I invite you to have it open in your Bible as we consider this great hymn of praise from King David.
I love you, O Lord, my strength. The opening lines of the psalm are a confession of David’s covenant relationship with the Lord. Spend some time considering all of the associations that David makes with the Lord. Rock. Refuge. Shield. Horn of salvation. Stronghold.
King David’s confession is an exercise in understanding God. Who is God to you? How do you think of Him? Have you put words to those thoughts? Have you directed those words to the Lord, as King David has in this psalm?
For David, the God of Israel is a strong, safe haven. All of the king’s descriptions in the psalm center on protection from harm. His words are especially poignant when we remember what kind of life King David led. He fought a giant as a youth. He lived on the lam as King Saul sought his life. His entire reign was dominated by war and bloodshed. Even on his deathbed, King David had to fend off a pretender to the throne and establish Solomon as his true successor.
The cords of death encompassed me. Indeed, the psalm also confesses David’s many troubles. The grave has chased David his entire life, which he confesses in four consecutive lines of the psalm. The waters and the grave threaten to ensnare and swallow him.
In my distress I called upon the Lord. David turned to his mighty stronghold, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God heard David’s cry, just as he knew He would. God has always heard the cries of His people, just as He heard them cry out in Egypt: “During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew” (Ex 2.23-25).
Then the earth reeled and rocked. David barrages us with an onslaught in the following passage. As the Lord steps forth from His holy temple—the very sky bends to admit Him!—we see Him surrounded with fire and smoke, wind and darkness, hailstone and brimstone, thunder and lightning. The Lord breathes out through His nose, and His breath strips the land and the sea away down to the roots of the earth. As the Hebrew writer says, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb 10.31). If it is thus for God’s people, how much more so for their enemies!
What a wonderful thing to be on the side of the Lord, and what a terrifying thing to be against Him! When He is for you, He is rooted and immovable. He is impenetrable. But when He is against you, He is swift, violent, and unrelenting. He is the unstoppable force and the immovable object rolled into one.
He sent from on high, He took me; He drew me out of many waters. David’s life was full of struggle and blood. He seemed to be the furthest man from peace. But David knew peace in the God of his fathers. He turned to God as a place of refuge and rest, and God rescued him, because He delighted in him.
The Lord dealt with me according to my righteousness. The Lord delights in him who delights in the Lord. King David has kept the way of the Lord, so the Lord has attended to David’s ways. Such is the nature of covenant. “I am God Almighty,” He said to Abraham, “Walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you” (Gen 17.1-2). Likewise the new covenant of Christ: “Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?” (Heb 10.28-29).
For who is God but the Lord? The salvation of the Lord is proof that He alone is God. “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand,” and, “There is none who can deliver from my hand” (John 10.29; Isa 43.13).
Take time this week to consider all of the ways in which the Lord has come out thundering for you, all of the times He has sheltered you in His wing. Part of David’s faith comes from looking for those occasions and putting them into words. Try crafting a prayer of thanksgiving and prayer to the Lord; it will make your faith like David’s.
The Lord lives, and blessed be my rock, and exalted be the God of my salvation.