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Psa 18:1 For the Chief Musician. By David the servant of Yahweh, who spoke to Yahweh the words of this song in the day that Yahweh delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. He said- The Psalm concludes with a reference to David as the anointed, so this could be a Psalm composed when Saul was slain and David was finally declared king, and his anointing came to fulfilment. It is a "song" but it has no strophes (unlike most of the Psalms), perhaps because it was intended for use at a procession.


I love You, Yahweh, my strength-
This bald statement "I love You" is intentionally startling, and is the only place where we read this; usually we read the word of God's love to man. Here, David simply tells God "I love You".

 

Psa 18:2 Yahweh is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge- This is the language of rocky terrain, the type where Saul chased David and God saved him multiple times.

 

My shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower- David sees that Yahweh will be a "high tower" or place of refuge at the day of future judgment (Ps. 9:8,9, quoted about this in Acts 17:31). But David feels God has been like this to him in this life (2 Sam. 22:3; Ps. 18:2; 46:7; 48:3; 59:9,16,17; 62:2; 94:22; 144:2). He therefore sees a seamless experience in his relationship with God in this life, and at the future day of judgment. God saves us right now and is a refuge for us in countless life situations; and this is the guarantee that He will be likewise at the last day.


Psa 18:3 I call on Yahweh, who is worthy to be praised; and I am saved from my enemies-
David's focus of all his praises upon Yahweh was what he wanted his people to follow (Ps. 22:3). The implication of "worthy" could imply a contrast with other gods, as in Ps. 96:4 "He is to be feared / praised above all gods". This would confirm the hints we have that Saul was an idolater (see on :31; Ps. 12:8; 16:4), and that idolatry was prevalent in Israel at the time.


Psa 18:4 The cords of death surrounded me, the floods of ungodliness made me afraid-
David felt as if he had been a sacrifice bound to an altar, and therefore about to be pulled into the grave (:5). The allusion is to Isaac and his miraculous deliverance from such cords, thanks to the ram in the thicket whom David is later to understand as representative of the future Messianic saviour; for the Lord quotes David's "My God, why have You forsaken me?" (Ps. 22:1) as the Aramaic sabachthani, "entangled", the word used of the ram entangled in the thicket.


Psa 18:5 The cords of Sheol were around me, the snares of death came on me-
see on :4. David felt he had come face to face with death, to the point that his salvation was effectively a resurrection. The response to this near death situation is described in :7-12, but it is hard to locate such an incident in the historical records. Perhaps there was a particular salvation from death at Saul's hands which isn't recorded, but David alludes to it here.

"Came on me" is literally 'went before me'. The same word is used in Ps. 59:10: "My God will go before me with His grace". David was inside his house surrounded by his enemies (Ps. 59:1), and escaped through a window. As he planned the escape, he believed that God's grace would go before him. At the end of his life he appears to reflect upon this incident, glorying that although he was "compassed about" with the threat of death, seeing the house was surrounded by Saul's men intending to kill him; yet God's grace had somehow gone before David and prepared a way of escape (Ps. 18:5,18 s.w.).


Psa 18:6 In my distress I called on Yahweh, and cried to my God. He heard my voice out of His temple; my cry before Him came into His ears-
David again imagines his prayers as coming into the heavenly throne room, and eliciting a response. His later obsession with building a physical temple for God was a departure from how he had earlier perceived God's temple- as being in Heaven, and accessible by faithful prayer.


Psa 18:7 Then the earth shook and trembled, the foundations also of the mountains quaked and were shaken, because He was angry-
The response to the near death situation of :4,5 is described in :7-12, but it is hard to locate such an incident in the historical records. Perhaps there was a particular salvation from death at Saul's hands which isn't recorded, but David alludes to it here. Or perhaps the language here is that of theophany and God manifestation; it may not literally describe things which happened, but the hand of God in saving David was no less than as if He had appeared as He did at Sinai. For the language of earth shaking and quaking is that of the Sinai theophany and the deliverance from Egypt.

 


Psa 18:8 Smoke went out of His nostrils, consuming fire came out of His mouth; coals were kindled by it-
As discussed on :7, this sounds like the symbolic language of theophany and God manifestation, rather than describing actually observed events in literal terms. The allusion is clearly to what happened at the exodus and Sinai; see on :15.


Psa 18:9 He bowed the heavens also-
The same phrase used of Moses stretching out his hands toward the heavens, and God responding by delivering His people (Ex. 9:22,23; 10:21).

 

And came down, thick darkness was under His feet- As Yahweh came down at Sinai (Ex. 19:11 s.w.). The idea is that as God had miraculously intervened for the salvation of His people in history, so David felt He had in his life; although there is no historical record of such dramatic scenes as on Sinai and at the Red Sea. We likewise experience His interventions; they aren't as dramatic as in history, but none less dramatic in ultimate reality. This coming down in a saving theophany was what David had in fact prayed for in Ps. 144:5. He asked for a theophany to save him, no less that what happened at Sinai (s.w. Ex. 19:18-20), when again God had as it were made the mountains smoke by His touch. We marvel at David's spiritual ambition, unafraid to ask for a similar theophany to save him. And here he reflects at the end of his life that this prayer was in fact answered. The relevance to the exiles is that Yahweh was prepared to "bow" (s.w. "stretch out") the heavens and "come down" to restore the exiles; but they chose not to make use of that huge potential (s.w. Is. 40:22; 42:5; 64:1). See on :14.


Psa 18:10 He rode on a cherub, and flew. Yes, He soared on the wings of the wind-
"Wind" and "spirit" are the same words in Hebrew. The cherubim chariot are presented as God's vehicle of manifestation, and this was language the exiles would've been familiar with through the visions of Ezekiel. Yet this is not to say that David also had such a vision. Rather did he perceive God's huge cherubic activity through the various experiences of salvation and grace he had in his life. And this is the same for us.


Psa 18:11 He made darkness His hiding place, His pavilion around Him, darkness of waters, thick clouds of the skies-
All the scene at God's manifestation on Sinai.


Psa 18:12 At the brightness before Him His thick clouds passed, hailstones and coals of fire-
The "coals of fire" speak of Divine judgment (Ps. 140:10), and were part of the cherubim vision (Ez. 1:13; 10:2). Hail and thick clouds were the judgment threatened upon the Assyrians in Hezekiah's time (Is. 28:2; 30:30). David's experience becomes developed as relevant to the manifestation of God in salvation in other contexts.


Psa 18:13 Yahweh also thundered in the sky, the Most High uttered His voice: hailstones and coals of fire-
Hailstones and fire suggests the destruction of Sodom. And yet there is no recorded incident of God consuming David's enemies like this. But he felt that God had indeed come through for Him in no less powerful a way. And we can feel and experience the same.


Psa 18:14 He sent out His arrows, and scattered them; yes, great lightning bolts, and defeated them-
This continues the thanksgiving that his prayer of Ps. 144:6 had been answered. He had asked for a saving theophany of the magnitude of what was seen at Sinai; see on :9. Now at the end of his life, David was thankful that this prayer had in fact been answered. David rejoices that Divine "arrows" were sent to destroy his enemies (Ps. 7:13; 18:14; 45:5; 64:7; 144:6), in fulfilment of God's promise to do so to the sinful within Israel (Dt. 32:23,42). But David had realized that those same arrows had been fired by God into him in judgment for his sin (Ps. 38:2). This realization was perhaps to help David understand that his rejoicing in Divine arrows of judgment being fired at his enemies had not been mature; for he himself had to realize that he was worthy of the same.

 


Psa 18:15 Then the channels of waters appeared, the foundations of the world were laid bare at Your rebuke, Yahweh, at the blast of the breath of Your nostrils-
The opening word "then" is significant. As the channels of water were laid bare at the exodus, so God had acted for David. As discussed on :7, this section sounds like the symbolic language of theophany and God manifestation, rather than describing actually observed events in literal terms. The allusion is clearly to what happened at the exodus and Sinai; the essence of what God did then was experienced by David, just as it can be by us in our crises.

 


Psa 18:16 He sent from on high. He took me, He drew me out of many waters-
"Waters" are usually symbolic of armies or nations. David felt he had been surrounded and faced with certain death, but had been as it were airlifted to safety by God. The language here says that God has done this, but it is parallel with David's prayer for this to happen in Ps. 144:7. This triumphant song is therefore praise for the prayer of Ps. 144 being answered. We cannot locate any particular historical incident of fulfilment; perhaps it was too personal and wonderful to be recorded. Just as a Christian man or woman might feel it inappropriate to record God's most dramatic salvation of them when they write their autobiography.


Psa 18:17 He delivered me from my strong enemy, from those who hated me; for they were too mighty for me-
That thanksgiving was because he had prayed for salvation from "those who hate me" in Ps. 9:13 (s.w.). We have here a direct example of gratitude for answered prayer. It seems Saul and his supporters were the initial reference of the "strong enemy" (see on :1). These words are an allusion to his prayer of Ps. 69:14. Now at the end of his life David reflects that he has been delivered from those who hated him (s.w.). At the time, he wept bitterly for Absalom's death; but now in maturity he realized that this was in fact an answer to his prayers.


Psa 18:18 They came on me in the day of my calamity, but Yahweh was my support-
See on :5. The phrase "day of calamity" is consistently used of a day of Divine condemnation, especially of Judah at the hand of the Babylonians (Dt. 32:35; Job 21:30; Jer. 18:17; 46:21). Perhaps the Psalm was reworked as comfort for the exiles, that they could be saved even out of the day of their condemnation. And maybe David has the idea that he had been worthy of Divine condemnation, and the judgment was being articulated at the hands of his enemies- but by grace alone, God saved him from it.       

 


Psa 18:19 He brought me forth also into a large place. He delivered me, because He delighted in me-
When the Lord’s mockers jeered "If he desireth him" (RV), they were alluding to the LXX of Ps. 18:19 and 91:11. God cannot be tempted, otherwise He would have responded. 'If God likes Him', is what they were really implying.


Psa 18:20 Yahweh has judged me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands has He recompensed me-
As noted on :14, David was yet to learn that he himself was a sinner and no man apart from the Lord has clean hands or total personal righteousness.  Yet David twice repeats this self righteousness (:24).

 


Psa 18:21 For I have kept the ways of Yahweh, and have not wickedly departed from my God-
"Wickedly departed" is the word usually translated "condemn" (e.g. Ps. 37:33). Those who depart from God condemn themselves. This is a major Biblical theme; that the condemned are more self-condemned rather than condemned by God. "We make the answer now". But later David was to realize that he too had wickedly departed from God, and confession of that was vital for salvation (s.w. Ps. 106:6).

 David felt preserved by God from Saul and his other enemies (1 Sam. 30:23; 2 Sam. 22:44), because he had preserved or obeyed [s.w.] God's ways (2 Sam. 22:22,24; Ps. 18:21,23); whereas Saul didn't obey / preserve them and was destroyed (1 Sam. 13:13,14; 1 Chron. 10:13). Hence Ps. 145:20: "Yahweh preserves all those who love Him, but all the wicked He will destroy".

Reading through the book of Psalms in one or two sittings reveals that frequent and intense self-examination was a leading characteristic of David:, especially while on the run from Saul; as if he began to pick up false guilt from how he was being treated, wondering if it was all in fact justified (Ps. 4:4; 7:3; 17:3; 18:20-24; 19:12; 26:1; 39:1; 59:3; 66:18; 77:6; 86:2; 101:2; 109:3; 139:23,24).

 


Psa 18:22 For all His ordinances were before me, I didn’t put away His statutes from me-
"Put away" is the word used for how God departed from Saul because he didn't keep God's statutes (1 Sam. 16:14; 18:12; 28:15). David is therefore comparing himself favourably with Saul; for this is his triumph song after Saul has been slain (see on :1).


Psa 18:23 I was also blameless with Him-
A true seed of Abraham, who were to walk with or before Yahweh blameless (s.w. Gen. 17:1).

I kept myself from my iniquity- This sounds like a boast in his iron willed self-control. He would never be able to boast like this after the sin with Bathsheba. It is God by His grace who keeps men from sinning (Gen. 20:6), and not he rigid self-discipline of the deeply religious.


Psa 18:24 Therefore Yahweh has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in His eyesight-
As noted on :14, David was yet to learn that he himself was a sinner and no man apart from the Lord has clean hands or total personal righteousness.  Yet David twice repeats this self righteousness (:20). In describing his feelings after the Bathsheba experience, David comments that he was "as a man that hears not [the taunts of others against him], and in whose mouth are no rebukes" (Ps. 38:14). The pre-Bathsheba Psalms present David as a man who was so easily hurt by the taunts of others, and whose mouth was indeed full of rebuke of others. Ps. 18:23-26 has David describing his own uprightness before God, and how God only shows His grace to the pure and upright. How little did he understand grace! Worse still, he several times bids God judge men according to their sins (Ps. 5:10). It is against this background that we must understand the significance of David's statements that after Bathsheba, after how God did not deal with him according to his sin, there were no rebukes of others now in his mouth. Realizing the extent of his personal sin and the depth of God's grace led David to not only be less reproachful of others; but also to be less hurt by their unkindness to him. And in these things we surely have a great lesson to ourselves.

 


Psa 18:25 With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful. With the perfect man, You will show Yourself perfect- 
we have here the mixture of spirituality and yet arrogance which we can often detect in ourselves. David recognizes his salvation has been through God's mercy; but he sees himself as having earned this mercy by being "perfect". The same word is used of Job, but he had to be taught that that status was a case of having righteousness imputed to him by grace; and because David was unwilling to really learn this, he had to be taught it through the righteousness imputed to him after his sin with Bathsheba.


Psa 18:26 With the pure, You will show Yourself pure; with the crooked You will show Yourself shrewd-
David sees himself as the pure, and Saul as the crooked. Throughout David’s Psalms in Ps. 1-72, he repeatedly asks for torture upon the sinners and blessing upon himself as the righteous. He speaks of how sinners should be “contemned” in the eyes of the righteous (Ps. 15:4), the gatherings of sinners should be “hated” and sinners should not be fellowshipped (Ps. 26:4-6; Ps. 31:6) and how God’s uprightness is shown to the upright and His judgment to the judgmental (Ps. 18:25,26; Ps. 33:22). He invites God’s judgment upon himself and others according to their and his works (Ps. 28:4).  Frequently he alludes to Saul as “the violent man”- even though David committed his share of violence- and asks judgment upon him (Ps. 18:48). Only those with clean hands and pure heart like himself could have fellowship with God (Ps. 24:3,4). Psalm 37 doesn’t indicate any desire to convert the sinners but rather an expectation of their judgment and destruction. God and David laugh at the wicked because their day is coming (Ps. 37:13). There’s no spirit of grace here at all- perhaps that’s why Zech. 12:10 specifically says that the spirit of grace will have to be poured out upon the house of David in the last days. This attitude changed after the sin with Bathsheba, but still something of the old self righteousness and judgmental attitudes are to be found in David in Psalms written after that.


Psa 18:27 For You will save the afflicted people, but the proud eyes You will bring down-
Again David perceives Saul as proud, and Saul's initial apparent humility must therefore be considered in this context. Perhaps he became proud, or maybe he had always been that way, and only appeared humble. But the word "people" may have been added when the Psalm was used by the exiles, for salvation for "the afflicted people" was the prophetic message to them (s.w. Is. 49:19).


Psa 18:28 For You will light my lamp, Yahweh. My God will light up my darkness-
The phrase is only used of the lighting of the lamps in the tabernacle (Ex. 25:37; Num. 8:2). I noted on Ps. 17:8 that David seems himself as located on the mercy seat, in the Most Holy place.


Psa 18:29 For by You I advance through a troop. By my God, I leap over a wall-
Such victories were given to David against the Philistines; the idea is as in GNB "You give me strength to attack my enemies and power to overcome their defenses". "Troop" is the word used of the Amalekites whom David overcame (1 Sam. 30:8,15). The leaping over a wall may refer to the way that Zion was captured (2 Sam. 5:6-8). 


Psa 18:30 As for God, His way is perfect. The word of Yahweh is tried in the furnace. He is a shield to all those who take refuge in Him-
"The word" specifically in view may be the prophetic word that David would be king and thereby overcome all of Saul's machinations (see on :1).

 


Psa 18:31 For who is God, except Yahweh? Who is a rock besides our God-
David perceives his victory over Saul (:1) as the vindication of Yahweh above other gods. This would confirm the hints we have that Saul was an idolater (see on Ps. 12:8; 16:4).

 


Psa 18:32 the God who arms me with strength, and makes my way perfect?-
A reference to his victory over Goliath without human armour, trusting completely in God (see on :33,34).


Psa 18:33 He makes my feet like deer’s feet, and sets me on my high places-
As in ::34, this may be a reference to his victory over Goliath, which he saw as the epitome of all his victories. For he ran swiftly towards Goliath before releasing the stone which slew him. 


Psa 18:34 He teaches my hands to war, so that my arms bend a bow of bronze-
Perhaps alluding to how it was David's dexterity of hand as a slinger which gave the victory over Goliath. But he recognizes that this was all of God. He is careful not to exalt as if his strength was his own.


Psa 18:35 You have also given me the shield of Your salvation. Your right hand sustains me. Your gentleness has made me great-
God’s gentleness, His humility / bowing down (Heb.) has made us great, lifted us up (Ps. 18:35). And we respond to it by humbling ourselves. Paul's take on "the shield of your salvation" is that it means "the shield of faith" (Eph. 6:16). If we enquire 'Faith in exactly what?', the answer is 'faith in salvation at the end of the day, that God will finally save me'.


Psa 18:36 You have enlarged my steps under me, My feet have not slipped-
David in his earlier Psalms exalts and boasts to God that his feet have not slipped, indeed he was overly confident that his feet would never slip / "be moved" (Ps. 17:5; 21:7; 55:22; 62:2,6; 125:1). His more mature reflection is that he had wrongly said "I shall never slip [AV "be moved"]" (Ps. 30:6), and his feet had indeed slipped, not least over the Bathsheba incident (Ps. 38:16; 94:18). Solomon didn't learn this lesson, for he likewise assumed that the righteous would never be moved / slip (Prov. 10:30), although he appears to accept that even a righteous man like his father had indeed slipped (Prov. 25:26). And Solomon himself did so, not learning the lesson from his father's mistaken assumption that the righteous can never slip.


Psa 18:37 I will pursue my enemies, and overtake them. Neither will I turn again until they are consumed-
This is written after God had subdued Saul and David's other enemies (:1). He is taking this as a portent of future victory against all other enemies. But I will explain on :39-42 that David did not use all the potential authority and power of judgment which he was given.


Psa 18:38 I will strike them through, so that they will not be able to rise. They shall fall under my feet-
See on :37. This refers to the potential power of judgment David felt he had been given, but this is not to say he would use it.


Psa 18:39 For You have armed me with strength to the battle, You have subdued under me those who rose up against me-
In Ps. 18:39 (2 Sam. 22:40), David reflects how his victory in battle by God's strength meant that all was subdued under him (s.w. Ps. 8:6), a Psalm about the victory over Goliath). The victory in battle which he had in view was supremely that over Goliath, his most major and applauded victory. To a far greater extent, the victory of the Lord Jesus meant not simply the subjugation of Israel beneath Him, but of all creation, including the natural creation.


Psa 18:40 You have also made my enemies turn their backs to me, that I might cut off those who hate me-
Those who hated David surely refer to the house of Saul (:1). But David did not cut them off- even though he was given the opportunity of doing so.


Psa 18:41 They cried, but there was none to save; even to Yahweh, but He didn’t answer them-
A reference to God refusing to answer Saul just before he died (1 Sam. 28:6).


Psa 18:42 Then I beat them small as the dust before the wind. I cast them out as the mire of the streets-
I noted on :40 that David didn't execute the judgments against the house of Saul which he could have done. The language of being "cast out" and being driven by the wind is that of Divine judgment. It could be that David intends us to understand that although he was given the opportunity of judging them ["that I might cut off...", :40], he didn't- he left it to God's judgment.


Psa 18:43 You have delivered me from the strivings of the people, You have made me the head of the nations. A people whom I have not known shall serve me-
David expected in faith that now he was solidly established as Israel's king, the surrounding Gentiles would come to serve him and his God (see on :49).

 


Psa 18:44 As soon as they hear of me they shall obey me; the foreigners shall submit themselves to me-
David's vision was that his kingdom would take the good news of Israel's God to the surrounding Gentiles (see on :49). Some of them would submit to David and his God, whereas others would not (:45).


Psa 18:45 The foreigners shall fade away, and shall come trembling out of their close places-
This may allude to how Saul's persecutors of David included "foreigners" such as Cush (see on Ps. 7:1) and Doeg the Edomite (1 Sam. 22:22).


Psa 18:46 Yahweh lives; and blessed be my rock. Exalted be the God of my salvation-
David had earlier lamented that Saul "My enemy" (= Saul, 1 Sam. 18:29; 19:17) was "exalted over me" (Ps. 13:2 s.w.). The David who had once triumphed over his enemy Goliath now felt that Saul was triumphing over him. This, in the bigger Divine picture, may have been to keep David from pride at the amazing victory and triumph. And he learned the lesson. David was indeed to triumph / be exalted over Saul (Ps. 18:48), but he saw it is God triumphing / being exalted (Ps. 18:46). His praise Psalms are full of this word and idea- of the exaltation of God (Ps. 57:5,11) and not himself.


Psa 18:47 even the God who executes vengeance for me, and subdues peoples under me-
An allusion to how David had restrained himself from murdering Saul when he could have done, and instead had trusted in God to execute vengeance. Here David reflects that God had indeed cast down the peoples under him (2 Sam. 22:48; Ps. 18:47); by saying this he considers that his prayer of Ps. 56:7 has been answered: "In anger cast down the peoples, God". Perhaps when he prayed it, he just wanted God's anger to be poured out immediately, the day of judgment to come there and then, when the scales will be adjusted and men and nations cast down or lifted up. But he reflects that in a sense that had happened in his life, in that the peoples were cast down beneath him.


Psa 18:48 He rescues me from my enemies. Yes, You lift me up above those who rise up against me. You deliver me from the violent man-
See on :46. The violent man was initially Saul (see on :1). The Hebrew word hamas [basically meaning 'physical violence arising from wicked plans'] is quite common in Scripture, and the usages speak of how God is provoked by hamas to bring judgment upon the enemies of His people (Gen. 6:11-13; Mic. 6:12; Zeph. 1:9) and also to intervene in order to save His people (Ps. 18:49; Ps. 72:14). How amazingly appropriate that an organization actually called hamas has arisen in these last days to do violence to Israel! If Biblical history means anything to us, clearly enough God's intervention in appropriate judgment and salvation cannot be far off. Note how Hagar's persecution of Sarah- typical of the Arab-Jew conflict- is described as her hamas (Gen. 16:5).

 


Psa 18:49 Therefore I will give thanks to You, Yahweh, among the nations, and will sing praises to Your name-
Again we see how David was one of the few in the Old Testament who had a sense of taking the good news of Yahweh's covenant to the Gentiles. And he apparently did so through exporting his musical productions to the surrounding peoples, who may well have been able to understand David's Hebrew. 


Psa 18:50 He gives great deliverance to His king, and shows grace to His anointed, to David and to his seed, forevermore
- The Psalm concludes with a reference to David as the anointed, so this could be a Psalm composed when Saul was slain and David was finally declared king, and his anointing came to fulfilment. But the reference to eternal salvation for "his seed" could suggest it was composed after he had received the promises of 2 Sam. 7.