Psalms of Comfort, Part 5 - Psalm 18
April 16, 2020 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
Throughout the centuries, followers of God and Christ have looked to the Psalms for comfort and guidance in the midst of trials. Some Psalms have come to be dearly loved and memorized. These Psalms direct our attention to the rock-solid character of God and his promises. Each week we’ll reflect on one of these Psalms, training our hearts to trust in the Lord more and more.
1 I love you, O Lord, my strength.
2 The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
3 I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
and I am saved from my enemies.
David writes this psalm as a celebration of the Lord’s deliverance from his enemies. It is broadly applicable because our enemies are anyone or anything that threatens our security in the covenant promises of God, that is, anything that would undermine our faith and reliance on God alone for our eternal well-being. Our enemy may be a disease, a besetting sin, a person who turns our attention from the Lord, financial distress, and more. Anything that may distract the gaze of our heart from the goodness of God is our enemy. Psalm 18 is a celebration that God can rescue us from all our enemies. Let me highlight some of what David celebrates.
Th Lord is a Rock-Solid Foundation
The opening of Psalm 18, in my opinion, is one of the most beautiful openings of all the psalms. David compounds the use of metaphors to describe God as a sure foundation. “My strength…my rock…my fortress…my deliverer…my God…my rock…[my] refuge…my shield…the horn of my salvation…my stronghold.” Every single one of these word-pictures communicates an unmovable, sure, dependable, and secure foundation. God not only has the power to sustain us, but he also has the faithful character to be trusted to sustain us. Assurance, when facing an enemy, must rest in one greater than our enemy. David paints the picture in these opening verses that no one, or thing, is greater than God himself.
The Lord is the Right Place to Bring Distress
David then models for us what to do when under distress: call upon the Lord. In verses 4-5, David gives the most vivid description of his desperate situation. “The cords of death encompassed me…the cords of Sheol entangled me.” David describes the threats he faced as if he was cut off from God. In the psalms, “Sheol” is the place of the dead separated from God.
In verse 6, David demonstrates that God is the only one who can save from such a desperate situation. “In my distress I called upon the Lord; to God I cried for help.” In your distress, is God your first solution, your first call, your first hope? Take seriously your threats and go to the only one who can rescue you.
The Lord Acts in Mysterious and Good Ways for His People
In verses 7-19 David describes God’s movement to deliver him from the threats. Two truths are emphasized in these verses. First, God moves in mysterious ways. The various metaphors from creation, “the earth reeled and rocked…thick darkness was under his feet…he flashed forth lightnings,” all communicate that we cannot predict or control the response of the Lord. His ways are not our ways.
Second, God is good to his people. While we cannot predict his responses, we can trust that God is good and will rescue us from our enemies in a manner that is best for us. David celebrates, “He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me” (v. 19). God delights in his people. God is faithful to his covenant promises to those in Christ. He will rescue, even if it is in a mysterious manner.
Humble Dependence on God is the Link
When we come to verse 20, we may think that David is boasting in his righteousness to be saved. “The Lord dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me.” We need to hear this verse, however, in the context of the psalm. In verse 17 David says, “[My enemies] were too mighty for me.” Then in verse 27, he commends God by saying, “For you save a humble people, but the haughty eyes you bring down.” Finally, in verse 32, David credits God for his righteousness, “the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless.”
So, what is David’s righteousness in verse 20? Taking the context into consideration, I would contend that David’s righteousness was his humble dependence on the Lord. He depended on the Lord for forgiveness of sins. He depended on the Lord for protection. He depended on the Lord for guidance. He depended on the Lord for strength and ability. So David models for us the path of enjoying the security of God when facing our enemies: humble dependence.