# 88 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 18 ‘All this cosmic drama, just for me?’

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Indescribable, uncontainable, You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name You are amazing God All powerful, untameable, Awestruck we fall to our knees as we humbly proclaim You are amazing God                                       (writer: Laura Story, singer: Chris Tomlin)

 

 

Have you ever had the problem of describing what seems indescribable? As I write one person describing Cyclone Debbie in North Queensland said, “It’s just like freight trains coming through left and right,”   Trying to express in words something, someone, an experience or feeling for which adequate words seem to be lacking. I have. And, it would seem that often, it has something to do with God (or his creation) as do the lyrics of the song above, “Indescribable”.

 

One such experience happened to me only a few years after I had become a follower of Jesus. God spoke to me from His Word ever so clearly about my life’s calling to world missions. The presence of God was very real and totally overwhelming and I recall that I felt weak and just sobbed in his presence. Then, having spent time hearing from Him, for how long I have no idea, I fell asleep (it was mid- afternoon) and when I awoke my life’s purpose was changed. From that day on the focus of all I did was towards serving God in missions. But to describe this experience with God is extremely difficult, although it was very real and transformed my life. Maybe you have had a similar experience.

 

Certainly, it would seem the psalmist is having the same problem here in Psalm 18. A Psalm full of poetic imagery. Verses 7 to 15 are David’s attempts to express the inexpressible event in his life when, in his own words:

 

16 He [the Lord God] reached down from on high and took hold of me;     he drew me out of deep waters. 17 He rescued me from my powerful enemy,     from my foes, who were too strong for me.
He describes it as follows:

The earth trembled and quaked,     and the foundations of the mountains shook;     they trembled because he was angry. Smoke rose from his nostrils;     consuming fire came from his mouth,     burning coals blazed out of it. He parted the heavens and came down;     dark clouds were under his feet. 10 He mounted the cherubim and flew;     he soared on the wings of the wind. 11 He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him—     the dark rain clouds of the sky. 12 Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced,     with hailstones and bolts of lightning. 13 The Lord thundered from heaven;     the voice of the Most High resounded. 14 He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy,     with great bolts of lightning he routed them. 15 The valleys of the sea were exposed     and the foundations of the earth laid bare at your rebuke, Lord,     at the blast of breath from your nostrils.

 

Check out again the richness of the vocabulary (above in Bold font) that David uses to describe this incredible event when the awesome God intervened to confront his enemies.

 

Blaiklock suggests that “These verses should be read in one sweep, and not analysed.  They are a poem of storm, and typical of much poetry outside the classical tradition. Modern poetry is frequently of this order, a tumult of imagery and interlocking metaphor. David has in his memory the splendid terror of a storm in the rugged Judean hills.  Flash floods and downpour were common there…Lightning stabbed…winds howled…The whole fierce picture is quite magnificent….David exulted in it…[in the midst of] such a tempest, God delivered him..” (see refererences # 37)

 

And why not exult in it, because it describes the incredible day when:

 

16 He reached down from on high and took hold of me;     he drew me out of deep waters. 17 He rescued me from my powerful enemy,     from my foes, who were too strong for me. 18 They confronted me in the day of my disaster,     but the Lord was my support. 19 He brought me out into a spacious place;     he rescued me because he delighted in me.

 

Remember the rather claustrophobic situation he had found himself in which he describes earlier as:

 

The cords of death entangled me;     the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me. The cords of the grave coiled around me;     the snares of death confronted me.

 

Well out of that confined and terrible place God had now rescued him and brought him “into a spacious place”. No wonder he was thankful.

 

Wilcock points out that, “much of what these verses portray had once happened quite literally in the experience of [David’s] people, Israel…the events of the exodus…the crossing of the Red Sea…the descent of God on Mount Sinai…are all in mind [see Exodus 9, 10, 15 and 19]…what happened to David was an exodus-type deliverance. It was the God of Moses who had come to his aid.”

 

Wilcock continues, “the exodus-God…now reaches down to rescue the individual David. ‘All this cosmic drama, just for me?’ he might have said…But such is God’s care for the one as well as the many.”

 

And then there are those wonderful words to explain why God went to such trouble to rescue his servant David – “he rescued me because he delighted in me.” God delighted in David!

 

Remarkable words, and as Wilcock says, these “words…are far reaching, Moses and Israel…David…our Lord Jesus Christ…and we his people…can all say that God delights in us. The claim opens up a theology as spacious as the place into which David had been brought, as spacious as the Bible itself.” (see references # 5)

 

If you are a child of God, one who is able to say like David, “I love you, Lord, my strength” because you have discovered His great love for you in sending Jesus to be your Saviour and Lord, then you can confidently also say, “He brought me out into a spacious place, he rescued me because he delighted in me.

 

Father, what a wonderful truth, that you, the God of the exodus, of the Red Sea crossing, of David, delights in me. Thank you that this delight in us is only possible because of your delight in your Son, the Lord Jesus, the one who gave his all that we might live and so make it possible for us to come into “a spacious place”, a place of freedom and blessing in Christ.  Amen.

 

# 87 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 18 The torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.

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                                                  Living Water (www.livvardyart.com.au)

I love you, Lord, my strength.The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;     my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,     my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise,     and I have been saved from my enemies.

The cords of death entangled me;     the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me. The cords of the grave coiled around me;     the snares of death confronted me.

 

Having expressed to the Lord his heartfelt love for Him, the psalmist tells us why. To begin with, he describes the Lord’s character and he uses eight metaphors, most beginning with the personal word “my” – my strength, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer, my shield, my stronghold. Then two others: refuge and the horn of my salvation.

 

All these describe a place or object of protection, of defence, of safety, of refuge from the attacks of an enemy.

 

The Passion Translation puts it as follows:

 

“Lord, I passionately love you! I want to embrace you.                                                                                                                                                                                                    For now you’ve become my Power!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         You’re as real to me as Bedrock beneath my feet,                                                                                                                                                                                                             Like a Castle on a cliff, my forever firm Fortress,                                                                                                                                                                                            My Mountain of hiding, my Pathway of escape,                                                                                                                                                                                                                     My tower of rescue where none can reach me,                                                                                                                                                                                                                       My secret Strength and Shield around me,                                                                                                                                                                                                                            You are Salvation’s Ray of Brightness                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Shining on the hillside,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Always the Champion of my cause.”

 

In other words, David here attributes to God alone the reason he has been saved from the onslaught of the enemy, in this case, possibly King Saul. According to Blaiklock, “The imagery is built out of the Judean wilderness where David saw the strength of his God in the enfolding landscape, the shielding power of the stark crags and outcrops where God, he felt, had hidden him.” (see references # 37)

 

And he was in trouble as he then describes it in the poetic imagery so common to the OT. He says:

The cords of death entangled me;     the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me. The cords of the grave coiled around me;     the snares of death confronted me.

 

As Broyles suggests: “the description of the distress does not detail any particulars, so as to limit the psalm’s application, rather it paints with images of the hunt (cords…entangled…snares of death) and of drowning (torrents…overwhelmed me).”  (see references # 4)

 

But, the secret of his deliverance is then revealed:

 

In my distress I called to the Lord;     I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice;     my cry came before him, into his ears.

 

Blaiklock says: “Taylor’s paraphrase touches the feeling of this verse: ‘All I need to do is cry to him – oh, praise the Lord – And I am saved from all my enemies!’”

 

I remember well an occasion in Pakistan when I, with some Pakistani Christian friends, where on the streets of Karachi talking and distributing literature to people. Initially all went well and many people were interested to take our literature until one particularly religious man turned up. He was pretty upset with us and stirred up the crowd very quickly and easily and suddenly we were surrounded by a very hostile mob. The verses above describe very accurately how we felt at the time – cords of death entangled us; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed us – and we knew, without a doubt that we needed God to intervene in this situation if we were going to escape alive! So, in very quick and simple prayers, In our distress we called to the Lord, we cried to our God for help.  Within minutes the local police had arrived and ‘arrested’ us (the only time I have been ‘arrested’ and happy to have been!). Indeed he heard our voices; and our cries came before him, into his ears, and praise God, we were saved from the snares of death [which had] confronted us.  No charges were pressed and we returned home to our families, grateful to God our Strength, our Rock, our Fortress, our Deliverer. We had called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and we had been saved from our enemies.

 

Whatever your situation today, call upon the Lord and trust him to answer your prayer.

 

Thankyou Father, for the experiences of David that are still so very relevant 2500 years after the event. Thank you that no matter what the circumstances of our lives, you are greater, you are stronger, and we can trust you. Today I pray for friends who are overwhelmed by their situations, maybe illness, maybe uncertainty, maybe needing you to provide their needs, or maybe just wisdom required to make the right decision. May their story be that “He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters… He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.” (Psalm 18:16,19) Amen.

 

# 86 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 18 “From my heart, I love you Lord”

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(www.paulvardyart.com)

He wasn’t that old (around about 70) when he died. But he had lived a full life. It was filled with ups and downs of course. There were exhilarating adventures and also quiet, reflective moments. There were times of great danger and near death experiences and then times when just maybe the royal lifestyle was a little too comfortable. He had his moments of amazing faith and saw God answer prayer in incredible circumstances but then there were other times when he wondered if God would have anything else to do with him. But now he was near the end of his amazing life that God had gifted to him and what better way than to summarize it in a Psalm. Wasn’t he, after all, “Israel’s singer of songs” (I Samuel 23:1). And today, thousands of years later, we have the privilege of being blessed as we read Psalm 18 and reflect upon a poetic summary of this one man’s life and upon the God he served.

 

The historical title says: “For the director of music. Of David the servant of the Lord. He sang to the Lord the words of this song when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul.

 

There is little doubt as to the authorship of this, one of the longer psalms in the Psalter. As E. M. Blaiklock in his book, “Psalms for Living”, says:

 

“The Davidic authorship and the occasion are attested in 2 Samuel 22, where the poem is set out as a summary of David’s life. Perhaps it was the royal poet’s favourite hymn, written long before, in the early joy of his triumph, and recalling to him in darker days the experiences which had once been his…Apart from this historical attestation, the internal evidence of authorship is clear enough. The daring imagery, the vigour of language, the ardour of devotion are David’s; the biographical thread…fits the facts of the king’s life.” (see references # 37)

 

So, let’s begin by checking out this “ardour of devotion” which Blaiklock suggests is typical of David, and see what we can learn from him to enhance our own relationship with our God. The Psalm has 9 divisions and here is the first (verses 1-3):

 

David begins:

 

 I love you, Lord, my strength.

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;     my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,     my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise,     and I have been saved from my enemies.

 

“I love you.” Easy words to say, not always so easy to live in a way that reveals the reality of this emotion. You see, ‘love’ is a noun, i.e. ‘a strong feeling of affection’, but it is also a verb, i.e. ‘to feel deep affection’. But, the feeling by itself will either lead to great and positive actions and therefore fulfilment or no or little or inappropriate action and deep frustration.

 

A good friend of mine was a medical doctor who, with his wife and family, spent many years in the Middle East ‘loving’ the Arabic speaking people and providing them with medical services, in the name of Jesus. At one time John and his wife were taken as hostages and later released unharmed, but that’s another story. One thing I recall about this man were his words to me, either face to face or in his letters, and those words were, “Have you told your wife today that you love her?”

 

Now, I have to confess that it is not something I have done, every day! But, when I do, it is the truth and, hopefully, by the positive way we relate and interact with each other in our everyday lives, she knows that they are not just empty words. If you want a good test of what ‘love’ looks like in action read 1 Corinthians 13. Quite a challenge but something worth aiming for, with God’s enabling!

 

But in this Psalm David is not talking to another human being, but to God, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. The One who he describes in the very next Psalm when he says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” (Psalm 19:1). He says to this God, “I love you, Lord.”

 

Wilcock comments: “And how he loves him! With a Hebrew word whose English equivalents you or I might have hesitated to use, which indeed is used nowhere else in the Old Testament quite as it is here, the psalmist bursts out at once with his affection, even his passion, for his beloved Lord. A flood of metaphors follow, showing something of what this God means to him.” (see references # 5)

 

Longman gives us a little more information, He says, “the psalmist opens with an affirmation of his love for God. The verb translated love (rhm) is elsewhere used only to refer to the compassion or mercy that God demonstrates towards human beings. The term expresses the psalmist’s intimate feelings towards God, evoked by God’s actions towards him, to be explained in the following verses.” (see references # 30)

 

And finally, a last word from Blaiklock: “The word for love is a strong and vivid one…Luther was correct in translating it…’from my heart I love you’. Religion is too cold a word for such devotion. David touches here the summit of the soul’s experience of God.”

 

This was no new concept for the people of Israel. From their youth these words were very familiar:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5)

 

But as we move over to the New Testament, the possibility of people actually loving God in this way takes on a whole new dimension.

 

Listen to Paul. He speaks firstly of the truth that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Then having believed in Christ, “God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5) He then asks a very important question: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (Romans 8:35) to which the answer is “neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39).

 

And for these reasons Peter confidently says to believers scattered and persecuted for their faith, “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.” (1 Peter 1:8).

 

And John sums it all up:  “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins…We love because he first loved us.…”  (1 John 4:10, 19)

 

Are we able to say, like David, “From my heart, I love you Lord”?

 

Father, give us a heart of love for you like the psalmist. Not only because of all that you have done for us but because of who you are. Amen