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):
1 I love you, Lord, my strength.
2 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.
3 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