# 90 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 18. With my God I can scale a wall.

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Broyles calls this psalm “a royal psalm of military victory”. And as we move on to the concluding verses of the psalm we can see why. Listen to what King David has to say:

 

29 With [God’s] help I can advance against a troop,
with my God I can scale a wall…

32 It is God who arms me with strength
and makes my way perfect…
34 He trains my hands for battle;
my arms can bend a bow of bronze.

35 You make your saving help my shield,
and your right hand sustains me;
your help has made me great…
37 I pursued my enemies and overtook them;
    I did not turn back till they were destroyed.
38 I crushed them so that they could not rise;
    they fell beneath my feet.
39 You armed me with strength for battle;
you humbled my adversaries before me.
40 
You made my enemies turn their backs in flight,
and I destroyed my foes.
41 They cried for help, but there was no one to save them—
to the Lord, but he did not answer.
42 I beat them as fine as windblown dust;
I trampled them like mud in the streets.
43 You have delivered me from the attacks of the people;
    you have made me the head of nations.
People I did not know now serve me,
44     foreigners cower before me;
as soon as they hear of me, they obey me.
45 They all lose heart;
they come trembling from their strongholds.

 

The most important thing about David’s words though is that David acknowledges that without God’s help, God’s strength, God’s intervention, there would have not been such a victory. Certainly, David did all that was expected of him as the Warrior King, but it was God who ultimately made the difference.

 

In fact, David summarizes the situation by saying,

 

30 As for God, his way is perfect…
   31 For who is God besides the Lord?
And who is the Rock except our God?

…your help has made me great.
32 It is God who arms me with strength
and [He] makes my way perfect…

 

With so much tension in our world in these troubled times, and with so many people, particularly in Syria, but also in other places, dying due to senseless killing by all those involved, we certainly do not want to glorify war. As one ANZAC veteran said at my grandchildren’s school assembly recently, “In the end, no one wins in war.”

 

But, at the same time, we can’t hide our heads in the sand either. As Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (a German philosopher, 1770-1831) once said, “History proves that man learns nothing from history”, and so wars have continued throughout the ages, and sadly will continue until the Lord returns.

 

Then of course as we read the Bible, we realize that there is another dimension to all this that we can’t forget and that is spelled out very clearly for us by the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 6 as follows:

 

12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

 

And so, Paul exhorts us as believers to:

 

10 be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.

 

Sounds a lot like what David did at the time of writing Psalm 18.

 

And, as a result, he experienced victory and so can we.

 

I love the way David then concludes this wonderful Psalm with praise, thankfulness and adoration, giving us an example to follow:

 

46 The Lord lives! Praise be to my Rock!
Exalted be God my Saviour!
47 He is the God who avenges me,
who subdues nations under me,
48     who saves me from my enemies.
You exalted me above my foes;
from a violent man you rescued me.
49 Therefore I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
I will sing the praises of your name.

50 He gives his king great victories;
he shows unfailing love to his anointed,
to David and to his descendants forever.

 

It would be easy to get down when we watch the news on TV and hear of all the injustices, atrocities done in the name of one religion or another and the suffering of innocent people, but Easter reminds us that the Ultimate Victory has been won.

 

Jesus “by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross… has now been exalted [by God] to the highest place
and [He has given] him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,

to the glory of God the Father.  (Philippians 2:8-11)

 

Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.          (1 Corinthians 15:57)

 

Father, enable us, in this spiritual warfare we find ourselves in, to not only stand firm, but advance against a troop, and with you, our God…to scale a wall…It is you God who arms us with strength and makes our way perfect. In these tumultuous days we live in, train our hands for battle. May we, your people, be strong in you Lord and in your mighty power. And may we praise you, Lord, among the nations, for you, Lord, are their only hope. Amen

 

# 89 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 18 He delights in me.

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“…he rescued me because he delighted in me.” (v 19)

 

That’s where we ended our last conversation about this amazing psalm. David now continues and so it seems, at face value anyway, to share with us, the reader, why God “delights” in him and rescued him. Listen to his words:

 

20 The Lord has dealt with me according to my righteousness;
according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me.
21 For I have kept the ways of the Lord;
I am not guilty of turning from my God.
22 All his laws are before me;
I have not turned away from his decrees.
23 I have been blameless before him
and have kept myself from sin.
24 The Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness,
according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight.

 

Possibly, one of the first thoughts you had as you read these words of David was of the Pharisees in Jesus’ time. Maybe you remembered the story from Luke’s Gospel chapter 18:9-14 which says:

 

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

 

But, somehow, this does not seem to fit with the David that we know so well from his history and from the devotional songs and poems he wrote, the man described by God himself as “a man after his own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14). So, if this is not a case of David boasting about how good he is, then what is it?

 

Wilcock warns us “against taking things at face value.” He doesn’t believe that “it depicts a man who reckons that the basis of his relationship with God, and therefore the most important thing in the world, is his own good character.” He continues, “I do not recognize in that portrait the man of verses 1-19, who is in love with God, who sees God bringing blessing out of every crisis of his life, who marvels that God should have done all these things for him. The most important thing in this man’s world is his God.

So, we are not to imagine that it was David’s virtues which originally endeared him to the Lord. The springs of that first delight were not in David’s deserving but in God’s undeserved and unaccountable love…

No, the claim and the reward…are not the making of a relationship, they arise within a relationship which has already been made…It is a confidence that those who out of love for the Lord want to walk in the ways of the Lord (v. 21) will find that the blessing of the Lord will come to meet them. He delights to reward obedience.” (see references # 5)

 

And so David continues:

 

25 To the faithful you show yourself faithful,
to the blameless you show yourself blameless,
26 to the pure you show yourself pure,
but to the devious you show yourself shrewd.
27 You save the humble
but bring low those whose eyes are haughty

 

In his so-called “Sermon on the Mount”, Jesus describes the person who is “blessed” or, we could say, in whom the Lord “delights”, in a way that amazed those who were listening. He said:

 

      3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit…
Blessed are those who mourn…
Blessed are the meek…
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…
Blessed are the merciful…
Blessed are the pure in heart…

Blessed are the peacemakers…
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven…”                          (Matthew 5:3-11)

 

Of course, none of this is possible by our own efforts at being “righteous”. If any of these character traits are to be revealed in our lives it will be the result of being in an intimate relationship with the One who spoke them. As we walk in obedience to Him and He lives His life through us as he described in John 15:

 

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing…

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”

 

Father, as we consider the chaos and sadness of our world around us, we desire to be different, so as to bring hope to all we meet. Not with a “holier-than-thou” attitude, but to be like You, the one who “humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!” Amen.  

 

# 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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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