A Psalm of David the servant of the LORD, who spoke to the LORD the words of this song on the day that the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul.  And he said:

To anyone who has read II Samuel 22, this psalm will seem familiar.  Indeed, this is the same psalm as is written there.  Some may note the discrepancies between the two psalms.  This is because II Samuel gives the psalm as, according to verse 1, “David spoke to the LORD the words of this song.”  Here in the book of Psalms, however, the psalm is edited from its original format in order to be delivered to “the Chief Musician” for public worship.  As such, David edited it before including it here.  Thus, II Samuel gives us the psalm as originally written, and Psalm 18 gives us the psalm in its final form.  This is not a contradiction, but is something that any writer is free to do with his material.  I know that I have often edited these Bible messages that I write, so that one person to whom I send the message may receive it in a slightly different format than another.  This is something that I can do with my own written material, whereas another person might not have the right to change my material and then claim it was still what I had written.  This psalm is the same way.  The Holy Spirit, as the original author, and David himself were free to change the psalm for use in different contexts as they saw fit.

This song was written to celebrate David’s deliverance from mortal danger at the hands of the jealous King Saul.  The word for “hand” actually has the idea of “paw,” and represents David’s enemies as a vicious lion ready to tear him to pieces were it not for the LORD’s deliverance.  We will see how David celebrates this event as we go through the psalm.

1.  I will love You, O LORD, my strength.

David speaks of love, not as a feeling, but as an action.  He will demonstrate love to the LORD, his strength.  He knows that in his own strength, he would have fallen before the power of Saul.  However, with the LORD as his strength, he has been delivered.  Let us remember that the LORD is our strength as well!

2.  The LORD is my rock and my fortress, and my deliverer;

The LORD is three times represented as “rock” in this psalm.  Rock is solid, sturdy, and immovable, unaffected as a rule by the ravages of time and erosion.  It is a sure foundation, a thing to be built upon, a support to be trusted in times of storm and quake.  David views the LORD like this, the Rock upon which he can depend.  He is the fortress in which David takes refuge.  He is the One Who delivers David from trouble.  This is how David viewed his God.  Do we view Him the same way?

My God, my strength, in Whom I will trust;

The LORD is David’s God.  This is one of the few times when God is the singular “El” in the Hebrew rather than the usual plural.  David looks to the LORD as his God, the One Who is able to save him, though all other gods fail.  He is David’s strength, strong like a rock to deliver him.  By describing the LORD thus, David causes us to understand very plainly why he trusted in the LORD.  Who would not be glad to trust in a God like this?

My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

David views the LORD as his shield, the One Who will protect him from the dangers of war.  He is the horn of David’s salvation.  A “horn” here carries the idea of a “horn of plenty,” such as we often see illustrated with fruit pouring out of it.  In this case it is salvation that pours out of the LORD’s wondrous horn.  The LORD is also David’s stronghold, the impregnable tower in which he can know he is safe.  What a thing it is to have One like this watching over you!

3.  I will call upon the LORD, Who is worthy to be praised;

David goes back and reviews his thoughts as he faced dire peril.  Of all the sources to which he could have turned for help, he chose to turn to the LORD, calling upon Him to deliver him from danger.  David knew the LORD, and knew of His praiseworthiness.  Thus we can understand why he chose to call upon Him.

So shall I be saved from my enemies.

David anticipates the LORD’s help, and believes that He will deliver him when he calls upon Him for help.

4.  The pangs of death encompassed me,

David now describes for us the great peril in which he chose to call upon the LORD.

And the floods of ungodliness made me afraid.

David describes his perilous situation before his enemies and Saul as if he were a drowning man seeking for deliverance as he sinks beneath the waves.

5.  The sorrows of Sheol surrounded me;

A drowning man might feel as if the waters around him were death itself closing in on him.  So David describes his peril as the sorrows of Sheol, the state of death, closing in around him.

The snares of death confronted me.

David describes death as a whirlpool about to trap him and pull him in to his own destruction.  Notice how Sheol and death are spoken of as similar things.

6.  In my distress I called upon the LORD,

In verse three, David told us of his determination to call upon the LORD.  Now he tells us that he followed through on his determination and called upon the LORD for help.

And cried out to my God;

David didn’t just call, but also cried to his God for deliverance.  In Hebrew this is the usual plural Elohim, and literally means, “And cried out to my Gods.”  Some claim that this use of the plural is the plural of majesty, and is speaking of God as a king might use the royal “We.”  This is backed up by the fact that, in spite of the fact that this word is plural, it is always used with a singular verb.  We might wish that our translators would translate the plural word as plural, however, and let us make up our own minds about it!  Besides, kings may use the plural of majesty of themselves, but when did anyone else ever use the plural of majesty when speaking of a King as David did here?  Is this not a proof of the plurality of God, that He is three in one?

He heard my voice from His temple,

The word for “temple” here in Hebrew is really a “palace,” and indicates His heavenly dwelling, not a temple here on earth.  The LORD can hear even from far-away Heaven the sound of the cry of His anointed king in danger!

And my cry came before Him, even to His ears.

David emphasizes the LORD’s reception of his request.  This indicates not just that the LORD physically received David’s plea, but also that He accepted his plea and took it into consideration and took action upon it.

7.  Then the earth shook and trembled;

This begins the LORD’s awesome response to David’s plea.  The Hebrew here for “shook and trembled” is the figure of speech “Paronomasia,” or rhyming words (Companion Bible, Appendix page 11.)  We might put it in English as “shaked and quaked.”

The foundations of the hills also quaked and were shaken,

Remember hills are symbolic for governments.  The LORD shakes not just physical hills but the rulers of those hills who rise up against David.

Because He was angry.

David’s unfair plight causes the LORD to be angry.  What an awesome thing it is to have God angry on your behalf!

8.  Smoke went up from His nostrils,

Now the LORD is described as a fire-breathing dragon, one of the most awe-inspiring of all His creations.  In our day, the dragon has been stripped of his fire-breathing capacity, given the new name of “dinosaur,” and made into a fairy tale of millions of years ago that destroys the faith of many in God and the Bible.  Yet in times past everyone knew of dragons, not from legends but rather from personal experience!  No one in David’s day thought that dragons were a myth, for indeed they knew they were not.  How appropriate that God in His anger would be described as the most fearsome of all His creations!

And devouring fire from His mouth;

Why should a lizard not breath fire?  We know of a beetle that does so, so why not a dragon?  But this is speaking figuratively of the LORD, and not of a literal dragon.

Coals were kindled by it.

Imagine facing such a beast!  Yet to face the LORD in His wrath is more terrible still.  Almost we could pity David’s enemies.

9.  He bowed the heavens also, and came down

How can this help but remind us of II Thessalonians 1:8, when Christ comes “in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ”?  Although this psalm speaks of an event in David’s life in the past, it also surely speaks prophetically of that same future Day when our Lord Jesus will come down from heaven with a vengeance!

With darkness under His feet.

What an awesome picture of our LORD this is!  Surely I would not for the world be those standing in His way at such a time!

10.  And He rode upon a cherub, and flew;

As the LORD comes down He is described as riding upon a cherub.  Cherubs (or cherubim, as the plural would be in Hebrew,) are heavenly beings described for us in Ezekiel 1 and 10 and Revelation 4.  Needless to say, they are not cute little naked babies with wings, as they are so often pictured today.  They have four wings, and apparently move by flying, as their feet are described as unjointed.  They have four faces: that of a lion, an ox (which is apparently their main face,) an eagle, and a man.  They have eyes all over their bodies.  There are always four of them mentioned in Scripture, although this does not mean there might not be more.  Lucifer before his fall was described as a guardian cherub.

He flew upon the wings of the wind.

The word for “spirit” and “wind” are the same, so it is hard to say which is meant here.  At any rate, He must have been moving very swiftly.  Nothing could possibly slow Him in His great flight of vengeance!

11.  He made darkness His secret place;

The LORD is described as descending hidden in the mystery of darkness.  Not openly does He descend, but hidden from the eyes of those He is coming to destroy.

His canopy around Him was dark waters

His dark covering is described as a canopy of dark waters.  In dark waters, whether at night or in the ocean deep, nothing can be seen.  In the same way the darkness hides the LORD completely as He descends.

And thick clouds of the skies.

The LORD is hidden just as clouds obscure the sky and hide even the brightness of the sun from the earth below.  David is setting up what he observed at the time of his deliverance.

12.  From the brightness before Him,

The description of the thunderstorm from the LORD continues in this verse from the last phrase in the previous verse.  Though He is clothed in darkness, yet His brightness remains.  Something to remember in our day when the glory of the LORD is hidden from our eyes by His silence.

His thick clouds passed with hailstones and coals of fire.

Like some unimaginably terrible storm, He rains down hailstones and coals of fire upon David’s enemies.  This is perhaps literally how He delivered David from his enemies at this time.  Imagine what it would be like to have hailstones mixed with coals of fire raining upon you from the heavens!  No doubt anyone would flee such a terrible event.

13.  The LORD also thundered in the heavens,

David further describes the terrible storm that delivered him from his enemies.  It seems that the hail and coals were accompanied by deafening thunder from the heavens.  This would be enough to make anyone afraid!

And the Most High uttered His voice,

The thunder the LORD sent is described here as the voice of the Most High.  “Most High” is a translation of the Hebrew name for God Elyon.  This name for God carries with it the idea, not of God as Creator (as does the more common name Elohim,) but rather God as owner of the heavens and the earth.  It is He Who owns the heavens Who thundered down from them upon David’s enemies.

Hailstones and coals of fire.

Again the terrible storm upon the enemies of David is described.

14.  He sent out His arrows and scattered the foe,

Now a further terrible aspect of this storm is revealed.  Lightning is described as God’s arrows, streaking forth from His hand to defeat David’s enemies.

Lightnings in abundance, and He vanquished them.

Surely hailstones and coals of fire were terrible all by themselves, but with lightning added to them, the enemies of David are unable to resist.

15.  Then the channels of waters were seen,

This speaks of the channels of water under the ground.  David describes the ground breaking open during this terrible storm.

And the foundations of the world were uncovered

This cannot help but remind us of the children of Israel’s flight from the flood Satan sends after them in Revelation 12:15-16, wherein the earth opens to swallow the flood and spare the people of God.  Again, this psalm has reference not just to David’s situation in the past, but also to the plans of the LORD for the future.  In Psalm 83 we read of those ten nations who say of Israel, “Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation, That the name of Israel may be remembered no more.”  This psalm may be used as a song of praise for the LORD’s great deliverance in that day.

At Your rebuke, O LORD,

It was the LORD Who caused the earth to break open and uncover the underground watercourses.

At the blast of the breath of Your nostrils.

This may describe a great wind that also accompanied the storm that delivered David from his enemies.

16.  He sent from above, He took me;

Now David again describes himself as a drowning man being rescued by God his strength.

He drew me out of many waters.

David’s relief at escaping death is described as the relief of a drowning man as he is lifted out of the waters and brought to safe ground again.

17.  He delivered me from my strong enemy,

This was the actual danger David faced, of which drowning was only a symbol.  His enemies surrounded David and sought to slay him, but this storm from the LORD delivered him.

From those who hated me,

The unreasoning hatred of Saul and men like him for David was what had driven them against him to destroy him.

For they were too strong for me.

These men had an army that could have defeated David no matter how valiantly he might have fought.  Without the LORD’s help David knows he would have been slain.

18.  They confronted me in the day of my calamity,

David describes the confrontation with his enemies that had placed him in such peril.

But the LORD was my support.

David repeats the glorious fact that the LORD was the cause of his deliverance.

19.  He also brought me out into a broad place;

Again David uses the figure of a rescued drowning man to describe his deliverance.  Now the LORD brings him into a broad place where he is safe at last from the danger of the pounding waters.

He delivered me because He delighted in me.

We know indeed that the LORD delighted in David for that is made plain by the blessings we know that the LORD heaped upon him.  And this delight was not because David was perfect or sinless by any means, as we know from reading of David’s life and his many failures.  Yet the LORD delighted in David through His grace.  In the same way let Him delight in us as well!