PSALM 18 OVERVIEW
Title. To the Chief Musician a Psalm of David, the servant of the Lord, who spake unto the Lord the words of this song in the day that the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. We have another form of this Psalm, with significant variations ( 2 Samuel 22:1-51 ), and this suggests the idea that it was sung by David at different times when he reviewed his own remarkable history, and observed the gracious hand of God in it all. Like Addison's hymn beginning, "When all thy mercies, O my God," this Psalm is the song of a grateful heart overwhelmed with a retrospect of the manifold and marvellous mercies of God. We will call it THE GRATEFUL RETROSPECT. The title deserves attention. David, although at this time a king, calls himself, "the servant of Jehovah," but makes no mention of his royalty; hence we gather that he counted it a higher honour to be the Lord's servant than to be Judah's king. Right wisely did he judge. Being possessed of poetic genius, he served the Lord by composing this Psalm for the use of the Lord's house; and it is no mean work to conduct or to improve that delightful part of divine worship, the singing of the Lord's praises. Would that more musical and poetical ability were consecrated, and that our chief musicians were fit to be trusted with devout and spiritual psalmody. It should be observed that the words of this song were not composed with the view of gratifying the taste of men, but were spoken unto Jehovah. It were well if we had a more single eye to the honour of the Lord in our singing, and in all other hallowed exercises. That praise is little worth which is not directed solely and heartily to the Lord. David might well be thus direct in his gratitude, for he owed all to his God, and in the day of his deliverance he had none to thank but the Lord, whose right hand had preserved him. We too should feel that to God and God alone we owe the greatest debt of honour and thanksgiving.
If it be remembered that the second and the forty-ninth verses are both quoted in the New Testament ( Hebrews 2:13 Romans 15:9 ) as the words of the Lord Jesus, it will be clear that a greater than David is here. Reader, you will not need our aid in this respect; if you know Jesus you will readily find him in his sorrows, deliverance, and triumphs all through this wonderful psalm.
Division. Psalms 18:1-3 are the proem or preface in which the resolve to bless God is declared. Delivering mercy is most poetically extolled from Psalms 18:4-19 ; and then the happy songster Psalms 18:20-28 , protests that God had acted righteously in thus favouring him. Filled with grateful joy he again pictures his deliverance, and anticipates future victories Psalms 18:29-45 ; and in closing speaks with evident prophetic foresight of the glorious triumphs of the Messiah, David's seed and the Lord's anointed.
Verse 1. I will love thee, O Lord. With strong, hearty affection will I cling to thee; as a child to its parent, or a spouse to her husband. The word is intensely forcible, the love is of the deepest kind. "I will love heartily, with my inmost bowels." Here is a fixed resolution to abide in the nearest and most intimate union with the Most High. Our triune God deserves the warmest love of all our hearts. Father, Son and Spirit have each a claim upon our love. The solemn purpose never to cease loving naturally springs from present fervour of affection. It is wrong to make rash resolutions, but this when made in the strength of God is most wise and fitting.
My strength. Our God is the strength of our life, our graces, our works, our hopes, our conflicts, our victories. This verse is not found in 2 Samuel 22:1-51 , and is a most precious addition, placed above all and after all to form the pinnacle of the temple, the apex of the pyramid. Love is still the crowning grace.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. The general argument of the Psalm may be thus stated: it is a magnificent eucharistic ode. It begins with a celebration of the glorious perfections of the Divinity, whose assistance the speaker has so often experienced. He describes, or rather, he delineates, his perils, the power of his enemies, his sudden deliverance from them, and the indignation and power of his divine deliverer manifested in their overthrow. He paints these in so lively colours, that while we read we seem to see the lightning, to hear the thunders, to feel the earthquake. He afterwards describes his victories, so that we seem to be eye witnesses of them, and take part in them. He predicts a wide extended empire, and concludes with a lofty expression of grateful adoration of Jehovah, the Author of all his deliverances and triumphs. The style is highly oratorical and poetical, sublime, and full of uncommon figures of speech. It is the natural language of a person of the highest mental endowments, under a divine inspiration, deeply affected by remarkable divine benefits, and filled with the most lofty conceptions of the divine character and dispensations. John Brown, D.D., 1853.
Whole Psalm. Kitto, in "The Pictorial Bible," has the following note upon 2 Samuel 22:1-51 : -- "This is the same as Psalms 18:1-50 ... The Rabbins reckon up seventy-four differences between the two copies, most of them very minute. They probably arose from the fact that the poem was, as they conjecture, composed by David in his youth, and revised in his later days, when he sent it to the chief musician. The present is, of course, to be the earlier copy."
Whole Psalm. The eighteenth Psalm is called by Michaelis more artificial, and less truly terrible, than the Mosaic odes. In structure it may be so, but surely not in spirit. It appears to many besides us, one of the most magnificent lyrical raptures in the Scriptures. As if the poet had dipped his pen in "the brightness of that light which was before his eye," so he describes the descending God. Perhaps it may be objected that the nodus is hardly worthy of the vindex -- to deliver David from his enemies, could Deity ever be imagined to come down? But the objector knows not the character of the ancient Hebrew mind. God in its view had not to descend from heaven; he was nigh -- a cloud like a man's hand might conceal -- a cry, a look might bring him down. And why should not David's fancy clothe him, as he came, in a panoply befitting his dignity, in clouds spangled with coals of fire? If he was to descend, why not in state? The proof of the grandeur of this Psalm is in the fact that it has borne the test of almost every translation, and made doggerel erect itself, and become divine. Even Sternhold and Hopkins its fiery whirlwind lifts up, purifies, touches into true power, and then throws down, helpless and panting, upon their ancient common. Perhaps the great charm of the eighteenth, apart from the poetry of the descent, is the exquisite and subtle alternation of the I and the Thou. We have spoken of parallelism, as the key to the mechanism of Hebrew song. We find this as existing between David and God -- the delivered and the deliverer -- beautifully pursued throughout the whole of this Psalm. "I will love thee, O Lord, my strength." "I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised." "He sent from above; he took me; he drew me out of many waters." "Thou wilt light my candle." "Thou hast given me the shield of thy salvation." "Thou hast girded me with strength unto battle." "Thou hast given me the necks of mine enemies." "Thou hast made me the head of the heathen." It has been ingeniously argued, that the existence of the I suggests, inevitably as a polar opposite, the thought of the Thou, that the personality of man proves thus the personality of God; but, be this as it may, David's perception of that personality is nowhere so intense as here. He seems not only to see, but to feel and touch, the object of his gratitude and worship. George Gilfillan, in "The Bards of the Bible," 1852.
Whole Psalm. He that would be wise, let him read the Proverbs; he that would by holy, let him read the Psalms. Every line in this book breathes peculiar sanctity. This Psalm, though placed among the first, was penned among the last, as the preface assures us, and is left as the epitome of the general history of David's life. It is twice recorded in the Scripture 2 Samuel 22:1-51 , and in this book of Psalms, for the excellency and sweetness thereof; surely that we should take double notice of it. Holy David, being near the shore, here looks on his former dangers and deliverances with a thankful heart, and writes this Psalm to bless the Lord: as if each of you that are grown into years should review your lives and observe the wonderful goodness and providence of God towards you; and then sit down and write a modest memorial of his most remarkable mercies, for the comfort of yourselves and posterity; an excellent practice. What a comfort would it be for you to read how good your God was to you father or grandfather, that are dead and gone! So would your children rejoice in the Lord upon the reading of his goodness to you; and you cannot have a better pattern for this than holy David, who wrote this Psalm when he was threescore and seven years old; when he had outlived most of his troubles, and almost ready for his journey to his Father in heaven, he resolves to leave this good report of him upon earth. And I pray mark how he begins: he sets not up trophies to himself, but triumphs in his God -- I will love thee, O Lord, my strength. As the love of God is the beginning of all our mercies, so love to God should be the end and effect of them all. As the stream leads us to the spring, so all the gifts of God must lead us to the giver of them. Lord, thou hast saved me from sickness, "I will love thee;" from death and hell, "I will love thee;" on me thou hast bestowed grace and comfort, "I will love thee, O Lord, my strength." And after he had heaped on God all the sweet names he could devise ( Psalms 18:2 ), as the true saint thinks he can never speak too well of God, or too ill of himself, then he begins his narrative.
- Of his dangers ( Psalms 18:4 ); "Snares of death," "Floods of ungodly men," "Sorrows of hell." Hell and earth are combined against each holy man, and will trouble sufficiently in this world, if they cannot keep him out of a better.
- Of his retreat, and that was, earnest prayer to God ( Psalms 18:6 ), I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God. When our prayers are cries ardent and importunate, then they speed: My cry came before him, even into his ears. The mother trifles while the child whimpers, but when he raises his note -- strains every nerve and cries every vein -- then she throws all aside, and gives him his desire. While our prayers are only whispers, our God can take his rest; but when we fall to crying, "Now will I arise, saith the Lord."
- Of his rescue ( Psalms 18:7-20 ), by the powerful and terrible arm of the Lord, who is in a lofty strain brought in to his servant's help, as if he would mingle heaven and earth together, rather than leave his child in the lion's paws.
- Of the reason of this gracious dealing of God with him ( Psalms 18:20 , etc.). He was a righteous person, and he had a righteous cause. And thereupon he turns to God, saying, Thou hast dealt with me just as thou art wont to do, with the merciful thou wilt show thyself merciful; with an upright man thou wilt show thyself upright. Richard Steele's "Plain Discourse upon Uprightness,"
Whole Psalm. Sometimes the Lord cheers and comforts the heart of his people with smiling and reviving providences, both public and personal. There are times of lifting up, as well as casting down by the hand of providence. The scene changes, the aspects of providence are very cheerful and encouraging; their winter seems to be over; they put off their garments of mourning; and then, ah, what sweet returns are made to heavenly gracious souls! Doth God lift them up by prosperity? they also will lift up their God by praises. See title, and Psalms 18:1-3 . So Moses, and the people with him ( Exodus 15:1-27 ), when God had delivered them from Pharaoh, how do they exalt him in a song of thanksgiving, which for the elegancy and spirituality of it, is made an emblem of the doxologies given to God in glory by the saints. Revelation 15:1 . John Flavel.
Title. "The servant of the Lord;" the name given to Moses ( Joshua 1:1 Joshua 1:13 Joshua 1:15 , and in nine other places of that book) and to Joshua ( Joshua 24:29 Judges 2:8 ); but to none other except David (here, and in the title to Psalms 36:1-12 ). Compare Acts 13:36 , uphreteoas. This is significant; reminding us of the place occupied by David in the history of Israel. He was the appointed successor of Moses and Joshua, who extended the power of Israel over the whole region allotted to them by Divine promise. W. Kay, 1871.
Title. This Psalm, which is entitled a shirah (or song), is David's hymn of praise to God for his deliverance from all his enemies (see the title, and above, 2 Samuel 22:1-51 ), and has an appropriate place in the present group of Psalms, which speak of resurrection after suffering. It is entitled a Psalm of David, "the servant of the Lord," and thus is coupled with another psalm of deliverance, Psalms 36:1-12 . Christopher Wordsworth.
Verse 1. I will love thee, O Lord. The word whereby the psalmist expresses his entire affection, in the noun signifieth a womb, and imparts such an affection as cometh from the innermost part of man (~xr., matrix), from his bowels, from the bottom of his heart, as we speak. It is, therefore, oft put for such pity and compassion as moveth the bowels. Some, therefore, thus translate that phrase, "From my innermost bowels will I love thee, O Lord." To give evidence of his entire and ardent love of God, he oft professes his wonderful great love to God's commandments, whereof he saith with admiration, "Oh, how I love thy law! I love thy commandments above gold; yea, above fine gold. I love them exceedingly" ( Psalms 119:97 Psalms 119:127 Psalms 119:167 ); therefore, he saith to God, "Consider how I love thy precepts" ( Psalms 119:159 ). William Gouge, 1575-1653.
Verse 1. I will love thee. Intimately as a mother loves the child that comes out of her womb. Westminster Assembly's Annotations, 1651.
Verse 1-2. God hath, as it were, made himself over to believers. David doth not say, God will give me or bestow salvation upon me; but he saith, "He is the horn of my salvation." It is God himself who is the salvation and the portion of his people. They would not care much for salvation if God were not their salvation. It more pleaseth the saints that they enjoy God, than that they enjoy salvation. False and carnal spirits will express a great deal of desire after salvation, for they like salvation, heaven, and glory well; but they never express any longing desire after God and Jesus Christ. They love salvation, but they care not for a Saviour. Now that which faith pitches most upon is God himself; he shall be my salvation, let me have him, and that is salvation enough; he is my life, he is my comfort, he is my riches, he is my honour, and he is my all. Thus David's heart acted immediately upon God, I will love thee, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. It pleased holy David more that God was his strength, than that God gave him strength; that God was his deliverer, than that he was delivered; that God was his fortress, his buckler, his horn, his high tower, than that he gave him the effect of all these. It pleased David, and it pleases all the saints more that God is their salvation, whether temporal or eternal, than that he saves them: the saints look more at God than at all that is God's. Joseph Caryl.
Verse 1-2. David speaks like one in love with God, for he doth adorn him with confession of praise, and his mouth is filled with the praise of the Lord, which he expresses in this exuberance and redundancy of holy oratory. Edward Marbury.
NOTES TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Verse 1. Love's resolve, love's logic, love's trials, love's victories.
James Hervey has two sermons upon "Love to God" from this text.
WORKS WRITTEN ABOUT THE EIGHTEENTH PSALM IN SPURGEON'S DAY
There is "An Exposition" of this Psalm in "A Critical History of the Life of David. By SAMUEL CHANDLER, D.D., F.R., and A.S.S.," 1766. 2 vol., 8vo.
The Sufferings and Glories of the Messiah: an Exposition of Psalm XVIII., and 52:13 ; 53:12. By JOHN BROWN, D.D., 1853.