Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, Iowa on 8/6/2017
Open your Bibles to Psalm 18. Today we are surveying a somewhat lengthy Psalm. For you who love Bible trivia, Psalm 18 is the third longest Psalm in the book of Psalms. If you are curious, Psalm 119 is the longest, and Psalm 78 is the second longest. This morning, we are going to meander through this Psalm, as we would do if we are walking through a park. We will not be walking a straight line, but we will hopefully see the connectedness, the spiritual logic, the relevance, and beauty of Psalm 18. Due to its length, let us not waste any time this morning and get right to our text.
“To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, the servant of the Lord, who addressed the words of this song to the Lord on the day when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. He said:
1 I love you, O Lord, my strength.
2 The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
3 I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
and I am saved from my enemies.
4 The cords of death encompassed me;
the torrents of destruction assailed me;
5 the cords of Sheol entangled me;
the snares of death confronted me.
6 In my distress I called upon the Lord;
to my God I cried for help.
From his temple he heard my voice,
and my cry to him reached his ears.
7 Then the earth reeled and rocked;
the foundations also of the mountains trembled
and quaked, because he was angry.
8 Smoke went up from his nostrils,
and devouring fire from his mouth;
glowing coals flamed forth from him.
9 He bowed the heavens and came down;
thick darkness was under his feet.
10 He rode on a cherub and flew;
he came swiftly on the wings of the wind.
11 He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him,
thick clouds dark with water.
12 Out of the brightness before him
hailstones and coals of fire broke through his clouds.
13 The Lord also thundered in the heavens,
and the Most High uttered his voice,
hailstones and coals of fire.
14 And he sent out his arrows and scattered them;
he flashed forth lightnings and routed them.
15 Then the channels of the sea were seen,
and the foundations of the world were laid bare
at your rebuke, O Lord,
at the blast of the breath of your nostrils.
16 He sent from on high, he took me;
he drew me out of many waters.
17 He rescued me from my strong enemy
and from those who hated me,
for they were too mighty for me.
18 They confronted me in the day of my calamity,
but the Lord was my support.
19 He brought me out into a broad place;
he rescued me, because he delighted in me.
20 The Lord dealt with me according to my righteousness;
according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me.
21 For I have kept the ways of the Lord,
and have not wickedly departed from my God.
22 For all his rules were before me,
and his statutes I did not put away from me.
23 I was blameless before him,
and I kept myself from my guilt.
24 So the Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness,
according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight.
25 With the merciful you show yourself merciful;
with the blameless man you show yourself blameless;
26 with the purified you show yourself pure;
and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous.
27 For you save a humble people,
but the haughty eyes you bring down.
28 For it is you who light my lamp;
the Lord my God lightens my darkness.
29 For by you I can run against a troop,
and by my God I can leap over a wall.
30 This God—his way is perfect;
the word of the Lord proves true;
he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.
31 For who is God, but the Lord?
And who is a rock, except our God?--
32 the God who equipped me with strength
and made my way blameless.
33 He made my feet like the feet of a deer
and set me secure on the heights.
34 He trains my hands for war,
so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
35 You have given me the shield of your salvation,
and your right hand supported me,
and your gentleness made me great.
36 You gave a wide place for my steps under me,
and my feet did not slip.
37 I pursued my enemies and overtook them,
and did not turn back till they were consumed.
38 I thrust them through, so that they were not able to rise;
they fell under my feet.
39 For you equipped me with strength for the battle;
you made those who rise against me sink under me.
40 You made my enemies turn their backs to me,
and those who hated me I destroyed.
41 They cried for help, but there was none to save;
they cried to the Lord, but he did not answer them.
42 I beat them fine as dust before the wind;
I cast them out like the mire of the streets.
43 You delivered me from strife with the people;
you made me the head of the nations;
people whom I had not known served me.
44 As soon as they heard of me they obeyed me;
foreigners came cringing to me.
45 Foreigners lost heart
and came trembling out of their fortresses.
46 The Lord lives, and blessed be my rock,
and exalted be the God of my salvation--
47 the God who gave me vengeance
and subdued peoples under me,
48 who rescued me from my enemies;
yes, you exalted me above those who rose against me;
you delivered me from the man of violence.
49 For this I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations,
and sing to your name.
50 Great salvation he brings to his king,
and shows steadfast love to his anointed,
to David and his offspring forever.
To begin, let us start with some context. Psalm 18 is another unusual Psalm in that it is also found in another portion of scripture. This Psalm is also located, almost in its entirety in 2 Samuel 22. This is helpful because it gives us a historical marker to orient ourselves regarding why David wrote what he wrote. And when we look at 2 Samuel 22, we see that David wrote this Psalm near the end of his life.
In 2 Samuel 21:15 we read this, “There was war again between the Philistines and Israel, and David went down together with his servants, and they fought against the Philistines. And David grew weary. 16 And Ishbi-benob, one of the descendants of the giants, whose spear weighed three hundred shekels of bronze, and who was armed with a new sword, thought to kill David. 17 But Abishai the son of Zeruiah came to his aid and attacked the Philistine and killed him. Then David's men swore to him, “You shall no longer go out with us to battle, lest you quench the lamp of Israel.”
It was right after this event, David's retirement from war, that David wrote Psalm 18. And it is with this knowledge that the title of the Psalm makes more sense. The title tells us that Psalm 18 was written, “on the day when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies.” Therefore, Psalm 18 is a song of reflection. It is David looking back on his life and seeing the sovereignty of God.
The second thing I want us to see regarding context is how Psalm 18 and Psalm 17 fit so well together. If you recall from last week, Psalm 17 was about the enemies of David surrounding him, acting like young lions eager to tear him apart, and it was from this place of despair that David called out to the Lord for help. Psalm 18 is proof that God answered that call. It is the fulfillment of David’s request to be delivered from the wicked.
And this gives us a beautiful picture of how prayer should work. We should first take our trials to the Lord and lay them at his throne, and then later we look back and see how the hand of God moved in our lives, and praise him for what he has done. Too often we pray and forget, not David.
I Love You, O Lord
The first line of this Psalm says it all, “I Love You, O Lord.” To God, there are no sweeter words to be utter by man then, “I Love You, O Lord.” As Jesus tells us in Matthew 22:36 the greatest command is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.”
As I pondered this phrase coming from the mouth of mighty David, I wondered how many men in our Church would openly and publicly proclaim that they love God. We wrongly equate love with only the feminine persuasion. Shame on us. To be a true man is to be a man that loves God. To not love God is to be less than a man. If we cannot not say, without a slight bit of hesitation, “I love you, O Lord” then I would encourage you to repent and place your faith in Jesus Christ for the first time, for it appears the love of God does not abide in you, and if the love of God does not abide in you then you are not a true Christian, but merely an imposter.
Now what we need to see in the opening verse is that the love of David for God does not come out of nowhere. It does not exist in a vacuum. The love of David is a response to God’s activity in David’s life. Notice that David, in a flurry of metaphors, calls the Lord his strength, his rock, his fortress, his deliverer, his shield, the horn of his salvation, his stronghold. The love of David flows out of David’s understanding of who God is in relation to David. This is an example of what the apostle John speaks of when he says in 1 John 4:19, “We love because he first loved us.” David has affections for God because David has witnessed the sovereign activity of God his life.
Your Word Proves True
There are two things I want to draw your attention to this morning in regards to David’s love for God. First, David loves a God that he cannot see. David can see his wife and love his wife. David can see his kids and love his kids. This is not true, however, for God. David does not see him like he sees people whom he also has affections for. Peter speaks of this realty in 1 Peter 1:8, “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,” So how can David love a God he cannot see? I believe the answer lies in verse 30, “This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.”
If you notice, the most repeated word in this psalm is the word “my.” David refers to God as “my God” or “my rock” or “my salvation” over and over again. However before David could say “my God” he could only say “this God.” And this is true for everyone. God begins as being as an abstract concept before he becomes a personal God. So how does one go from “this” to “my”? Look again at verse 30, “This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.” The way one goes from “this God” to “my God” is the Word of God. Just as the Apostle Paul tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:15, “from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”
It is the word of God that reveals to us “this God” and it is these words of God proving true in our lives that transforms “this God” into “my God.” And when the Word of God proves true, we then know this God of the Bible; we then love this God of the Bible. This proving true, this knowing, this love, happens when God opens our eyes to see the truth of who we are, and who God is. This is what happens when someone is born again. At the moment of conversion, the words of the Bible no longer are just ink on a page, they a true words about our sins, God's wrath, and the Savior Jesus Christ. This is the point that “this God” becomes “my God”, when the Gospel proves true in our life. And from the moment of our conversion, our knowledge and love of God continues to grow as we continue to see God’s Word prove true over and over and over again in our lives.
God Delights in His Children
Which leads to my second thing I want us to see this morning regarding the love that David has for the Lord. As I said, the love of David is a result of God’s activity in his life. But let me ask you, why was God involved in David's life? Look at verse 19, “ He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me.”
What a wonderful reality for David. The God of the Universe delighting in you. The Hebrew word for delight is chaphets (khä·fāts') which means to take pleasure, be pleased with, to delight. It is actually a very common word in the book of Psalms and it is used both to describe the Psalmist and to describe God. Delight is a two way street. Our God is not only a rock, a fortress, a stronghold, he is also a God who delights. Once again, a personal God. Specifically he delights in David, his chosen. His anointed.
Is David the only one that God delights in. No. God delights in all of his chosen people. All of those he has anointed through the Holy Spirit. Psalm 149:4 says, “For the LORD takes pleasure in his people;” If you are a child of God, through he blood of Jesus Christ, God delights in you.
My guess is that very few of you ponder this amazing reality. Too often you look at your life and say what is there for God to delight in? You look in the mirror of God's Word and you only see your sin. And to an extent you are right. There is nothing in your flesh that causes God to delight in you. Isaiah 64:6 says that “ all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” There is absolutely nothing pleasurable in our wicked ways.
However, that all changes when we repent and place our faith in Jesus Christ. For the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us. God sees us judicially innocent before him. Hebrews 10:14 says in regards to Christ atoning work on the cross, “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” In the eyes of God, because of the offering of Jesus, we are perfect. We can join David in what he says in verse 20-24, “ The Lord dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me. 21 For I have kept the ways of the Lord, and have not wickedly departed from my God. 22 For all his rules were before me, and his statutes I did not put away from me. 23 I was blameless before him, and I kept myself from my guilt. 24 So the Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight.”
God delights in us because we are his, through the perfecting sacrifice of Jesus Christ. By grace, through faith, when we stand before God he sees his Son. Jesus. The Son that the Father declared that he was well pleased with. And nothing you do can change this. God takes pleasure in his children, period. For in his children, he sees the righteousness of Christ.
Definite Love of God
One more thing about God's delight of his children. What caused David to ponder God's delight in him? Once again, it is very similar to what caused David to declare his love for God. “He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me.” The reason that David pondered the delight of God was because of God's particular activity in David's life. God rescued David, which causes David to meditate on God's delight in him. God's particular salvation directed specifically towards David causes David to recognize the definite loving relationship that exists between God and Him.
I can't help but see the doctrine of limited atonement jumping out of Psalm 18. Limited atonement is the L in TULIP, it is one a the doctrines of grace. It is one of the five points of Calvinism. Limited atonement teaches that Jesus died on the cross for a definite group of people, specifically the elect. The when Christ the good Shepherd laid down his life, he did it only for his sheep. You can find this teaching all over the Bible if you are looking for it. Ephesians 1, Romans 8 and 9, John 10, etc.
It would do us well for us to ponder the doctrine of limited atonement more frequently, for God has brought each of us to the broad place of the Rock of Christ. Why? Because he delights in his children, in his elect. What more comforting words could exist then to know that God delighted in you, therefore, he sent his Son to save you.
For David, this particular delight, this particular salvation caused David to do one ultimate thing, Look at the end of Psalm 18:49, “For this I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations, and sing to your name. 50 Great salvation he brings to his king, and shows steadfast love to his anointed, to David and his offspring forever.” This particular pleasure that God has for his anointed produces in David a response. It is the only appropriate response, and it is a humble response. It is the response of praise. And this is what God desires most from the heart of David, praise. This is why David was created, to praise God. And likewise, this is what God desires from us, His praise. Seeing God's eternal delight in us, his elect; and seeing God send his Son to rescue us, fills our heart with gratitude, and out of our mouth comes the substance of our heart.
The Circumstances of our Praise
The Last thing that I want to draw your attention to regarding Psalm 18 is how did all of this praise, delight, and love come about? Once again, it does not exist in a vacuum. It came through trials and tribulations. As David looked back and reflected on his life, David looked at all the enemies that he had, Goliath, Saul, the Philistines, the Jebusties, Absalom, the list goes on and on, and through it all, he saw how time and time again that his God was faithful.
Without the tribulations of David's life he does not see God's delight in him, he does not cry out, I love you, O Lord, and he does not praise God's name amongst the nations. The trials of David's life was a gift from God, so that David would know his God, and fulfill his purpose. The trials and tribulations of this life was David's seminary. It was a seminary of suffering.
It is no different for us. God, because he delights in us, will allow our enemies to surround us. He will allow fiery trials. He will allow persecution. He will allow thorns in our flesh. He will allow financial ruin. He will allow the loss of a loved one. He will allow you to go without a child. He will allow you to have a wayward child. Why? So that you will cry out to God, and God will bring you to a broad place for your feet to rest, so that at the end of your life you can write a song like David, “I Love you, O Lord, my Strength.”