The hits don’t stop, the waves keep coming. What do you do when it’s hard to find stable footing? Psalm 18 has the ultimate answer for the waves in the storms of this life.
Psalm 18:1–6 (NIV) — 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. 4 The cords of death entangled me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me. 5 The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me. 6 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.
Psalm 18 Outline:
Psalm 18 is a close copy of the composition that appears in 2 Samuel 22:1–51. There, as here, the psalm is described as David’s melodic response to the divine deliverance from “the hand of all his enemies,” including Saul (2 Sam. 22:1; cf. Ps. 18:0). The psalm is an extended hymn of praise to Yahweh for his deliverance of the psalmist from a host of enemies. The theme of Yahweh as “rock,” “fortress,” and “refuge” appears at significant points throughout the psalm (18:2, 30–31, 46). Structurally, the psalm falls into five sections: an introduction of praise for Yahweh’s deliverance (18:1–3), a narrative in almost mythic terms of Yahweh’s saving acts in behalf of the psalmist (18:4–19), a passage of instruction in which the personal righteousness of the psalmist provides guidance for the reader/hearer (18:20–29), a description of victory over the enemies in which the psalmist’s commitment to Yahweh serves as an example to the reader/hearer (18:30–45), and a conclusion that returns to praise of Yahweh (18:46–50). -Gerald H. Wilson
The captivating poetry of Psalm 18 crafts a stunning confession of faith in the living God. As creator of the universe, this God hears the cry of a petitioner hard-pressed by enemies and intervenes with a powerful display of divine presence. YHWH reaches down into the very depths of death to rescue the Davidic ruler, who faces defeat. YHWH fulfills the royal promise of rule over the nations. The psalm reflects the powerful cries for help in the lament traditions; the thanksgiving offered to God in Psalm 18 is equally extravagant. The psalm’s powerful portrayal of God as victor will strike some contemporary readers as problematic. This God is powerful but also violent and warring. The focus in the context of the Psalms is a covenant theology in which God relates to the faithful and the oppressed as the one who comes to deliver. The description of God certainly partakes of its ancient Near Eastern setting, but the focus of the psalm is on YHWH as the one who fulfills the promise of salvation for David and his descendants as well as the faithful who cry to YHWH for help. This God is in the fray. We have already noted that the psalm has implications beyond the Davidic line. The king is representative of the person journeying in faith, and the petition calls readers of the psalm to faith in this God who delivers, perhaps even to join this God in the fray on behalf of those in need. Such a faith affirmation flies in the face of contemporary empirical evidence, but the psalm’s faith is a persistent one, even if troubling.
– Walter Bruggemann
Our righteousness counts for something. It may not pay off in wealth and pleasure. We may not achieve all our goals, satisfy our desires, or rise to great influence and power. But the blessing of God’s presence in our lives is in direct proportion to our acknowledgment of absolute dependence on him. God does deliver the righteous—although not always from their troubles, always to renewed experience of the joy of his indwelling spiritual presence. As Job and the Proverbs attest, that is the better way, the way of life. He makes my way perfect. Related to the psalmist’s confession that God responds “according to my righteousness” (18:20–24) is the further admission that it is Yahweh and not the psalmist who “makes my way perfect.” (18:32b). The psalmist does not claim sinless perfection, but he relies on Yahweh’s gracious provision. In the commentary I indicated that this phrase, linked with the following verse, suggests nimble surefootedness. However, the connection with Yahweh’s “perfect way” and “flawless word” in 18:30 implies that much more is at stake here than simply secure footing. It implies that for those who trust and rely on the equipping power of Yahweh to confront and defeat the powers that oppose them, Yahweh makes their path a “blameless” way that mirrors the path of God himself.
That is the gospel message unleashed in an Old Testament idiom! What we cannot do for ourselves—make our path perfect—God can and will do for us. Faith, trust, commitment, and reliance can turn our fumbling steps into a “way” to the fulfillment of God’s purposes for us. – Gerald H. Wilson