Psalm 18
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
It is not our purpose, nor is it our province, in this section of the 'Pulpit Commentary,' to write homilies on specific texts; but rather to deal with this psalm (as we have done with others) as a whole - for it is a unity - and to show how grand a basis it presents for the pulpit exposition of the provisions of "the everlasting covenant" to which allusion is made in the last verse of the psalm. The student and expositor might with advantage refer at the outset to Isaiah 4:3, "I will give you the sure mercies of David," with the view of showing that the promises made to David do immeasurably transcend any merely personal reference; that they include all the blessings which come to us through him who, though David's Son, was yet David's Lord. There is no reason to doubt the Davidic authorship of the psalm. There are, moreover, more data than most psalms present, to aid us in deciding the approximate date of its composition. We have it recorded in 2 Samuel 22:4-51. This gives us one historic clue to its date. Besides, the tone of triumph which is heard throughout it was scarcely heard in the later days of David, after his great crime had darkened the remainder of his earthly life. Vers. 19-24 could scarcely have been written after that catastrophe, even though it be urged that David writes rather of his administration as king than of his behaviour as a man. Regarding, then, the inscription at the head as showing us the occasion on which the psalm was first penned, and taking into account the prophetic far-reaching-ness of its closing words, we are called on to view it in a double aspect - one historical, the other typical.


1. Here is a distinct reference to David as king. And while we should miss very much of the significance of the psalm, were we to omit the larger view to which we shall presently refer, yet, on the other hand, if we omit the strictly historical application, our use of the psalm will be strangely incomplete. As, without the historic setting, there would be no basis on which to set anything further, so, without the larger view, there would be no adequate superstructure set up upon that basis. Combine both, and the glory of the psalm stands forth as combining inspiration and revelation in the contents of this triumphant song (see ver. 50, where the remarkable, phrase occurs, "his king;" i.e. God's king). David was God's appointed king for Israel, and as such he tunes his harp for Jehovah's praise.

2. With David as king, God had made a covenant. This is implied in ver. 50, where the mercies already granted are referred to as pledged "for evermore."

3. David had been plunged into fierce conflict. (See vers. 4, 5.) The study of David's life will furnish us with a host of facts in this direction.

4. Conflict had driven him to earnest prayer. (Ver. 6.) Again and again had he passed through this experience (see Psalm 34:6; Psalm 138:3). The believer's most piercing cries are sent upward to God, when he is being pierced by the sharpest arrows of affliction. How is it that we so often need the pressure of sorrow to quicken us from languor in prayer. Sad, - that prayer should be forced out rather than drawn out]

5. Prayer had been followed by timely deliverance. This is set forth in poetry which is truly sublime (see vers. 7-16). 'The Divine deliverance was seen:

(1) In girding the assailed one with strength (ver. 39).

(2) In rescuing him from his pursuers (ver. 16).

(3) In causing the foe to be prostrate under the conqueror's feet (ver. 40).

(4) In bringing forth the conqueror to liberty and gladness (ver. 19).

6. Such deliverance led him to triumph in God. It may be asked, however, "Is not such joy in God rather of an inferior order, when it arises because God has done for us just what we wished? Perhaps so. But that is not a correct setting of the case before us. It is this: God had promised deliverance. David pleaded with God on the ground of the promise; and he found the great Promiser true. Hence the jubilation. When prayers that are presented on the basis of God's promise are abundantly answered, gratitude may well burst forth in holy song (see vers. 1, 2). What joy to a believer to read in the trials and reliefs of life a perpetual revelation of the loving-kindness of God!

7. The mercies of the past assure him of help in the future. (Ver. 50.) For evermore." Even so. So often has prayer been turned to praise, so often have we cast our burden at God's feet, and borne a song away, that we cannot doubt him now. Rather will we sing, "Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice." God has helped us, and will "for evermore."

II. LET US NOTE ITS CONTENTS TYPICALLY, AS FULFILLED AND FULFILLING IN ONE WHO IS OF DAVID'S SEED, YET IS DAVID'S LORD. Although it is easy to explain the greater part of the phrases of this psalm by incidents in David's personal career, there are some which seem to tower above his or any man's experience, and which can be adequately interpreted only as the psalm is regarded as having not only historical meaning, but also typical and predictive significance. How this manifests itself will appear, we trust, from the present outlines.

1. The kingship of David was not only personal, but also typical and prophetic. That such was the case may be gathered from the last verse of this psalm, and also from a study of the following passages: 2 Samuel 7:12-16; 2 Samuel 23:2-5; Psalm 16:8-10; Psalm 89:20-37; Psalm 132:11-18; Psalm 110.; Matthew 22:41-45; Acts 2:25-36; Acts 13:32-37. That gracious redemptive work, which began with the calling out of Abraham (Isaiah 51:2, Hebrew), was being carried forward through David with a view to its fulfilment in the Lord Jesus Christ, who is seated on David's throne. And the glory of King David is infinitely surpassed in David's Lord; while the promises made to David and his seed are made over to all who are in blessed covenant relation to God through the Lord Jesus Christ (Isaiah 4:3).

2. The Lord Jesus and his saints are gone forth to war. (Ver. 34.) In a high and holy sense, as the kingship of David was typical, so also were his wars. One of the early visions of the seer of Patmos indicated this. He sees One who speaks of himself as the Root and Offspring of David (Revelation 22:16) going forth conquering and to conquer (Revelation 6:2); and, indeed, the entire Book of the Apocalypse might be called the 'Book of the Wars of the Lord.'

3. The issue of the great conflict is already foreseen. The "for evermore" with which the psalm closes spans the whole of the present dispensation, and reaches forward to the time when Jesus shall have "all enemies beneath his feet." This is beyond doubt. The everlasting covenant is "ordered in all things and sure."

4. Ere this final victory, there will intervene many a struggle and many a rescue. While David's Lord is on high, controlling the conflict, and administering all, the saints are in the midst of the struggle. As individuals they are called to "wrestle against the world-rulers of darkness." Ministers of the gospel are to "endure hardness, as good soldiers of Jesus Christ." And the Church, as a whole, will have to undergo many a severe struggle. At times it may seem as if the cause were all but lost. But the great Commander will ensure his army all timely rescue as well as final triumph.

5. All the enemies of Christ will be put to shame. (Isaiah 60:12; Romans 16:20; Psalm 18:40-42; also vers. 13, 14, 45.)

6. The great King will receive the homage of the peoples, and be exalted above all. (Vers. 43, 44.) The expression in ver. 43, "the Head of the nations," can be fully accomplished only in Christ as our victorious Lord. "All nations shall serve him."

7. All who are now fighting on the King's side will share his victory. That which is the result for David is ensured also to "his seed" (ver. 50). As our Lord is not alone in the war, so he will not be alone when the war is over. His triumph will be that also of those who are his.

8. The result of all will be a new disclosure of God. (Vers. 1, 2, 30, 31, 46, 47.) Just as David's career was ever unfolding to him the faithfulness and love of God, so will the result of the Church's conflict reveal to believers how great, how vast, was the scheme of mercy for men's deliverance, and for the discomfiture of the powers of ill. The glory of God will stand out revealed in the day of final triumph, putting doubts and fears to fiight, as his love stands forth vindicated in the glorious result of all. And the oft-repeated Scripture phrase, "They shall know that I am the Lord," will be fulfilled with a glory and grandeur beyond our utmost stretch of thought.

9. All this is now God's noblest prophecy, and will be hereafter the theme of the saints noblest song. Psalm 18, may well be regarded as finding its exposition, its supplement, in Revelation 5. In the psalm we have God's providences forecast; in the Apocalypse we have God's providences reviewed. In the former David's conquests are recited; in the latter the conquests of the Root of David. In the former we have the song of the victorious David; in the latter the new song of the victorious Seed of David. And by as much as David's Lord is greater than David, by so much will the new song of the redeemed transcend the noblest flights of Hebrew praise. - C.

The sailor tells of the perils of the sea; the traveller recounts the varied incidents of his career; and the soldier who has passed through battles and sieges can speak of hairbreadth escapes and moving accidents by flood and field. So it is with human life. We have the power of looking back; we can in imagination revive the past, and as scene after scene rises before us, our heart is thrilled with various emotions. And what we have experienced and recalled, we can set forth to others. The opening of this psalm is very touching and beautiful. It is as if the fire which had been burning within could no longer be restrained. The psalmist's pent-up feelings must find an outlet. Before and beyond all, he must let his full heart speak. "I will love thee, O Lord, my strength." This may be regarded as the key-note, and it is touching how the psalmist dwells upon it, with variations, as if he could not let it go (ver. 2). Love to God was not an impulse, or the result of purposes, but the very habit and delight of his soul. Name after name, and epithet after epithet, is pronounced, each having its own peculiar associations, and each; not only expressing, but exciting his love the more. In this retrospect of life we have -

I. THE PERILS ESCAPED. Various images are employed. We see how enemies increased and dangers thickened. In the midst of one terrible scene of tumult and storm, where all perils are gathered into one, the psalmist seems about to be engulfed. But in his helplessness, the hand of God from out of the cloud lays hold of him, and draws him forth from the great waters. His cry for help was not in vain. So let us remember with gratitude God's goodness. There are some that dishonour the great memories of life, because they forget God. Let us acknowledge the hand of God, not only in the crises of our life, but also in the countless instances in which God has shielded us from dangers that we knew not, and saved us from evils and mischances of our daily life which else might have been our ruin.

II. THE PRINCIPLES EVOLVED. Trials are a test. There are certain principles which we should do well to hold fast, whatever comes.

1. God's Fatherly care. Relation stands. God does not change his love, though he may change his ways. Through all afflictions he cleaves to his people, and his people should cleave to him.

2. The efficacy of prayer. There are infinite resources with God, but they are only available to us by prayer. We may not be able to see how help can come, or relief may reach us in ways different from what we expected; but let us have faith in God's Word. "Call upon me in the day of trouble, and I will deliver thee." To this David and all the saints bear witness.

3. That all things are working to a perfect end. God is just, and will do justly. God is good, and he cannot will us aught but good. Let us trust him utterly. "It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord" (Lamentations 3:26; Romans 8:28).

III. THE BLESSINGS ENJOYED. Light shines in the darkness. Strength is evolved out of weakness. Progress is made in spite of opposition. Peace is enjoyed in the midst of trouble. Hope is cherished in the face of difficulties and sorrows. Victory is assured over every foe. And why? Because God is with his people (vers. 31-45).

IV. THE ACKNOWLEDGMENTS DEMANDED. (Vers. 46, 50.) The psalm concludes with a joyous burst of praise, in which, with brief touches, scenes previously described are recalled, and the rich fulness of the Divine goodness is set forth. There is personal thanksgiving for God's love and mighty works. But there is more. There is the acknowledgment of God as the God of all flesh - not only of David and of Israel, but of all nations. And there is the grand hope expressed that, as God had brought the nations around within the dominion of Israel, so he would draw all the nations of the earth within the benign and blessed rule of Messiah (Romans 15:9). "In Christ, the Son of David, David's fallen throne has lasting continuance; and in him everything that was promised to David's seed has eternal truth and reality. According to its final prospect, the praise of Jahve, the God of David, his Anointed, is praise of the Father of Jesus Christ' (Delitzsch). - W.F.

In this magnificent hymn the royal poet sketches in a few grand outlines the history of his life. By God's help he had subdued every enemy, and now, in middle life, looking back with devout thankfulness on the past, he sings this great song of praise to the God of his life. Divisions of the psalm:

1. The introduction, setting forth all that Jehovah is to David (vers. 1-3).

2. The record of David's sufferings and peril, and the mighty deliverance by which he was rescued (vers. 4-19).

3. The reason for this deliverance, in the character of God and the principles of his government (vers. 20-30).

4. The blessings which David had received in his life; his own preservation and that of his race; help and strength in battle, rule over all enemies (vers. 31-45).

5. Joyful thanksgiving and acknowledgment of all God's mercies (vers. 46-50). The general subject of the psalm is - The retrospect of a life. The interest of such a retrospect depends on the following conditions: -

I. WHETHER A MAN HAS HAD A HISTORY OR NOT. (Ver. 43.) Anything to distinguish his life from the uneventful lives of the myriads who are born, pass through life, and die, and leave no trace behind them. But Moses and David, Paul and others, gave birth to history, and have mingled in the greatest affairs of a nation and of the world, and have much to think of and celebrate when they look hack. So of modern great men. They animated and created their opportunities. Have we made our lives in any way worth looking back upon? Domestic history. Thinkers as well as actors make history. What Christ has done.

II. WHETHER A MAN HAS SEEN GOD IN HIS LIFE OR NOT. (Vers. 19, 29, 32, 39.) To most men God has been only remotely related to their lives - a power at the back of things generally, but not occupying every single event and experience of their existence. To David and all the great saints of the world, God was everything and everywhere in his life. God had anointed him for every work and every office; and every event was a manifestation of his love and righteousness and power. The consciousness of such a past is very grand and elevating. Our life is rich or poor accordingly. Sense of God in common life and duties.

III. WHETHER THE LIFE HAS BEEN RIGHTEOUS OR WICKED. (Ver. 20.) We turn our eyes from a life that has been ill spent, and are filled with reproach and sorrow. If we know that we have lived a wicked life, we know that we are unworthy and guilty, and are self-condemned. Whether David wrote this psalm before or after his sin with Bathsheba, we cannot say; but he affirms his righteousness in the most emphatic way. "He has kept the ways of the Lord, and has not wickedly departed from him." Such a retrospect is full of deep power and sense of triumph.

IV. WHETHER A MAN HAS ACHIEVED HIS OBJECTS OR NOT. (Vers. 37, 38, 48.) David was a king, and had been in many wars and troubles; but he had, through God, triumphed over all his difficulties and foes. How many of us fail, or only partly succeed, in the things we aim at, because we have been profane and faithless!

V. WHETHER WE HAVE A FUTURE TO ANTICIPATE, AS WELL AS A PAST TO REMEMBER. To some the past is all; they have no future. But David had a bright future as well as a glorious past. "In thy presence is fulness of joy," etc. - S.

We often hear of what are called self-made men; but here is something nobler by far - a God-made man. "Thy gentleness hath made me great." We learn from this text that -

I. MAN IS CAPABLE OF GREATNESS. At first, man was made great, for he was made in the image of God. But he sinned and fell. Still, the capacity remained. Hence there was misery. Ambition wrongly directed became a bane. Powers and cravings that rose above earthly things left the heart unsatisfied. To be great, man must be raised from his fallen state, and renewed in the spirit of his mind. Love is the spirit of greatness; service is its test, and power with man is its proof. He is the greatest who serves his brethren best in love.

II. THAT GOD IS ABLE TO MAKE MAN GREAT. It has been said that "some men are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them;" but this is a low and false view of greatness. It is of the earth, earthy. True greatness does not come from without, but from within; it is not a thing of circumstances, but of character; it does not depend upon the will of other men, but upon the spirit that dwelleth in us. We must be great in heart before we can be great in life. When God would make a man great, he not only gives him the right spirit, but submits him to a process of education and discipline. God has already made many great. Think of the glorious company of the apostles, the goodly fellowship of the prophets, the noble army of martyrs, and the exceeding great multitude of the saints of every kindred and tongue; all these would acknowledge, with glad and grateful hearts, that they owed everything to God. Their confession would be, "We are his workmanship" (Ephesians 2:10; Revelation 4:10).

III. GOD MAKES MEN GREAT BY HIS GENTLENESS. Force may overcome force, but it cannot win the heart. If we are dealt with in the way of terror and wrath, our tendency will be to resistance, a version, and alienation. Severity may be, at times, necessary, but it is not severity but love that conquers. Mark God's gentleness:

1. In his manifestation of himself in Christ.

2. In the love of the Spirit in the Word.

3. In the gracious discipline of Providence.

We have in the life of David a beautiful example of the way in which God makes a man great. In the Gospels we have the true doctrine as to greatness (Matthew 20:26), and illustrative facts of the most convincing kind. See how Matthew was called; how Zacchseus was raised to a nobler life; how Peter and the rest of the apostles were trained to humble and loving service in behalf of their fellow-men. These, and such as these, will be hailed as truly great men when kings and conquerors, and all the "laurelled Barabbases of history," who have lived only for themselves, are forgotten. - W.F.

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