Psalm 18:4
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.

I. LET US SKETCH ITS CONTENTS AS HISTORICALLY REFERRING TO KING DAVID AND HIS CONQUESTS.

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 sorrows of death compassed me.
No attempt is here made to diminish the severity of the crisis. Often when a great agony is overpast, the sufferer himself forgets its intensity and is inclined to think that it might have been cured by less ostentatious menus than had been adopted for its pacification. We are seldom critically correct in the recollection of our sorrows. We either unduly magnify them, or we so far modify their intensity as to make any remedial measures look as simple and superficial as possible. David vividly remembered all his afflictive experience. He does not hesitate to speak of that experience in words which are metaphorical, if not romantic, without at all affecting the reality of the trouble through which he had. passed. He says, "the sorrows of death compassed" him. Some have interpreted this expression as birth pangs; others, again, have used the word cords. It has been thought that the figure of the hunter in the next verse, in which we read of the "snares of death," fixes the meaning there to be cords. In Samuel, David represents himself as submerged or overwhelmed by the progress or waves of the trouble which had been made to pass over him. Sometimes, indeed, we do not know what real trouble we have been in until we have been removed from it for some distance, and thus enabled that we may also recollect our greatest deliverances. There is no true piety in undervaluing the darkness and the horror through which the soul has passed. Instead of making light of the most tragical experiences of life, we should rather accumulate them, that we may see how wondrous has been the interposition of the Divine hand, and how adequate are the resources of heaven to all the necessities of this mortal condition. Even admitting the words to be metaphorical, they present a vivid picture of what human sorrow may be, — whatever may be rationally imagined may be actually undergone; as to David's consciousness, what is here stated was a matter of the sternest reality. It should be borne in mind, too, that trouble is a different thing to different men, even when it comes in the same guise and quantity. Much must depend upon temperament. Things animate suffer; things inanimate do not respond to the blow with which they are struck. The poetic temperament is the most suffering of all. According to the sensitiveness of the nature is the terribleness of the stroke which falls upon it.

(Joseph Parker, D. D.)

We never can be duly thankful to God if we forget the troubles which we have suffered, and the distress of our souls when they were pressing us down. "The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid." When Paul speaks of a great deliverance bestowed upon him in Asia, he says that God had delivered him from so great a death. In another passage he protests that he died daily.

I. OF THE GREAT DISTRESSES AND DANGERS OF DAVID. David probably enjoyed such happiness and tranquillity as this evil world can afford before he was anointed by Samuel to be king over Israel; but almost from that time, whilst he was yet in early youth, his troubles commenced. His sore distresses were not at an end when he was advanced to the throne. But the greatest of all his dangers after his advancement to the kingdom was that to which he was exposed by his unnatural son Absalom, and his treacherous counsellor Ahithophel.

II. THE CONSIDERATION OF THE STATE OF HIS MIND UNDER HIS TROUBLES.

1. Great sorrow often obtained possession of his soul. "My soul is exceeding sorrowful," or encompassed with sorrow even unto death. And as David was an eminent type of that blessed person, his sorrows may be considered as an emblem of those unequalled sorrows which seized on our Redeemer when He was bearing our iniquities. Poverty, exile, reproach, and danger of life are evils which make a deep impression of grief upon the minds of most men, especially when they meet together; and David, though a wise and an holy man, was not exempt from the feelings of human nature. But David was often compelled to dwell amongst men who without cause were his enemies (Psalm 56). And his friends were afraid to perform the offices of friendship. But exile is more distressing to a lover of his country than poverty. It was peculiarly distressing to an Israelite indeed, who could not leave his country without leaving behind him the sanctuary of his God. "They have driven me out this day from abiding in the inheritance of the Lord, saying, Go serve other gods. Woe is me that I dwell in Meshech, and sojourn in the tents of Kedar." His heart was broken with reproach whilst he heard the slanders of many. Continual dangers to himself and to his adherents could not fail to fill his mind with great uneasiness. He had indeed promises which assured him of a happy event to himself, but there is no wonder that his faith, of these promises was sometimes shaken. But to his grief for himself, and for his friends, let us add what he felt for his country, for the indignities done to his God, and even for the guilt and misery which his enemies were bringing upon themselves, and we shall see that he drunk deeper than most other men have done in any age of the cup of affliction. He hated and abhorred every false way, and therefore he was pierced with grief at the sight and hearing of that wickedness which everywhere abounded.

2. Great fear often seized upon him. The floods of ungodly men made him afraid. But of whom was he afraid? Did he think that the Lord had forgotten to be gracious, and had in anger shut up His tender mercies? Surely he was a firm believer in the mercy and faithfulness of God. And yet his faith had a great fight to endure. It was sore tried by many enemies and by ham dispensations of providence. In days of great temptation it is very difficult to restrain those corrupt reasonings by which faith is embarrassed. What if he had made God his enemy? He surely deserved to be rebuked in God's indignation, and chastised in His sore displeasure. God was true to His word, but His faithfulness was not bullied by destroying in the desert that generation which He brought out of Egypt, although they had the promise of entering into God's rest which would have been fulfilled to them if they had not come short of it through their own unbelief. Such might be the workings of David's mind at the times when a deep consciousness of guilt, and a terrifying sense of Divine displeasure discomposed his mind, although during the greater part even of the days of tribulation he could glorify God by an unshaken confidence. No man is always himself. David could often say, "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" But at other times he cried out in the agony of his soul, "I am cut off from Thine eyes; I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me; I am gone like the shadow when it declineth; I am tossed up and down as the locust."

III. WHY GOD SUFFERED THE HOLY MAN TO BE BROUGHT INTO SUCH CALAMITOUS SITUATIONS. May we not reasonably hope, that those men whom God blesses with His special favour will be preserved from those sorrows and fears which are the just portion of the wicked? Can He not by His Divine power, by which He rules over the world, set them high above all their enemies, and fill their mouths at all times with songs of triumph? Undoubtedly he can, and undoubtedly He would do it if He saw that it would tend to their best advantage.

1. His faith was tried and approved. We are called to count it all joy when we fall into divers temptations, knowing this, that the trying of our faith worketh patience. Some remains of unbelief were found in David when his faith was tried as it were by fire (Psalm 27:13, 14, 118).

2. His sore afflictions were means for quickening his devotions. Never was there a more fervent supplicant at the throne of grace.

3. He learned from his sore adversities the value of the Word of God. He learned the value of its promises, its precepts, its warning, its histories.

4. Those graces were improved in him by his afflictions, to the exercise of which he was to be called in the days of his prosperity — his humility, his meekness, his humanity and tenderness of heart to the poor and afflicted. David would not have been such an excellent model for kings as he was if he had obtained the throne like his successors, by hereditary right, without passing to it through a great fight of afflictions. The experience of misery taught him to pity and succour the miserable.

5. His great and sore afflictions prepared the way for those marvellous loving kindnesses which inspired him with joy and praise. He would not have spoken so rapturously on many occasions of the salvations wrought for him by the God of his salvation if he had not tasted the bitter dregs of the cup of affliction.

6. He was designed to be an eminent type of our Lord Jesus Christ in his sufferings and in his exaltation. Many of his Psalms speak of the sufferings and glory of Christ under the figure of his own sufferings and glory.

7. The Church in every age was to derive unspeakable benefit from David's sufferings,Improvement —

1. Think it not strange that you must endure many chastisements and trials in the world. Are your afflictions equal in number or greatness to David's?

2. Admire the providence of God. He knows how to execute His purposes by means which seem calculated to defeat them.

3. Be ready to meet with every occurrence in the course of your lives. You do not know what evil shall befall you; but you know that man is born to trouble. Whilst you enjoy peace and quietness, be thankful but not secure.

(G. Lawson.)

The floods of ungodly men made me afraid.
By the overflowing of ungodliness the holy writer may be presumed to mean an uncommon prevalence of wickedness exceeding its ordinary measure and proportion in the world. The image represents to us impiety grown to the height, of insolence,. regardless of all rules and unrestrained by discipline.

1. Ungodliness may use to such a pitch of insolence as to be without restraint from laws or authority. The truth of fact is apparent from all histories; and it cannot be wondered at that, when the fear of God and the remonstrances of conscience have lost their force, all human authority proves weak and ineffectual. Civil government is ordained for the punishment of evil-doers, and the praise of them that do well, and whenever it is duly executed it promotes and secures the happiness of society; but unless it be assisted, supported, and conducted by religion, all its strength will be but weakness, and all its wisdom folly. If the magistrate be without any restraint flora conscience and religion, the provision of laws will become of little effect. And if the subjects of any community are without any sense of the obligations of conscience and unrestrained by religion, human laws will be found but a weak provision for peace and justice among them.

2. Whenever this is the case there is reason to apprehend the greatest evils in consequence of it. Consider the miserable consequences which even naturally must attend it. When all the wild lusts and passions of corrupt nature are let loose to their several pursuits, unrestrained by Divine and human laws, no person is secured from injury, no property from fraud or rapine. Consider such a land as exposed to the vengeance of an offended God. The natural effects of prevailing impiety are indeed properly inflictions of God, they execute an established rule and constitution of providence, by which it is ordained that all sin should be attended with some immediate punishment. But the justice of God often visits the wicked with some more signal and extraordinary inflictions.

3. What conduct is in duty and prudence required from all who are in view of such a danger.(1) The ministers of God are by a peculiar call and obligation required to lift up their voice and cry aloud, to warn the people of their transgressions. They are placed as watchmen, and as they that must give account. Besides the special duties of those who are distinguished by a public character, every private subject who has any zeal for the glory of God, or any concern for the welfare of his country, must labour together with them, and according to his station and capacities endeavour to dispel the cloud and divert the impending ruin.(2) By a resolute application of private reproof and admonition, by a just and open detestation of impiety, and by a vigorous assistance to the magistrate in the assertion of his authority, and the execution of all good laws, to repress the insolence of wicked men, and make the workers of iniquity ashamed.(3) Upon the whole, everyone who fears God will under so just an apprehension of His judgments set himself with all his strength and with all his might to reduce within bounds the overflowing of ungodliness, and recall the spirit and practice of religion. If this happy effect can be obtained by the united labours and prayers of good men, God will be entreated for the land and turn away His anger from it.

(J. Rogers, D. D.)

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