Monday, March 17, 2008

Day 77: Psalm 18

God, My Rock!

SCRIPTURE: Psalm 18

BACKGROUND

In the Hebrew the inscription above the chapter is included with the chapter, all of one piece. So David sang this song to the LORD when God delivered him from the hands of his enemies and the hand of Saul. Later, probably toward the end of his life, he gave the song to the director of music to be sung. The song, with few variations, is also found in 2 Samuel 22. Check it out!

David was chosen by God and anointed by Samuel to be the next king of Israel, after Saul. David knew this. But for several years he was hunted by King Saul who was jealous of him and wanted to kill him. David spent those years on the move hiding from Saul, trying to survive. David did not connive or try to wrest the kingship from Saul. He had opportunity to kill him, but didn’t. And he kept his men, those who joined him in hiding, from harming Saul. Eventually Saul and his son Jonathan were killed in a battle with the Philistines, and David became king. For the first years of his reign he warred with neighboring pagan countries who wanted to control Israel: the Philistines, the Moabites, the Ammonites and others. Finally, David was given peace.

In this song, David pictures Jehovah God as a rock, fortress, deliverer, shield, horn of salvation (which signifies strength), a stronghold, and a light giver. There is a long passage (vv. 7- 17), a powerful extended metaphor, that shows God as a mighty warrior, riding through the sky to defend and rescue David, who was overwhelmed and cried to God. Notice the parallel structures of many of the verses, the balanced statements.

REFLECTION

This is a long psalm – a long song! Wouldn’t you have loved to hear David sing it? I would! Maybe we will get to someday!

David was overwhelmed by those who were powerful and proud, the ungodly, those who relied on their own wits and strength and power rather than on God’s. David’s fear was like a flood, the distress was like being bound by ropes – these are some of the images David uses to show his helplessness in the face of his enemies. Yet, in his distress he didn’t strike out or sin by taking things into his own hands; he remained faithful to God, obeyed God, and he cried to God for help. “In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help.” (v. 6) And God heard! God rescued him from the deep water of fear and despair. (v. 16) God renewed him and strengthened him and gave him victory. Verse 36 uses a metaphor to explain how God eased David. It says that God made the path broader for David, so that David didn’t trip or fall down or hurt himself.

Read verses 27 – 36 again: “You save the humble/ but bring low those whose eyes are haughty. You O LORD, keep my lamp burning;/ my God turns my darkness into light./ ... As for God, His way is perfect;/ the word of the LORD is flawless/. He is a shield/ for all who take refuge in Him./ For who is God besides the LORD?/ And who is the Rock except our God?/ It is God who arms me with strength/ and makes my way perfect.”

What passages are especially meaningful to you today?

APPLICATION

Have you ever been overwhelmed by distress in some form – by worry, fear, indecision, unfair treatment, hurt by others, your own sin? I have. The metaphors of flood and darkness are so apt. What do you do in those times; to whom do you turn? Next time (or now, if you’re in a dark place at this moment) read this psalm out loud from your heart. Turn to God – our rescuer and stronghold and light giver. Keep on trusting and obeying and cling to our ROCK!

This psalm is a song of praise to God. It really is all about God. It lifts up the Name of the One who made a covenant with David. The Bible is not primarily a book of rules for us to follow, or of moral stories that tell us how to live better, or a self-help book. It is a book that celebrates God the King’s covenant love for His people, for those who trust in Him. So often we make the Bible about us, and it was given to us, but it’s not about us – we are not its focus. The focus of the Bible is on the LORD God and His glory, on lifting up the Name of the One who rescues us!

Isaiah 55: 1- 3 says, “Come, all you who are thirsty,/ come to the waters;/ and you who have no money,/ come, buy and eat!/ …. Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,/ and your soul will delight in the richest of fare./ Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live./ I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David.” If those of us who are thirsty, spiritually impoverished, and humble – those of us who know we are needy - come to God for life, for sustenance – we are part of the everlasting covenant that God made with David. God promises us His faithful love!

So that last verse of the psalm is for us! We know far more of God’s plan than David did. That “Warrior” who charged down to save David from his enemies, came in the flesh to save those who trust Him, to save those in distress. He has defeated our enemies: sin and death. Let’s take some time today to praise God for His unfailing kindness to us.

PRAYER (Feel free to sing it! It’s really about Psalm 104, but fits with this psalm, too.)

O worship the King, all glorious above,
And gratefully sing His power and His love;
Our Shield and Defender, the Ancient of Days,
Pavilioned in splendor, and girded with praise.

O tell of His might, O sing of His grace,
Whose robe is the light, whose canopy space.
His chariots of wrath the deep thunderclouds form,
And dark is His path on the wings of the storm.

Thy bountiful care, what tongue can recite?
It breathes in the air, it shines in the light;
It streams from the hills, it descends to the plain,
And sweetly distills in the dew and the rain.

Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail,
In Thee do we trust, nor find Thee to fail;
Thy mercies how tender! How firm to the end!
Our Maker; Defender, Redeemer, and Friend.
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