John T. Willis

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Our God Fights for His People--Psalm 18

Numerous biblical texts declare that Yahweh our God is a WARRIOR, who fights in battles for his people and against his enemies. Joshua 10:14, 42; 23:3 declares that Yahweh "fought for Israel." Many reject and dismiss this clear biblical statement. It would be great if we never engaged in battles and war. But sinful people force us into fighting. This is both spiritual and physical. No one can avoid this reality even when religious people would like to evade this.

Psalm 18 is a psalm which emphasizes this reality. It is clearly a doublet of 2 Samuel 22. The setting is that Yahweh had delivered David and the Israelites from their enemies and from Saul. Here David composes this song, praising Yahweh for protecting him and Israel from their enemies. Psalm 18 falls into two parts: defensive fighting, and offensive fighting.

I. Yahweh defends David and the Israelites from their enemies. Psalm 18:1-30.
    a. The superscription in Psalm 18 is very close to 2 Samuel 22, suggesting that originally this particular psalm came from David.
    b. The psalmist begins by declaring, "I LOVE you, Lord." The first commandment is that all of God's people must LOVE Yahweh with all their heart, soul, strength, and mind--Deuteronomy 6:5. The psalmist describes Yahweh as my strength, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer, my refuge, my shield, the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. The psalmist calls upon the Lord--he PRAYS that Yahweh will deliver him from his enemies. 18:1-3.
   c. Then the psalmist describes his present situation. Enemies threaten him on every side. He calls them the cords of death, the torrents of perdition, the cords of Sheol, the snares of death--all of these are synonymous expressions in Hebrew poetry. In his distress, the psalmist turns to Yahweh for help. Yahweh responded from his temple--here "temple" apparently is heaven. 18:4-6.
   d. Next, the psalmist describes Yahweh's appearance to deliver him from his enemies. These verses are a theophany, a visible appearance of Yahweh. The earth and the mountains reeled, rocked, trembled, quaked. Smoke, devouring fire, glowing coals flamed forth from Yahweh. Yahweh came down and bowed the heavens to earth below. Thick darkness was under his feet. He rode on a cherub [an angelic being], he came swiftly on the wings of the wind; darkness and thick clouds surrounded everything. Hailstones and coals of fire brought through these clouds. Yahweh thundered or uttered his voice in the heavens. He sent out his arrows=his lightning, and everyone saw the channels of the sea and the foundations of the earth at Yahweh's rebuke. All this calls to mind the theophany of Yahweh on Mount Sinai when he revealed his Ten Commandments through Moses. See Exodus 19. 18:7-15.
   e. Yahweh reached down from heaven to rescue David and the Israelites from their enemies like drawing out a threatened swimmer in a terrible flood. These enemies, these waves were too powerful for David, but Yahweh intervened and delivered him. 18:16-19.
   f. The psalmist declares that Yahweh delivered him because he had faithfully tried to follow Yahweh's will and commandments. Thus, he has clean hands. He is blameless before Yahweh because he kept Yahweh's ordinances. His enemies are perverse and haughty, but he is humble and pure. 18:20-27.
   g. The psalmist praises Yahweh as his light and lamp. So as a faithful soldier, the psalmist can crush a troop and leap over a wall. Yahweh is perfect; his promise is true, and he is a SHIELD to all who take refuge in him. 18:28-30.

II. Yahweh Motivates David and the Israelites to Defeat Yahweh's Enemies. Psalm 18:31-50.
     a. In the second part of Psalm 18, the poet begins by proclaiming that Yahweh is INCOMPARABLE, a very important truth declared throughout scripture: see Exodus 15:11;
1 Samuel 2:2. The psalmist asks rhetorically: "Who is God except the Lord? And who is a rock besides our God?" The obvious answer is ABSOLUTELY NO ONE!!! Yahweh is incomparable. 18:31.
     b. The psalmist declares that Yahweh has given him all the equipment he needs to defeat his enemies. Yahweh has girded him with strength and made his way safe; he has made him secure; he trains his hands for war so he can use his bow and arrows to defeat his enemies; Yahweh has given him the shield of salvation and supported him with Yahweh's right hand; Yahweh has made him a wide place so he will not slip. 18:32-36.
     c. The poet continues to praise Yahweh that Yahweh has pursued his enemies until he overthrew them; struck them down until they were consumed; girded him with strength to defeat his enemies; destroyed his enemies; when they cried to Yahweh for help Yahweh did not answer; the psalmist beat his enemies fine like dust before the wind. 18:37-42.
     d. As a result of these victories, Yahweh has made the enemies of David to serve and obey and cringe before David and Yahweh. 18:43-45.
     e. The poet concludes by praising Yahweh for delivering him from his enemies and giving him victories in battle. He extols Yahweh as his rock and the God of his salvation. Thus, David exalts Yahweh among the nations. Yahweh has given great triumphs to his king and showed steadfast love to his anointed one, to David and his descendants forever. 18:46-50.

Share YOUR expectations and reversals and expressions and thoughts and experiences with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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