Study

a Bible passage

Click a verse to see commentary
Select a resource above

18. Psalm 18

I will love thee, O Lord, my strength.

2The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.

3I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.

4The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid.

5The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me.

6In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.

7Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because he was wroth.

8There went up a smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured: coals were kindled by it.

9He bowed the heavens also, and came down: and darkness was under his feet.

10And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind.

11He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies.

12At the brightness that was before him his thick clouds passed, hail stones and coals of fire.

13The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave his voice; hail stones and coals of fire.

14Yea, he sent out his arrows, and scattered them; and he shot out lightnings, and discomfited them.

15Then the channels of waters were seen, and the foundations of the world were discovered at thy rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of the breath of thy nostrils.

16He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters.

17He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them which hated me: for they were too strong for me.

18They prevented me in the day of my calamity: but the Lord was my stay.

19He brought me forth also into a large place; he delivered me, because he delighted in me.

20The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me.

21For I have kept the ways of the Lord, and have not wickedly departed from my God.

22For all his judgments were before me, and I did not put away his statutes from me.

23I was also upright before him, and I kept myself from mine iniquity.

24Therefore hath the Lord recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his eyesight.

25With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful; with an upright man thou wilt shew thyself upright;

26With the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt shew thyself froward.

27For thou wilt save the afflicted people; but wilt bring down high looks.

28For thou wilt light my candle: the Lord my God will enlighten my darkness.

29For by thee I have run through a troop; and by my God have I leaped over a wall.

30 As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the Lord is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him.

31For who is God save the Lord? or who is a rock save our God?

32 It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect.

33He maketh my feet like hinds’ feet, and setteth me upon my high places.

34He teacheth my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms.

35Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great.

36Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip.

37I have pursued mine enemies, and overtaken them: neither did I turn again till they were consumed.

38I have wounded them that they were not able to rise: they are fallen under my feet.

39For thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle: thou hast subdued under me those that rose up against me.

40Thou hast also given me the necks of mine enemies; that I might destroy them that hate me.

41They cried, but there was none to save them: even unto the Lord, but he answered them not.

42Then did I beat them small as the dust before the wind: I did cast them out as the dirt in the streets.

43Thou hast delivered me from the strivings of the people; and thou hast made me the head of the heathen: a people whom I have not known shall serve me.

44As soon as they hear of me, they shall obey me: the strangers shall submit themselves unto me.

45The strangers shall fade away, and be afraid out of their close places.

46The Lord liveth; and blessed be my rock; and let the God of my salvation be exalted.

47 It is God that avengeth me, and subdueth the people under me.

48He delivereth me from mine enemies: yea, thou liftest me up above those that rise up against me: thou hast delivered me from the violent man.

49Therefore will I give thanks unto thee, O Lord, among the heathen, and sing praises unto thy name.

50Great deliverance giveth he to his king; and sheweth mercy to his anointed, to David, and to his seed for evermore.

16. He sent down from above. Here there is briefly shown the drift of the sublime and magnificent narrative which has now passed under our review, namely, to teach us that David at length emerged from the profound abyss of his troubles, neither by his own skill, nor by the aid of men, but that he was drawn out of them by the hand of God. When God defends and preserves us wonderfully and by extraordinary means, he is said in Scripture language to send down succor from above; and this sending is set in opposition to human and earthly aids, on which we usually place a mistaken and an undue confidence. I do not disapprove of the opinion of those who consider this as referring to the angels, but I understand it in a more general sense; for by whatever means we are preserved, it is God who having his creatures ready at his nod to do his will, appoints them to take charge of us, and girds or prepares them for succouring us. But, although every kind of aid comes from heaven, David, with good reason, affirms that God had stretched out his hand from on high to deliver him. In speaking thus, he meant to place the astonishing benefit referred to, by way of eminence, above others of a more common kind; and besides, there is in this expression a tacit comparison between the unusual exercise of the power of God here celebrated, and the common and ordinary means by which he succours his people. When he says, that God drew him out of great waters, it is a metaphorical form of expression. By comparing the cruelty of his enemies to impetuous torrents, by which he might have been swallowed up a hundred times, he expresses more clearly the greatness of the danger; as if he had said, I have, contrary to the expectation of men, escaped, and been delivered from a deep abyss in which I was ready to be overwhelmed. In the following verse he expresses the thing simply and without a figure, declaring that he had been delivered from a strong enemy, 408408     Bishop Patrick paraphrases the verse thus:— “He delivered me first from that mighty giant, Goliath, and then from Saul, whose power I was not able to withstand; and afterwards from the Philistines and Syrians, and many other nations, whose forces were far superior unto mine, and whose hatred instigated them to do all they could to destroy me.” who mortally hated and persecuted him. The more to exalt and magnify the power of God, he directs our attention to this circumstance, that no strength or power of men had been able to prevent God from saving him, even when he was reduced to the greatest extremity of distress. As in the end of the verse there is the Hebrew particle כי, ki, which generally denotes the cause of what is predicated, almost all interpreters agree in explaining the verse thus: God has succoured me from above, because my enemies were so numerous and so strong that no relief was to be expected by the mere aid of men. From this we deduce a very profitable doctrine, namely, that the most seasonable time for God to aid his people is when they are unable to sustain the assaults of their enemies, or rather, when, broken and afflicted, they sink under their violence, like the wretched man who having in a shipwreck lost all hope of being able to swim to the shore, sinks with great rapidity to the bottom of the deep. The particle יכ, ki, however, might also be explained by the adversative particle although, in this way: Although the enemies of David were superior to him in number and power, he nevertheless was saved.

18. They had prevented me in the day of my calamity. 409409     “They set their faces against me in the day of my calamity,” — Walford. The Psalmist here confirms in different words the preceding sentence, namely, that he had been sustained by the aid of God, when there was no way of escaping by the power of man. He tells us how he had been besieged on all sides, and that not by an ordinary siege, inasmuch as his enemies, in persecuting him, always molested him most in the time of his calamity. From this circumstance it is the more evident that he had obtained enlargement by no other means than by the hand of God. Whence proceeded so sudden a restoration from death to life, but because God intended to show that he has in his hand, and under his absolute control, the issues of death? In short, the Psalmist ascribes his deliverance to no other cause than the mere good pleasure of God, that all the praise might redound to him alone: He delivered me, because he loved me, or had a good will to me. In mentioning the good pleasure of God, he has a special respect to his own calling to be king. The point on which he principally insisted is, that the assaults which were made upon him, and the conflicts which he had to sustain, were stirred up against him for no other reason but because he had obeyed the call of God, and followed with humble obedience the revelation of his oracle. Ambitious and turbulent men, who are carried headlong by their unruly lusts, inconsiderately to attempt any thing, and who, by their rashness, involve themselves in dangers, may often accomplish their undertakings by vigorous and resolute efforts, but at length a reverse takes place, and they are stopt short in their career of success, for they are unworthy of being sustained and prospered by God, since, without having any warrant or foundation for what they do in his call, they would raise their insane structures even to heaven, and disturb all around them. In short, David testifies, by this expression, that the assistance of God had never failed him, because he had not thrust himself into the office of king of his own accord, but that when he was contented with his humble condition, and would willingly have lived in obscurity, in the sheep-cotes, or in his father’s hut, he had been anointed by the hand of Samuel, which was the symbol of his free election by God to fill the throne.

20. Jehovah rewarded me. David might seem at first sight to contradict himself; for, while a little before he declared that all the blessings which he possessed were to be traced to the good pleasure of God, he now boasts that God rendered to him a just recompense. But if we remember for what purpose he connects these commendations of his own integrity with the good pleasure of God, it will be easy to reconcile these apparently conflicting statements. He has before declared that God was the sole author and originator of the hope of coming to the kingdom which he entertained, and that he had not been elevated to it by the suffrages of men, nor had he rushed forward to it through the mere impulse of his own mind, but accepted it because such was the will of God. Now he adds, in the second place, that he had yielded faithful obedience to God, and had never turned aside from his will. Both these things were necessary; first, that God should previously show his favor freely towards David, in choosing him to be king; and next, that David, on the other hand, should, with an obedient spirit, and a pure conscience, receive the kingdom which God thus freely gave him; and farther, that whatever the wicked might attempt, with the view of overthrowing or shaking his faith, he should nevertheless continue to adhere to the direct course of his calling. Thus, then, we see that these two statements, so far from disagreeing with each other, admirably harmonise. David here represents God as if the president 411411     Agonotheta. Calvin alludes to the ancient games and combats of Greece, the presidents of which were called Agonothetee. of a combat, under whose authority and conduct he had been brought forth to engage in the combats. Now that depended upon election, in other words, upon this, that God having embraced him with his favor, had created him king. He adds in the verses which immediately follow, that he had faithfully performed the duties of the charge and office committed to him even to the uttermost. It is not, therefore, wonderful if God maintained and protected David, and even showed, by manifest miracles, that he was the defender of his own champion, 412412     ArMeta. Those who exercised themselves with the view of contending for the prizes in the Grecian games and combats were called AtMetce. whom he had, of his own free choice, admitted to the combat, and who he saw had performed his duty with all fidelity. We ought not, however, to think that David, for the sake of obtaining praise among men, has here purposely indulged in the language of vain boasting; we ought rather to view the Holy Spirit as intending by the mouth of David to teach us the profitable doctrine, that the aid of God will never fail us, provided we follow our calling, keep ourselves within the limits which it prescribes, and undertake nothing without the command or warrant of God. At the same time, let this truth be deeply fixed in our minds, that we can only begin an upright course of life when God of his good pleasure adopts us into his family, and in effectually calling, anticipates us by his grace, without which neither we nor any creature would give him an opportunity of bestowing this blessing upon us. 413413     “Sans que nous ne creature quelconque luy en donnions” occasion. — Fr.

There, however, still remains one question. If God rendered to David a just recompense, it may be said, does it not seem, when he shows himself liberal towards his people, that he is so in proportion as each of them has deserved? I answer, When the Scripture uses the word reward or recompense, it is not to show that God owes us any thing, and it is therefore a groundless and false conclusion to infer from this that there is any merit or worth in works. God, as a just judge, rewards every man according to his works, but he does it in such a manner, as to show that all men are indebted to him, while he himself is under obligation to no one. The reason is not only that which St Augustine has assigned, namely, that God finds no righteousness in us to recompense, except what he himself has freely given us, but also because, forgiving the blemishes and imperfections which cleave to our works, he imputes to us for righteousness that which he might justly reject. If, therefore, none of our works please God, unless the sin which mingles with them is pardoned, it follows, that the recompense which he bestows on account of them proceeds not from our merit, but from his free and undeserved grace. We ought, however, to attend to the special reason why David here speaks of God rewarding him according to his righteousness. He does not presumptuously thrust himself into the presence of God, trusting to or depending upon his own obedience to the law as the ground of his justification; but knowing that God approved the affection of his heart, and wishing to defend and acquit himself from the false and wicked calumnies of his enemies, he makes God himself the judge of his cause. We know how unjustly and shamefully he had been loaded with false accusations, and yet these calumnies did not so much bear against the honor and name of David as against the welfare and estate of the whole Church in common. It was indeed mere private spite which stirred up Saul, and drove him into fury against David, and it was to please the king that all other men were so rancorous against an innocent individual, and broke forth so outrageously against him; but Satan, there is no doubt, had a prime agency in exciting these formidable assaults upon the kingdom of David, and by them he endeavored to accomplish his ruin, because in the person of this one man God had placed, and, as it were, shut up the hope of the salvation of the whole people. This is the reason why David labors so carefully and so earnestly to show and to maintain the righteousness of his cause. When he presents and defends himself before the judgment-seat of God against his enemies, the question is not concerning the whole course of his life, but only respecting one certain cause, or a particular point. We ought, therefore, to attend to the precise subject of his discourse, and what he here debates. The state of the matter is this: His adversaries charged him with many crimes; first, of rebellion and treason, accusing him of having revolted from the king his father-in-law; in the second place, of plunder and robbery, as if, like a robber, he had taken possession of the kingdom; thirdly, of sedition, as if he had thrown the kingdom into confusion when it enjoyed tranquillity; and, lastly, of cruelty and many flagitious actions, as if he had been the cause of murders, and had prosecuted his conspiracy by many dangerous means and unlawful artifices. David, in opposition to these accusations, with the view of maintaining his innocence before God, protests and affirms that he had acted uprightly and sincerely in this matter, inasmuch as he attempted nothing without the command or warrant of God; and whatever hostile attempts his enemies made against him, he nevertheless always kept himself within the bounds prescribed by the Divine Law. It would be absurd to draw from this the inference that God is merciful to men according as he judges them to be worthy of his favor. Here the object in view is only to show the goodness of a particular cause, and to maintain it in opposition to wicked calumniators; and not to bring into examination the whole life of a man, that he may obtain favor, and be pronounced righteous before God. In short, David concludes from the effect and the issue, that his cause was approved of by God, not that one victory is always and necessarily the sign of a good cause, but because God, by evident tokens of his assistance, showed that he was on the side of David.


VIEWNAME is study