DAVID WROTE PSALM 18 after the Lord had delivered him from the hand of Saul and all his enemies. It is a joyous, grateful psalm. Some of the same themes we found in Psalms 16 and 17 are repeated here. But among the new elements in this psalm are the following.
First, the language of this psalm abounds in colorful nature metaphors (especially in vv. 7-15) — a fairly common feature of Hebrew poetry. When God answered, “the earth trembled and quaked, and the foundations of the mountains shook”; “smoke rose from his nostrils,” and fire from his mouth. “He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet”: (18:7-9); alternatively, “He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind” (18:10). “The LORD thundered from heaven,” his voice resounded; “he shot his arrows … great bolts of lightning.” The “valleys of the sea were exposed” at the blast from the Lord’s nostrils (18:13-14).
This is marvelous. Just because these are not the metaphors we commonly use today does not mean we cannot appreciate them, or grasp what the psalmist is telling us. God’s power is ineffable; he controls even nature itself, which simply does his bidding; the most terrifying displays of power in nature are nothing more than the results of his commands. The metaphorical language can extend to how the Lord rescued David: “he drew me out of deep waters” (18:16) — though of course David was not in danger of literal drowning. But it must have felt like it more than once, when Saul and the army were hot on his trail.
Second, while many lines in this psalm describe in wonderful, sometimes metaphorical language how God has helped David, others picture God strengthening David to enable him to do what he had to do. “With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall” (18:29). “It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights. He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You give me your shield of victory, and your right hand sustains me; you stoop down to make me great” (18:32-35).
Perhaps God does not strengthen us to make war. But in a theistic universe, we confess God gives us strength to write computer programs, to sort out administrative problems, to change yet another diaper, to study the Greek text of the New Testament, to bear up under insult.
“The LORD lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be God my Savior!” (18:46).