Psalm 18: The Warrior God
Few passages please my martial spirit more than Psalm 18. Its 50 verses are full of imagery that fill the mind with wonder. Let’s walk through it together.
1-3: Praise. These verses are packed with praise, but in Hebrew idiomatic expressions. Ask an American, “What is God?” and the reply will be things like love, light, peace, joy, forgiveness. Ask a Hebrew, the reply will be completely different: strength, rock, fortress, deliverer, shield, horn of salvation, stronghold. It’s all about how Israel saw God as an active and ready provider and defender.
4-6: Peril. Following the praise of verses 1-3, we suddenly come upon the psalmist in a state of alarm. He is surrounded. The cords of death have reached out and are pulling him into the grave. In desperation, he cries out to God for deliverance.
7-15: Wrath. God hears him – and personally intervenes. He bends the heavens, wraps himself in darkness, and rides down to earth upon a fierce cherub. He routes the evil forces with bolts of lightning and hailstones of fire. Smoke flows from of his nostrils and fire from his mouth. The entire landscape trembles.
16-19: Rescue. From above, God reaches down and plucks the psalmist out of “many waters,” a Hebrew expression that represents chaos or mayhem. He sets him safely on high ground “in a broad place.”
20-24: Delight. The exhilarated psalmist explains that he was rescued because God delighted in him. In other words, the rescue was a reward for the psalmist’s righteous life, for the cleanness of his hands, for keeping God’s ways and not acting wickedly
25-36: Praise. Praise again to God for his righteousness, faithfulness, and might.
37-45: Vengeance. Now that God has saved him, the psalmist finds the tables are turned between him and his enemies. He is able to pursue and destroy them, and even though they cry out for help, he shows them no mercy. He beats them down “as fine as the dust before the wind” and pours them into the streets like mire.
46-50: Joy and thanksgiving. When a battle is won, there is always a time for rejoicing, celebrating and giving thanks. The psalmist gives praise and credit to God for the victory.
What an inspiring passage! Keep your hands clean and obey God, and when you are surrounded by insurmountable foes, remember to cry out to him for rescue. He who delights in his faithful servants will intervene.