Psalm 18’s superscription (which is just as inspired as “I love You, Yahweh, my strength”) tells us that David is the author, the “I” of the song. This is his contemplation and reaction to his life and what God did in it. And it’s a song, because it’s addressed to the “choir director.” But above all, Psalm 18 is a biographical masterpiece in the hands of a Holy-Spirit-inspired prophet.
Or, to say all that a whole lot more simply, Psalm 18 is a summary of the New Testament.
David writes this song as a celebration of surviving “the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul.” The first three verses of the song are as powerful as you would ever find (or write) today:
I love You, LORD, my strength.
The LORD is my rock,
my fortress, and my deliverer,
my God, my mountain where I seek refuge,
my shield and the horn of my salvation,
I called to the LORD, who is worthy of praise,
and I was saved from my enemies.
This sounds much like Zechariah’s song when his tongue was loosed:
Praise the Lord, the God of Israel,
because He has visited
and provided redemption for His people.
He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of His servant David… (Luke 1:68-69 HCSB)
Then David recounts his harrowing experience of running and hiding for his life, but does so in terms strikingly familiar to us New Covenant believers. In fact, I believe Psalm 18 was also inspired as a prophetic description of the New Covenant era, especially starting in verse 4.
- Jesus’ death (18:4-6)
- Jesus’ resurrection (18:7-19)
- Jesus’ ascension (18:20-24)
- Jesus’ presence and empowering of the Church (18:25-36)
- Jesus’ return in power and judgment and bloody (not His this time!) victory (18:37-42)
- Jesus’ exaltation as King of kings and Lord of lords, having all His enemies put under His feet (18:43-45)
- Jesus’ eternal and mutual rest and delight in His bride (18:46-50)
Since this is Good Friday, read Psalm 18 with this in mind. Think of Jesus’ agony when “the ropes of death were wrapped around [Him]” and He “called to the LORD in [His] distress” (18:4,6). Think of the darkness and earthquakes that accompanied His suffering on the cross (18:7,11); think of the graves that were opened (18:15).
Think of that glorious morning when the Son of God was declared to be so in power, when the Father raised Him to life out of the dead-fish grip of death (18:16). Death, that “powerful enemy” who “hated” Him, who for a time was allowed to be “too strong” for Him (18:17), was no match because the Father was Jesus’ support (18:18), the One who delighted in Him (18:19).
Think of what it meant that Jesus was raised from the dead: the Father “rewarded [Him] according to [His] righteousness; He repaid [Him] according to the cleanness of [His] hands” (18:20). Jesus never “turned from [His] God to wickedness” (18:21) so that we who turned only to wickedness would be given that same reward for righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Think that we who are afflicted by sin and its consequences are rescued (18:27), transferring us from darkness to light (18:28) and giving us strength over the enemies of our soul (18:29, 32).
Think of the strength it took to raise Jesus from the dead, then rest in peaceful contentment that He has “given [us] the shield of [His] salvation; [His] right hand upholds [us]” because His “humility exalts [us]” (18:35).
Think with glad hope on that day when Jesus returns in the splendor of His glory, not in the humble rags of flesh as in His first coming. On that day He will “pursue [His] enemies and overtake them” (18:37); the enemy He saves for last is Death itself (1 Corinthians 15:26). It’s personal, after all.
Think about what it will be like to see all the enemies of Jesus no longer raging against Him, but cringing under His feet (18:43). Think about what it will be like for our Middle Eastern brothers and sisters to no longer live in the shadow of the Islamic State, because IS is now the one terrified and weak (18:45).
Think about what it will be like for all of God’s people from all the ages to have true, lasting, eternal freedom from sin and death (18:48).
Think about what it means that God’s loyalty to David and his descendants—don’t forget we’re adopted into the family as joint-heirs with Jesus—is forever.
Think about that every time you read Psalm 18.
When Ozymandias falls by slung smooth stone,
All that remains will be King Messiah’s throne.
Pride, invulnerable as kudzu, will fall,
Laid low in the dust when David’s Son will call.
Cocksure Self, a master at masquerading,
With broken knees will see his kingdom fading.
Why won’t you lay down your arms? Why will you die?
Why will you be cut down to ruin where you lie?
Jesse’s stump sprouts with the Branch of righteousness;
The True Vine breaks the concrete of callousness.
WHAT words are there to grip the marvel that
IS being known by Yahweh God, though you are but
MAN, who is less than a flea-cough, yet like the stars
THAT are called by name, so the Mighty Maker knows
YOU and–mirabile dictu–loves you! He shows His
CARE to you in a thousand ways a second,
FOR what molecule-breath could comprehend
Graham, Cliff. Song of War.
Song of War portrays the defeat of the Philistines and the taking of Jebus (or Jerusalem, as we know it). The city falls by invasion through the water tunnels, and the action is gripping as always. I wish I had a more expansive vocabulary to describe the books; I keep falling back to the same terms–none of which do any of these books justice.
As the title suggests, there’s a decided emphasis in this book on singing. I really appreciate how singing is shown in this book: it’s shown as a powerful expression of faith and worship–as a weapon, even.
I can’t remember where I read it, but I’m fairly certain that it was either Doug Wilson or Toby Sumpter from Moscow, Idaho, who described the singing of the Church as the battle songs of the Lord’s army. The Bride singing her Groom’s praises is the war cadence of the Army of the Lamb on the march, and it’s a terror-inducing sound to the forces of evil arrayed against her. I love that description, because it matches the intensity and ferocity of the Psalms and gives voice to deep-seated cries from the heart. We sing as a church–not simply because it’s what we do or because it’s an emotional release–we sing because the Warrior on the white horse is the Commander of the Armies of Yahweh, and we are dressed in white with Him. We have done no fighting, yet we march with Him, victorious. Righteous. Loved. Forgiven.
David teaches his men to sing, and I can only imagine what it must have sounded like to hear battle-hardened men sing with everything they had. I defy anyone to not have chills who got to hear it.
But we are not the only ones who sing, and this comes through in the story as well. The angelic hosts who fight unseen sing the Warrior’s song: “Yahweh is a warrior; Yahweh of Hosts is His name!”
This Sunday (and every Sunday possible), as you gather with God’s people, listen to the voices of your fellow warriors. Sing in order to fight for them. Sing to remind yourselves and everyone there of the hope that we have in the Warrior who fights for us; indeed, the One who has fought for us and won eternal victory for us. Sing to terrify the principalities and powers who war against us sight unseen. Sing to practice the marching cadence when we ride with the Lamb of God, whose two-edged sword proceeds from His mouth and strikes His enemies to save His people.
Yahweh is a Warrior; Yahweh of Hosts is His name!
Graham, Cliff. Covenant of War.
Covenant of War is the second volume in Cliff Graham’s intense Lion of War series. David is on the throne in Hebron, but not yet king over the united tribes.
Everything said in the review of Lion of War applies here, so I’ll refer you there.
One of the standout features of this particular volume is the change in David. For most of the story, gone is the rugged soldier-saint; David has become lax in the absence of conflict. The atrophy of his muscles is paralleled by the atrophy of his heart and faithfulness to Yahweh, evidenced most clearly by his growing harem in Hebron.
Yet redemption still comes to the anointed king, and this volume shows even more clearly that the battles spoken of in the Psalms are not always or only physical battles against flesh and blood.
Cliff Graham does the Church a great service by reminding us of the gritty reality of faith. Instead of giving us polished hagiography, he gives us a far more realistic and compelling picture of faith.
This series has encouraged me to pray the prayer in times of temptation and struggle: “Cover me in the day of war.” When we see that the battle for our souls and joy is indeed a battle, we can pray for our Shield and Fortress to defend us.
May the LORD be praised,
who trains my hands for battle and
my fingers for warfare.
He is my faithful love and my fortress,
my stronghold and my deliverer.
He is my shield,
and I take refuge in Him.
Psalm 144:1-2a HCSB
” ‘Tis but a scratch!”
I name a severed limb
Like the infamous
Knight who opposed King
Arthur at the bridge.
Unlike the poet-king David who reeled,
Crushed beneath the weight of his once-dear sin.
” ‘Tis but a scratch!”
I would never say of
The wounds of my Lord,
And yet affirm that
Very thing in my
Utter absence of tears and lack of grief.
Spirit-Steel alone breaks the stone within.