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.