David praises the Lord
v1 The *Lord had saved David from Saul and all his other enemies. So David sang this song to the *Lord. v2 David said,
‘The *Lord gives me security.
So, he is like my rock and my strong place.
He saves me.
v3 My God is like a rock to me.
I can run to him and be safe.
He is like my *shield. He keeps me safe and he makes me strong.
He is like my *stronghold and my place of safety.
The *Lord saves me from cruel men.
v4 I must praise the *Lord.
I call to the *Lord and he saves me from my enemies.
King David was a musician (1 Samuel 16:17-23). He also wrote many poems. David wrote at least 73 of the psalms (poems) in the book of Psalms in the *Old Testament. Psalm 18 is the same as the poem in this chapter, although some of the words are slightly different. The psalms were the *Israelites’ official songs. So, they may have changed David’s poem so that it was easier to sing. But they did not change its meaning.
The *Lord had done many things for David. So, David wrote this poem to thank him. But David probably wrote it before he *sinned against Uriah. David thought about all the battles he had fought. David was a good soldier. But without God’s help, David would have died in the battles. David trusted God and David completely depended on him.
In this poem, David used picture language. David could not see God. But he compared God to something that he could see. David also described in a dramatic way what he felt. *Hebrew poetry repeats many words. And it often has two similar sentences that describe the same thing in slightly different ways. This helped the reader to understand more. This poem is similar in some places to Hannah’s song in 1 Samuel chapter 2. She also said that God was like her ‘rock’. In the *Jewish Bible (the *Old Testament), 1 and 2 Samuel was one complete book. Hannah’s poem was at the beginning of the book. David’s poem was at the end. Between them was the account of *Israel’s first two kings. Both poems centre on the *Lord. They describe how great he is. This showed the *Israelites that the *Lord was the centre of their history.
Verses 2-3 David described why he praised the *Lord. The *Lord had saved David and the *Lord protected him. David had to hide from King Saul many times. David had to hide from his other enemies too. David hid behind large rocks. He hid in caves in the hills. He hid inside towns that had strong walls round them. He hid in buildings. He was safe in those places. However, David knew that his real security was with the *Lord. God protected David as he hid. And David imagined that God was like those safe places.
Verse 4 David praised the *Lord because the *Lord deserved it. David could not save himself. But the *Lord had saved David in the past. And the *Lord continued to save David.
v5 Death seemed to be like waves that surrounded me.
Wicked men seemed like a flood that came over me.
They made me afraid.
v6 It was as if Sheol (or the grave) was all round me.
Death tried to get me.
v7 In my trouble I called to the *Lord.
Yes, I shouted to my God.
From his *temple, he heard my voice.
He listened to me when I called for help.
v8 It was as if the earth shook. The earth seemed to tremble.
The foundation of heaven seemed to shake.
They were shaking because God was angry.
v9 Smoke came out of his nose.
Fire came out of his mouth,
and this fire made coals burn.
v10 God opened the heavens and he came down.
Dark clouds were under his feet.
v11 He rode and flew on a cherub (type of *angel who had wings).
He flew quickly on the wings of the wind.
v12 He covered himself with darkness,
and he covered himself with the dark rain clouds in the sky.
v13 It was very bright in front of him,
and lightning flashed from him.
v14 In heaven, the *Lord made a loud noise like a storm,
the Most High God gave a great shout.
v15 He sent out his arrows and he scattered his enemies.
His lightning confused them.
v16 The *Lord spoke powerfully,
and he blew wind from his nose.
Then the bottom of the sea appeared,
and people saw the foundations of the earth.
v17 He reached down from heaven and he rescued me.
It was as if he pulled me out of the deep water.
v18 He saved me from my powerful enemy.
He saved me from the people who hated me.
They were too strong for me.
v19 They attacked me when I was in trouble.
But the *Lord supported me.
v20 He took me to a safe place.
He rescued me because he was pleased with me.
Verses 5-6 David felt desperate when his enemies attacked him. He thought that he was going to die. They believed that dead people go to a place called Sheol. Sometimes we call it the grave or death. (The word Sheol does not always mean the same as hell. Hell is the place of punishment. But Sheol is a simpler word. The *Israelites said that a dead person ‘went to Sheol’.)
Verse 7 So David called to the *Lord and the *Lord heard him. The ‘temple’ refers to heaven where God lives (Psalm 11:4).
Verses 8-16 are very dramatic. David described how great and powerful the *Lord is.
Verse 8 The *Lord was angry with David’s enemies. The *Lord’s power shook everything.
Verse 9 Fire often refers to God’s judgement (for example Malachi chapter 4).
Verses 10-12 David imagined that the *Lord left heaven and came to the earth. Ezekiel chapters 1 and 10 describe the cherubim. They are special *angels that live with God in heaven. They have wings and they can fly. Other nations *worshipped a false god called Baal. They called Baal ‘the god who rides on the clouds’. But the *Lord was more powerful than Baal. The *Lord usually hid himself so that nobody could see his *glory.
Verses 13 and 15 People at that time believed that lightning showed God’s power. It showed that he was working. The lightning seemed to come from God. And it looked like arrows.
Verse 14 The Bible often describes God’s voice as like thunder (a loud noise during a storm). For example, Job 40:9 and Psalm 77:18. The ‘Most High’ is another name for God.
Verse 16 The *Lord had enough power even to remove the sea. Compare this with Exodus chapter 14.
Fire, wind and storms are very powerful. They frighten people because people cannot control them. In Exodus chapter 19, the *Lord had appeared to Moses with smoke and clouds, fire and lightning. There was a loud noise like a storm and the ground shook. In 1 Samuel 7:10, the *Lord sent a storm against the *Philistines. The *Lord may have sent storms during David’s battles. The *Lord frightened David’s enemies.
In verses 17-20, David described how the *Lord saved him. During the battle, David felt like a man who was drowning in a river. David imagined that God was like a man with a very strong arm. It was as if God leaned out of heaven. Then God seemed to pick up David. David’s enemies were too strong. But the *Lord rescued David and he put him somewhere safe.
v21 I do the things that God wants. So the *Lord rewarded me.
I refuse to do evil things. So he *blesses me.
v22 I have followed the directions of the *Lord,
I have not been wicked. I have not turned away from God.
v23 I remember all his laws.
I have not turned away from his commands.
v24 I am innocent towards God.
I made sure that I did not do anything evil.
v25 I do the things that God wants. So the *Lord rewarded me.
He knows that I refuse to do evil things.
v26 God, you are loyal to people who are loyal.
You are good to people who are good.
v27 You show your perfect nature to people who are *pure.
But you oppose wicked people.
v28 You save humble people.
But when you see proud people, you make them humble.
v29 *Lord, you are like a lamp to me.
It is as if you shine your light into my darkness.
v30 With you, I can defeat an army.
With my God, I can jump over a wall.
In this section, David described two reasons why the *Lord had saved him.
Verses 21-25 David always tried to be loyal to God. David did the things that God wanted him to do. David even did such things if he might suffer as a result. Saul chased David and then he tried to kill David. This happened several times. But David never hurt or insulted Saul. David was not perfect. He made many mistakes. His errors were sometimes very serious. But David confessed his evil deeds to God. He still tried to be loyal to God. And he tried to obey the law and to trust God. We may think that David sounded proud. But in Leviticus chapter 26 God promised to *bless the people who obeyed him. God said that they would defeat their enemies. God had rewarded David. And David was confident that God rewarded him because of his right attitudes. (Many people think that David wrote this section before he *sinned against Uriah. They may be correct. But after David *sinned, he confessed his evil deed to God. You can read his prayer in Psalm 51. David asked God to forgive him. And afterwards, David continued to do the things that God wanted him to do.)
Verses 26-30 The *Lord is fair. He deals with people in the right way. In verse 27, ‘*pure’ means perfect, like something that is clean. In verse 27, ‘you oppose wicked people’ also has another meaning: ‘God shows that wicked people are foolish’.
David knew that the glory (greatness) of the *Lord is like a bright light. ‘Darkness’ often refers to times of trouble. People cannot see where to go in the dark. But the *Lord showed David what to do in every difficult situation. David was very confident when the *Lord was with him. Nothing seemed too difficult for David to do.
v31 God’s way is perfect.
You can trust all his promises.
He is like a *shield for everyone that trusts him.
v32 There is no God except the *Lord.
There is no rock (security) except our God.
v33 God gives me strength.
He makes my way perfect.
v34 He makes my feet like the feet of a deer (animal like a goat).
He helps me to stand on the mountains.
v35 He trains me for the battle,
so that I can use a *bronze bow.
v36 God, you protect me and you save me.
You reach down to me and you make me great.
v37 You have made a wide path for me to walk on.
My feet will not slip.
v38 I chased my enemies and I overcame them.
I did not stop until I had overcome them all.
v39 I completely overcame them
and they could not rise.
They fell beneath my feet.
v40 You made me strong for the battle.
You made my enemies bend in front of me.
v41 You made my enemies turn round and run away.
I destroyed all who hated me.
v42 They called for help, but nobody came to save them.
They called to the *Lord, but he did not answer.
v43 I totally overcame them.
They were like dust that I had beaten.
They were like mud that I had walked on.
v44 You saved me when my people attacked me.
You protected me as the leader of nations.
People whom I do not know now serve me.
v45 Foreign people obey me.
As soon as they hear me, they obey me.
v46 They all become afraid.
They tremble when they come out of their safe places.
Verses 31-32 David described how wonderful God is. There is nobody else like him. He is the only real God. Then David described how this wonderful God helped him to win his battles.
Verses 33-37 David described how God prepared him for the battles.
Verse 33 God’s way is perfect. (In other words, everything that God does is perfect.) And God is strong. So, God could make David’s way perfect and make him strong.
Verse 34 A deer is an animal that lives in the mountains. It has special feet so that it can climb up and down the mountains. Its feet do not slip on the rocks. It can even run and jump across the rocks. A mountain is a difficult place. God helped David so that David did not fail during his difficult times. This may refer to the times when Saul chased David. David had to escape and to live in the mountains.
Verse 35 Bows were usually wooden. *Bronze is a strong metal. So the *Lord made David strong and made him an expert.
Verse 36 David had been just an ordinary man. He was not great because of what he had done. David imagined again that the *Lord reached down from heaven. The *Lord made David a great king and army leader.
Verse 37 This is similar to the idea in verse 34 that David would not fail.
Verses 38-46 describe how God helped David during the battles.
Verses 38-39 David defeated all his enemies and he became their ruler. The word ‘overcame’ does not mean that he killed them all. In Joshua 10:16-25, the *Israelites defeated their enemies because they defeated their kings. The army leaders put their feet on the necks of the kings. This action showed that the *Israelites ruled their enemies. And their enemies could not continue to be proud.
Verses 40-41 David went out to fight the battles. But David was not proud about his own skill. He knew that the *Lord made him successful. David’s enemies had to bend in front of David. This showed that they gave him honour.
Verses 42-43 Nobody would help David’s enemy. The *Lord would not even answer them. Again, David said that these enemies were under his feet. Mud and dust have no value. And David’s enemies were ashamed.
Verses 44-46 Everyone heard about David and what God did for the *Israelites. God had made David a successful king. No nation could defeat him. Foreign nations became afraid because God had made David so powerful. So, many nations served David and they did not fight him.
v47 The *Lord lives! I will praise God, and I will call him ‘my Rock’ (my security).
Praise God, the Rock, who saves me.
v48 He is the God who fights for me.
He gives me power over the nations.
v49 He frees me from my enemies.
God, you give me success against my enemies.
You rescue me from cruel men.
v50 So I will thank you, *Lord, among the nations.
And I will sing and praise your name.
v51 You, *Lord, save your king and you make him win.
You are kind to the king that you *anointed,
to David and his family always.’
As David finished this poem, he praised God again. God is alive and real. God made David the king of *Israel. And God helped David. God saved David and he made him successful. David was very grateful to God. David wrote the words in verse 50 about 3000 years ago. But he did not realise what would happen in the future. Chapter 8 gives a list of many nations that David defeated. He praised the *Lord among those nations. But something even greater has happened. Paul, the apostle (leader), mentioned David’s words in Romans 15:9. Paul refers to the ‘Gentiles’ (anyone who is not a *Jew) who will praise God. Men and women have translated the Bible into many different languages. Therefore, people in all nations of the world now praise the *Lord as they read David’s poem!
In verse 51, ‘the king that you *anointed’ refers to David. But it also can mean Jesus Christ. The name ‘Christ’ means ‘the *anointed man’. In the *New Testament, the writers often called Jesus the ‘son of David’ (for example, Matthew 1:1 and Mark 12:35). Jesus came from David’s family (Luke 3:23-31). Jesus was born about 1000 years after King David died. Jesus died but he became alive again. Now he lives always. So, these promises were about Jesus as well as David.