1 The Song of David
1 And David spoke the words of this song to the LORD in the day that the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul.
When the time to fight is over because one is too old, it is time to sing. When everything around us is gone, God can still be praised. The reason is the deliverance from the power of the enemy through the redemption of the LORD (Psa 34:20). If we want to serve the Lord in faithfulness, we should not be surprised if we have enemies (Jn 15:18-19). We will experience His help and salvation all the more in it, giving us all the more reason to praise Him. We should not wait until we are with the Lord. David did it “in the day that the LORD delivered him”, so immediately after his deliverance. Thus we should do it immediately after we have experienced His help.
This song consists of almost the same words as Psalm 18. In this song we hear from David Who the LORD is for him and what He has done for him. It is a testimony that each of us will be able to give in our own way from the experiences we have had with the Lord. The fact that this song is also included as a psalm in the book of Psalms means that David’s experiences are also recognized and shared by others. These words also express the feelings of those who have been in similar circumstances and have been saved from distress and who want to praise the LORD for it.
Something similar we have in a spiritual song of the believer. A believer can poet a song in which he expresses his feelings for the Lord. He can even set it to music or have it set to music, which sometimes makes the feelings even more penetrating. What emerges in that song is recognized by others. It gives words to the feelings that someone has at that moment and therefore often works enlightenment and joy. This makes something that was first only a personal expression of a faith experience, useful for others to express themselves to God.
There are four ways we can look at this song:
1. In this psalm we see David’s personal experiences. In this way we have here a historical description. It’s about the history of David.
2. We see that David’s history in this psalm is a model for that of Israel. We can think of the redemption from Egypt. What Israel has experienced, David experiences too.
3. We see that everything in this psalm has been fulfilled in the life of the Lord Jesus, the life of the true David. This psalm is therefore an expression of Christ’s feelings. The Spirit of Christ is active in David as he closes this psalm.
4. This psalm expresses the feelings of the remnant of Israel in the future. With them the Lord Jesus connects Himself in the most intimate way.
David commemorates all that God has been to him, all that he has found in Him in his needs and dangers. He looks back on the power of God Who has worked for him and what the blessed result of that power is. All this is expressed in this song, an expression of feelings that are fully present in Christ.
This song, which can be divided into seven parts, begins and ends with praise. It is the story of sadness and suffering that ends in joy and triumph. Because the song reflects past experiences, it can also begin with a praise to the LORD.
2 - 4 First Part
2 He said,
“The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;
3 My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge;
My savior, You save me from violence.
4 “I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised,
And I am saved from my enemies.
All the deliverances from the grip of all kinds of enemies and from the hand of Saul in particular bring up in David a hymn of praise, a psalm. He begins by mentioning the LORD with a number of names in verses 2-3. All acts of God in the past and promises for the future are based on Who He is. All these names fit in a special way in the context of this song in which it is about fleeing, struggle and victory.
At the same time David makes the LORD a very personal experience through the word “my”. Thus Paul could also speak of God as “my God” (Phil 4:19). The Lord Jesus also spoke of “My Father” and “My God” (Jn 20:17). David praises that Naam because of salvation.
5 - 7 Second Part
5 “For the waves of death encompassed me;
The torrents of destruction overwhelmed me;
6 The cords of Sheol surrounded me;
The snares of death confronted me.
7 “In my distress I called upon the LORD,
Yes, I cried to my God;
And from His temple He heard my voice,
And my cry for help [came] into His ears.
This part describes the feelings of David – and also of the faithful remnant of Israel during the great tribulation – when the enemy was out to kill him. We also see it with the Lord Jesus on the cross. He brings this suffering into the memory of His people when He comes to them. Of the Lord Jesus we read that He “in the days of His flesh, … offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death” (Heb 5:7).
David describes his need and his call for help to “my God”. His distress was so great that he despaired of life, for death was imminent. The enormous powers he saw in front of him went beyond human control. All he could do was call to God, for he had a God to whom he could call. God heard his voice in His palace, the house of His reign. God was not too busy with other things, but had His ears open for the cry of distress of His chosen king.
8 - 20 Third Part
8 “Then the earth shook and quaked,
The foundations of heaven were trembling
And were shaken, because He was angry.
9 “Smoke went up out of His nostrils,
Fire from His mouth devoured;
Coals were kindled by it.
10 “He bowed the heavens also, and came down
With thick darkness under His feet.
11 “And He rode on a cherub and flew;
And He appeared on the wings of the wind.
12 “And He made darkness canopies around Him,
A mass of waters, thick clouds of the sky.
13 “From the brightness before Him
Coals of fire were kindled.
14 “The LORD thundered from heaven,
And the Most High uttered His voice.
15 “And He sent out arrows, and scattered them,
Lightning, and routed them.
16 “Then the channels of the sea appeared,
The foundations of the world were laid bare
By the rebuke of the LORD,
At the blast of the breath of His nostrils.
17 “He sent from on high, He took me;
He drew me out of many waters.
18 “He delivered me from my strong enemy,
From those who hated me, for they were too strong for me.
19 “They confronted me in the day of my calamity,
But the LORD was my support.
20 “He also brought me forth into a broad place;
He rescued me, because He delighted in me.
God listens to the call for help in need made in verses 5-7. In verses 8-16 David tells how the LORD has answered in His mighty appearance to deliver him and his people. He describes what became visible of God when He began to act in his favor. It made David not distressed, but filled him with awe. That God performed for him! Smoke and fire, wind and water, thunder and lightning, God used all these natural phenomena for his deliverance.
From verse 16 we see various salvations: of Israel from Egypt, of David from the hands of Saul and of the Lord Jesus from the dead in the resurrection. The deliverance by the LORD is expressed by several verbs: “sent from on high”, took me”, “drew me”, “delivered me”, “recued me” (verses 17-20). In these verses David experiences the salvation in an almost tangible way.
21 - 27 Fourth Part
21 “The LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness;
According to the cleanness of my hands He has recompensed me.
22 “For I have kept the ways of the LORD,
And have not acted wickedly against my God.
23 “For all His ordinances [were] before me,
And [as for] His statutes, I did not depart from them.
24 “I was also blameless toward Him,
And I kept myself from my iniquity.
25 “Therefore the LORD has recompensed me according to my righteousness,
According to my cleanness before His eyes.
26 “With the kind You show Yourself kind,
With the blameless You show Yourself blameless;
27 With the pure You show Yourself pure,
And with the perverted You show Yourself astute.
This section is about the perfection of the Lord Jesus. David was not perfect. Here David does not speak, but here the prophet speaks of Him Who is truly and only perfect. What David is in perfection, he owes to the LORD; what the Lord Jesus is in perfection, He is personal. By virtue of that, He is King.
The end of verse 20 is the introduction to verses 21-25 where David says why God had a pleasure in him and stood up for him. As said, this description in its fullness is only true for the Lord Jesus. Yet this also applies to the believer, whose sins have been reconciled. David does not argue here on the basis of a life without failure. He knows his sins too well. However, he knows, to quote the New Testament, that he is made pleasant in the Beloved (Eph 1:6). If God also acts for his benefit, He does so in accordance with His perfect righteousness. This righteousness comes to the fore in verses 26-27.
28 - 37 Fifth Part
28 “And You save an afflicted people;
But Your eyes are on the haughty [whom] You abase.
29 “For You are my lamp, O LORD;
And the LORD illumines my darkness.
30 “For by You I can run upon a troop;
By my God I can leap over a wall.
31 “As for God, His way is blameless;
The word of the LORD is tested;
He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him.
32 “For who is God, besides the LORD?
And who is a rock, besides our God?
33 “God is my strong fortress;
And He sets the blameless in His way.
34 “He makes my feet like hinds’ [feet],
And sets me on my high places.
35 “He trains my hands for battle,
So that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
36 “You have also given me the shield of Your salvation,
And Your help makes me great.
37 “You enlarge my steps under me,
And my feet have not slipped.
The fifth to seventh parts tell about the glorious consequences of the work of the Lord Jesus. In the previous part He is delivered, in the coming part He is the Deliverer.
After David has told who God is and how He has acted in the saving, he sings in verses 28-37 about Who God is for him. He does so in the knowledge of what he says in verse 31. Declaring God’s way perfect is the secret of rest in Him. By this we know that God is not getting out of control.
It should be remembered that God’s way always runs parallel to His Word. His Word is pure. We can rely on it. The way God takes with one of His own or with His people as a whole is always in accordance with His Word. When we experience surprises in the way we are going, it is often because we don’t know God’s Word, in which He tells us how He sees things. When we surrender to God in the way He is going with us as the best way and we trust His Word, we hide with Him and He proves Himself as a shield. In short: way, Word, shield and hide, that is what God offers us.
We also hear in these verses a wonderful testimony of the Spirit of Christ in the remnant of Israel. This remnant receives strength to hold out to and overcome all enmity in the great tribulation.
38 - 49 Sixth Part
38 “I pursued my enemies and destroyed them,
And I did not turn back until they were consumed.
39 “And I have devoured them and shattered them, so that they did not rise;
And they fell under my feet.
40 “For You have girded me with strength for battle;
You have subdued under me those who rose up against me.
41 “You have also made my enemies turn [their] backs to me,
And I destroyed those who hated me.
42 “They looked, but there was none to save;
[Even] to the LORD, but He did not answer them.
43 “Then I pulverized them as the dust of the earth;
I crushed [and] stamped them as the mire of the streets.
44 “You have also delivered me from the contentions of my people;
You have kept me as head of the nations;
A people whom I have not known serve me.
45 “Foreigners pretend obedience to me;
As soon as they hear, they obey me.
46 “Foreigners lose heart,
And come trembling out of their fortresses.
47 “The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock;
And exalted be God, the rock of my salvation,
48 The God who executes vengeance for me,
And brings down peoples under me,
49 Who also brings me out from my enemies;
You even lift me above those who rise up against me;
You rescue me from the violent man.
In this sixth part David sings of the consequences of deliverance and the glorious reign of the kingdom of peace. In verses 38-46 we see that God did not defeat the enemies Himself, but He gave David the strength to do so. So it is ultimately God Who did it. Therefore David gives Him all honor in verses 47-49. In “the violent man” (verse 49) we can see both the antichrist and the king of the north (Dan 11:29-45).
50 - 51 Seventh Part
50 “Therefore I will give thanks to You, O LORD, among the nations,
And I will sing praises to Your name.
51 “[He] is a tower of deliverance to His king,
And shows lovingkindness to His anointed,
To David and his descendants forever.”
Because of the deliverance he sang in the previous part, David praises the LORD in verse 50. Not only does he do this in an expression toward Him, but he makes His Name great among the nations. David is aware that everything is the result of God’s mercy and faithfulness to His Anointed. This mercy will never fail, because the Anointed, the Lord Jesus, is the Christ, the Man of God’s pleasure. In Him are all the promises of God yes and amen.
Because of “His Anointed” God will also “lovingkindness “mercy … to David and his descendants forever”. What a great prospect. The faithfulness of God to His Anointed is also for us the basis that God will act for our benefit. Nothing in ourselves, everything in Him.