(All bible quotes from The Holy Bible, New International Version)
BIBLE STUDY ON PSALM 18
A HYMN OF THANKS
(THE POWER OF THANKING GOD)
I love the old chorus of a eighteen century hymn by Johnson Oatman jr that goes :
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God has done,
Count your blessings, name them one by one
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
Many self help writers of our day speak of “the power of positive thinking” but without God in our lives there can be no real positive outcomes in a persons life. However with God in our lives there is nothing but positive outcomes. There is a kind of “power in positive thinking” then for all true believers in The Lord Jesus Christ as Paul says in 2 Cor. 2 verse 14, “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ”.
An unknown poet wrote these words :
Count your blessings instead of your crosses :
Count your gains instead of your losses.
Count your joys instead of your woes:
Count your friends instead of your foes.
This is what David is doing in Psalm 18 he is counting or naming the blessings of God in his life and giving thanks to God for what he has done. The Hebrew heading for this Psalm reads, “For the director of music. Of David the servant of the Lord. He sang to the Lord the words of this song when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul”
Amazingly this Psalm with a few minor changes appears as a song David sang close to the end of his life in 2 Samuel 22. Maybe David wrote this Psalm soon after he was free from the deadly hands of King Saul and then revised it to offer thanks and praise to God at the end of his long life
David had a tough life to live and faced many enemies within and without but he knew that God was with him and had saved him from disaster many times. David practices the power of thanking God he did this often in the face of problems and difficulties as we have seen in many Psalms in this first book of Psalms
So lets go on a journey of praise with David in Psalm 18 and see how David thanked God for the many victories God gave him over his enemies, the enemies of God. Hopefully this will remind us of the greater victories we have in Christ and lead us to have the power of thanking God in our lives today. We will look at this in the New Testament in the second half of this study.
I have divided this Psalm into 5 Parts :
- THANKS FOR GOD’S LOVE IN OUR LIVES (1 – 3)
- THANKS FOR GOD’S DELIVERENCE FROM OUR ENEMIES (4 – 19)
- THANKS FOR GOD’S SALVATION FOR HIS PEOPLE (20 – 28)
- THANKS FOR GOD’S HELP TO FIGHT HIS ENEMIES (29 – 45)
- FINAL THANKS (46 – 5
1. THANKS FOR GOD’S LOVE IN OUR LIVES (1 – 3)
David commences this Psalm with the words, “I love you, O Lord, my strength”, a real expression from the heart by David that reveals his love for God which springs out of God’s love for him. David knew God’s help in his life in so many ways and particularly at the end of the eight long years of being on the run from King Saul who sought to kill him on many occasions.
David now expresses 10 ways David knew God’s loving help. Those ten ways are :
- My strength
- My rock
- My fortress
- My deliverer
- My refuge
- My shield
- My horn
- My salvation
- My Stronghold
- The one who is worthy of praise.
All of these qualities of God are spelt out in the rest of the Psalm and regularly appear in the Psalms in this first book of Psalms and in fact right throughout the Psalms.
All of them flow out of the concept of God being his strength as he expressed in the opening verse.
Martin Luther wrote a famous hymn “A mighty fortress is our God” which is a Christian commentary of what David is saying here. Martin Luther faced unbelievable opposition from the established Roman Catholic Church of his time but he proved God’s love and protection and wrote these words :
A mighty fortress is our God
A sword and shield victorious
Who breaks the cruel oppressor’s rod
And wins salvation glorious
The old satanic foe
Has sworn to work us woe
With craft and dreadful might
He arms himself to fight
On earth he has no equal.
These amazing words now are fleshed out even more by David in the rest of Psalm 18
1. THANKS FOR GOD’S DELIVERANCE FROM OUR ENEMIES (4 – 1)
The Psalms are of course works of poetry, which uses images to convey deep and real concepts. In this section David uses some powerful poetic images to express God’s deliverance from his enemies on many occasions.
The images used here are:
- Saved from drowning vs. 4 and vs. 16
- Saved from the grave vs. 5
- Saved by calling on God from the Temple vs. 6
- Saved by a earthquake and volcanic eruption vs’s 7 – 8
- Saved by a massive thunderstorm vs’s 9 – 15
- Saved by God from his enemies vs’s 17 – 19
Did David ever nearly drown or did God ever save him by using a storm ?
No this is not to be read as literal drowning or powerful storms but as poetic images to describe the wonder and power of God helping him.
David on many occasions faced unbelievable odds, he was the small boy fighting the giant Goliath, he was a man running from the mighty army of Saul and he was the King of the small nation of Israel facing many greater nations of his day who ganged up on him but each time with God’s help David won the day. David knew God helped him in the face of danger and it was because God was his strength as Martin Luther wrote in the second verse of his hymn “A Mighty Fortress is our God,
No strength of ours can match his might
We would be lost, rejected
But now a champion comes to fight!
Whom God alone elected.
You ask who this may be?
The Lord of hosts is he!
Christ Jesus, mighty Lord,
God’s only Son, adored.
He holds the field victorious.
So David like Martin Luther knew and experienced God’s mighty hand of help and even though he might have felt like he was drowning or was close to the grave, as verse 16 says, “He (God) reached down from on high and took hold of me: he drew me out of deep waters”.
In verses 7 to 8 God’s saving power is pictured as a powerful earthquake and volcanic eruption. Recently we have seen the power of earthquakes in New Zealand and Japan. Man made objects like buildings are simply crushed and smashed in seconds. In Japan the earthquake there created a mighty tsunami and it was very alarming to see pictures of large vehicles like buses and trucks simply being picked up and swept away. Nothing can stop the effects of such forces of nature and as David later says in verse 40, “You made my enemies turn their backs in flight, and destroyed my foes”.
Then David pictures God coming to his aid in a mighty thunderstorm in verses 9 to 15. Here at first God is hidden, vs. 11, “He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him – the dark rain clouds of the sky”. But then God reveals himself in the light and what a light, vs 12 “Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced, with hailstones and bolts of lightening”. Have you ever been caught outside in a violent thunderstorm? It is a terrifying experience and this is nothing compared to God coming in judgment to this world.
Finally David makes it clear what he is talking about in verses 17 to 19,
17 He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. 18 They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the LORD was my support.19 He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.
Again note why David believed he was rescued by God, “because he delighted in me”, it was by the grace of God David was rescued or save and as Ephesians 2 : 8 and 9 says,
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
This should be at the basis of all our thanks to God, it is the blessing we should count every day of our lives.
3. THANKS FOR GOD’S SALVATION FOR HIS PEOPLE (20 – 28)
David now thanks God for the salvation he has freely given to his people and he spells out who are his people and why. In verses 20 to 24 he speaks of his righteousness as the basis of God’s acceptance of him. When David speaks of his righteousness he is not speaking of being sinless like God or in fact Jesus. He is claiming that saved by God (vs. 32) and his love (vs. 50) he has attempted to be devoted to God and has sought to live the way God wants him to live (obeying the law) as opposed to God’s enemies who seek to live as they please and in one way or another oppose God and his true followers.
In Psalm 51 we see how sinful David had become after his double sins of adultery and murder and how much he relied on the mercy of God to save him. He pleads to God for forgiveness in verses 1 to 6,
“ Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love: according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Surely you desire truth in the inner parts: you teach me wisdom in the inmost place”.
So David knew that we are all born sinners needing God’s forgiveness all our lives but he also knew that we must have true repentance and faith in God’s forgiveness. As he later states in Psalm 51 verses 16 and 17,
“You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise”.
As James says in James 2 : 14,
“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds?”
And later in verse 18,
“But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds. Show me your faith without deeds, I will show you my faith by what I do”.
In Psalm 18 : 25 – 28 , David spells out the deeds of the true people of God and deeds of those who in one way or another oppose him.
The true believers are :
Faithful, blameless, pure, humble and have the light of God’s word in there lives.
While those who oppose God, who are his enemies are :
Crooked, haughty and are in darkness, they don not have the light of God’s word in their lives.
The third verse of Luther’s great hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is our God” is a good summary of this section,
Though hordes of devils fill the land
All threatening to devour us,
We tremble not,
Unmoved we stand;
They cannot overpower us.
Let this world’s tyrant rage;
In battle we’ll engage.
His might is doomed to fail;
God’s judgment must prevail!
One little word subdues him.
4. THANKS FOR GOD’S HELP TO FIGHT HIS ENEMIES (29 – 45)
We started this study with the concept of counting God’s blessings in our lives. This means we tell God in thankful prayer all the things God has done for us in Christ. David has been spelling out in his Hymn of Thanks all God done for him in saving him from his enemies. David now pinpoints how God armed him to be able to defeat his enemies. He counts or spells out God’s battle armaments God gave him for the battles he had to fight.
This section reminded me of the armaments Paul spells out in Ephesians 6: 10 – 18 what God has given us for the battle we fight daily against spiritual forces in high places. I would now like to take each of the armaments David spells out and compare them with what Paul tells us we have in Christ.
David speaks of 6 armaments and Paul matches them in Ephesians 6 with Christian armaments.
1. God’s Strength
In verse 29, 32 and 39 David speaks of being successful in battle against all odds only because God is with him, giving him his strength to overcome his enemies. In Ephesians 6 verse 10, Paul starts his rundown of our Christian armaments with the words,
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power”.
We like David are defenseless against the powerful enemies we face without the power of God in our lives. So like David we should thank God constantly for this.
2. God’s Shield
In verses 30 and 31 David speaks of God’s word as his shield that protected him in the many battles he fought. Paul says much the same thing in verse 14 when he speaks of “the belt of truth buckled around your waist” and in verse 16, “the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one”.
Counting or naming blessings also reminds us of what God has done and what we must do and he helps us access the resources of God in our daily lives.
3. God’s swift feet
In verse 33 and 36 David speaks of God giving him, “feet like the feet of a deer”. On many occasions David had to literally run for his life away from Saul and his men who were seeking to kill him. David acknowledges God as the one who gave him swift feet. Interestingly Paul speaks of God arming out feel in Ephesians 6 in verse 15, “and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the Gospel of peace.
What this means, I think is spelt out in another mention of feet and the Gospel in Romans 10 : 15,
“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news” which is a direct quote from Isaiah 52 : 7.
Paul is teaching us here that it is through the preaching of the Gospel that men are saved and therefore God is with those who are moving out into the world doing such great work for him.
4. God’s offensive weapons
In verses 34 and 38 David speaks of how he gave him offensive weapons for the fight against his enemies. In verse 34 it is the “bow of bronze” and in 38 it is some kind of weapon that crushed his enemies in battle. David is saying even the weapons of war were given to him by God and used by God to defeat his enemies.
Interestingly Paul only speaks of one offensive weapon as all the rest are for defence. In Ephesians 6: 17, Paul talks about “the sword of the spirit which is the word of God”. Our weapon of offense is God’s word which Hebrews 4: 12 speaks of God’s word as a powerful and effective weapon in the words, “The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double – edged sword, it penetrates even dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart”.
5. God’s hand of Judgment
In verse 40 to 45 David spells our how his battles against his enemies were in fact God’s hand of judgment against those who oppose him in this world. We have heard a lot about extreme Muslin believers waging Jihad, holy war against those they believe are enemies of God or Allah as they call him. Early Christians fell into this type of false thinking as well and led them to the many “Christian Crusades” that were a disgusting black mark on the Christian faith in history.
Paul has no time for Christians to be soldiers of death and destruction but rather instruments of salvation. He says at the end of the passage on the armor or God that we should do everything in a attitude of prayer, verse 18, “and pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints”. Paul’s goal for the Christian soldier is that they might not be caught up in the day of judgment as those who will not be able to stand God’s mighty judgment. As he says in Ephesians 6 : 13, “Therefore put on the armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground”.
David was The Lord’s anointed and he was the forerunner of the greater “Lords anointed”, Jesus Christ David’s great promised descendant. It will be through Jesus second coming that God’s great day of judgment will come and Jesus will come as the judge of those outside of the kingdom of God and will take with him his true followers to heaven. As it says in Matthew 24: 30, 31, “At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other”.
So we live in the day of Salvation, the day of the preaching of the Gospel, giving men and opportunity to turn in repentance and faith to God through what Christ has done. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 6 : 2, “Now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation”.
Interestingly if you read verses 40 to 45 of Psalm 18 with the final day of God’s judgment in mind it describes a telling picture of how terrible that day will be.
The final verse of Luther’s Hymn, A Mighty Fortress is our God is a apt conclusion to the teaching of this section:
God’s word forever shall abide,
No thanks to foes,
who fear it;
For God, our Lord
Fights by our side
With weapons of the Spirit.
Were they to take our house,
Goods, honor, child, or spouse,
Through life be wrenched away,
They cannot win the day.
The Kingdom’s ours forever!
5. FINAL THANKS (46 – 50)
David concludes this Hymn of thanks with a final burst of exalted thanks and praise to his God who again calls “My Rock”.
In verses 47 and 48 He then describes this God the Rock in 4 ways.
- He is the God who avenges
- Her is the God who subdues
- He is the God who saves
- He is the God exalts
He avenges those who are falsely accused of wrong by the enemies of God. He subdues those enemies and saves the avenged from God’s enemies power. Finally in the last day the bible teaches there will be a great reversal of power. As Jesus taught in Matthew 23: 11, 12, “The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted”.
David saw this in his life and I believe he saw it in the future in a far greater way. This led David to his final words of thanks and praise. It is couched in the words of a solemn promise to God of what he would do. He will,
“Praise you among the nations, O Lord; I will sing praises to your name”
I believe our prime purpose in life is to praise God and enjoy him forever. This is why we were made, this is why we are remade, saved by the death and resurrection of Christ. As I said in the introduction to this Psalm there is a power of positive thinking for every Christian believer and it’s found in thanking and praising God with our mouths, minds and lives. I quoted Paul’s words in 2 Cor. 2 : 14 let me read that verse and the next 5 verses as well,
“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task? Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God”.
The final verse of the Psalm sums up all the thanks David his been giving to God in this great hymn of thanks. He thanks God for the many great victories he has given him over his enemies. He thanks God for his unfailing love and he looks forward to the future and thanks God for his descendants and of course from this we would add David’s greatest descendant Jesus Christ, The Lords anointed one.
Lest me finish this part of the study my poem based on this Psalm:
A HYMN OF THANKSGIVING
(Based on Psalm 18)
How I love the Lord my God
For he saves me from my sin.
For I know his wondrous Love
And I can depend on Him
For the Lord protects my soul
His my shield and victory song
For the Lord will bring me home
His my rock and fortress strong
And I’ll thank him all my days
For his saved me in many ways
Pulled me out of sin’s dark waves
Yes I long to sing his praise
For I called to him in strife
And he heard my desperate cry
So I look to the Lord above
His the Lord of Love on high
One day Jesus will return
And this world will crash and burn
So by faith I now live my life
Expecting that he might return
When the Lord comes back next time
His mighty power will fill the sky
And God’s enemies will fall down
So turn from the devils lie
So I thank the Lord each day
For he never turns away
From those who turn to him
Who surely trust and obey
How I love the Lord my God
For his given so much of his love
To such lowly ones as us
I praise his name above
Yes I am so thankful Lord
For the provision of your word.
All I have is yours to use
So I thank you precious Lord
4 NEW TESTAMENT INSIGHT PASSAGES
1. GIVE THANKS IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES (1 Thessalonians 5: 16 and 17)
Paul teachers us in 1 Thessalonians 5 16 and 17 we should continually give thanks in all circumstances. Like David, Paul had a lot to say about thanking God and all our New Testament insight passages on thanking God come from Paul’s letters.
Like David, Paul lived a rough and tough life as a true believer of God. Paul tells the Corinthians some of the terrible things he had to endure as a follower of Christ, 2 Cor. 11 : 24 to 28, “ Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea. I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches”.
What a life and is Paul complaining, no he learnt to thank God in all circumstances. A brilliant example of Paul doing this is the account in Acts 16 of Paul and Silas’s imprisonment in Philippi. Arrested and locked for preaching the Gospel we find these two men in a dark, smelly and wet prison sell and what are they doing there?
Acts 16 : 25 tells us, “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening”. Paul was thanking God in all circumstances. The result of this is when the earthquake strikes the prison and the prisoners are escaping the Philippian jailer wants to kill himself but Paul stops him and the jailer having heard Paul singing and praising God turns to Paul and asks, “What must I do to be saved”.
We see from this story what a powerful witness thanking God is in difficult situations. So often I know I fail to impress people because I fail to give thanks to God in all situations and grumble instead. We must learn to “be joyful always, pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances”. Why?
Paul goes on to say, “for this is God’s will you in Christ Jesus”.
2. THE SERVICE OF THANKS AND PRAISE (2 Corinthians 9:12 to 15)
Paul teaches us here as how we can bring praise to God and how and why it is possible. The context of this passage is the generous financial gift the Corinthians gave for the financial relief fund for the financially poor Church in Jerusalem.
Paul is thanking the Corinthians for this gift and in doing so is thanking God for his love and generosity to us.
So we can bring praise to God by the way we serve him in our lives. Paul teaches us in Romans 12: 1 the basis of any true worship of God is sacrificial service.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer you bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship”.
Financial giving is just one way we serve God and Paul says in our 2 Corinthian passage that our service to God is a result of the love and mercy God has shown us in Christ.
Note what he says in verse 14, “because of the surpassing grace God has given you” and in Romans 12: 1, “in view of God’s mercy”.
We give because God gave so much to us first and our act of giving and any other service in Christ is an act of thanks and praise.
Paul wants his readers not only to use their lips as instruments of thanks and praise but their very lives and everything they have.
The word of the Corinthian generosity then goes out everywhere as a word of thanks and praise to a great and generous God. As Paul says in verses 12 and 13,
“This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ”
When people hear of Christians serving and giving they are a powerful testimony to the grace of God in their lives and therefore are a living, breathing and mighty thanking and praising God force in the world.
3. CHRIST CENTRED PRAISE THAT PROMOTES THE GOSPEL (Col 1: 3 – 14)
- In Psalm 18 David gave thanks to God for the many ways and times God delivered him from his enemies. As Christians what should lead us to give thanks to God? Look up Colossians 1 : 3 to 14.
TWO APPLICATION QUESTIONS
- In Psalm 18 David overflowed in thanks to God for the many ways he miraculously delivered him from his enemies how can what we have learnt from this study help you in your daily life?
2. Why is praising and thanking God such a powerful thing to do in our daily lives?
We thank you Father in heaven for all you have done for us. For life, health and for all the wonderful things you have done for us in your Son, Jesus Christ. We continually thank you for how your Son gave up so much in coming to this world to die for our sins on the cross. Help us to live a life of praise and thanks for you because all we have in Christ come’s to us from you amazing grace, we thank you continually for that. In Jesus name we pray, Amen