Jesus Explains Psalm 18
I am here, Jesus:
I wish now to discuss Psalm 18, which also appears in Second Samuel Chapter 22, under the title "David's song of deliverance." The writer affirms that "the Lord had delivered him out of the hand of all his enemies, and out of the hand of Saul."
Now this psalm is an important one, because it shows David realizing in what a desperate plight he had been placed, first by Saul, and then by other enemies, and how he attributed to God his salvation from these foes. There are differences in language between this song as it appears in the Book of Samuel and as it stands in the Psalter that will enable you to understand more fully, that David's writings were constantly being revised by others, so that critics are often lead to believe that these psalms were not written by David. In addition, the themes which the king treated were frequently expanded and elaborated upon by psalmists who lived long after him, so that his thoughts and emotions were projected through these men into ages far beyond his own, enabling us to perceive the tremendous force which David exerted upon centuries of later Hebrew thought. It was as acknowledgment of this influence upon them that later psalmists wrote their songs under the title "A psalm of David."
Chapter 22, of Second Samuel, can very easily be read by anyone who has in his possession a copy of the Old Testament, but for my purpose to-night I wish to quote some of the verses therein contained:
The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer;
The God of my rock; in Him will I trust:
He is my shield, and the horn of my salvation,
my high tower and my refuge, thou savest me from violence.
When the waves of death compassed me,
the floods of ungodly men made me afraid;
The sorrows of hell compassed me about;
the snares of death prevented me;
in my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried to my God;
And he did hear my voice out of his temple,
and my cry did enter into his ears.
He sent from above, He took me;
We drew me out of many waters;
He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them that
hated me; for they were too strong for me. Verses 2-18.
If you will compare the versions of the same psalm, one given in the Second Samuel, and the other in the Psalter, you see that the latter contains the first line "I will love Thee, O Lord, my strength," and words like buckler, "sorrows of hell," "my strength," repeated several times. On the other hand, the version in Second Samuel omits the first line, but adds "and my refuge," to "high tower," and also "Thou savest me from violence," in line 4. I might tell you that the version in the Second Samuel is more authentic, but that both contain things that David never said. For example, we read in both versions: "He heard my voice out of His temple." Well, there was no temple in David's life time, for the Temple was not built until Solomon reigned, but there was a tabernacle, and that was David's word. However, as the psalms were being revised, the word that best fit the times was used, and "temple" replaced "tabernacle." Thus you get some idea of how difficult it is to determine what Is David's, and what is not, so that while critics have been doing an earnest work of reconstruction, one should not be ready to accept their conclusions as accurate.
PSALM 18 (A Song of Victory)
I WILL love thee, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer;
My God, my strength, in whom I will trust;
My buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.
I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised:
So shall I be saved from mine enemies.
The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of
ungodly men made me afraid.
The sorrows of hell compassed me about:
The snares of death prevented me.
In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God:
He heard my voice out of His Temple,
and my cry came before Him, even into His ears.
He sent from above, He took me,
He drew me out of many waters.
He delivered me from my strong enemy,
And from them which hated me:
For they were too strong for me. (Verses 1 - 6; and 16 - 17).
Now I am not interested in doing this work, for my object is rather to show David's love of the Father through his writings, just as I have shown his kindness to people in his behavior as king. Regardless of the differences, one thing stands out forcibly: his trust in the Father in time of trouble. This great faith in God was expressed many times in his psalms, and I repeat, it was reworked by other psalmists in later times.
One of these Psalms is Psalm 22, which has caused considerable excitement and confusion among Christians, as they think it is a prophecy which David is supposed to have made concerning my crucifixion. In fact it purports to be a vision of this event in my life:
But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised
of the people.
All they that see me laugh me to scorn:
They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,
He trusted on the Lord that He would deliver him:
Let Him deliver him, seeing He delighted in him.
Be not far from me; for trouble is near; For there is none to help.
Many bulls have compassed me:
Strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round.
They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion.
I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint:
My heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels.
My strength is dried up like a potsherd; And my tongue cleaveth to my jaws;
And thou hast brought me into the dust of death.
For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me;
they pierced my hands and my feet.
I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me.
They pan my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture. (Verses 6-8; and 11-18).
Now this sounds very much like a prophecy, especially in certain details of "counting his bones," the piercing of hands and feet and the casting of lots for garments. Actually, however, the writer sought to imagine himself in the place of David and depict the king's plight, rather than to imitate the description of Jehovah's might in coming to David's aid in Psalm 18 (David's Song of Deliverance). Here the writer was inspired by Second Samuel, (Chapter 21) which tells of David's grave danger in battle against the Phillistines:
"Morever, the Phillistines had yet war again with Israel; and David went down, and his servants with him, and fought against the Phillistines; and David waxed faint."
"And Ishbi-benob, which was of the son's of the giant (Goliath of Gath) . . . he being girded with a new sword, thought to have slain David."
"But Abishai the son of Zeruiah succoured him, and smote the Phillistine . . . Then the men of David swore unto him, saying, "Thou shalt go no more out with us to battle, that thou quench not the light of Israel." (Second Samuel, 21, 15-17).
This moment of dire peril, in which the aging David found it no longer possible to fight actively in warfare, was the one chosen by the psalmist to portray David's fears and feelings. The writer as was frequent among ancient Hebrews, was given to poetic fancies and imagery, such as the bulls of Bashan, which, of course, meant the strong enemy soldiers, or being poured out like water, that is completely exhausted by exertion, his heart melting, in his bowels, and his tongue clinging to his jaw, meaning growing faint with fear, and paralyzed of the fierce enemy the dogs compassing him, that is to say, ready to deliver the finishing blows.
In the same chapter, the story of the hanging of Saul's family by the Gibeonites, as approved by David, gave the writer the idea of the piercing of the hands and the feet and the counting of the bones, and the bones being out of joint, and the staring of bystanders at the victim. Saul and his son's including Jonathan had been hanged by the Phillistines after the battle of Bilboa, when the latter found them on returning after the battle to strip the slain of their raiment. The slaying of wounded after combat and the casting of lots for the garb and armor of the defeated foe was an old custom among these people as well as the Hebrews; certainly for a thousand years and more before it was practiced by the Romans. The writer of this so-called prediction had in mind what David must have been thinking of were he to have been killed and hanged by the Phillistines. There was no conception of a crucifixion in the imagery of the writer, and much less a prophecy of a Messiah's death.
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