Psalm 18 – Sermon Manuscript

-I think a fascinating thing to study is music, especially church music. Why were songs written the way they were, what was the inspiration for the words, who wrote them? One theme in songs (and you can trace it in the Bible as well) is God being our rock! We sang the refrain from one song about that this morning “On Christ the solid rock I stand” but that’s not the one! One of the most well-known songs in church history is “Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me.” Written by Augustus Toplady in 1776, the song was inspired by one of his travels. He got caught in a heavy storm and found shelter in the cleft of a rock, inspiring Him to pen the now well-known words to the hymn: “rock of ages cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee.” This song deals with the exact same themes we’ll be looking at in Psalm 18 today.

-The 4th longest Psalm in the book, if you need to sit down at some point, please do.

READ/PRAY

  1. I Love You Lord (1-3)

-Repeated almost word for word in 2 Samuel 22, which comes right before “the last words of David” in 2 Sam. 23. This tells us it was toward the end of David’s life as he looks back and reflects on God’s protection and preservation throughout his life.

-I have noticed that as people get older there tends to be some sentimentality and almost looking back over life with rose tinted glasses. As we read through this Psalm there will be some of those moments! But there’s also ways in which the Holy Spirit used these words to point to great David’s greater Son!

-David doesn’t begin where I would think he should begin, with thanksgiving. If the point is to be grateful to God for his protection, wouldn’t the right instinct be to give thanks? Instead, he says “I love you, O Lord.”

-I think this tells us just how much we need to be reminded of the gospel message: that Jesus lived the life we couldn’t live and died the death we deserved to die so that we could not be declared righteous instead of sinful. And how often do we then stop in response at thanks, instead of moving to the next step of love? Giving thanks is right, and we should, but we can’t just stay there, because it’s meant to lead us to that next step of being in a close relationship with God.

-Think of how you receive a compliment, don’t you at first just feel awkward? I feel awkward when people say “great sermon pastor” “thanks?” We often don’t know how to respond. When we read that God saved us, that He loves us, that He wants to spend time with you, do you actually believe that, and respond by engaging with Him as He has called us to do, or do you just feel awkward? This first phrase, I think, should be a bigger focus in our lives than we tend to make it! You can love and enjoy a relationship with God, He invites you to!

-We have seen throughout these 10 Psalms this summer a lot of rocky themes. God is a rock, a fortress, a protection. All of these are meant to serve as a reminder that God will protect and preserve His people. Don’t be afraid, don’t be alarmed, entrust yourself to our good God. Therefore, we call on Him and He will save us, which is what David elaborates on in this next section:

  • God’s Power in Salvation (4-19)

-There were numerous occasions where David was on the verge of death! Saul wanted him dead, the Philistines wanted him dead, his son tried to usurp his throne, even God one time threatened him because of a sin he committed! It’s a tough job to be the king! I highly doubt any of us have ever faced the same kinds of imminent threat David faced on a daily basis! 

-The chapter after this song in 2 Sam recounts “David’s mighty men” All these crazy guys who fought for/with David, basically the Navy Seals of Israel. I remember reading that chapter in high school after the movie 300 came out, and I thought “When is someone going to make a movie like that on the life of David?” He was crazy! Yet even all these mighty men aren’t enough to save David from death. Whether we realize it or not, all of us are 1 step, 1 phone call, one missed heartbeat away from your life completely changing. Nothing is guaranteed! But look at vs. 6: the thing that is guaranteed is God will respond when we cry out to Him! We’ve seen this idea repeatedly over the summer too, He will hear us! And look how God responds here:

-This language is what is called a “theophany” a visible manifestation of God. A couple notes on these:

-First, I think we tend to forget about God in the midst of the world continuing to move. We have a tendency to act (as we saw in Psalm 14) as atheists, that God isn’t still actively involved in our day to day lives, even in the weather! We see earthquakes as merely tectonic plates shifting, we see rain as the descent of evaporated water, wind as the effect of high and low pressure systems. Yet who is the one who created and continues to sustain them? God!

-Second, and more immediate to this text, but we don’t have any examples of David seeing any of these things take place! As far as we know from David’s life in the Bible, he never saw God shake a mountain, or hailstorms and coals of fire come from him, or turning over the seas in his pursuit of His enemies. But there are places in Scripture where these events do happen!

-Think of when Moses recorded the 10 commandments, after 40 days on the mountain with God. The people were told to stay away from the mountain, to not touch it because if they did they would die! There was a cloud, they saw fire. The earth would have reeled and rocked! Or when Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by hail and coals of fire. Or when God’s people walked across the dry ground to escape from the pursuing Egyptians as they walked across the Red Sea.

-David wasn’t alive in any of these stories, but He knew them! His job as the King was to be so immersed in God’s Word that it felt like His story. In Deut. 17 we see the king’s primary job to be knowing, reading, and studying God’s Word, because the king is meant to serve as the example to the rest of kingdom of what a faithful follower of God looks like. He is to submit his whole life to God’s Word.

-This also shows that David is aligning himself with God’s people throughout history. Just as God protected and provided for Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, just as God protected and provided for Moses, God protected and provided for David! And that is also true for us today! We read, study and immerse ourselves in God’s Word so that we can readily call to mind these stories of how God has protected and provided for His people throughout history, and will continue to do the same thing into the future.

-The last thing David mentions is the individual preservation the Lord provided Him (19). David was nothing by Himself, but God supported Him. David was in a tight spot, surrounded by many enemies and certain death, but God brought him to “a broad place” because God delighted in David. There’s that same idea! We have meant to have a delightful relationship with God, He loves you, that’s why He saved you!

  • How We Can Be Saved (20-29)

-Then David turns to another section that feels off with both this Psalm and the rest of the Bible! Notice all the personal pronouns in vss. 20-24: my righteousness, my hands, I have kept, all his rules before me, I did not put away, I was blameless, I kept myself, my righteousness, cleanness of my hands. Is David suddenly slipping into his latent narcissistic tendencies?

-This is where we need to keep this Psalm in the context of the whole book! If you flip over to Psalm 51it feels like a completely different person: “have mercy on me! Wash me from my iniquity, my sin is ever before me.” It’s almost like David was a real person experiencing real, human emotions through every stage of his life, and then recorded them (with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) for followers of God throughout the rest of human history. 

-We also need to read this in context with the next section, don’t just lift up 1 verse here, then run to a conclusion based on that 1 verse.

-David is demonstrating how God (generally) deals with people.

-One of the things I’ve started sharing with people who want to talk about exceptions to rules is: there are always exceptions to the rule, but the exceptions don’t make good rules! So you start talking about how smoking kills, and then someone says “I know someone who smoked a pack a day until they died of old age at 88.” Good for them! I still wouldn’t recommend anyone pick up smoking! As a general rule of life: if you are obedient to how God commands us to live and operate, you are more likely to live a long life. That’s true throughout all of human history! Always exceptions to the rule (Job specifically comes to mind, as does Jesus, but that’s again a later conversation!)

-There was even a Jewish tradition that said this was true even as Israel wandered the wilderness for 40 years. Remember how God miraculously provided manna and quail for them? “The Jewish tradition was that the manna tasted according to each man’s mouth; certainly God shows himself to each individual according to his character.” (Spurgeon, Treasury of David) AKA you reap what you sow! Do you want God to be merciful to you? Live a merciful life! Do you want God to be loving to you? Live a loving life! 

-One last note about this section that I don’t want you to miss: you can never out-sin the grace of God. As David is looking back over his life, he can say he has been righteous and obedient to God’s rules and statutes, but we know he wasn’t always faithful! God has cast our sin as far as the east it from the west (eternal) but that doesn’t mean we just continue in sin. That means in our fight against sin, we don’t give up, we keep going, and we keep trusting ourselves to our merciful God. There is nothing you can do that will separate you from God’s love, for those of you who have been saved! (we’ll get to that in Ephesians this Fall!)

-David begins applying these truths to his life, then applies them more broadly in vs. 25-29 before going back to recount the ways God provides for His people in their salvation.

  • God’s Provision in Salvation (30-45)

-Start to see some repetition here, but please note that repetition isn’t always bad! In the 2nd section David recounted God’s marvelous power in salvation, which leads to the means by which God has provided for His people through salvation.

-Remember, this is what David was pointing to in the previous section! Where does our righteousness come from? It’s not inherent in us! Where does the strength to endure under suffering come from? Not from us! Our righteousness is an alien righteousness, foreign to us coming only from God, made possible by and through Him.

-This section begins with David reminding us that there is no one like God. His way is the only way, thus it is perfect. His word always is proven true, as David just demonstrated by recounting how God worked in human history, and finally he reminds everyone that God is a shield (35), protecting His people if they “take refuge” (30) or place their faith in Him. You may then ask, what does that look like?

-A long list of things here! I think it can be broken up into 2 areas: God sustains David with everything he needs, and then through God, David’s enemies are defeated. First the provision: Notice that God’s equipping with strength is what leads to a blameless way. Brother or sister, now that we have died, and are raised in a new life with Christ we have the strength to say no to sin! We have the God-given ability to put to death the sinful tendencies we have in our lives. He will make us as fast as a deer, and give us the insight to see the world for what it really is. He gives us the tools and weapons we need to fight spiritually (again, we’ll look at that in more detail this Fall!). 

-We also have “a wide place for my steps.” (36) Think of how tricky it is to walk on a balance beam. We took our kids to an open gym this past Spring, and Ellie tried her hand at walking all the way across the balance beam. Look at the focus and determination to get across! If it were 4’ wide, how much easier would it be? By obeying God, fighting with His strength in us, walking through life is like walking through a wide-open field, no tripping or stumbling through it, it becomes easy.

-The second focus is the defeat of David’s enemies. God went before David even in the defeat of His enemies (ties into the wide place for his steps). As David was writing this his livelihood literally depended on his defeating his enemies! If his enemies won, he was out of a job (and most likely out of a life!). Yet as he looks back over his life, he’s seen God’s provision to never let him be completely defeated.  

-That gets us back to where David begins, and an appropriate ending place after recounting all the ways God has provided for David in his salvation:

  • Praise to God (46-50)

-The right and proper response to God working in your life is to praise and worship Him. Which means our whole lives should be responding to the reality that God has saved us! This is why it’s so important to me that we have a call to worship every time we gather, it helps us to remember and reorient our thinking to what God has done, and then our proper response is to join together in praising Him!

-“The Lord lives” He will never die, He will never get tired, He will never stop loving and being a kind and caring Father. Therefore we will bless and exalt Him. Just as David said at the beginning, he says at the end that God is our rock. 

-Anytime you see God described as a rock, think of one of the parables Jesus told: of the man who built his house on the rock. If God is our rock, the place we’re building the foundation of our life upon, then nothing will shake us. The storms can come, the creek can rise, the wind can blow, but the house of our life will stand firm. 

-Then we’re finally at the last verse! Whew! Lots to cover in this Psalm! This last verse confirms for us something that I’ve been alluding to throughout this whole message: this Psalm points us ultimately to great David’s greater son: Jesus.

-In order to understand how we see Jesus throughout a section like this, we need to understand a theological concept known as typology. Since all of history is a story of God working, He sovereignly ordained from the dawn of creation how the story would be written. Therefore, He used people in history to point to the greatest reality ever: that God would dwell with His people forever. We see throughout the Gospels how Jesus fulfilled the promises to his people. We see in Rom. 5 that where Adam failed, Jesus was victorious. We see in Moses a glimpse of the perfect prophet to come who would speak perfectly on behalf of his people. We see in David the glimpse of the perfect king who would come to rule forever. This is where I’ve repeatedly said we need to read the entire Bible through the lens of Jesus Christ. The whole thing is about Him! 

-It is because of Jesus that David can say “the Lord dealt with me according to my righteousness.” Look back at vs. 20-24. Who is the only person to live who fulfilled this description? And then look at vs. 25-29, and to whom was this rule not true? Jesus! Despite being merciful was given wrath, despite being blameless was blamed, despite being pure was made sin, despite being perfectly straight was given torture.

-And now, because of Christ, these descriptions can be true of us today! Jesus has saved us from our enemies! Sin, Satan, and death no longer have any power over us. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, we have the weapons and strength we need to fight against any temptation we would face to deny or give up on faithfully following God with our whole lives. None of this is because of anything we’ve done or can do, but because of what God has done in us.

-Therefore, we can join together in remembering and celebrating this reality in the Lord’s Supper. Each time we celebrate this, we are commanded to remember our salvation. The body that was broken for us, the blood that was shed for us, the connection back to the Passover where God has worked in human history to bring about His perfect plan. Each time we take and eat we are joining with God’s people starting all the way back in Eden to say “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.” We are joining with God’s people to say no to sin, and yes to Christ, to praise God for the salvation freely given to all who receive Him. 

-I was reminded recently of Psalm 116:13 in connection to communion where the author states “I will life up the cup of my salvation and call on the name of the Lord.” Just as we saw in Psalm 18 that David praises God for his salvation, we too need to praise God for our salvation. 

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