Union Chapel Baptist Church



Psalm 18:4-6

By Stephen Mitchell

Psalm 18 is a slight reworking of the song David sang in 2Samuel 22. The songs are almost identical and express David’s delight in the LORD for delivering him from the hand of Saul and from all his enemies.

We don’t know exactly when David composed this song but it was most likely after he had become the king of a united Israel. The pagan kings, such as the Assyrian or Babylonian kings, liked to leave behind inscriptions praising themselves and all they accomplished. David did not do that. He left behind writings that praised the LORD for the LORD’s accomplishments. Even the description in the title of David as “the servant of the LORD” is not his own, but was given him by the LORD Himself. In 2Sam.3:18 it is recorded: “For the LORD has spoken of David, saying, ‘By the hand of My servant David I will save My people Israel from the hand of the Philistines and from the hand of all their enemies.'”

While, in 2Samuel 22, David began the song with “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,” in Psalm 18 begins with a much more personal declaration.

I love You, O LORD, my strength.

Whenever this Psalm was reworked, David began it with that very personal and precious declaration of his love for the Lord. The first three verses that we looked at last Wednesday were a summary of the Psalm. Starting in verse 4, David went through the events that led up to his deliverance, finishing in verse 19. Then, from verse 20 on, David explained why God delivered him and David expressed his thankfulness for that deliverance. This evening, we will look at verses 4 through 6.

David began his explanation with his perception of his circumstances. We never truly grasp the circumstances we find ourselves in in life. This is because we never see things as God sees them. Take, for example, two times that the Disciples were in great fear on the Sea of Galilee.

In Matthew 8:23-27 is the first occurrence.

When He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being covered with the waves; but Jesus Himself was asleep. And they came to Him and woke Him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!” He said to them, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm. The men were amazed, and said, “What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?”

Here, in their perception, they were in deadly peril. But their perception of their peril was false. The deliverance from their deadly circumstances was right there with them. They just did not know it.

The second instance is found in Matthew 14:22-27:

Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away. After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone. But the boat was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

In this second occurrence, they feared because of their superstition about ghosts and their ignorance about Jesus. But, again, they were wrong in their perception. God had great plans for their lives and they were not in any real danger. Yet, years later, they did end their lives in danger, killed for the cause of Christ, all except the Apostle John. Though, to their perception, they were in fearful circumstances there on Galilee, yet, they were not. This is because they only saw their circumstances as the world saw them.

David’s perception of his circumstances are given in verses 4 & 5 of Psalm 18.

The cords of death encompassed me,

And the torrents of ungodliness terrified me.

The cords of Sheol surrounded me;

The snares of death confronted me.

David perceived himself as in deadly danger. To his eyes, the cords of death were tightening themselves around him. This was due to the ungodly attacking, pursuing him. To his eyes the ungodly were flooding over him like a torrent.

In the title to this Psalm, it states “A Psalm of David the servant of the LORD, who spoke to the LORD the words of this song in the day that the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul.” We know how diligently David was pursued by Saul. This was because Saul mistakenly thought that David was trying to take his throne away from him. David was not, as David would not lift up his hand against God’s anointed king. David was also in danger from the Philistines, and even from his own men, on one occasion. David truly was surrounded by the ungodly and they often threatened to overwhelm David and destroy him.

So David’s perception was that he was about to die, about to be completely overwhelmed by his attackers and destroyed. The cords of Sheol surrounded me; The snares of death confronted me.

Yet, was David’s perception true?

In verse 6, David showed how he reacted to his perilous circumstances.

In my distress I called upon the LORD,

And cried to my God for help;

He heard my voice out of His temple,

And my cry for help before Him came into His ears.

David reacted to these perilous circumstances by calling upon the Lord. He cried out to his God for help. He did exactly right. But this was the normal expression of David’s heart and practice. When Samuel told Saul that God had rejected Saul from being king, he said this to Saul, in 1Samuel 13:14: “But now your kingdom shall not endure. The LORD has sought out for Himself a man after His own heart, and the LORD has appointed him as ruler over His people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you.”

David was a man after God’s own heart. This does not mean David was sinless, but it does mean that he sought to please the Lord through his obedience. And it was because of this that David noted, in Psalm 18:6:

He heard my voice out of His temple,

And my cry for help before Him came into His ears.

David had confidence that the LORD heard David’s cry. He knew that his cry for help came before the LORD and, very descriptively, into the LORD’s ears.

Now, from verse 7 through verse 19, David poetically described the LORD’s response to David’s cry. But I want to stop here tonight and think about these three verses.

We perceive our nation and the world in perilous circumstances. This pestilence continues to increase and people continue to die from this. I think you would agree that David’s descriptions of peril in verses 4 and 5 are quite apt for us right now. This pestilence has come in like a flood and we struggle to escape its grip. There is no question that the cords of death are sweeping through our land. And we are being confronted by death. The snares of death are before us.

And it is appropriate for us to take precautions, as David did by hiding in caves, pretending to be insane before the Philistines, and so on.

And it is also appropriate for us to call upon the Lord and cry out to the Father in our distress. That is always an appropriate thing to do. We are children of our heavenly Father and we have been commanded, many times, to pray, even to pray without ceasing. And we can have the same confidence that the Lord has heard our prayers. They have entered into His ears, as David so poetically put it. Our heavenly Father hears our prayers.

Yet, is not our life in His hands? As the Disciples cried out in fear, even while they panicked, God had their deliverance already there for them. They just could not see as God could see. Their fear was unnecessary, because they were safe in God’s hands.

This is also a truth for us at this time of peril in our land. God knows exactly what He plans for each one of us. We are not forgotten, nor are we ignored. As we call out to the Lord, He hears us, and He knows exactly what He has planned for us. He is in our future the same as He is in our present. And whatever He has determined to allow for us, He has us safely in His hands. If it is for life, then well and good. If it is for death, then even better.

But however this turns out in the future, trust in the Lord and be at peace in His loving hands.

There is a song we sing that is taken from Psalm 18. It comes from verses 3 and 46. Perhaps we can sing this truth to encourage ourselves.

Never forget that the Lord lives and remember to exalt Him. Peace, in the midst of this storm, will flood your hearts and minds, if you focus on the Lord and His care for you.

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