Theme: Praise to God
In this week’s lessons we consider different reasons for which David offers thanksgiving as he reflects on God’s grace and faithfulness towards him.
Scripture: Psalm 18:1-24
Yesterday we mentioned the first category of David’s deliverances, when he was hiding from King Saul in the wilderness.
Second, God delivered David during his years of fighting against Israel’s enemies and gave him numerous victories. This was the period in which David established the kingdom on a firm footing. Second Samuel 8 lists David’s victories over the Philistines, Moabites, Arameans of Damascus and Edomites.
Third, God delivered David from the hand of his son Absalom. The young man had plotted to drive his father from Jerusalem and take the kingdom for himself, and he succeeded to the extent that David had to flee his capital and take refuge again in the vast rocky wilderness. A battle followed in which the armies of Absalom were defeated and Absalom was himself killed. David was delivered again, though he said that he would rather it had been he who had been killed than his son. Psalm 18, which is found in 2 Samuel 22, comes after this moving recital of the events of David’s life and is a fitting expression of thanksgiving to God for his protection and deliverance during these years.
Although there are various ways of dividing the material in this psalm, it is clear that the first three verses stand together as an opening section or prelude. In them David professes his love for God, who has shown himself to be his deliverer and to be worthy of his praise. There are two kinds of metaphors used to portray God in these verses. One kind relates to David’s military victories, picturing God as his “strength,” “shield” and “horn of salvation.” The other type relates to the times David was forced to flee his enemies. These images picture God as David’s “rock,” “fortress,” “deliverer” and “stronghold.” There are seven metaphors in all. The most important of these, the theme of the psalm, is that the Lord was David’s “rock.” This metaphor occurs twice in verse 2, but it also appears later in verses 31 and 46. The four form a meaningful sequence.
More than twenty years ago the great New Zealand Professor of Classics at Auckland University, E. M. Blaiklock, wrote a series of articles for Eternity magazine entitled “New Light on Bible Imagery.” One of the images he wrote about was “rock.” He showed that it has several uses. First, it is an image for protection and shade. In the hot sandy lands of the Bible the struggle of life against the merciless elements is intense in a way we can hardly appreciate in our more temperate climates. When the spring rains come a light carpet of green will emerge on the desert’s edge, doomed to be scorched by the sun and then covered with sand in just a few short weeks. But set a rock in the sand, and soon a small oasis develops on the boulder’s leeward side. The desert’s feeble life prospers under the rock’s protection.
Similarly, a man traveling through the desert during the hottest hours of the day can find shade in the rock’s shadow and can survive and continue his journey. These ideas are present in verses like Isaiah 32:2, which describes the king as “the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land.” Protected by the king, many weaker people prosper. But the king is himself sheltered by God, as David confesses in Psalm 18. It is because the Lord was his rock that David thrived.
List the two other categories of deliverance David experienced.
What metaphors are used in the first three verses, and what two themes do they emphasize?
Reflection: Recount some times when the Lord showed himself to be your rock by offering some kind of protection, whether physical or spiritual. Praise him for his goodness toward you.
For Further Study: James Boice’s three-volume study of the Psalms is available from the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals for 25% off the regular price. Order your copy today.