Theme: Fitting Psalm 18 Together
In this week’s lessons we see how the second part of Psalm 18 builds upon the first part, and how Paul uses it to refer to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Scripture: Psalm 18:25-50
In the first study of Psalm 18 (vv. 1-24), I pointed out a number of very interesting things about it. For instance, it is the first long psalm in the psalter, which is why I am studying it in two parts. Again, it is a psalm of thanksgiving which is also a kingship psalm. Third, it has the second longest introductory title, second only to the title of Psalm 60. Fourth, it is found in almost the same form in 2 Samuel 22, which gives it an important historical setting toward the end of David’s life. It appears to have been written after David’s deliverance from Saul, Israel’s many surrounding enemies and the armies commanded by David’s rebellious son Absalom.
Another interesting feature of the psalm is its structure. It has six parts, as pointed out in the last study: 1) praise to God (vv. 1-3); 2) the psalmist’s deliverance (vv. 5-19); 3) why God delivered David (vv. 20-24); 4) an important principle (vv. 25-29); 5) the story of David’s deliverance retold (vv. 30-45); and 6) praise to my rock (vv. 46–50). But the interesting feature of this outline is that the second half, parts 4-6, repeats the first half, although the parts are in reverse order. Part 4 repeats part 3, broadening or universalizing the principle. Part 5 repeats part 2, this time telling the story of David’s deliverance from the psalmist’s rather than God’s perspective. Part 6, the last, repeats part 1. So the psalm begins with praise, describes the deliverance for which God is being praised, establishes a principle concerning God’s blessing of the righteous, and then moves back through these three themes to end, as it began, with praise to God.
The fact that the second half of the psalm repeats the outline of the first half does not mean that the material is mere repetition, however. I have suggested some of the changes in my descriptions of the six sections. And there is this change too, a very important one. In the second half of the psalm we begin to pick up Messianic overtones until, as we get to the next to last verse (v. 49), we find a statement that is actually quoted by the Apostle Paul in Romans as referring to Jesus Christ. It is possible to have missed these possible allusions before. But when we get to this point, and are aware of the text in Romans, we are encouraged to look back over the whole psalm to see the ways it forecasts Jesus’ rejection and deliverance.
Some treatments of the psalm, by commentators like H. A. Ironside, Arno C. Gaebelein and the great Saint Augustine, focus almost exclusively on these anticipations. Thus we find Gaebelein writing, “We find utterances and experiences here which cannot be matched in David’s life. Some of these utterances have been described as ‘bold poetic figures,’ but they are more than figures of speech. These utterances and experiences which cannot be applied to David, though faintly foreshadowed in his sufferings and deliverances, are prophetic. The true Anointed One of God, Christ our Savior, in his sufferings, and the deliverances from above, as well as his exaltation and his coming kingdom, constitute the deeper, prophetic meaning of this great, inspired hymn. The eighteenth Psalm is therefore a Messianic Psalm.”1 In my opinion, the many Messianic allusions found in Psalm 18 by these writers are overdone. But there is something to them, as we will find when we come to the final section.
Review the six parts of this psalm, and note how they fit together.
What is a “messianic psalm”? How does Psalm 18 fit into this category?
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1Arno C. Gaebelein, The Book of Psalms: A Devotional and Prophetic Commentary (Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux, 1965), p. 81.