The Righteous One’s Thanksgiving for Deliverance

a brief study of Psalm 18, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 6 Oct 2006

The inspired title of this psalm indicates that it was written by David after the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies including Saul.

So this psalm is a song of gratitude for victory by the warrior-king who was at last ruling the nation in peace.

The words of this Psalm appear also in 2 Samuel 22 with slight variations. It is very probable that the original words of the psalm are found in 2 Samuel 22. From there, it must have been adapted under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit for use in public worship—so that what we have in Psalm 18 is for public singing, while what is in 2 Samuel 22 is not.

This is one of the reasons why we do not sing the other songs appearing in the Bible. They are simply not intended for public worship throughout the ages, for if they were, they would have been incorporated into the Psalter.

Now, although this psalm was written by David, it was no doubt written in the Spirit of Christ so that the words that appear belong to Christ in a special and direct manner.

We say this for good reasons.

First, the apostle Paul quotes v. 49 of this psalm in Romans 15:8-9 to indicate that this psalm has to do with the salvation of the Gentiles in the name of Christ rather than merely about the enemies of David.

Secondly, some of the words in this Psalm are clearly words that only Christ could say with a clear conscience. For example, verses 20-21—

"20 The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me. 21 For I have kept the ways of the LORD, and have not wickedly departed from my God" (Ps 18:20-21)

Who but Christ could have spoken these words with full confidence? So we can understand this Psalm as the word of Christ in thanksgiving after He was delivered from the grave.

This Psalm has 3 major parts.

• From verses 1-3, the Lord extols the greatness of God as His rock, fortress, deliverer and help.

• From verses 4-24, the Lord describes the sorrow and distress He was in, and how the Father delivered Him through a mighty show of power. This great deliverance is described in terms of smoke and fire, and hail stones, and lightning and thunder. The fulfillment of these imageries is in no way less dramatic for it involves an earthquake, the opening of the grave, the appearance of angels and the resurrection of the dead!

• From verses 25-50, the Lord rejoices and praises the Father for the blessing He has received.

In this short study, we shall not be able to examine this Psalm in detail. Instead, let us take one verse from each of these 3 sections to meditate for a moment.

1. The LORD is my Rock

2 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.

Notice the sevenfold description of the LORD as His rock, His fortress, His deliverer, His strength, His buckler, His horn and His high tower.

"The LORD is my rock." Three times in this Psalm (vv. 31, 46) and twenty times in the whole book of Psalms is the LORD referred to as the Rock. Why is He a Rock? He is our Rock because He alone is unchanging and fully dependable. He provides stability and security for us.

And the LORD is also "my fortress." Why is He a fortress? He is a fortress because He is a strong and high place to hide in. When I feel defenseless, when I have nowhere to flee from all my troubles, it is only to the LORD my fortress I can flee. It is far safer and comforting to hide in the LORD than to hide in a man-made fortress or to go far from the maddening crowd.

And the LORD is also my deliverer. Not only does the Lord hide as a fortress, He delivers as a King.

And the LORD is my strength. The word used here paints the picture of a mighty rocky cliff. Those of us who have seen such rocky cliffs overseas would know the feeling of awe as we stood to behold the greatness of the cliff. God is to us a mighty cliff. He is our strength, we can trust in Him for while we are weak, He is immensely strong.

And the LORD is also my buckler. This word rendered ‘buckler’ is usually translated as ‘shield’. Three times in this Psalm is the Lord described as our buckler or shield. Our LORD protects us from the assaults of the Wicked One. Moreover, in Christ, we are also shielded from the wrath of God.

And the LORD is the horn of my salvation. Horns are symbols of strength and authority. God is the captain of our salvation in Christ.

And finally, the LORD is my high tower. In Him I have protection from the enemies and in Him I can see with eyes of faith what others cannot see. "Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not" (Jer 33:3).

David knew and experienced the Father’s protection and help at the time when He was deeply distressed. He was able to experience the LORD’s help because He learned to turn His eyes away from himself and from the circumstances surrounding him. He learned to turn His eyes to the LORD.

So too our Lord himself turned His eyes to the Father when He was perplexed and sorrowing because of the circumstances surrounding him.

What about you beloved brethren and children? Whatever difficulties you may be going through in life, is the Lord your rock, your fortress, your deliverer, your strength, your buckler, your horn and your high tower?

2. The Lord is my Reward

Now, secondly, let us consider verse 18:

"The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me" (Ps 18:20).

We noted how these words cannot fully apply to sinful men including David. God is of purer eyes than to behold evil. All our righteousness is but filthy rags before His eyes.

If God is to reward us according to our own righteousness or according to the cleanness of our hands, we will get nothing of the blessings of God, but only His curses.

No, no, these verses can only be taken from the lips of our Saviour according to His own merits.

All others can take these words only through union with Christ.

"The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness—[which is the righteousnss of Christ imputed to me]; according to the cleanness of my hands—[which are washed by the Spirit if Christ] hath he recompensed me" (Ps 18:20).

Thank God for Christ Jesus our Lord. He was tempted at all points like as we are, yet without sin.

Because of His righteousness and the cleanness of His hands, He was fit to represent us at the Cross of Calvary. At Calvary, He died not for His own sin, but for our sins.

Now then, our salvation is entirely on account of His work. And yet, He promises to reward us. He died and rose again in order that He might give gifts to us.

"And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be" (Rev 22:12).

He rewards us out of grace. But this does not mean, beloved brethren and children, that we can therefore live as we like—for those whom God will reward are those who will seek first the kingdom of God. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you" (Mt 6:33).

So beloved brethren and children, seek first His kingdom. But thank God that He will not cast us out because our striving and seeking is imperfect. Thank God that we can resort to Christ our Rock as He resorted to His Rock the Father.

Thank God that He does not whip us to make us holy, but He draws us with cords of love by giving us the righteousness of Christ and a promise of His reward.

3. The LORD Will Light My Candle

For thou wilt light my candle: the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness" (Ps 18:28).

These words are so familiar to us that it is difficult to explain it without spoiling its beauty.

What does it mean to "light my candle"? "What does it mean to "enlighten my darkness" or to "turn my darkness into light"?

I believe the candle or lamp is a metaphor to speak about a life of joy or brightness.

Job says:

"How oft is the candle of the wicked put out! and how oft cometh their destruction upon them! God distributeth sorrows in his anger" (Job 21:17).

The LORD will light my candle or keep my candle burning speaks of how He will sustain my life and enable me to enjoy His blessing in this life.

Not only does the Lord protect us from harm and dangers as it pertain to this life; He also watches over our soul to enable us to live a joyful Christian life.

It is a fact that our lives are full of ups and downs. It is a known that many people sink into long periods of darkness and depression.

This happens to both believers and unbelievers. Unbelievers have no one to turn to. But thank God that believers can turn to the Lord.

Indeed, God is able to sustain our peace and joy. He is able to keep our candle burning.

And He is able to turn my darkness into light in that He alone can give me joy and brightness when dark clouds are over my head and I sorrow and grieve over some sad turn of events in my life.

Our Lord is very kind and loving towards us. He will not allow His children who cry out unto Him to remain in sorrow and distress and depression. He will help.

As the Father encouraged the Son in the Garden of Gethsemane by sending him a myriad of angel so the Son interceding for us will send help from His Father’s throne.

Thank God that whatever depressing circumstance in life we may go through—the Lord will light our candle so and He will turn our darkness into light!


May the words of this Psalm encourage us to persevere on in our pilgrim walk though the way may often be gloomy and dark. When the shadows of dark providence falls over our path, let us think about Christ our Rock and our very present help in trouble. Let us remember how He went through the same valley of shadows, and how He triumphed. Let us, therefore, confidently take the next step singing in our heart:

"The Lord will light my candle so,

that it shall shine full bright:

The Lord my God will also makeMy darkness to be light" (v. 28 in metre)

The Lord is your Reward who has promised to bless. As the Father kept His candle burning through His darkest hours, so He will keep your candle burning and turn your darkness into light. Amen.

— JJ Lim