Reading: Psalm 18:31-42
Having expressed his simple faith in Psalm 18:1-6, God’s powerful response in Psalm 18:7-19, and then again his confidence in God’s vindicating deliverance in Psalm 18:20-29, David (who represents his future son, Jesus) now prepares for battle (Psalm 18:31-42); or more accurately is prepared for battle. Given its references to holy war, we must be careful to read this section of Psalm 18 with New Testament lenses on. The bloody holy wars of ancient times are over; having served a temporary purpose in the purposes of God.
If some of the language of this text feels disturbing it might be helpful to see it in its overall biblical context. True, back in David’s day God called the people of Israel into battle time and again. And when they were not carrying out God’s judgment in war against unholy nations, the unholy nations were instigating war with them. In fact, most of this Psalm appears in 2 Samuel 22 where David sings it as an expression of thanksgiving for God’s deliverance of him from all his enemies and from the harassing hand of King Saul (2 Samuel 22:1).
Today is different. We are not called to lift a sword or machine gun in the cause of God and truth. Our weapons are different than that (2 Corinthians 10:3-6; Ephesians 6:10-18). So when we read in Psalm 18:31-45 of the psalmist’s beat-down of the enemies of God, we need to read it in a New testament kind of way. We must realize that we are not called to jihad; to a holy war with guns and bombs. Jesus put an end to that when he told us not to bear the sword (Mat. 26:52). Instead we are called to a battle with and for the truth of God in the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
There is another application of course; a Messianic one. Jesus did come to make war with Satan and sin (Colossians 3:13-15; Hebrews 2:14, 15). And he will come again to make war and bring all evil to an end (Revelation 19:11-21). And if we keep in mind that there are explicit Messianic references in the psalm we may do well to be most affected by focusing on this Messianic theme. For example, if we compare Psalm 18:49, 50 with Romans 15:9, we see how the psalmist’s words about defeating the nations with a sword in his day is said to be fulfilled in the New Testament mission to reach the nations with the gospel in our day. Likewise, Jesus is the horn of salvation of which David sings in Psalm 18:2 (see Luke 1:69).
So we may read and sing this section as warriors in the cause of truth through the gospel, or as worshipers who look to Christ who has gone to battle for us, and won the day! He who was absolutely blameless and pure was strengthened for the battle against all of hell, and he thrust his enemies through by his death and resurrection to glory. And now he calls us to put on the whole spiritual armor of God and go to victory in him! Glory be to his name!
* A word coined by and borrowed from John Newton (meaning “sounds of the heart”). The Cardiphonia comments in the Shorey Psalter are my personal reflections on the Psalm.
Listen or Download MP3 (Audio)
View or Download Sheet Music (PDF)