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Psalm 18

Praise to the God who rescues us

A song David, Yahveh’s servant, sang to him after he rescued David from the grasp of Saul and all his other enemies.

I love you, Yahveh, my strength.
2 Yahveh is my rock, my fortress, my deliverer
my God, the rocky summit where I shelter
my shield, the horn that saves me, my stronghold.
3 I called on Yahweh, worthy of all praise
and he rescued me from my foes.

4 Death’s noose cinched tight around me
Belial’s breakers overwhelmed me.
5 I was sinking down into a watery grave
with Death my unyielding undertaker.
6 I called out to Yahveh in my distress.
I cried out to my God for help.
He heard my voice from his sanctuary
—my cry for help reached his ears.
7 The earth rocked and reeled
his anger made the mountains shudder and shake.
8 Smoke shot out of his nostrils
and flames from his mouth
setting the earth around him on fire.
9 He ripped the sky open and came down
with storm clouds under his feet.
10 He mounted a mighty heavenly creaturea
and soared on the wings of the wind.
11 He came under cover of darkness
dark storm clouds surrounding him.
12 Then the light of his presence burst through
with a torrent of hailstones and lightning.
13 Yahveh thundered from heaven
his voice booming across the sky
with a torrent of hailstones and lightning.
14 He let fly his arrows in every direction
great bolts of lightning.
Pandemonium reigned!
15 The ocean floor was laid bare
its deepest trenches exposed
at your rebuke, Yahveh
the blast of air when you snorted.
16 He reached down from high above
took hold of me
and pulled me out of the deep waters.
17 He rescued me from my terrifying foes
enemies too strong for me.
18 They attacked me when I was in distress
but Yahveh came to my defense.
19 He brought me out into a wide-open space
he rescued me because he delighted in me.

20 Yahveh rewarded me for doing right.
He restored me because of my faithfulness.
21 For I’ve held to Yahveh’s ways
and not turned away to follow evil.
22 I’ve kept all his commandments
I’ve never disregarded his laws.
23 I’ve lived with integrity before him
and never let down my guard against sin.
24 So Yahveh has rewarded me for doing right.
He rescued me because of my devotion.
25 To the faithful you’re always faithful,
to the truthful always truthful.
26 The pure can always bank on your purity
the crooked you always outmaneuver.
27 You rescue the humble
but you humiliate the arrogant.
28 You light up my lamp, Yahveh my God
flooding the darkness around me with light.
29 For by you I can rush an armed band
by you I can leap over a wall.
30 This God, his way is perfect!
Everything Yahveh promises proves true
he’s a shield to all who hide behind him.

31 For who is God except Yahveh?
And who is a mighty rock except our God?
32 God arms me with strength
and makes my way perfect.
33 He makes me surefooted like a gazelle
walking with ease on the mountain heights.
34 He trains my hands for battle
enabling me to bend a bronze bow.
35 You’ve given me the shield that saves me
your strong right hand holds me up
your help has made me great.
36 You cleared the path before me
so I could walk without stumbling.
37 I pursued my enemies till I caught them
and didn’t turn back till I’d destroyed them.
38 I nailed them so they couldn’t get up
they fell under my feet.
39 You armed me with courage for the battle
and laid my attackers low before my feet.
40 I trampled them underfoot
totally vanquishing those who hated me.
41 They cried for help
but no one saved them.
They cried out to Yahveh
but got no answer.
42 I ground them to dust before the wind
and swept them like dirt into the gutter.
43 You saved me when my own people attacked me.
You appointed me ruler over nations—
people I didn’t even know now serve me.
44 They surrendered on first hearing of me.
Foreign nations now cower before me.
45 They all lose heart
and come trembling out of their strongholds.

46 Yahveh is alive!
May my Rock be praised
the God who rescues me exalted!
47 He’s the God who repays those who harm me
who subdues the nations under me
48 and rescues me from my foes.
You hold me safe beyond my enemies’ reach
you save me from the violent.
49 So I’ll praise you among the nations, Yahveh
I’ll sing the glories of your name.
50 He’s given great victories to his king.
He shows unfailing love to his anointed
to David and his descendants forever.

With unflagging energy, this psalm—one of the longest—tells how God has rescued David and made him great. We glimpse David’s deeply personal relationship to God in each of the psalm’s five sections. Though he writes as God’s anointed king, he effectively invites everyone into that same level of intimacy.

Evoking the exodus and Mount Sinai, verses 4-19 detail David’s desperate need and how God delivered him from the dark forces against him. In cosmic, superhero terms, Yahveh saves him from certain death, lights up his life and brings him out into a place of promise. In view of all this, the love he professes for God and the thanksgiving that follows are hardly extravagant.

Yahveh does all this because he’s faithful and good and David has walked in his ways (vv. 20-30). God blesses those who bless him and resists those who resist him. He bends down to save those who humbly seek him and cuts their arrogant oppressors down. Utterly unlike the gods, Yahveh has made David great (vv. 31-45). Having enabled David to overcome every barrier and defeat his oppressors, the living God has appointed him to rule over nations and promised to bless him and his royal line forever. So how can David help but praise and thank him before the nations?

How amazing, Lord, that you stooped down to pull me out of the surging waters and give me a hope and a future! How incredible that you love me that much and that all your promises prove true! Help me to trust you, love you and give you all the glory you so richly deserve. Amen.


a Literally, a “cherub,” but that’s not remotely like the cherubs of Western Medieval paintings, biblically speaking.

Why Yahveh?

Every translator of the Psalms must decide how to handle God’s personal name, YHWH, which occurs repeatedly in its Hebrew text. Translators of the King James Version usually translated it “LORD” (all caps) and occasionally transliterated it (badly) as “Jehovah.” Modern translations, likewise, either translate or transliterate it. While translating it aims to make it more accessible to readers, transliterating it is more faithful to the text since it’s not a word at all, but rather God’s uniquely personal name. I’ve chosen to transliterate it to root it more firmly in the biblical story as the name—meaning the “self-existent One”—that God revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. This name set Israel’s God apart from all the gods of Israel’s neighbors.

Personal names are, well, very personal. Even the sound of a name can evoke strong emotion. One problem with YHWH is that we aren’t sure how it was pronounced since Jews long ago stopped saying it in order better to hallow it. In transliterating it, I follow the advice of my esteemed Hebrew professor, Raymond Dillard. He advocated transliterating it as Yahveh—pronounced yah·vay—arguing that following the modern Hebrew pronunciation of its third consonant makes the name sound more robustly Jewish than Yahweh.
May these psalms be a light to you in dark times. You can read more of Mark Robert Anderson's writings on Christianity, culture, and inter-faith dialogue at Understanding Christianity Today.