Our Rock and Our Refuge
Are you in the middle of searing circumstances? Have you been searching for a source of sustenance in the midst of suffering? Do you need a safe shelter as you battle against sin? As you serve those around you, do you need strength? Psalm 18 reminds us that sustenance, shelter and strength are found in the Lord our God. As we study David’s song, he will point us to Christ, who is our rock, our rescuer, our righteousness, our reward, our refuge, and our ruler.
David had come to learn that our love for God is oftentimes forged in the hardships of life. In our weakness, we learn God is “my strength” (Ps. 18:1). When we are sinking in sand, we learn “the LORD is my rock” (v. 2). When we are fighting for our very life, we realize God is “my fortress” (v. 2). When we are in despair, we realize that God is “my deliverer” (v. 2). When we are facing our enemies, we fall to our knees and “call upon the LORD” (v. 3). Regardless of the answer to our prayers, He “is worthy to be praised” (v. 3). David didn’t praise the Lord based on his circumstances, but on his confession, and so should we. Whether hard pressed by his enemies on every side, or enjoying peace in his kingdom, David’s heart worshiped the Rock, and so should ours.
In David’s deep distress he turned to God and “cried for help,” and his cry “reached his ears” (Ps. 18:6). In words laced with allusions to God’s covenant with Israel at Mount Sinai, God fighting for Israel against the Canaanites, God delivering Israel from the Egyptians through the Red Sea, and God parting the waters of the Jordan for Israel to cross on dry ground (vv. 7-15), David declares that the Lord “rescued me from my strong enemy” and “was my support” (vv. 17-18). Don’t miss the reason why, “he rescued me, because he delighted in me” (18:19; italics mine). “The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing” (Zeph. 3:17). The covenant King delights in His people, and delights to rescue them from distress.
Although David was not a blameless man (see, for example, 2 Sam. 11), he claims his innocence before his enemies. David had given his heart to the Lord, even though at times he went astray. We cannot read his claims of “righteousness” and “the cleanness of my hands” (Ps. 18:20), without recognizing that Christ has fulfilled them. Thankfully, God doesn’t deal with us according to our righteousness, but according to Christ’s. Jesus has “kept the ways of the LORD” (v. 21) for us perfectly. So we can sing, “the LORD has rewarded me according to [Christ’s] righteousness, according to the cleanness of [Christ’s] hands in his sight” (v. 24).
David knew that his reward was the Lord himself—His mercy, His blamelessness, His purity, His judgment of all enemies, and His light (Ps. 18:25-28). In the midst of battle, David never credited his agility to his athletic ability, but to the Lord his strength (v. 29). His song anticipates the promised One. Christ is our reward and the hope of our redemption. He is the light that illuminates our darkness, and the strength that carries us through each day. Apart from Him we can do nothing, but in Christ we can run against the enemies that threaten to undo us (the devil, the world, and our own flesh).
David testifies that the Lord “equipped me with strength” (Ps. 18:32) and “trains my hands for war” (v. 34). From his feet (v. 33) to his hands and arms (v. 34), the Lord armed him, so that David became “the head of the nations” (v. 43). But it is David’s greater son, Jesus Christ, that has made the Enemy turn his back to us and who has become the true head of the nations. As those who are in Christ, we have been given a battle plan. We must buckle on truth, put on righteousness, walk in the gospel, cling to the faith that has been passed down to us, guard our minds with the truth of our salvation, fight in the Spirit, and pray that we will stand firm against the Enemy (see Eph. 6:10-20).
David closes how he began. The king of Israel sings to the King of the nations, “who delivered me from my enemies” (Ps. 18:48). He has shown “steadfast love to his anointed, to David and his offspring forever” (v. 50). The greater David “will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise” (Heb. 2:12). As God’s people, we too are to sing. Our Rock has subdued the Enemy and brought great salvation to God’s people. He shows us steadfast love every day. Great are His ways.
If you are weary today, and searching for a source of sustenance in the midst of searing circumstances, cling to God’s promises in Psalm 18. No matter the trial, Christ is where your hope must rest. He is your rock. He is your rescuer. He is your righteousness. He is your reward. He is your refuge. And He is your ruler.
Sarah Ivill (ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary) is a Reformed author, wife, homeschooling mom, Bible study teacher, and conference speaker who lives in Matthews, North Carolina, and is a member of Christ Covenant Church (PCA). To learn more, please visit www.sarahivill.com.