Matthew Henry Complete CommentaryPsalms 18
on the Whole Bible
This psalm we met with before, in the history of David's life,
2 Samuel 22:1-51
That was the first edition of it; here we have it revived, altered a
little, and fitted for the service of the church. It is David's
thanksgiving for the many deliverances God had wrought for him; these
he desired always to preserve fresh in his own memory and to diffuse
and entail the knowledge of them. It is an admirable composition. The
poetry is very fine, the images are bold, the expressions lofty, and
every word is proper and significant; but the piety far exceeds the
poetry. Holy faith, and love, and joy, and praise, and hope, are here
lively, active, and upon the wing.
I. He triumphs in God,
II. He magnifies the deliverances God had wrought for him,
III. He takes the comfort of his integrity, which God had thereby
IV. He gives to God the glory of all his achievements,
V. He encourages himself with the expectation of what God would further do
for him and his,
|David's Triumphs in God; Devout Confidence.
To the chief musician, A psalm of David, the servant of the
LORD, who spake unto the LORD
the words of this song in the day that the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies.
1 I will love
thee, O LORD, my strength.
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.
3 I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so
shall I be saved from mine enemies.
4 The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly
men made me afraid.
5 The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death
6 In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God:
he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him,
even into his ears.
7 Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of
the hills moved and were shaken, because he was wroth.
8 There went up a smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of
his mouth devoured: coals were kindled by it.
9 He bowed the heavens also, and came down: and darkness was
under his feet.
10 And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: yea, he did fly upon
the wings of the wind.
11 He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about
him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies.
12 At the brightness that was before him his thick clouds
passed, hail stones and coals of fire.
13 The LORD also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave
his voice; hail stones and coals of fire.
14 Yea, he sent out his arrows, and scattered them; and he shot
out lightnings, and discomfited them.
15 Then the channels of waters were seen, and the foundations
of the world were discovered at thy rebuke, O LORD, at the blast
of the breath of thy nostrils.
16 He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many
17 He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them which
hated me: for they were too strong for me.
18 They prevented me in the day of my calamity: but the LORD
was my stay.
19 He brought me forth also into a large place; he delivered
me, because he delighted in me.
The title gives us the occasion of penning this psalm; we had it before
(2 Samuel 22:1),
only here we are told that the psalm was delivered to the chief
musician, or precentor, in the temple-songs. Note, The private
compositions of good men, designed by them for their own use, may be
serviceable to the public, that others may not only borrow light from
their candle, but heat from their fire. Examples sometimes teach better
than rules. And David is here called the servant of the Lord, as
Moses was, not only as every good man is God's servant, but because,
with his sceptre, with his sword, and with his pen, he greatly promoted
the interests of God's kingdom in Israel. It was more his honour that
he was a servant of the Lord than that he was king of a great kingdom;
and so he himself accounted it
O Lord! truly I am thy servant. In these verses,
I. He triumphs in God and his relation to him. The first words of the
psalm, I will love thee, O Lord! my strength, are here prefixed
as the scope and contents of the whole. Love to God is the first and
great commandment of the law, because it is the principle of all our
acceptable praise and obedience; and this use we should make of all the
mercies God bestows upon us, our hearts should thereby be enlarged in
love to him. This he requires and will accept; and we are very
ungrateful if we grudge him so poor a return. An interest in the person
loved is the lover's delight; this string therefore he touches, and on
this he harps with much pleasure
"The Lord Jehovah is my God; and then he is my rock,
my fortress, all that I need and can desire in my present
distress." For there is that in God which is suited to all the
exigencies and occasions of his people that trust in him. "He is my
rock, and strength, and fortress;" that is,
1. "I have found him so in the greatest dangers and difficulties."
2. "I have chosen him to be so, disclaiming all others, and depending
upon him alone to protect me." Those that truly love God may thus
triumph in him as theirs, and may with confidence call upon him,
This further use we should make of our deliverances, we must not only
love God the better, but love prayer the better--call upon him as
long as we live, especially in time of trouble, with an assurance
that so we shall be saved; for thus it is written, Whosoever shall
call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved,
II. He sets himself to magnify the deliverances God had wrought for
him, that he might be the more affected in his returns of praise. It is
good for us to observe all the circumstances of a mercy, which magnify
the power of God and his goodness to us in it.
1. The more imminent and threatening the danger was out of which we
were delivered the greater is the mercy of the deliverance. David now
remembered how the forces of his enemies poured in upon him, which he
calls the floods of Belial, shoals of the children of Belial,
likely to overpower him with numbers. They surrounded him, compassed
him about; they surprised him, and by that means were very near
seizing him; their snares prevented him, and, when without were
fightings, within were fears and sorrows,
His spirit was overwhelmed, and he looked upon himself as a lost man;
2. The more earnest we have been with God for deliverance, and the more
direct answer it is to our prayers, the more we are obliged to be
thankful. David's deliverances were so,
David was found a praying man, and God was found a prayer-hearing God.
If we pray as he did, we shall speed as he did. Though distress drive
us to prayer, God will not therefore be deaf to us; nay, being a God of
pity, he will be the more ready to succour us.
3. The more wonderful God's appearances are in any deliverance the
greater it is: such were the deliverances wrought for David, in which
God's manifestation of his presence and glorious attributes is most
&c. Little appeared of man, but much of God, in these deliverances.
(1.) He appeared a God of almighty power; for he made the earth shake
and tremble, and moved even the foundations of the hills
as of old at Mount Sinai. When the men of the earth were struck with
fear, then the earth might be said to tremble; when the great
men of the earth were put into confusion, then the hills moved.
(2.) He showed his anger and displeasure against the enemies and
persecutors of his people: He was wroth,
His wrath smoked, it burned, it was fire, it was devouring fire
and coals were kindled by it. Those that by their own sins make
themselves as coals (that is, fuel) to this fire will be consumed by
it. He that ordains his arrows against the persecutors sends them forth
when he pleases, and they are sure to hit the mark and do execution;
for those arrows are lightnings,
(3.) He showed his readiness to plead his people's cause and work
deliverance for them; for he rode upon a cherub and did fly, for the
maintaining of right and the relieving of his distressed servants,
No opposition, no obstruction, can be given to him who rides upon
the wings of the wind, who rides on the heavens, for the help of his
people, and, in his excellency, on the skies.
(4.) He showed his condescension, in taking cognizance of David's case:
He bowed the heavens and came down
did not send an angel, but came himself, as one afflicted in the
afflictions of his people.
(5.) He wrapped himself in darkness, and yet commanded light to shine
out of darkness for his people,
He is a God that hideth himself; for he made darkness his
his glory is invisible, his counsels are unsearchable, and his
proceedings unaccountable, and so, as to us, clouds and darkness are
round about him; we know not the way that he takes, even when he is
coming towards us in ways of mercy; but, when his designs are secret,
they are kind; for, though he hide himself, he is the God of Israel,
the Saviour. And, at his brightness, the thick clouds pass
comfort returns, the face of affairs is changed, and that which was
gloomy and threatening becomes serene and pleasant.
4. The greater the difficulties are that lie in the way of deliverance
the more glorious the deliverance is. For the rescuing of David, the
waters were to be divided till the very channels were seen; the earth
was to be cloven till the very foundations of it were discovered,
There were waters deep and many, waters out of which he was to be drawn
as Moses, who had his name from being drawn out of the water literally,
as David was figuratively. His enemies were strong, and they hated him;
had he been left to himself, they would have been too strong for him,
And they were too quick for him; for they prevented him in the day
of his calamity,
But, in the midst of his troubles, the Lord was his stay, so that he
did not sink. Note, God will not only deliver his people out of their
troubles in due time, but he will sustain them and bear them up under
their troubles in the mean time.
5. That which especially magnified the deliverance was that his comfort
was the fruit of it and God's favour was the root and fountain of it.
(1.) It was an introduction to his preferment,
"He brought me forth also out of my straits into a large place, where I
had room, not only to turn, but to thrive in."
(2.) It was a token of God's favour to him, and that made it doubly
sweet: "He delivered me because he delighted in me, not for my
merit, but for his own grace and good-will." Compare this with
2 Samuel 15:26,
If he thus say, I have no delight in thee, here I am. We owe our
salvation, that great deliverance, to the delight God had in the Son of
David, in whom he has declared himself to be well pleased.
In singing this we must triumph in God, and trust in him: and we may
apply it to Christ the Son of David. The sorrows of death surrounded
him; in his distress he prayed
God made the earth to shake and tremble, and the rocks to cleave, and
brought him out, in his resurrection, into a large place, because he
delighted in him and in his undertaking.
|Devout Thanksgivings; Devout Confidence
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.
22 For all his judgments were before me, and I did not put
away his statutes from me.
23 I was also upright before him, and I kept myself from mine
24 Therefore hath the LORD recompensed me according to my
righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his
25 With the merciful thou wilt show thyself merciful; with an
upright man thou wilt show thyself upright;
26 With the pure thou wilt show thyself pure; and with the
froward thou wilt show thyself froward.
27 For thou wilt save the afflicted people; but wilt bring down
28 For thou wilt light my candle: the LORD my God will
enlighten my darkness.
I. David reflects with comfort upon his own integrity, and rejoices in
the testimony of his conscience that he had had his conversation in
godly sincerity and not with fleshly wisdom,
2 Corinthians 1:12.
His deliverances were an evidence of this, and this was the great
comfort of his deliverances. His enemies had misrepresented him, and
perhaps, when his troubles continued long, he began to suspect himself;
but, when God visibly took his part, he had both the credit and the
comfort of his righteousness.
1. His deliverances cleared his innocency before men, and acquitted him
from those crimes which he was falsely accused of. This he calls
rewarding him according to his righteousness
that is, determining the controversy between him and his enemies,
according to the justice of his cause and the cleanness of his hands,
from that sedition, treason, and rebellion, with which he was charged.
He had often appealed to God concerning his innocency; and now God had
given judgment upon the appeal (as he always will) according to equity.
2. They confirmed the testimony of his own conscience for him, which
he here reviews with a great deal of pleasure,
His own heart knows, and is ready to attest it,
(1.) That he had kept firmly to his duty, and had not departed, not
wickedly, not wilfully departed, from his God. Those that forsake the
ways of the Lord do, in effect, depart from their God, and it is a
wicked thing to do so. But though we are conscious to ourselves of many
a stumble, and many a false step taken, yet if we recover ourselves by
repentance, and go on in the way of our duty, it shall not be construed
into a departure, for it is not a wicked departure, from our God.
(2.) That he had kept his eye upon the rule of God's commands
"All his judgments were before me; and I had a respect to them
all, despised none as little, disliked none as hard, but made it my
care and business to conform to them all. His statutes I did not put
away from me, out of my sight, out of my mind, but kept my eye always
upon them, and did not as those who, because they would quit the ways
of the Lord, desire not the knowledge of those ways."
(3.) That he had kept himself from his iniquity, and thereby had
approved himself upright before God. Constant care to abstain from that
sin, whatever it be, which most easily besets us, and to mortify the
habit of it, will be a good evidence for us that we are upright before
God. As David's deliverances cleared his integrity, so did the
exaltation of Christ clear his, and for ever roll away the reproach
that was cast upon him; and therefore he is said to be justified in
1 Timothy 3:16.
II. He takes occasion thence to lay down the rules of God's government
and judgment, that we may know not only what God expects from us, but
what we may expect from him,
1. Those that show mercy to others (even they need mercy, and cannot
depend upon the merit, no, not of their works of mercy) shall find
mercy with God,
2. Those that are faithful to their covenants with God, and the
relations wherein they stand to him, shall find him all that to them
which he has promised to be. Wherever God finds an upright man, he
will be found an upright God.
3. Those that serve God with a pure conscience shall find that the
words of the Lord are pure words, very sure to be depended on and very
sweet to be delight in.
4. Those that resist God, and walk contrary to him, shall find that he
will resist them, and walk contrary to them,
III. Hence he speaks comfort to the humble ("Thou wilt save the
afflicted people, that are wronged and bear it patiently"), terror
to the proud ("Thou wilt bring down high looks, that aim high,
and look with scorn and disdain upon the poor and pious"), and
encouragement to himself--"Thou wilt light my candle, that is,
thou wilt revive and comfort my sorrowful spirit, and not leave me
melancholy; thou wilt recover me out of my troubles and restore me to
peace and prosperity; thou wilt make my honour bright, which is now
eclipsed; thou wilt guide my way, and make it plain before me, that I
may avoid the snares laid for me; thou wilt light my candle to work by,
and give me an opportunity of serving thee and the interests of thy
kingdom among men."
Let those that walk in darkness, and labour under many discouragements
in singing these verses, encourage themselves that God himself will be
a light to them.
|Grateful Remembrance of Past Deliverances; Confidence in the Divine Goodness.
29 For by thee I have run through a troop; and by my God have I
leaped over a wall.
30 As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the LORD is
tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him.
31 For who is God save the LORD? or who is a rock save our
32 It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way
33 He maketh my feet like hinds' feet, and setteth me upon my
34 He teacheth my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is
broken by mine arms.
35 Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy
right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me
36 Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not
37 I have pursued mine enemies, and overtaken them: neither did
I turn again till they were consumed.
38 I have wounded them that they were not able to rise: they
are fallen under my feet.
39 For thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle: thou
hast subdued under me those that rose up against me.
40 Thou hast also given me the necks of mine enemies; that I
might destroy them that hate me.
41 They cried, but there was none to save them: even unto
the LORD, but he answered them not.
42 Then did I beat them small as the dust before the wind: I
did cast them out as the dirt in the streets.
43 Thou hast delivered me from the strivings of the people;
and thou hast made me the head of the heathen: a people whom
I have not known shall serve me.
44 As soon as they hear of me, they shall obey me: the
strangers shall submit themselves unto me.
45 The strangers shall fade away, and be afraid out of their
46 The LORD liveth; and blessed be my rock; and let the God
of my salvation be exalted.
47 It is God that avengeth me, and subdueth the people under
48 He delivereth me from mine enemies: yea, thou liftest me up
above those that rise up against me: thou hast delivered me from
the violent man.
49 Therefore will I give thanks unto thee, O LORD, among the
heathen, and sing praises unto thy name.
50 Great deliverance giveth he to his king; and showeth mercy
to his anointed, to David, and to his seed for evermore.
In these verses,
I. David looks back, with thankfulness, upon the great things which God
had done for him. He had not only wrought deliverance for him, but had
given him victory and success, and made him triumph over those who
thought to triumph over him. When we set ourselves to praise God for
one mercy we must be led by that to observe the many more with which we
have been compassed about, and followed, all our days. Many things had
contributed to David's advancement, and he owns the hand of God in them
all, to teach us to do likewise, in reviewing the several steps by
which we have risen to our prosperity.
1. God had given him all his skill and understanding in military
affairs, which he was not bred up to nor designed for, his genius
leading him more to music, and poetry, and a contemplative life: He
teaches my hands to war,
2. God had given him bodily strength to go through the business and
fatigue of war: God girded him with strength
to such a degree that he could break even a bow of steel,
What service God designs men for he will be sure to fit them for.
3. God had likewise given him great swiftness, not to flee from the
enemies but to fly upon them
He makes my feet like hinds' feet,
"Thou hast enlarged my steps under me; but" (whereas those that
take large steps are apt to tread awry) "my feet did not slip." He was
so swift that he pursued his enemies and overtook them,
4. God had made him very bold and daring in his enterprises, and given
him spirit proportionable to his strength. If a troop stood in his way,
he made nothing of running through them; if a wall, he made nothing of
leaping over it
if ramparts and bulwarks, he soon mounted them, and by divine
assistance set his feet upon the high places of the enemy,
5. God had protected him, and kept him safe, in the midst of the
greatest perils. Many a time he put his life in his hand, and yet it
was wonderfully preserved: "Thou hast given me the shield of thy
and that has compassed me on every side. By that I have been delivered
from the strivings of the people who aimed at my destruction
particularly from the violent man"
that is, Saul, who more than once threw a javelin at him.
6. God had prospered him in his designs; he it was that made his way
and it was his right hand that held him up,
7. God had given him victory over his enemies, the Philistines,
Moabites, Ammonites, and all that fought against Israel: those
especially he means, yet not excluding the house of Saul, which opposed
his coming to the crown, and the partisans of Absalom and Sheba, who
would have deposed him. He enlarges much upon the goodness of God to
him in defeating his enemies, attributing his victories, not to his own
sword or bow, nor to the valour of his mighty men, but to the favour of
God: I pursued them
I wounded them
for thou hast girded me with strength
else I could not have done it. All the praise is ascribed to God:
Thou hast subdued them under me,
Thou hast given me their necks
not only to trample upon them (as
but to cut them off. Even those who hated David whom God loved, and
were enemies to the Israel of God, in their distress cried unto the
Lord: but in vain; he answered them not. How could they expect he
should when it was he whom they fought against? And, when he disowned
them (as he will all those that act against his people), no other
succours could stand them in stead: There was none to save them,
Those whom God has abandoned are easily vanquished: Then did I beat
them small as the dust,
But those whose cause is just he avenges
and those whom he favours will certainly be lifted up above those
that rise up against them,
8. God had raised him to the throne, and not only delivered him and
kept him alive, but dignified him and made him great
Thy gentleness has increased me--thy discipline and
instruction; so some. The good lessons David learned in his
affliction prepared him for the dignity and power that were intended
him; and the lessening of him helped very much to increase his
greatness. God made him not only a great conqueror, but a great ruler:
Thou hast made me the head of the heathen
all the neighbouring nations were tributaries to him. See
2 Samuel 8:6,11.
In all this David was a type of Christ, whom the Father brought safely
through his conflicts with the powers of darkness, and made victorious
over them, and gave to be head over all things to his church, which is
II. David looks up with humble and reverent adorations of the divine
glory and perfection. When God had, by his providence, magnified him,
he endeavours, with his praises, to magnify God, to bless him and exalt
He gives honour to him,
1. As a living God: The Lord liveth,
We had our lives at first from, and we owe the continuance of them to,
that God who has life in himself and is therefore fitly called the
living God. The gods of the heathen were dead gods. The best
friends we have among men are dying friends. But God lives, lives for
ever, and will not fail those that trust in him, but, because he lives,
they shall live also; for he is their life.
2. As a finishing God: As for God, he is not only perfect
himself, but his way is perfect,
He is known by his name Jehovah
a God performing and perfecting what he begins in providence as well as
If it was God that made David's way perfect
much more is his own way so. There is no flaw in God's works, nor any
fault to be found with what he does,
And what he undertakes he will go through with, whatever difficulties
lie in the way; what God begins to build he is able to finish.
3. As a faithful God: The word of the Lord is tried. "I have
tried it" (says David), "and it has not failed me." All the saints, in
all ages, have tried it, and it never failed any that trusted in it. It
is tried as silver is tried, refined from all such mixture and alloy as
lessen the value of men's words. David, in God's providences concerning
him, takes notice of the performance of his promises to him, which, as
it puts sweetness into the providence, so it puts honour upon the
4. As the protector and defender of his people. David had found him so
to him: "He is the God of my salvation
by whose power and grace I am and hope to be saved; but not of mine
only: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him
he shelters and protects them all, is both able and ready to do so."
5. As a non-such in all this,
There is a God, and who is God save Jehovah? That God is a rock,
for the support and shelter of his faithful worshippers; and who is
a rock save our God? Thus he not only gives glory to God, but
encourages his own faith in him. Note,
(1.) Whoever pretends to be deities, it is certain that there is no
God, save the Lord; all others are counterfeits,
(2.) Whoever pretends to be our felicities, there is no rock, save our
God; none that we can depend upon to make us happy.
III. David looks forward, with a believing hope that God would still do
him good. He promises himself,
1. That his enemies should be completely subdued, and that those of
them that yet remained should be made his footstool,--that his
government should be extensive, so that even a people whom he had not
known should serve him
--that his conquests, and, consequently, his acquests, should be easy
(As soon as they hear of me they shall obey me,
--and that his enemies should be convinced that it was to no purpose to
oppose him; even those that had retired to their fastnesses should not
trust to them, but be afraid out of their close places, having seen so
much of David's wisdom, courage, and success. Thus the Son of David,
though he sees not yet all things put under him, yet knows he shall
reign till all opposing rule, principality, and power shall be quite
2. That his seed should be forever continued in the Messiah, who, he
foresaw, should come from his loins,
He shows mercy to his anointed, his Messiah, to David
himself, the anointed of the God of Jacob in the type, and to his
seed for evermore. He saith not unto seeds, as of many, but to his
seed, as of one, that is Christ,
It is he only that shall reign for ever, and of the increase of whose
government and peace there shall be no end. Christ is called
God has called him his king,
Great deliverance God does give, and will give to him, and to his
church and people, here called his seed, for evermore.
we must give God the glory of the victories of Christ and his church
hitherto and of all the deliverances and advancements of the gospel
kingdom, and encourage ourselves and one another with an assurance that
the church militant will be shortly triumphant, will be eternally