Psalm 18 is an epic psalm of salvation. It is a deeply personal psalm as the psalmist praises the Lord for rescuing him from his enemies. Let’s learn more about this psalm with some help from the NLT Study Bible. This post contains three features from the NLT Study Bible: a topical article on salvation in the Psalms, study notes on Psalm 18, and word studies on important Hebrew words in the psalm.

Salvation in the Psalms

The psalmists experienced God’s salvation (see 32:1–5) as rescue from evil in the world. They were well acquainted with grief (69:18). It seemed to them that God had abandoned them and that the wicked took advantage of the apparent injustice to ridicule the godly (3:2; 71:11).

While waiting for rescue, the psalmists had faith that the Lord was with them, keeping guard over them (Pss 46, 121), and would not abandon them (16:10; 94:14; see also 7:10; 31:2; 62:6–7; 144:2). The psalmists cried out for rescue, knowing that they were completely dependent on the Lord (31:15; 35:17; 69:13).

God graciously rescues his needy servants and answers their prayers (20:6, 9; 28:8; 34:6, 18; 40:13; 76:9; 107; 145:19; 149:4). When the Lord rescues his people, he receives glory through their thanksgiving, praise, and testimony (50:15; 79:9; 85:9). God’s mighty acts are recorded in Scripture so that his people will praise him for what he has done and trust him to rescue them.

The Psalter encourages the godly to identify themselves with these stories of salvation. For example, in Ps 18 the psalmist describes his anguish, his lament, and the Lord’s salvation (18:17, 19, 20, 43, 48) in such a manner that all the humble are invited to look to the Lord in hope (72:12). The Lord has rescued the psalmist, and the Lord will save his people again.

Salvation excludes the wicked (69:27; 119:155), who ridicule those whose hope is in the Lord’s rescue (22:8). They may call to the Lord in their hour of judgment, but he will not rescue them (18:27; 50:22; 78:22). Hope in God’s salvation requires a life of faith (119:123) and love of the Lord (60:5; 108:6). Such faith casts out fear (34:4) because the Lord does what is right (71:2).

The Psalmist, Salvation, and Jesus

The Lord Jesus came to save sinners. He ministered to the needy and the marginalized, though he died under oppression. The Lord Jesus rescues people from themselves, from Satan, from death, and from adversity. He has the power to vindicate the faithful, judge sinners, and completely save all of God’s children. He will renew all things, while excluding the wicked from his everlasting salvation.

Psalm of Salvation – The Psalmist’s Salvation

18:1–50: This royal drama of divine rescue (also found with minor variations in 2 Sam 22) encourages readers who are following the laments and requests for rescue in Pss 16 and 17. The psalmist describes the dramatic nature of God’s rescue in three different ways (18:7–15, 16–19, 30–36). The psalm also extends hope that a future Son of David will be totally victorious over evil (18:43–50; cp. Ps 2).

18:1–50: David was a faithful servant of the LORD, charged with the responsibility of establishing God’s kingdom on earth (see 78:70; 132:10; 144:10). The Lord rescued David from all his enemies when he enabled David to conquer them (see 2 Sam 8:1–14).

18:2: A shield is an image of protection, salvation, and victory (7:10; 18:2, 30, 35; 84:11; 91:4; 115:9, 10, 11; 119:114; 144:2). It evokes a response of trust, waiting, and godly confidence.

18:3: God deserves praise for his greatness and faithfulness (48:1; 96:4; 145:3).

18:4: ibeliya‘al Ps 101:3

beliya‘al: worthlessness, wickedness. This noun can mean “worthless,” referring to an object that is ruined or devastated. Another meaning is a person who is actively evil, “worthless” in relation to the standard of right living. It is often used in phrases such as “children of wickedness,” meaning troublesome people.

18:5: The grave: Hebrew Sheol.

she’ol: grave, underworld. This noun names the realm of death, perceived as a place under the earth. It is seen as a joyless place of darkness, silence, inactivity, and physical decay or decomposition. All dead, righteous and wicked, are seen as abiding in she’ol.

18:6: God dwells in his sanctuary, the heavenly temple (102:19; see 14:2–3). He knows everything, sees everyone, and will vindicate the godly (see 11:3–7).

Psalm of Salvation – The Lord’s Descent

18:7–15: The psalmist depicts the Lord’s descent from heaven to earth with phenomena such as earthquakes, flames, smoke, darkness, and rain. Creation shudders at God’s marvelous coming as the Divine Warrior (see 97:2–5) and Judge (see 50:1–6).

18:7: The destabilization of the whole earth will be a means of God’s judgment (77:17–18; 96:9; 97:4; 99:1; 104:32).

18:8: his nostrils . . . his mouth: The psalmist likens God to an angry person or a fierce creature (see Job 41:12–22). The terrifying images of smoke, flames, and glowing coals express God’s wrath against sin.

18:9–11: The Lord’s sovereignty extends over all of nature (see 104:2–4; 148:5–6).

18:10: a mighty angelic being (Hebrew a cherub).

18:12: and burning coals: Or and lightning bolts; also in 18:13.

18:19: Because God loves and delights in the psalmist (see 18:1), he will save him (37:23; 41:11; 91:14–16).

Psalm of Salvation – The Psalmist’s Loyalty

18:20–24: The psalmist affirms that loyalty is rewarded. He puts his trust in the Lord (see 16:1) and commits himself to living with integrity (see Pss 1, 15, 24; see also 19:12–14).

18:21: kept the ways of the LORD: The psalmist faithfully obeys God’s instructions (see 25:8–10). not turned . . . to follow evil: The psalmist rejects the way of folly (see Pss 1, 14) and chooses the way of wisdom (see Pss 1, 15).

18:25–29: The faithful God remains true to his character. He loves faithfulness, blamelessness, and purity, and he hates the perverse (see 1:6).

18:25: jtamim Ps 19:7

tamim: complete, blameless. This word pertains to something that is completely intact, free from blemishes or defects. Often the focus is on moral goodness, being guiltless and thus not liable for sin. It also often describes an animal that is suitable for sacrifice.

18:26: The pure have clean hands (see 18:20–24). to the wicked you show yourself hostile: The Lord knows each person’s character, and he justly responds to them in kind.

18:27: proud: The Lord hates pride (101:5; 131:1; see Prov 6:16–17; 21:4; 30:13).

18:28: light a lamp: The Lord renews the psalmist’s life, helping him overcome the darkness of adversity (see 112:4; 119:105).

18:29: scale any wall: God helps his servants fight their battles.

Psalm of Salvation – The Lord’s Loyalty

18:30–36: The psalmist experiences God’s rescue and provision of victory.

18:30: perfect: God’s character has integrity (see 18:26). God promises to protect his people, and he does so. Seeking God’s protection entails trust and faith. Regardless of his feelings or external circumstances, the psalmist makes a deep commitment to the Lord. He experiences joy (5:11; 64:10) as he awaits the Lord’s rescue (57:1).

18:32–34: The psalmist’s victories come from the Lord. He completely depends on God.

18:36: A wide path represents freedom and safety (see 4:8; 119:35).

18:37–42: With help from the Divine Warrior, the psalmist experienced victory over his enemies.

18:40: Placing a foot on the necks of the enemy represents total victory (see Josh 10:23–26).

Psalm of Salvation – The Psalmist’s Victory and the Lord’s Praise

18:43–45: With God’s victorious help, the psalmist achieved military and political success, thus fulfilling the history of David’s dynasty (Ps 2). The previous laments find some resolution in this psalm.

18:46–50: The psalmist again reflects on the Lord’s victories. God’s marvelous rescue and the king’s victory are cause for celebration.

18:46: ktsur Ps 27:5

tsur: rock. This noun refers to a large mass of rock, from boulders to mountains. The word has numerous connotative meanings as well, such as strength, hiding, protective refuge, and stability. It also occurs as a title or description of God.

18:47: God vindicates his servant and so fulfills his mission (Ps 2; see 47:3; 144:2).

18:49: The psalmist’s vision of praise . . . among the nations motivated Paul in his mission to the Gentiles (Rom 15:9).

18:50: God appointed David, his anointed ruler, to bring order into God’s world (see Ps 2). Both David and his descendants received this responsibility.

Learn More with the NLT Study Bible

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  1. house of hazards Reply

    Despite their faith, the psalmists also grappled with feelings of grief and abandonment. They questioned God’s silence in the face of their suffering, expressing their pain and vulnerability through lament.

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