Monday 26th July
Psalm 18: 1-24, 46-50
To the leader. A Psalm of David the servant of the Lord, who addressed the words of this song to the Lord on the day when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. He said:
I love you, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer,
my God, my rock in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised;
so I shall be saved from my enemies.
The cords of death encompassed me;
the torrents of perdition assailed me;
the cords of Sheol entangled me;
the snares of death confronted me.
In my distress I called upon the Lord;
to my God I cried for help.
From his temple he heard my voice,
and my cry to him reached his ears.
Then the earth reeled and rocked;
the foundations also of the mountains trembled
and quaked, because he was angry.
Smoke went up from his nostrils,
and devouring fire from his mouth;
glowing coals flamed forth from him.
He bowed the heavens, and came down;
thick darkness was under his feet.
He rode on a cherub, and flew;
he came swiftly upon the wings of the wind.
He made darkness his covering around him,
his canopy thick clouds dark with water.
Out of the brightness before him
there broke through his clouds
hailstones and coals of fire.
The Lord also thundered in the heavens,
and the Most High uttered his voice.
And he sent out his arrows, and scattered them;
he flashed forth lightnings, and routed them.
Then the channels of the sea were seen,
and the foundations of the world were laid bare
at your rebuke, O Lord,
at the blast of the breath of your nostrils.
He reached down from on high, he took me;
he drew me out of mighty waters.
He delivered me from my strong enemy,
and from those who hated me;
for they were too mighty for me.
They confronted me in the day of my calamity;
but the Lord was my support.
He brought me out into a broad place;
he delivered me, because he delighted in me.
The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness;
according to the cleanness of my hands he recompensed me.
For I have kept the ways of the Lord,
and have not wickedly departed from my God.
For all his ordinances were before me,
and his statutes I did not put away from me.
I was blameless before him,
and I kept myself from guilt.
Therefore the Lord has recompensed me according to my righteousness,
according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight…
…The Lord lives! Blessed be my rock,
and exalted be the God of my salvation,
the God who gave me vengeance
and subdued peoples under me;
who delivered me from my enemies;
indeed, you exalted me above my adversaries;
you delivered me from the violent.
For this I will extol you, O Lord, among the nations,
and sing praises to your name.
Great triumphs he gives to his king,
and shows steadfast love to his anointed,
to David and his descendants for ever.
Although we are focusing on a Psalm today, we could equally have read 2 Samuel 22:1-25, 47-51 (and all the intervening verses in both texts), for both passages are virtually the same. There are some small differences (e.g. Ps.18:1 isn’t in Samuel) and the Hebrew texts include subtle variations in spelling and syntax, plus the occasional changes in vocabulary that exist in the English translations.
The text hasn’t literally been ‘cut and pasted’ from one biblical book to the other; but both versions undoubtedly depend on a common source. Some scholars suggest it originally derived from a Canaanite poem, part of an annual ritual celebrating Baal’s enthronement; but most identify it as a Royal Psalm of thanksgiving to God for use after a king’s victory over a foreign nation that has then been incorporated into Samuel.
Although the Psalm’s heading and Samuel 22:1 attribute it to David following his victory over the Philistines, its content lacks any precise details that warrant this. The ‘enemies’ are unidentified, the metaphors used to describe God’s acts of deliverance don’t evoke the events of a human battle; and the reference to ‘temple’ (v.6) and the phrasing of the final verse suggest that it originated much later when the Judean monarchy was well established under David’s successors.
On this understanding the heading is early evidence for the history of interpretation of scripture during the development of the Bible. Words that refer to deliverance from a very serious, but non-specific, threat have been put in a particular context by a compiler as David’s expression of thanks to God for his victory.
I find it hard to claim vv.20-24 for myself (and certainly not for David!) but this Psalm enables me to thank God for bringing me safely through very dark times. How about you?
God, you are a rock on which we can depend in every circumstance of life. Thank you for holding us safe through the Covid pandemic and pour out your steadfast love on all who are still experiencing its devastating effect on their lives.
Give victory to the forces of goodness, justice, love, wherever they are at work in the world, that all your children may have fullness of life. Through Christ our saviour, Amen.