Psalm 18 Sermon From March 2013 Prayer Service
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Rev. Ted A. Giese / March 6th 2013: Season of Lent, Psalm 18
I love You, O LORD, my strength.
The LORD is my rock and 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,
and I am saved from my enemies.
The cords of death encompassed me;
the torrents of destruction 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 on the wings of the wind.
He made darkness His covering, His canopy around Him,
thick clouds dark with water.
Out of the brightness before Him
hailstones and coals of fire broke through His clouds.
The LORD also thundered in the heavens,
and the Most High uttered His voice,
hailstones and coals of fire.
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 sent from on high, He took me;
He drew me out of many waters.
He rescued 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 rescued me, because He delighted in me.
The LORD dealt with me according to my righteousness;
according to the cleanness of my hands He rewarded me.
For I have kept the ways of the LORD,
and have not wickedly departed from my God.
For all His rules were before me,
and His statutes I did not put away from me.
I was blameless before Him,
and I kept myself from my guilt.
So the LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness,
according to the cleanness of my hands in His sight.
With the merciful you show Yourself merciful;
with the blameless man You show Yourself blameless;
with the purified You show Yourself pure;
and with the crooked You make Yourself seem tortuous.
For you save a humble people,
but the haughty eyes you bring down.
For it is You who light my lamp;
the LORD my God lightens my darkness.
For by You I can run against a troop,
and by my God I can leap over a wall.
This God—His way is perfect;
the Word of the LORD proves true;
He is a shield for all those who take refuge in Him.
For who is God, but the LORD?
And who is a rock, except our God?—
the God who equipped me with strength
and made my way blameless.
He made my feet like the feet of a deer
and set me secure on the heights.
He trains my hands for war,
so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
You have given me the shield of Your salvation,
and Your right hand supported me,
and Your gentleness made me great.
You gave a wide place for my steps under me,
and my feet did not slip.
I pursued my enemies and overtook them,
and did not turn back till they were consumed.
I thrust them through, so that they were not able to rise;
they fell under my feet.
For You equipped me with strength for the battle;
You made those who rise against me sink under me.
You made my enemies turn their backs to me,
and those who hated me I destroyed.
They cried for help, but there was none to save;
they cried to the LORD, but He did not answer them.
I beat them fine as dust before the wind;
I cast them out like the mire of the streets.
You delivered me from strife with the people;
You made me the head of the nations;
people whom I had not known served me.
As soon as they heard of me they obeyed me;
foreigners came cringing to me.
Foreigners lost heart
and came trembling out of their fortresses.
The LORD lives, and 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;
yes, You exalted me above those who rose against me;
You rescued me from the man of violence.
For this I will praise You, O LORD, among the nations,
and sing to Your name.
Great salvation He brings to His king,
and shows steadfast love to His Anointed,
to David and his offspring forever.
(Psalm 18 ESV)
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all are hearts be acceptable in your sight O, Lord. Amen.
Grace, peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ: Good Christian Friends. They said that he had let out a terrible cry and that he had been mutilated because the guillotine struck his head rather than his neck; they said that he’d had to be led to the scaffold with the cold steel of a pistol at his temple; they said that his only last words were “People, I die innocent!” But that’s not what the executioner said: Charles-Henri Sanson, the chief executioner of Paris during the French Revolution, recounts that, in fact, the king, Louis XVI, arrived at the place of execution in a horse and carriage, mounted the scaffold where he reluctantly offered his hands to be tied and asked if the drums would continue beating. Louis then turned to the crowd and said his last words: "Gentlemen, I am innocent of everything of which I am accused. I wish that my blood may be able to cement the happiness of the French."
The words of Psalm 18 are considered to be part of King David’s Last Words; you’ll find Psalm 18 paralleled in 2 Samuel in chapter 22, as the writer of 2Samuel is drawing the account of King David’s life to a close. Jesus Who is the King of kings and Lord of Lord’s also has last words before His death, yet in Jesus’ death Jesus has more in common with Louis XVI than He does with David, for both Louis and Jesus where executed by a rebellious people and David died in old age. Yet when we think of Louis XVI’s last words and king David’s last words something on the surface doesn’t at first seem to sit right. Louis XVI says he’s innocent in his death, King David in Psalm 18 says he’s blameless before God’s eyes and that God had rewarded him according to his righteousness – how can these two kings say these things? Can you go to your own death saying the same, saying that you’re blameless and innocent?
King David writes Psalm 18 as a Psalm of Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving for the protection that he’d experienced from God in his life and for the hoped for coming salvation that David trusted was coming in the form of God’s Anointed One. The Psalm is full of praise and thanks; David describes God as his Strength, his Rock, his Fortress and Deliverer, his Refuge, his Shield, his Stronghold and the Horn of his Salvation. David trust in God’s love and paints us a picture of a God who abides with His people, unlike the other gods, the false gods and idols of men. David paints a picture of a God who works, and fights on behalf of His people, doing all of these things in order to save them. This is King David’s God; this is your God too: today we think on this, we today think on Jesus.
The Lenten Question for today is from the mouth of Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor of Judea who, during the trials leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion, had, as the representative of Caesar (the Roman King), questioned Jesus. Jesus had been falsely accused of being a dissident stirring up trouble toward Creaser: The people had brought Jesus to Pilate and said, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that He Himself is Christ, a King.” And Pilate asked [Jesus], “Are you the King of the Jews?” In John’s Gospel when Pilate asks Jesus this, Jesus answers, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” Then Pilate said to [Jesus], “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to My voice.””
King David hears God’s Voice and knows God’s Truth, in Psalm 18 David calls God’s Way “perfect,” Jesus is the Way, the Perfect Way, the Perfect Truth, and the Perfect Life: Prophetically David knows that it is through this Christ, this Perfect Anointed One; this King of kings, this Lord of lords that David and all of God’s Children will be saved.
Now in the days of Louis XVI it was all rifles and bayonets and cannons and guillotines, in King David’s day it was spears and swords and shields, it was the Bow and the Arrow, and as King David writes Psalm 18 he uses a lot of imagery of war to provide poetic picture language of how God saves us. David had been saved by God in the heat of battle many times, he’d been rescued from the treacherous hands of king Saul and even from the rebellious hands of Absalom his own son, David had been rescued from the hands of many enemies, rescued from the hands of many men of violence, David was provided the opportunity to die in his old age, a rare gift for a soldier at that time who'd seen as much combat as David had.
Using this war like language David tells us that upon hearing the distressed cry of His people God “bowed the heavens and came down;” and that under His Feet was a thick darkness.The image of the Bow is important here: We today are more used to the idea of a Bow used on a necktie or a Bow for tying our shoe laces and less familiar with the idea of operating an actual Bow for hunting or for war, maybe you’ve seen movies with Bows in them (the Lord of the Rings or the Hunger Games, maybe you are thinking of the super hero Green Arrow or perhaps the more old school Tonto from the Lone Ranger or maybe even Robin Hood) at any rate the idea of a Bow is generally outside our daily experience; even still you know how it works: An arrow is notched into the string, the Bow is bent, and then the string is pulled taunt, it’s held there until the operator finds his target, aims and releases. Psalm 18 says, “[God] bowed the heavens and came down;” in the incarnation, in His birth, Jesus (the Anointed One) is like the Arrow that is notched and drawn in the Bow of Heaven and brought down to earth, and with the passing days as He grew and became strong, filled with wisdom and with the favor of God upon Him. This Arrow, this Christ, is aimed at your enemies, aimed at Sin, aimed at Death, aimed at the Devil, aimed at the World, aimed at your own sinful nature; and at the cross, the string is let loose and Christ, the Arrow, bolts forth and strikes down your enemies with a fatal blow as His blood runs red and His last breath expires.
Jesus is also described like this in Isaiah 49, “[God] made Me a polished arrow; in His quiver He hid me away.” Jesus of course is eternal and not made, He is God of God and Light of Light, Very God of Very God, Begotten not made, being of one substance with the Father by whom all things were made, yet in His incarnation Jesus became the polished Arrow hid away in God’s quiver until He is released upon your enemies, in thick darkness at the cross. Strangely, from the cross, Christ continues to fight your enemies even though He is nailed to the wood: With His voice, by His righteousness, by the words of Jesus’ mouth, as He hangs on the cursed tree, He strikes out with justice speaking God’s grace and in those words the enemy was scattered, Jesus’ words strike forth like lightning from heaven, His words routed your enemies. By Christ’s words of grace by His righteous blood, by His innocent death King David’s victory is won, your victory is won.
As we look forward to Good Friday, and Jesus’ atoning death upon the cross at Golgotha, Psalm 18 is a good Psalm to contemplate, because in Psalm 18 the central enemy is Death, more than the Devil, or the World, or our own Sin; in Psalm 18 the enemy is Death and it is at the cross where Jesus takes the STING of death unto Himself, at the cross Jesus is paid the wage for your sin, and “the wages of sin is death.” Saint Paul reminds us that in our baptism we are united with Jesus’ death upon the cross, Paul tells us, “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death He died He died to sin, once for all, but the life He lives He lives to God.” In these words we have Psalm 18’s Horn of Salvation, the Gospel: the Good News. It is this Good News that rings loud and clear in the ears of the dying, what hope would Louis XVI have had when the blade of the guillotine was released above his head, what hope would king David have had as he died in his bed in his old age, what hope would the terminal cancer patient have, what hope would you have if Christ had not conquered your enemy death? Without Christ, who is your Rock? Without Christ, who is your Fortress? Without Christ, who is your Deliverer? Without Christ, who is your Strength? Without Christ, you’d have no real hope in the face of death.
Louis XVI’s last words were, "Gentlemen, I am innocent of everything of which I am accused. I wish that my blood may be able to cement the happiness of the French." We know that no one but Christ is fully innocent, but it is by the shedding of Jesus’ innocent blood that Louis XVI can say “I am innocent of everything of which I am accused” just as King David says “I was blameless before Him, and I kept myself from my guilt.” David can say this because David knows and confesses that “The LORD dealt with [him] according to [David’s] righteousness;” and who is King David’s Righteousness? Isaiah tell us that a man can say nothing but this: ‘in the LORD have I righteousness and strength’ Jeremiah says “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and He shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. ... And this is the name by which He will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’” When King David says “the LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness,” the reward comes according to and by his righteousness, this is true, but David’s righteousness is Christ Jesus. You like King David have this righteousness as a gift from God.
As Jesus walked living out of the gapping broken mouth of Death’s tomb on the third day, in His nail pierced hands He held this gift of righteousness for you: your name engraved there, in His hands, by the nails that pinned Him in darkness to the tree, by this same engraving your name is now likewise found in the book of life. Jesus is King David’s righteousness; Jesus is your righteousness, in Him you and David are found innocent along with all who put their trust and hope and faith in this Jesus: And as death now has no power over this Jesus our Christ, ultimately death will have no power over you on the last day.
And so we come to Jesus’ last words, those awesome bolts of spoken lightning. To those who are crucifying Him Jesus says, with all grace and mercy, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” To the thief who asks Jesus to remember him when Jesus comes into His kingdom, Jesus says, with all love and kindness, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”To His mother and the disciple John, Jesus says, with all gentleness, “Woman, behold your son: behold your mother” to His heavenly Father, once Jesus is covered in all your sin, all my sin, in all the sin of the whole world from the beginning of time to the end of time, Jesus says, with all humility and perseverance,"My God, My God, why have you forsaken me,” As the life is draining out of Him, Jesus says, with all patience, “I thirst.” As your salvation is won, and the Arrow has been driven through your enemy, Jesus says, with all obedience, “It is finished” and with His last breath, Jesus say, with all trust, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit”
King Louis the XVI had hoped that his blood would “be able to cement the happiness of the French.” For all of Louis noble sentiment his blood could not accomplish this. Pontius Pilate likely hoped that the Blood of this King of the Jews would give him some peace. The Blood of Christ however is more than peace for a nation, more than peace for one government official, the Blood of Christ Jesus is a different story: by His Blood God defeated your enemies and by His Blood you are healed and you are reconciled to God the Father. For this reason as a Christian your last words are free to be words of faith and trust like King David’s words found in Psalm 18, Like Jesus’ Words from the cross, and because of the Blood of Jesus you are likewise free to have peace in the face of death: Because we know that Jesus forgives us, desires to have us with Him in paradise, care for us in our distress, knows what it’s like to be condemned under the law, suffered as we suffer, and trusts God the Father above all else (even in the worst of times).
Let us pray: Lord, have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.”
Charles-Henri Sanson (1740-1806).
1 Samuel 17
1 Samuel 31
2nd Samuel 18
Christology of the Old Testament, Volume II, E. W. Hengstenberg 1872, Pg 233-236.
Isaiah 45:24 (KJB)
Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34