Psalm 18 ~ two visions blend into one

Another instance of prophetic apocalypse is Psalm 18.  The psalm can confuse you if you let yourself get hung up on details.  I believe there are [at least] two different metaphorical prophecies at work within this psalm.  If we try to separate them too distinctly it can cause us to doubt either one.  If we realize that many times metaphors represented something prophetic beyond the current circumstances, we should have no problem having multiple metaphors representing the same thing with no contradiction.  Let me explain.


To the Choirmaster.  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 rescued him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul.  He said:


The first metaphor is a theophanic appearance of a messianic figure to rescue David out of his troubles.  The occasion for this psalm should not be overlooked.  The heading includes circumstances from a wide expanse of David’s life, including “all his enemies” reaching way back to Saul.  So these words were meant to be an overview of the way in which God rescued David from his life of rejection as a whole.  Other psalms which David wrote (Psalm 22, 41, 69) portray this rejection as a death-type experience which served as prophecies of the Messiah’s death.  So here is David entangled in the cords of the grave crying out to God for help, Psalm 18:4-6.  Then came the answer.


7 Then the earth reeled and rocked;

the foundations also of the mountains trembled

and quaked, because he was angry.

8 Smoke went up from his nostrils,

and devouring fire from his mouth;

glowing coals flamed forth from him.

9 He bowed the heavens and came down;

thick darkness was under his feet.

10 He rode on a cherub and flew;

he came swiftly on the wings of the wind.

11 He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him,

thick clouds dark with water.

12 Out of the brightness before him

hailstones and coals of fire broke through his clouds.


The LORD Himself, in the form of a messianic figure, comes down from heaven to earth to save David, Psalm 18:7-15.  We have images here which are consistent with other biblical passages which portray the “revealing” of the Messiah.  The cloud-rider is here, see Daniel 7:13-14, Matthew 24:30, Matthew 26:64-65, Revelation 1:7, Revelation 14:14-16.  A fire goes before Him devouring His enemies, see Psalm 50:3, Psalm 97:3, Habakkuk 3:5.  The presence of God is revealed as the earth trembles, Psalm 68:7-8, Joel 3:16, Nahum 1:3-5, Haggai 2:6-7.  These events did not literally occur when David was rescued.  The person of the LORD was not revealed in this way.  So why did David write in such terms?  And why is this language so consistent with other passages which serve as prophecies to a future messianic figure?


13 The Lord also thundered in the heavens,

and the Most High uttered his voice,

hailstones and coals of fire.


David speak/sings as a prophet.  He is revealing to us, through his own life, what will occur in the future.  In examining the dramatic rescue that he went through from rejection and exile to being crowned king and defeating all his enemies, David saw the future.  So he sang about the picture of his life, how that dramatic rescue would be played out in the future as the true Messiah comes from heaven to earth, and he sang about it in prophetic apocalypse.  These events will be fulfilled literally in the future.  Then in verses 20-30 David is rehearsing his own righteousness before God.  He attributes the rescue of God to his blameless walk before the LORD.  This section serves as a transition into the next metaphor.


43 You delivered me from strife with the people;

you made me the head of the nations;

people whom I had not known served me.

44 As soon as they heard of me they obeyed me;

foreigners came cringing to me.

45 Foreigners lost heart

and came trembling out of their fortresses.


The second prevalent metaphor in this psalm is David’s own life.  David was the anointed one for his day.  He was anointed king over Israel only to be rejected by his own people.  Yet after this time, the very same one that Israel rejected was made the founder of the longest dynasty in Israel’s history.  After the children of Israel willingly followed him as their king, David successfully subdued all the surrounding Gentile nations.  David was not only made the ruler over God’s people Israel, he was also made the head of all nations.  People groups that he never knew before were brought into submission to the reign of David.


46 The Lord lives, and blessed be my rock,

and exalted be the God of my salvation”

47 the God who gave me vengeance

and subdued peoples under me,

48 who delivered me from my enemies;

yes, you exalted me above those who rose against me;

you rescued me from the man of violence.

49 For this I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations,

and sing to your name.

50 Great salvation he brings to his king,

and shows steadfast love to his anointed,

to David and his offspring forever.


Psalm 18:31-50 contains David rehearsing the matter before the LORD.  It was God which gave him strength to go into battle and defeat his enemies.  David beat these enemy forces as the dust of the earth.  I want to point out something obvious, but it escapes most people.  As David defeated these enemies, it did not mean that these nations ceased to exist.  Once the military might of these nations was defeated in battle, the countries became subservient to David and therefore Israel.  These nations were brought into a right relationship through force.  From that point on, they would now look to David as their head and to Israel as their example as the people of God.  Praise to the LORD would go out in the midst of these Gentile nations, Psalm 18:49.  It was this verse that Paul quoted in Romans 15:9 when describing the salvation of the Gentiles alongside the nation of Israel.


The cords of death encompassed me;

the torrents of destruction assailed me;

the cords of Sheol entangled me;

the snares of death confronted me.


If we take the entire picture of David’s life as a picture for the Messiah, the Christ, we see the pattern of anointing, rejection, death, resurrection, vindication, return, acceptance, dominion.  The death of the Messiah is described in verses 4-5 by way of the metaphor of David’s life.  This was fulfilled in the cross.  Then we have the victory of the Messiah over Gentile nations in verses 31-50 by way of the metaphor of David’s life.  This has yet to be fulfilled since it occurs after the time of Messiah’s exile.  Note that I’m not using exile in the sense that Christ isn’t allowed here on earth, but it is a self imposed exile until a specific time, Luke 19:11-15.  We can fully expect Jesus the Messiah to come again to earth, be accepted by the nation of Israel, and defeat Gentile nations.  This does not result in these Gentile nations ceasing to exist, but will result in these Gentile nations entering into a right relationship with the Messiah, only by force.  They will have Jesus Messiah as their head and the nation of Israel as the people of God.  This current time is to show that God has no partiality.  Any nationality can be the people of God.  His plan is for Israel to be first, though.


When Abraham went to Mount Moriah to offer up Isaac as a sacrifice, there were given two pictures of the ultimate sacrifice in that story.  Isaac himself is a picture of Christ, and the ram caught in the thicket offered as Isaac’s substitute is also a picture of Christ.  Both pictures are accurate giving different aspects of the ultimate sacrifice.


In Psalm 18, both pictures we see of the Messiah are accurate.  We can safely blend the two pictures of prophetic apocalypse into one to see Messiah/Christ.  David’s own life serves as a metaphor for the Messiah.  But when we see the messianic figure come from heaven to earth to rescue David, this is also a picture of the Messiah.  Both serve the purpose of showing what will happen in the future as God throws back the curtain and Jesus is revealed from heaven.  If we can blend these two pictures, there is no reason we cannot blend other pictures of Christ to gain a better perspective of our Great God and Savior Jesus Christ.  The two pictures also serve to show that while David was a picture, He was not the ultimate Messiah who would be the LORD Himsefl.


Just to be a little more blatant, the coming Messianic Kingdom will be introduced here on earth by a show of force by the Messiah.  Armageddon is that place where Jesus will forcefully subdue the Gentile nations.  After this time, the Gentile nations will be in subservience to Him and exalt Israel to a place of prominence over them, see Isaiah 49 also.  The Messianic Kingdom will begin with the Millennial Kingdom, but will continue forever and ever, world without end.  Amen.


Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13


-The Orange Mailman

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14 Responses to Psalm 18 ~ two visions blend into one

  1. Kathy says:

    Darrin…This is great! Just today I was doing some studying on Psalm 18. This is so rich! I know you won\’t mind if I glean from it for my lessons this fall. Thank you!

  2. Kathy says:

    The Psalms are such a wonderful place to expand our view of God!

  3. Darrin says:

    Hey Kathy-If I have any insights into the scriptures, they were given to me by the LORD for free, so they are available at no charge. Glean away sister.I\’ve heard some people teach that the psalms were only meant to praise God and not meant for instruction. But I find some of the deepest theology about God in the psalms. It seems that when we know more about God, we can exalt Him to His rightful position all the more.Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13-The Orange Mailman

  4. Kathy says:

    A quick head\’s up for you Darrin – Nike posted in the prewrath section at FP a question regarding the Joel 2 passage. She is hoping you and Dave will leave some feedback. Just thought I\’d give you a head\’s up in case you don\’t see it right away…

  5. Darrin says:

    Thanks Kathy. I enjoy the interaction. How is the Bible study coming along where you said you would discuss some of the psalms?-Darrin

  6. Kathy says:

    I never answered your question regarding how the Bible study is coming. That will happen this fall. I\’m going to be teaching Psalms 18 and 19 for sure. I will be using your insights! The Psalms have just come alive for me since reading your blog. The neat thing is that Kristen may be here visiting when I\’m teaching. She is going to be speaking at our ladies fall fellowship and I\’m hoping it works out that that time is also when I\’m going to be teaching. We\’ll see. I\’ll let you know how it goes. Thanks for asking.

  7. Kathy says:

    A question for you Darrin, is it accurate to make 1 Th. 4:16,17 a parallel passage with Psalm 18? I noticed you listed Mt. 24:30. Also, would it be accurate to include 2 Th. 1:6,7 along with Psalm 50:3, Psalm 97:3, Habakkuk 3:5, a fire goes before Him, devouring His enemies? And then Rev. 6:12-17 would go with Psalm 68:7-8, Joel 3:16, Nahum 1:3-5, Haggai 2:6-7?

  8. Kathy says:

    Great post at FP on the Mighty Angel in Rev. 10…you really should put your thoughts here in a post, if you haven\’t already.

  9. Darrin says:

    I have the post here. Here is the link. The only advantage to checking it out here is that I have a couple of links to other posts which explain things a bit more.!FD6CC4005A27EADA!851.entryNow as far as your question, I must say you are getting quite a handle on these prophetic psalms, unless you were just putting me on before when you said that what I was writing was over your head. Let me clarify something. The reason Psalm 18 is parallel with Matthew 24:30 is that both mention Messiah coming with the clouds or on the clouds. The clouds are the common denominator. The clarification is that while there is one coming, one event, one parousia, there are many things that happen at that event. One of the very first things that happens at Christ\’s coming, His presence, is that He gathers the elect, otherwise known as rapturing the church. After the church is safely out of the way, then there is the wrath of God, which will include quite a bit of burning and devouring of enemies. During the wrath, the entire earth and heavens will be renovated, or shaken. So technically, I would parallel II Thess. 1:6-7 with Psalm 50:3, Psalm 97:3, Hab. 3:5. But I wouldn\’t make I Thess. 4:16-17 a direct parallel with Psalm 18 since the focus is slightly different. One is the hope of the church to be with Christ, the other is the Messiah descending in wrath. While they occur very close together in the timeline, there is a bit of a difference. I see Rev. 6:12-17 having a parallel in Isaiah 2:10-11, 19-21 and Joel 2:30-32. Joel 3:16 goes with Revelation 10 and Deut. 32 (see the mighty angel post) being some type of battle cry just before Armageddon. I haven\’t studied Nahum that much, but at first glance I would place 1:3-5 with Psalm 46:6, 97:5, and Micah 1:3-4. Funny thing is that He seems to devour His enemies at the same time that mountains melt like wax before Him. I would say that Haggai 2:6-7 is an overview of the entire Messianic appearing focusing on how the present earth/heavens will be shaken beyond repair and I think that\’s how the writer to the Hebrews sees it in 12:26-29. I wouldn\’t include Psalm 68:7-8 in the second coming, but in that category which shows that only the earth was shaken at Sinai as the writer to the Hebrews was explaining in that same passage. You follow? It is intriguing how there is a relationship between that revelation at Sinai and the revelation at the second coming. The writer to the Hebrews is trying to relate them in a way that we understand. Reading Psalm 68, there is something prophetic there, but the main focus is on the apocalypse at Sinai. The quotation of 68:18 in Ephesians 4:8 always throws me. I honestly don\’t know what to think.Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13-The Orange Mailman

  10. Kathy says:

    Sometimes I have to reread what you\’ve written but generally you make sense with what you write, I\’m getting it. Psalm 18 has really come alive for me. I\’ll be teaching it on Sept. 24th. I\’m also now reading the Psalms with the Davidic Covenant in mind. Kristen told me that is what you do. We both have questioned why we didn\’t think of doing that before. I see now that 1 Th. 4 doesn\’t make a direct parallel to Ps. 18 since the focus is on the hope of the church in that passage and not the wrath of God. Thanks for the quick reply.

  11. Pingback: Links for the Series on Prophetic Apocalypse in the Psalms | The Orange Mailman

  12. JoAnn says:

    To say Yahweh HIMSELF came down from Heaven to Earth is incorrect as a Holy God would not step down into a sinfilled world!

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