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