“‘I call upon the Lord who is worthy to be praised and I am saved from my enemies.'”
JULY 5, 2022
Justin Holcomb: I call upon the Lord who is worthy to be praised and I am saved from my enemies. Let’s talk about it, on Key Life.
If you’ve suffered too long under a do more, try harder religion. Key Life is here to proclaim that Jesus sets the captives free. Steve invited Justin Holcomb to teach us this week. Justin is a priest, a seminary professor, and the author of God With Us: 365 Devotions on the Person and Work of Christ.
Justin Holcomb: Thank you Matthew. My name is Justin Holcomb and I have the joy of teaching this week, as we are focusing our attention on a few Psalms, I’m convinced that the deepest message of the Bible and the ministry of Jesus is the grace of God to sinners and sufferers. And I think the Psalms are a beautiful picture of that reality. That’s because we have a tendency to minimize our suffering. We theologically edit it and say, Hey, this is my cross to bear, or I deserve it because I’m reaping what I sowed as if we interpret that as karma at work, as opposed to just consequences of how things work out sometimes. And sometimes we think that our emotional response of suffering or sadness is a nuisance to God as if we’re bothering him. The Psalms in particular provoke us out of that type of thinking. That’s because the book of Psalms is filled with Psalms of confusion, doubt and heartache. The Psalms of complaint and accusation outnumber the Psalms of joy. There’s 150 Psalms in the book of Psalms. And so many of them are raw expressions of reality in dealing with the reality of our sin and our suffering. And of course there are some hymns of praise and acclimation and exaltation and for the King. But today we’re going to turn to Psalm 18, which is unique because it’s a similar Psalm that is repeated in II Samuel 22, where David is describing a group of enemies coming after him and how that makes him feel. And he says.
You Lord save me from violence.
That is an amazing declaration, that is found in David’s beautiful prayer for deliverance and protection from his enemies. And it can be your prayer and my prayer as well. This Psalm reveals a picture of David’s confidence in the power of God, the same powerful and compassionate God who cares about the violence and suffering we experience today. David called on God for the same reason that we can, because evil and violence isn’t the way things are supposed to be. And not only are things not the way they’re supposed to be, but God also promises that one day, Revelation 21:5 promises.
He will make all things new.
In Psalm 18 David finds himself in trouble, but first he offers a song of praise to God recounting the way God saved him from all of his enemies. It is a song about divine rescue from intense trials. Psalm 18 encourages us that despite the evil we may face, our deliverer is not only with us, but also has his eye on all those who suffer. As you read through Psalm 18, note how God knows and sees the abuse David himself is experiencing within this Psalm. God not only listens to David and his distress, but also springs to action and brings judgment on David’s oppressor. Though there is trouble everywhere, the Psalmist can still put his trust in the Lord to rightly and perfectly judge. The opening verses summarize the theme of the Psalm, namely that David has found the Lord to be a reliable defender against his enemies. In verses one and two, it says this.
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 song found in Psalm 18, also repeated in II Samuel 22 represents the mortal danger and violence that David is experiencing. David’s enemies threatened to overwhelm him, hordes of death threaten to entangle him in the torrents of the river assail him. Psalm 18 verses five through six depict this danger as the picture of death and Sheol as all engulfing water, an inescapable hunter who traps in nets the enemy. Violence has threatened to take David’s life and in his distress, he calls out to God.
The cords of death encompass me; the torrents of destruction assailed me; the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confront me. ‘In my distress I call 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.
In the midst of this threat, David says.
Lord, you saved me from my enemies.
Saved is a good summary word of David’s whole experience with God as laid out in this Psalm. Where God is referred to as deliverer, fortress, rock, refuge, shield, horn of my salvation, stronghold and savior. God comes down saving David from the waves of death and the torrents of destruction. Saved in its synonym delivered occur 14 times in this Psalm. Eugene Peterson writes this about these words.
Deliver and save deeply root David’s prayer and God’s gracious action. It is common to suppose that first we pray and then God acts. The sequence is reversed here. God acts and then David prays. Both sequences are possible, but this one deserves more prominence than we often give it.
It was out of this deep trust in the deliverance of the Lord that David called upon the Lord and was saved from his enemies. However, a loving relationship to God does not make one immune to troubles in this world. Troubles are part of this sinful world, but in the face of troubles, those who suffer find immediate access to the God of love from whom deliverance comes. One of the most powerful and comforting lines in the entire Psalm is verse 19.
He brought me out in a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me.
Psalm 149:9 says.
The Lord takes pleasure in his people.
Takes pleasure literally means accepts. It alludes to God’s acceptance of a sacrifice, is based on the day of atonement sacrifices described in Leviticus 16. It is a perfect picture of our relationship to God through Christ. We are accepted because God accepted Christ’s sacrifice in our place, on our behalf. And being a member of God’s people establishes our identity and worth.
Zechariah 2:8 says.
Whoever touches the apple of his eye.
I mean, that is amazing. Touching refers to harmful touching or plundering God’s people. That passage in Zechariah 2:8 says it is tantamount to injuring God, whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye. Apple of his eye as a remarkable expression representing one of the most important and vulnerable parts of the body. To strike a blow at God’s people is to strike at God, wounding him in a most sensitive area. Apple of his eye describes something precious, easily injured, demanding protection. And to God, you are nothing short of precious. You are one he longs to protect. The theme of God’s rescue is echoed throughout all of Scripture. God rescued the Israelites from Egypt. He rescued David from his oppressor. He rescues us from the hand of Satan in this evil present age, Galatians 1:4. And he does that through Jesus’s life, death and resurrection. Why does God do this for us? Because he delights in us. Like verse 19 tells us.
He brought me out; he rescued me, because he delighted in me. The Lord dealt with me according to my righteousness;
according to the cleanliness of my hands he rewarded me.
The language of righteousness and blamelessness is important here. God saves David according to his righteousness, though, of course, David was not perfect, just as we are not perfect. What makes the difference is that David sought after God. And so can we. And on this side of the cross, we have the benefit of knowing and receiving the true righteousness of Christ that is perfect. The revelation of the cross gives us even more reason to hope in righteousness, which is really Christ’s righteousness. We should not let our sin and failure blind us to the righteousness we have, which is a gift which comes from Christ alone. We can know and trust that we are beloved, clean, and pure in his sight. God is a rock and refuge and though his presence feels hidden at times. He nevertheless delights in his children, promising deliverance to them as they wait for his coming rescue. And he declares us righteous because of our faith in him. The phrase I am saved from my enemies contains the powerful hope that God can and will redeem his people from malicious oppression. This stands for the ancient Psalmist and it stands for you too. However, the ultimate vindication and healing that God promises lies on the other side of the resurrection. Until that day, the people of God can know that he stands with them through suffering and pain. He has not forgotten you. Complete deliverance will come. Complete renewal will come when the king returns. That is where we put our hope. Until then know that God wants you to be safe, healed, and at peace. Let’s pray a portion of this Psalm.
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 safe from my enemy.
So good. Thank you Justin. That was Justin Holcomb, continuing to teach us from Psalms. Today focusing on the very intense and very encouraging Psalm 18. More good stuff tomorrow. Make sure you join us again then. Well, regardless of the differences in our beliefs, surely we can all agree that politicians are phonies with hidden agendas. Wait, did I say politicians? I meant we, we are phonies with hidden agendas. You know it’s true. We’re sinful creatures and the pressure of keeping it altogether is overwhelming. But what if it was okay to drop our masks and discover how God’s love and grace propel us into the real relationships we thought we’d never have. Well, Steve talks about this in a special booklet called Hidden Agendas, based on his book of the same name. Get your free copy of that booklet right now by calling us at 1-800-KEY-LIFE. That’s 1-800-539-5433. You can also e-mail [email protected] to ask for that booklet. If you’d like to mail your request, send it to
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