St. Anthony Messenger

Psalm 18: Royal Thanksgiving for Victory

Happy kid with arms raised

“I love you, LORD, my strength…”
(Psalm 18:2)

A marvelous beginning: “I love….” Only one other psalm begins with these words—Psalm 116. They bespeak an open heart, a joyful appreciation of God’s goodness. They are the main reason I was first attracted to this psalm. I have since found many more attractive traits. Three levels I find in this psalm convince me to call it a favorite.

Royal Protector

First, I have a God who protects me. A Davidic king thanks God for deliverance from and victory over enemies. The king’s narrow escapes and daring exploits exhilarate—like an Indiana Jones movie.

We hear how God protects the king. We see the earth reel and rock, the mountains tremble, smoke from God’s nostrils, devouring fire from his mouth. God rides on a cherub, comes swiftly on the wind, reaches to draw the king out of mighty waters. There is no doubt that God is realizing his promises made to David. Through all the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, and through the daily praying of the Office, I also sense God’s protection and promise.

In spectacular ways, God is faithful to the covenant made with the king and the people. Already on this level we rejoice and thank God for his goodness. With the Davidic king, we say, “I love you, LORD, my strength.”

Personal God

Second, I have a God who is connected and involved. “Personal” does not mean individualistic. Christians (and many others) do not pray alone. United to Christ by the Spirit, Christ prays in us. Furthermore, united to Christ, we are one with all the members of his body. Indeed, since by becoming human, Jesus has united himself with all humans, we carry all humanity on our shoulders as we approach God. Thus, even if we ourselves are not in danger, our prayer reaches into the lives of others who are.

We even come to realize that we have no real enemies. Others may think of us as their enemies, but we see them as our brothers and sisters. We may certainly pray that God will rescue us when they plot evil against us, but our prayer can be steeped in hope.

This psalm helps me realize I have a stake in everyone’s life. I am not alone in my approach to God.

Perhaps our worst enemy is ourselves—our selfishness, lukewarmness and indifference. We beg God to shake our mountains of pride, draw us out of the mighty waters of self-pity and help us leap over the wall of apathy.

Power Source

Third, I have a God on whose strength I can lean. Jesus is the descendant of David. Jesus is also a Davidic king, but of a different sort. He never brandished the arms of a warrior, yet he won the greatest victory of all.

Jesus defeated the most powerful of all enemies on many occasions. At his death, the earth shook and rocks split. At his resurrection there was an earthquake. He continues to shake up the world by sending his Spirit. In Revelation, he is “King of kings and Lord of lords.”

As the Lord of glory, he wins because of his death on Calvary (“robe dipped in blood”) and his all-powerful word (“From his mouth comes a sharp sword”). Jesus does have “armies of heaven” following him, but the enemy is defeated without wielding a weapon.

Psalm 18 is a psalm of love, a love shot through with thanks and praise for a God of exciting exploits, daring deeds and remarkable rescues.

Understanding Psalm 18

Psalm 18 is a lengthy one, celebrating the victory of the king, God’s representative, in some unknown battle. The conflict is described twice, in slightly different ways. First, it is told in more cosmic form, drawing on common ancient Near Eastern symbols (verses 4-30); then, second, in more personal and concrete terms (verses 31-48).

The king’s strength derives completely from God. Being true to God’s Kingdom will involve struggle, but God (“our rock, our fortress, our deliverance, our shield, our stronghold, our light”— verses 3 and 29) is the basis for hope.

Next Month: Psalm 42

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