Psalms 18–20: Praise & Prayers

Read the Bible in 2023 ◊ Week 7: Wednesday

The judgments of Yahweh are true;
they are righteous altogether.
They are more desirable than gold,
even more than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey
and the drippings of the honeycomb.
Psalm 19:7–10 LSB

Psalms 18–20 are among my favorite psalms. There is such exuberant praise of God and His power, glory, and lovingkindness.

Psalm 18 is an exuberant psalm of David. This psalm has a super­scription telling us David wrote it, and when and why he wrote it. Superscriptions are found at the beginning of a psalm. They are not the headings you find in some translations, but are part of the biblical text.:

For the choir director. Of the servant of Yahweh, of David, who spoke to Yahweh the words of this song in the day that Yahweh delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul.

Leslie S. M’Caw and J. T. Motyer call it, “David’s Victory Song.” and write:

“This appears to be a version of 2 Sa. 22, slightly revised to make it suitable for general use. The title indicates the circumstances of this jubilant thanksgiving. His deliverance from all his enemies ( see title) would suggest the period after 2 Sa. 8, when his life was crowned by almost unbroken successes.”2

After David’s years of affliction and fears as he fled from Saul, this psalm lifts you up as you read his overflowing gratitude of God. Of its many memorable words, I especially love these:

As for God, His way is blameless;
The word of the LORD is tried;
He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him.
For who is God, but the LORD?
And who is a rock, except our God,
The God who girds me with strength
And makes my way blameless?
He makes my feet like hinds’
And sets me upon my high places.
He trains my hands for battle,
So that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
Psalm 18:30–36 LSB

An older Holman edition of the New American Standard Bible contains a brief summary of each book of the Bible. Here’s an excerpt of what it says about the Psalms:

“The Book of Psalms was the hymn book of the Hebrews. About 70 of the Psalms are ascribed to King David, the remainder to others. A large number of hymns and anthems we use today are taken from the Psalms. The book is composed of 150 lyrics, some of wonderful beauty of thought, imagery and expression. Not a few pour forth the deepest devotion and the most lofty sentiments of the human heart, and there is nothing finer in the world’s literature. Of these Psalms 1, 19, 22, 23, 90, 100, 103, are perhaps the most noteworthy.”1

I’m glad to see Psalm 19 on the list (I would have also included Psalm 119!) because it is so powerful and majestic. The beautiful poetry of this psalm tells us how God reveals Himself to man. David closes Psalm 19 with prayer.

The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
And the expanse is declaring the work of His hands.
Day to day pours forth speech,
And night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words;
Their voice is not heard.
Their line has gone out through all the earth,
And their utterances to the end of the world.
In them He has placed a tent for the sun,
Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber;
It rejoices as a strong man to run his course.
Its rising is from one end of the heavens,
And its circuit to the other end of them;
And there is nothing hidden from its heat.
Psalm 19:1–6 LSB

I’ve seen this first section called the work of God. It tells us how God reveals Himself to us in what He has made (cf. Romans 1:18–21). This is known as natural or general revelation.3

The law of Yahweh is perfect,
restoring the soul;
The testimony of Yahweh is sure,
making wise the simple.
The precepts of Yahweh are right,
rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of Yahweh is pure,
enlightening the eyes.
The fear of Yahweh is clean,
enduring forever;
The judgments of Yahweh are true;
they are righteous altogether.
They are more desirable than gold, even more than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.
Psalm 19:7–10 LSB

The above section of Psalm 19 is about the Word of God, His special revelation.3

In this last section of Psalm 19, David prays. Alec Motyer writes that in Psalm 19,

“(verse 1–6) ended with the thought of the sun pene­trating everywhere. Having reviewed the Word of God in verses 7–10, David now finds that his whole inner being is exposed to its searching.”4

From writing about God’s Word, he speaks to God about the work of God’s Word on his heart.

Moreover, by them Your slave is warned;
In keeping them there is great reward.
Who can discern
his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults.
Also keep back Your slave from presumptuous
Let them not rule over me;
Then I will be blameless,
And I shall be acquitted of great transgression.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O Yahweh, my rock and my Redeemer.
Psalm 19:11–15 LSB

Motyer writes:

“‘Glory’ shines in the created order: the glory of beauty; the glory of beneficence; yes, and the glory of awe-inspiring, terrifying forces! But the Word of God tells us his name, who he is. The One who is God, in all the multiplicity of ways his creation reveals, is, at heart, in his central personal essence, Yahweh, the God of grace, the God who hears and acts, the God of our salvation. He is the God of the Word of God, and, like the Word he speaks, a God reviving the soul, making wise, bringing joy, illuminating: indeed, all righteous, but golden in grace, and honey to those who taste and see that Yahweh is gracious (Ps. 34:8).”5

I have found Psalm 20 especially encouraging because of its ending:

Now I know that Yahweh saves His anointed;
He will answer him from His holy heaven
With the saving might of His right hand.
boast in chariots and some in horses,
But we will boast in the name of Yahweh,
our God.
They have bowed down and fallen,
But we have risen and stood upright.
Save, O Yahweh;
May the King answer us in the day we call.
Psalm 20:7–9 LSB

Motyer titles Psalm 20, “Before Battle: Prayer and Assurance.”6 Derek Kidner writes,

“The final phrase, lit. ‘in the day of our calling’, has a telling echo of the opening verse. The fact that the time of trouble has been made the time of prayer makes the buoyant spirit of verses 6–8 a matter not of wishful optimism but of realistic faith.”7

Psalm 18: a prayer of thanksgiving and praise when David has been delievered, Psalm 19: a prayer after God’s Word has worked in David’s heart, and Psalm 20: a prayer from David before battle. Think about the prayers in these psalms, and use them for your own time in prayer

For a brief overview of the structure and poetry of Psalms see my post, The Five Books of Psalms.
Silvesterzug Laterne: Bk muc. (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Bows type: Pk0001. (CC BY-SA 4.0). Image has been cropped, recolored, and rotated.
Honey: (CC BY-SA 3.0). Feature image cropped.
Star Lore Of All Ages, Chariot: William Tyler Olcott. Public Domain. Cropped.
1“Biblical Backgrounds: A Survey of Each Book: Psalms,” Holy Bible: New American Standard (Broadman & Holman Publishers, Nashville TN: The Lockman Foundation 1977).
2Leslie S. M’Caw, J. A. Motyer, “Psalms,” The New Bible Commentary: Revised, D. Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, eds., A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds., (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1970) 463.
3For more on general and special revelation: at Grace to You see John MacArthur’s sermon, God Has Spoken, and at Ligonier, “General Revelation,” by W. Robert Godfrey, and “Special Revelation.”
4,5,6Alec Motyer, Psalms By The Day: A New Devotional Translation (Christian Focus Publications Ltd, Ross-shire, Scotland, U.K. 2016) 52, 56.
7Derek Kidner, Psalm 1–72 (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1973) 103.

I’m using Michael Coley’s Bible reading plan (one page PDF to print) to read through the Bible in 2023. Each day my posts are on different books because he divides Bible readings into seven categories, one for each day of the week: Epistles, The Law, History, Psalms, Poetry, Prophecy and Gospels. There’s more information on his plan and other ones at Read the Bible in 2023.

Copyright ©2011–2023 Iwana Carpenter

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