Psalm 18 - Great Praise from a Place of Great Victory - Page 4 (series: Lessons on Psalms

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

6 In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.

In my distress refers, most probably, not to any particular incident or circumstance, but to any number of times when he was distraught due to false accusations made against him or the many times that Saul pursued him with the intention of taking his life. In what follows, he relates the methods he used to procure relief when distressed, and his success in obtaining that relief. Each time he called upon the Lord, and had found him ready to help, though sometimes help came as he stood on the brink of capture.

I called upon the Lord—the Lord, the great Jehovah, the everlasting I AM, who is the most High in all the earth, and who is able to save; “Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared” (Hebrews 5:7). I called, that is, I prayed for God to help me escape this trouble. He did not rely on his own strength, or look for human aid, he looked to God alone. In my distress I called upon the LORD, and his enemies could not prevail against him, unless God should abandon him. They hoped that this was the case, and that therefore they should prevail; but God kept His promise—“I will never leave you or forsake you!”

And cried unto my God - The word used here denotes an earnest cry for help. (Compare Job 35:9{13]; Job 36:13). In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God. At the precise moment, when he is entangled in the snares, and on the point of being slain, the psalmist represents himself as invoking the aid of the Almighty. The Apostle Matthew records that Jesus cried out to God as His life was coming to an end: “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). And three days later, God raised Him from the dead, and today He is exalted and worshipped in heaven as Lord and God. Those who are in Christ can cry out to God as He did, since we are often distressed through sin and Satan, through God hiding His face, through a variety of afflictions, and the persecutions of men. A time of distress is a time for prayer; and sometimes God uses suffering and distress to bring Christians to the throne of His grace. What a great privilege it is to have such a throne to come to for grace and mercy to help in time of need, and to have such a God to sympathize with them, and help them. And their encouragement to call upon Him, and cry unto Him, is, that He is Jehovah, omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent; who knows their wants, is able to help them, and is a God that is willing to do it.
He heard my voice out of his temple, that is, God, while in His temple, heard my voice. The word rendered temple cannot refer here to the temple at Jerusalem, for that was built after the death of David, but it refers either to heaven, which is considered as the temple, or dwelling-place of God, or to the tabernacle, which is considered His abode on earth. The sense is not substantially altered, whichever interpretation is adopted. (Compare Psalm 11:4{14]) The prayer of the psalmist, was a spoken one, and not merely mental; and hearing it implies a gracious regard for it, an acceptance of it, and an agreeable answer to follow. This idea is supported most superbly in verse 7 and the following verses.

And my cry came before him, He heard my cry. It was not intercepted on the way, but came up to Him, and He accepted it.
Even into his ears. God did not cover himself with a cloud that his prayer could not pass through; but it was admitted and received; it reached His ears, and even entered into them, and was delightful music to them: “The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry” (Psalm 34:15).
7 Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because he was wroth.

Then the earth shook and trembled, as it did immediately after Christ cried out to God upon the cross (Matthew 27:50-51{15]); and some days afterwards, when His people were praying together, the place where they were assembled was shaken (Acts 4:31{16]), as a sign that God's presence was with them. The shaking and trembling of the earth is often used as a sign of God’s presence, and of the greatness of His majesty; a case in point is when God descended on Mount Sinai, the mountain moved and quaked exceedingly—“I looked at the mountains, and they were quaking; all the hills were swaying” (Jer. 4:24).

Beginning in verse 7, there is one of the most sublime descriptions of God that can be found in any language. It is taken from the fury of the storm and tempest, when all the elements of nature are in commotion; when God seems to go forth in the greatness of His majesty and the terror of His power, and to bring everyone before him to their knees. We are not to regard this as descriptive of anything which literally occurred, but rather as expressive of the fact of divine intervention. It does not appear from any part of David's history that there was any such storm as he describes. There might have been such a storm, though there is no particular mention of it: unless it may be thought that something of this nature is insinuated in the account given of David's second battle with the Philistines (See 2 Samuel 5:23-24{17]). It is indisputable, however, that the storm is represented as real; though David, in describing it, has heightened and embellished it with all the adornments of poetry. There is nothing wrong or improbable with supposing that in some of the dangerous periods of David's life, when surrounded by enemies, or even when in the midst of a battle, a furious tempest may have occurred that seemed to be an instance of special divine intervention on his behalf, but we have no distinct record of such an event, and it is not necessary to suppose that such an event occurred in order to have a correct understanding of the passage. All that is really necessary is to regard this as a depiction of the mighty interventions of God on the behalf of Israel’s great king, and to suppose that His actual intervention was as direct, as unmistakable, and as awe-inspiring as the psalmist has recorded it. There are frequent references in the Scriptures to such storms and tempests which serve to illustrate the majesty, the power, and the glory of God, and of the manner in which He intervenes on behalf of His people. (See Psalm 144:5-7; Psalm 46:6-8; Psalm 29:1-11; Job 37:21-24; Job 38:1; Nahum 1:3; and particularly Habakkuk 3:3-16. The description in Habakkuk strongly resembles the passage before us, and both were drawn, no doubt, from an actual observation of the fury of a tempest.)

The shaking of the earth; the trembling of the mountains and pillars of heaven; the smoke that drove out of his nostrils; the flames of devouring fire that flashed from his mouth; the heavens bending down to convey him to the battle; his riding upon a cherub, and rapidly flying on the wings of a whirlwind; his concealing his majesty in the thick clouds of heaven; the bursting of the lightning from the horrid darkness; the uttering of his voice in peals of thunder; the storm of fiery hail; the melting of the heavens, and their dissolving into floods of tempestuous rain; the cleaving of the earth, and disclosing of the bottom of the hills, and the subterraneous channels or torrents of water, by the very breath of the nostrils of the Almighty; are all of them circumstances which create admiration, excite a kind of horror, and exceed every thing of this nature that is to be found in any of the remains of heathen antiquity.
No wonder that when God arose in this manner, all his enemies scattered, and those who hated him fled before him.

The foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken. The foundations of the hills also moved and were shaken. In violent earthquakes, the earth seems to rock to its foundations; mountain ranges are sometimes actually elevated to a height of several feet; rocks topple down; and occasionally there are earth-slips of enormous dimensions. The shaking of the earth and heavens was prophesied in Haggai 2:6{18], and in Hebrews 12:26{19] it is the voice of the Lord causing the shaking. The foundations also of the hills moved—the mountains seemed to rock on their foundations. In the corresponding place in 2 Samuel 22:8 the expression is, “The foundations of heaven moved and shook;" that is, that on which the heavens seem to rest was agitated. Many suppose that the expression refers to the mountains as if they held up the heavens, like gigantic columns.

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