Psalms For Life
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Yahveh Elohim hear our prayers

Psalm 18

Praise the God who makes us great

Whether or not we have flesh-and-blood enemies, we all have dark powers bent on our destruction. This psalm celebrates the God who powerfully defends us and makes us great.

A song David, YHWH’s servant, sang to him after he rescued David from the grasp of Saul and all his enemies.

I love you, YHWH, my strength.
2 YHWH is my rock, my fortress, my deliverer
my God, the rock that gives me shelter
my shield, the horn that saves me, my stronghold.
3 I called on YHWH, worthy of all praise
and he rescued me from my foes.

4 Death’s noose cinched tight around me
deadly torrents overwhelmed me.
5 I was sinking down into a watery grave
with Death my unyielding undertaker.
6 I called out to YHWH in my distress.
I cried out to my God for help.
He heard my voice from his sanctuary—
my cry for help reached his ears.
7 The earth rocked and reeled
his wrath made the mountains shudder and shake.
8 Smoke shot out of his nostrils
and flames from his mouth
setting the earth around him on fire.
9 He ripped the sky open and came down
with storm clouds under his feet.
10 He mounted a mighty celestial being
and soared on the wings of the wind.
11 He came under cover of darkness
dark storm clouds surrounding him.
12 Then the light of his presence burst through
with a crash of lightning and hailstones.
13 YHWH thundered from heaven
his voice booming across the sky
with a crash of lightning and hailstones.
14 He let fly his arrows in every direction
great bolts of lightning.
Pandemonium reigned!
15 The ocean floor was laid bare
its deepest trenches exposed
at your rebuke, YHWH
the blast of air when you snorted.
16 He reached down from high above
took hold of me
and pulled me out of the deep waters.
17 He rescued me from my terrifying foes
enemies too strong for me.
18 They attacked me when I was in distress
but YHWH came to my defense.
19 He brought me out into a wide-open space
he rescued me because he delighted in me.

20 YHWH rewarded me for doing right.
He restored me because of my faithfulness.
21 For I’ve held to YHWH’s ways
and not turned away to follow evil.
22 I’ve kept all his commandments
never disregarding his laws.
23 I’ve lived with integrity before him
and never let down my guard against sin.
24 So YHWH has rewarded me for doing right.
He rescued me because of my devotion.
25 To the faithful you’re always faithful
to the truthful ever truthful.
26 The pure can always count on your purity
the twisted you always outmaneuver.
27 You rescue the humble
but you humiliate the arrogant.
28 You light my lamp, YHWH my God
flooding the darkness around me with light.
29 For by you I can rush an armed band
by you I can leap over a wall!
30 This God, his way is perfect.
Everything YHWH promises proves true
he’s a shield to all put their trust in him.

31 For who is God except YHWH?
And who is a mighty rock except our God?
32 God arms me with strength
and makes my way perfect.
33 He makes me surefooted like a gazelle
walking with ease on the mountain heights.
34 He trains my hands for battle
enabling me to bend a solid bronze bow.
35 You’ve given me the shield that saves me
your strong right hand holds me up
your gentleness has made me great.
36 You cleared the path before me
so I could walk without stumbling.
37 I pursued my enemies till I caught them
and didn’t turn back till I’d destroyed them.
38 I struck them so hard they couldn’t get up
they fell under my feet.
39 You armed me with courage for the battle
and laid my attackers low before my feet.
40 I trampled them underfoot
totally vanquishing those who hated me.
41 They cried for help
but no one saved them.
They cried out to YHWH
but got no answer.
42 I ground them to dust before the wind
and swept them like dirt into the gutter.
43 You saved me when my own people attacked me.
You appointed me ruler over nations—
people I didn’t even know existed now serve me.
44 They surrendered as soon as they heard of me.
Foreign nations now cower before me.
45 They all lose heart
and come trembling out of their strongholds.

46 YHWH is alive!
May my Rock be praised
the God who rescues me exalted!
47 He’s the God who repays those who harm me
who subdues the nations under me
48 and rescues me from my foes.
You hold me safe beyond my enemies’ reach
you save me from violent oppressors.
49 So I’ll praise you among the nations, YHWH
I’ll sing the glories of your name.
50 He’s given great victories to his king.
He shows unfailing love to his anointed
to David and his descendants forever.


With unflagging energy, this psalm—one of the Psalter’s longest—tells how God has rescued David from death and made him great. We glimpse David’s deeply personal relationship with God in each of the psalm’s five sections. Though he writes as God’s anointed king, he effectively invites everyone into that same level of intimacy with God.

Evoking the exodus and Mount Sinai, verses 4-19 detail David’s desperate need and how God delivered him from the dark forces against him. Using superhero descriptions, David tells how YHWH saved him from certain death, lit up his life, and brought him out into a place of freedom and promise, where he could breathe easy. In view of all this, the love he professes for God and the thanksgiving that follows are hardly extravagant.

YHWH does all this because he’s faithful and good, and David has walked in his ways (vv. 20-30). God blesses those who bless him and resists those who resist him. He bends down to save those who humbly seek him and cuts their arrogant oppressors down.

Utterly unlike the gods of Israel’s neighbors, YHWH cares for the lowly and gently lifts them in his arms. And it’s through that gentleness, that David has become great (vv. 31-45). Having enabled David to overcome every barrier and defeat his oppressors, the living God has appointed him to rule over nations and has promised to bless him and his royal line forever. Having seen God do all that, how can David help but praise and thank him before the nations?

How amazing, Jesus, that you stooped so low to pull me out of the surging waters and give me hope and a future! How wonderful that your gentleness makes me great, as I learn from you. Help me to trust you, love you, and give you all the glory you so richly deserve. Amen.

During your free moments today, meditate on these words:

You’ve given me the shield that saves me
your strong right hand holds me up
your gentleness has made me great.

Why YHWH?

Every translator of the Psalms must decide how to handle God’s personal name, YHWH or YHVH, which occurs repeatedly in its Hebrew text. Translators of the King James Version usually translated it “LORD” (all caps) and sometimes transliterated it (badly) as “Jehovah.” Likewise, all modern translations either translate or transliterate it. Some other options for translating it are “the Eternal,” “the Almighty,” or “the Sovereign Lord.”

While translating it aims to make it more accessible to readers, transliterating it seems to me more faithful to the text since it’s not a word at all, but rather God’s uniquely personal name. This roots it more firmly in the biblical story as the name God revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. Meaning “the self-existent One who answers to no one,” the name YHWH set Israel’s God apart from all the gods of Israel’s neighbors.

Personal names are, well, very personal. Even the sound of a name can evoke strong emotion. I’ve chosen to transliterate only YHWH’s consonants since the earliest Hebrew manuscripts contain only consonants, the vowels being added much later. My aim in doing so is to honor God’s name and set it apart, as unique.

One problem with YHWH is that we aren’t sure how it was pronounced since Jews long ago stopped saying it out of reverence. (They read Adonai instead whenever they come to YHWH in the text.) I take the advice of my esteemed Hebrew professor, Raymond Dillard, who advocated pronouncing it as Yahveh (Yah·vay). He favored that over the standard Yahweh since the modern Hebrew pronunciation of its third consonant makes the name sound more robustly Jewish. It also makes it sound more robust, period.

Finding strength in the ancient psalms

May these psalms be a light to you in dark times. You can read more of Mark Anderson's writings on Christianity, culture, and inter-faith dialogue at Understanding Christianity Today.