Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Giving Thanks for God's Deliverance of the Messiah: Learning to Pray Ps 18 (Part two)

 Yesterday, we examined Psalm 18:1-6. Now we move to the middle portion of the psalm. In verses 7–19, the psalmist uses creational and mythic imagery to describe the victory of God. This part of the psalm helps us to understand the victory that God manifested for the messiah was a cosmic and world shaping action. It was not merely about rescue of the messiah. God actions secured the very creation and future for the messiah and for the people of God.

This section of the psalm is difficult to understand because it uses language that belongs to the ancient world and its belief system. When the ancients talked about creation, their focus was not on the beginnings of the universe (this is a modern conversation) but on how the gods fought for supremacy and secured the earth against the forces that threated the destruction of the world. In this part of the psalm, the psalmist, God’s messiah, is giving thanks to the LORD for saving him. The LORD has the power to save because the LORD is the Creator of the cosmos. 

The earth trembled and quaked,
    and the foundations of the mountains shook;
    they trembled because he was angry.
Smoke rose from his nostrils;
    consuming fire came from his mouth,
    burning coals blazed out of it.
He parted the heavens and came down;
    dark clouds were under his feet.
10 He mounted the cherubim and flew;
    he soared on the wings of the wind.
11 He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him—
    the dark rain clouds of the sky.
12 Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced,
    with hailstones and bolts of lightning.
13 The Lord thundered from heaven;
    the voice of the Most High resounded.
14 He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy,
    with great bolts of lightning he routed them.
15 The valleys of the sea were exposed
    and the foundations of the earth laid bare
at your rebuke, Lord,
    at the blast of breath from your nostrils.

16 He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
    he drew me out of deep waters.
17 He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
    from my foes, who were too strong for me.
18 They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
    but the Lord was my support.
19 He brought me out into a spacious place;
    he rescued me because he delighted in me.

Verse 7 picks some of the most awe-inspiring parts of nature: the earth itself and the foundations of the highest mountains. We feel puny in comparision to these. Yet they trembled, quaked, and shook before the LORD due to God’s anger at the injustice experienced by God’s messiah.

The LORD’s anger in verses 7–14 is described in terms of a raging story. This is the language of creation. God’s messiah is trapped by the waters of chaos and death (vv. 4–5). The LORD roars out of heaven in the form of a thunderstorm. All creation quakes as God approaches with lightning, thunder, and hail. The LORD is so powerful that he uses the most fearsome parts of Creation as a tool to bring about the deliverance of the King.

As we saw in vv. 4–5, the waters of chaos and death had pulled the king under. He was trapped and helpless. The future looked bleak. God’s mission seemed lost. But the LORD of Creation cannot be defeated by any power no matter how insurrmountable it may be to mere humans. This psalm reminds us that there is nothing in our lives beyond the capacity of God to redeem. Vv. 15–19 detail the LORD’s salvation of the messiah. Just as God delivered God’s people from Egypt by splitting the Red Sea and guiding God’s people to safefy, the LORD exposed the foundations of the world and the depths of the waters of death and chaos (vv. 15–16 cf. Exod 15:8). The LORD rescued the Messiah and restored him to abundance.

After telling the story of God’s dramatic and cosmic deliverance, the Messiah declares his life of faithfulness as a model to be followed. The Messiah practiced justice and obedience to the LORD. He was faithful to act rightly in all of his relationships (this is the meaning of “righteousness”). Jesus fulfilled this role perfectly as long-awaited Messaih. Through his faithfulness, God accomplished his victory over injustice, sin, and death. But there is more here. Stay tuned.

How does Psalm 18 help us understand the power of the LORD to save?

How does Psalm 18 connect the Messiah’s righteousness with the salvation of the LORD?

What challenges in your life seem overwhelming? How do the words of Ps 18 bring you comfort?

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