323 – Psalm 18 – Indirectly Messianic?

I’m convinced that Studying the Bible for ourselves is a critical element in our growth as Christians. Like others, I believe making observations of the text, then (and only then) interpreting the passage being studied, followed by correlating the studied passage with other Biblical passages, and finally applying the truth we’ve learned is the best method of study. A final step, or maybe before the application step, in this consistent methodology is to see what commentators have to say about the passage we are studying. We leave commentaries at the end of our process so that we can experience the joy of discovering Scriptural truth for ourselves, and so that we are not pulled off the mark by some author’s interpretation of our passage. When feasible I like to take you my reader through the process, even if only in part, hoping to encourage you toward your own study of Yahweh’s Holy Word. I recognize consulting a commentary at this early stage is a violation of the process I just discussed, but since I can’t really take you through the process in detail I felt it important to create a backdrop for our thinking as we study Psalm eighteen.

I have a book in my Logos Software library called “Opening Up Psalms” by Roger Ellsworth. He titled chapter 21 “indirectly Messianic”, and chapter 23 “Explicitly Messianic Psalms”. I’ll come back to comments on those two chapters in a moment, but first, let’s define the word “messianic”. It’s from the Hebrew word Messiah, which literally means “anointed one”. In the Old Testament kings and priests were appointed to their positions by anointing them with oil. As an aside, Jesus as the Messiah is both priest and king. Jesus is “the” Messiah. He is our future king who will reign from Jerusalem for one thousand years upon the earth, and then on into the eternal state forever. So, to say a Psalm is Messianic whether indirectly or explicitly, is referring to it being a prophecy of Jesus the future Messiah.

Here’s the first paragraph of chapter 23 in Ellsworth’s book.

Explicitly messianic psalms do not have one level of application devoted to Israel’s king and a second level devoted to the Messiah. They have the Messiah in view throughout.

Ellsworth, Roger. Opening up Psalms. Leominster: Day One Publications, 2006. Print. Opening Up Commentary.

His first three paragraphs in chapter 21 “Indirectly Messianic” say the following:

These [indirectly messianic psalms] pertain to the king as God’s chosen ruler. To whom do these psalms refer? Who is the anointed of God? The immediate application of these psalms is to David himself. As the king of Israel, he was chosen and anointed by God to rule.

In a larger sense, however, the kingship of David could not fulfil or exhaust all the marvellous things that are said in these psalms about the anointed. Their ultimate fulfilment must be found, therefore, in the King of kings, that is, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Some of the psalms in this category are: 18; 20; 21; 45; 69; 72; 89; 101; 132; 144.

Ellsworth, Roger. Opening up Psalms. Leominster: Day One Publications, 2006. Print. Opening Up Commentary.

Even though we consulted a commentary out of step in our Bible study methodology we still need to do the work to validate the position that Psalm 18 is Messianic.

Thanks to 1 Samuel chapters 21 and 22 we know that David wrote this Psalm following a battle in Gath where giants (not Goliath) were once again slain. One translation titles the song in the 2 Samuel passage as, “The victory Song of David”. As I read both the Psalm 18 account and the 2 Samuel 22 account many times, I found myself initially perplexed, especially when I got down to verses seven through about verse sixteen. I asked myself how could this be describing an event in David’s life. Look at some of the verbiage the author uses.

  • The earth shook and quaked (vs 7)
  • Mountains trembled (vs 7)
  • Smoke went from His [YHWH’s] nose (vs 8)
  • [He] came down with a thick cloud under his feet (vs 9)
  • [He] swooped down on wings of the wind (vs 10)

And on it goes! David seems to be describing a real event where YHWH physically manifests Himself on the battlefield. But this is not supported anywhere else in scripture. I find the explanation provided in “Opening Up Psalms” a likely one. This Psalm is messianic. One clue that this is the right perspective is in the very next chapter, 2 Samuel 23:2.

2 Samuel 3:2 (LEB)

2 “The spirit of Yahweh speaks through me, and his word is upon my tongue.

David knew full well that Yahweh prophesied through him!

Yahweh very intentionally authored His word through men. He communicates in flawless accuracy future events concerning Jesus the Messiah and this passage we are studying is no different. I hope you will spend some time in both Psalm 18 and 2 Samuel 22 making your own observations. Even though it can be hard work it is incredibly rewarding.

Yahweh truly is Worthy of all Praise, Worship, Adoration, Obedience, and Service. Make the worship of Him an everyday expression of your life. Don’t wait for Sunday to worship Yahweh!

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