The Word Made Fresh
(To the worship leader: a psalm of David. David, the LORD’s servant, sang this psalm to the LORD on the day the LORD overcame all his enemies, and rescued him from the hand of Saul.)
1I love the LORD, who is my strength.
2The LORD is my rock, my fortress, my savior,
my God, my foundation in whom I find safety,
my armor, my strength and my constant protector,
my fortress and refuge.
3I call on the LORD, who is worthy of praise,
and know I am rescued from every alarm.
4When death’s inundations surrounded me wholly,
the floods of destruction assailed without mercy,
5the maw of the grave grasped firmly about me,
the awful entrapments of death hovered near.
6Then from my deep troubles I called on the LORD,
I called on my God, and by God I was heard,
my voice raised in worship; my cry raised in tears.
7The earth shook and trembled, the mountains’ foundations
were shaken and troubled because God was angry.
8Smoke went from God’s nostrils and fire from God’s mouth
like hot glowing coals flaming forth from God’s throne.
9God opened the heavens, and downward descended,
with deep darkness spreading around the descent.
10Riding a cherub and soaring above me,
I saw the LORD coming on wings of the wind
11in darkness and hidden in swirling deep clouds,
now bursting with moisture and dark with the dew.
12Before the approach of the LORD there was brightness
that broke through the clouds with hailstones of fire.
13The LORD’s voice from heaven thundered above me,
the Most High’s deep voice was shaking the sky.
14The LORD sent out arrows against all opposing
and sent lightning bolts down to rout every foe.
15The depths of the sea were now opened to view,
and the earth’s very bedrock laid bare to my eyes,
exposed by a blast of the breath of the LORD.
16The LORD took me up from the deep waters ‘round me,
and reached down from on high to rescue my life.
17From enemies strong and from those who despised me,
God saved me from enemies wanting me dead.
18In the days of my weakness my enemies gathered,
but the LORD stood beside me and gave me protection,
19and carried me out to a wide, spacious place,
and saved me – I knew then the LORD was my friend.
20The LORD has rewarded me, for I was faithful
and so was rewarded, for my hands were clean.
21I steadfastly followed the LORD’s good instructions,
and haven’t a part in crass wickedness.
22God’s laws and instructions were ever before me,
and I did not stray from them or disobey.
23I lived before God with a heart that was pure,
and stayed far away from temptations to sin.
24The LORD has repaid me for remaining faithful,
and always has judged me to be clean and pure.
25To the loyal you always are loyal, O God,
to the blameless you always are faithful and true.
26And those who are pure have reflected your pureness,
but those who are false you have repaid in kind.
27You always are there to help those who are pure,
but those who are crooked you always bring down.
28You, O my LORD, are my light in the darkness,
you are there always to brighten my path.
29With you I can run through an army of soldiers,
and with you I leap o’er the highest of walls.
30With God is perfection, and flawless your word –
a shield of protection for all who need aid.
31For who is this God? This God is our LORD!
And who is the Rock? The Rock is our God!
32Our God, who has always provided my strength,
our God, who has always protected my path.
33God makes me to stand with sure feet, like a deer
secure in the heights and the treacherous ways.
34God teaches my hands to be ready for troubles,
and strengthens my arms for the stiffest of bows.
35You protect and defend me, your shield of salvation
and your mighty right hand has helped make me strong.
36You helped me to walk with long strides on your pathway,
my feet never slip, and my ankles stay firm.
37I chased down my enemies; I crushed them in battle,
and never withdrew before they were destroyed.
38I beat them, I crushed them, they fell down before me,
and never returned to the battle again.
39You always did clothe me with strength for the battle.
My enemies always fell down at my feet.
40You made them all turn and run from each battle
and helped me destroy all my adversaries.
41They searched but they did not find anyone to help them,
they even cried out to you, LORD, but you shunned them.
42I beat them and pounded them like windblown dust.
I trampled them down like the mud in the streets.
43You also delivered me from my own people –
kept me as their leader, even those I knew not.
44Foreigners came to me, bowing and scraping,
submitting to me because of all they had heard.
45These foreigners lost heart as soon as they saw me,
and came to me trembling from out of their forts.
46The LORD God is living! And blessed be my rock,
exalted above all, the rock of my rescue.
47The God who avenged me and saved me from enemies,
48and rescued me each time my life was in danger.
You lifted me out of each trap and each trouble,
and saved me from violent enemies around.
49And all this is why I extol you, O Lord.
Among all the nations I sing out your praise.
50The LORD gives the LORD’s chosen leader great victories,
shows unfailing kindness to the one who’s anointed –
to David, and to his descendants forever.
Superscription: So far, the psalms have been from 5 to 20 verses in length and the superscriptions have been brief. This psalm has 50 verses, and the superscription is appropriately long as well. This is the 15th of the psalms ascribed to David. The occasion is said to be one in which David was delivered from “all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul,” and appears first in 2 Samuel 22, repeated here with minor differences.
1-3: The opening lines ascribe praise to God who is rock, fortress, deliverer, shield, horn, and stronghold – all of which have military connotations.
4-5: The dilemma is described in action verbs that communicate mortal danger – encompassed, assailed, grasped, hovered.
6-15: He cries to God for help and God hears. God is pictured in volcanic and meteorological imagery of smoke and fire and wind and hail and thunder and lightning. God’s actions are described in terms of almost cosmic upheaval that lays bare the very foundations of the earth.
16-19: The psalmist pictures himself being rescued and protected.
20-24: One of the things that we modern Westerners sometimes find troubling about the psalms is their penchant for chest thumping and tooting one’s own horn, but the exaggeration of one’s innocence and goodness is a common feature of oriental literature. They figured that if God is blessing you, you must deserve it. We figure the same way; it’s just that in our culture it’s not cool to say it out loud.
25-30: God’s retributive justice is described: what you give is what you get, by and large. Verses 29-30 return to the use of military imagery.
31-42: These verses are an account of a battle between Israel and an unnamed enemy. That Israel is one of the combatants is obvious from verse 31: “Who is God? This God is our LORD!” That is to say, the God who granted us victory is none other than YHWH, the revealed name of the LORD, the God who has claimed Israel. The enemy is defeated; they, too, cry out to the LORD (verse 41) but to no avail.
43-48: These verses do indeed fit with the reign of David who actually extended the boundaries of his realm and became the head of other nations; but it also fits later kings of Israel and Judah who from time to time were successful in extending their reign over adjacent territories.
49-50: The psalm ends with praise to God for protecting and guaranteeing the dynasty of David (the kings of Judah).
God is praised from beginning to end. David, who has done no wrong (says he), is also praised. This is an example of Hebrew hyperbole, a common literary exaggeration that appears regularly throughout the Old Testament. It is David’s attempt to leave behind the kind of record he wants to be remembered by. A common endeavor – obituaries in the newspapers of our time seldom mention the failures or foibles of the deceased.