Psalm 18 is a repeat of the same song from David that appears in 2 Samuel 22. The preceding chapters in 2 Samuel give it context. David had just been through what was probably one of the most tumultuous times of his life and had dealt with a bunch of enemies, including some from his own family. It was a rough time… which will explain why the expression of joy is a reasonably long Psalm.
What’s significant is that for David it all comes back to God. In skimming back through 2 Samuel to see the context of the Psalm I ended up right back at chapter 6 and the Ark of the Covenant being brought to Jerusalem. David is described as ‘leaping and dancing before the Lord’ as he’s watched by Michal (his wife), the daughter of Saul. Later in the chapter Michal accuses him:
“How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!”(NIV)
David’s response sums up the attitude that comes out in his Psalms and it’s brilliant:
“In God’s presence I’ll dance all I want! He chose me over your father and the rest of our family and made me prince over God’s people, over Israel. Oh yes, I’ll dance to God’s glory – more recklessly even than this. And as far as I’m concerned… I’ll gladly look like a fool… but amongst those maids you’re so worried about, I’ll be honoured no end.” (MSG)
David’s life is directed towards God and he understands that his life is God’s, so any victory is not due to his own strength and cunning, it has to be attributed to God and that’s exactly why Psalm 18 exists – it’s David honouring God and in his view, ‘stuff what anyone else thinks’.
That link between Psalm 18 and the attitude that drives it which is so wonderfully on show in 2 Samuel 6 challenges me. I most easily connect with contemplative, liturgical style services. I feel in my element and closer to God when things move slowly and there is space for silence, internal prayer etc etc. That’s fine, but I too easily give into my own criticism of more exuberant expressions of the faith that are found in pentecostal style churches and the same can happen in reverse from those who connect more easily with exuberant services… I’ve heard criticisms of the type of service I enjoy as lacking life, being dry and void of the Spirit.
It’s far too easy to criticize form just as Michal was doing with David, but if the drive behind it truly is praise of God and something like Psalm 18 could freely flow from it then the criticism is misplaced and we’re simply justifying our own prejudices. At the end of the day if the answer to the way we worship is ‘because of God’ and it does no harm then it stands. When looking at the worship others offer to God I refuse to be Michal, but have been far too often.
Read more of my reflections on the Psalms.
Here’s why I’m walking this journey through the Psalms.
Image Attribution: By Domenico Gargiulo [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons