Deliverance and Delight
(16) He reached down from above. He took hold of me. He plucked me out of deep waters. (17) He delivered me from my strong enemy, from those who hated me, for they were too powerful for me. (18) They confronted me on the day of my distress, but Yahweh was my support. (19) He brought me out into a spacious place. He delivered me because he delighted in me. (20) Yahweh dealt with me according to my righteousness. According to the cleanliness of my hands he rewarded me, (21) for I have kept the ways of Yahweh and have not acted wickedly (by turning) from my God, (22) for all his judgments were before me, and his statutes I have not ignored. (23) I have been (a person of) integrity before him and have kept myself from iniquity. (24) Yahweh has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanliness of my hands in his sight.
Two interrelated themes are evident in this segment of the psalm. The first focuses on God’s deliverance of those who call upon him when they are in great difficulty. The second emphasizes the psalmist’s maintaining his personal integrity through everything he has suffered at the hand of his enemies. This is demonstrated by his use of two synonyms both translated “deliverance” (vss. 17 & 19) and his repetition of the extended phrase, “according to my righteousness, according to the cleanliness of my hands” (vss. 20 & 24).
One phrase sums up the entire segment: “he (Yahweh) delivered me because he delighted in me” (vs. 19). While we can never do anything to merit God’s grace in salvation, we can live in such a way that we are, in fact, pleasing in his sight due to our love for him and obedience to his will. When we prove ourselves to be devoted to God, we can be confident that he will take care of us.
I. Yahweh delivering me from my adversaries (16-19)
II. Yahweh delighting in my devotion (20-24)
God delights in delivering those who are devoted to growing in godliness.
In the first half of the segment David focuses on what we cannot do, that is, save ourselves from enemies that are stronger than we are (vs. 16-19). This especially holds true for new believers who have not yet learned to trust God fully in their walk of faith. This is also true throughout the experience of mature believers who constantly confront powerful enemies, Satan and his hosts as well as evil people who surround us. All believers must learn to walk by faith, trusting that God will deliver us by sending us the support we need just when we need it.
In the second half of this portion, David shifts his focus to what we actually can and should do. We are to make every effort to live righteously. We do this by keeping God’s ways, obeying his word, and seeking to be people of integrity by avoiding sin and pursuing purity in our lives (vs. 20-24). This is precisely why God saved us (Eph. 2:6-9) so that we, his workmanship, might do those good works which he prepared in advance for us to do (Eph. 2:10). We should view Psalm 18:20-24 not as the proud boasting of a self-righteous king, parading his good works before God in order to impress him. Rather, we should see this as the genuine response of one whom God has powerfully delivered and who is striving to please and honor him with a life of grateful devotion.