The book of Psalms provides some of the clearest and most detailed pictures of God; who He is and how He interacts with man. David, the author of some of the Psalms, journals, so to speak, about his relationship with God. He exposes his fears, anxieties, hurts, disappointments, doubts and joys.
David’s Journaling: A Window to God
By journaling in such an authentic way, David not only unfolds his feelings during the events of his life, but he opens up for us a window to look into an intimate relationship with God. David pens his life and relationship with God in such a way that we, the readers in the 21st century, can relate not only to his feelings but also to the awesome God he tells about in his writings.
Word Pictures by David
In the Psalms we find many word pictures which reveal God. These pictures are actual truths about God. As we understand these pictures we can have a more personal relationship with God because we see Him more clearly.
Psalm 18:2 provides an excellent example of such word pictures. There are several word pictures clustered in this verse. Each word describing God stands alone in its’ meaning but also is connected in meaning with the other word pictures.
“The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” Ps. 18:2
God is My Rock
In Psalm 18:2, David refers to God as his rock. Rock is used by David twice in this one verse. In the expression “The LORD is my rock,” the term rock emphasizes the qualities of a large, lofty, craggy rock such as the rock wall of a cliff, producing an enduring, safe place – a place hard to reach and difficult to destroy. It is the same word that is used in Numbers 24: 21 describing the enduring dwelling place of the Kenites in the rocky cliffs: “And he looked at the Kenite, and took up his discourse and said, “your dwelling place is enduring and your nest is set in the cliff.”
The second term for “rock” used in the phrase “my God, my rock,” has a similar meaning but is associated with the strength, protection, and stability that a rock or rock structure can provide. We see this definition illustrated in Exodus 33:21-22 when the scripture describes a cleft within a rock wall of a mountain. According the scripture God placed Moses inside this cleft in the rock so that Moses would be safe as the glory of god passed by him.
“Rock” is used often to describe God in the Psalms, and is associated with a place of refuge; strength and safety in times of physical and spiritual troubles.
Ps. 32:1-2 illustrates these concepts: “In you, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me! Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily! Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me!”
Ps. 62:2 says, “He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.” This verse reveals a picture of God as a strong rock providing safety, stability and salvation when my world is shaken by trouble; be it a sudden severe illness; the death of a loved one; a financial loss; a marital rift; problems with children, or some other problem that threatens to undo me emotionally and spiritually. No matter how shaken up things get, no matter how shaky I get, God proves Himself as a solid rock on which I can stand.
Ps. 71:3 shows a God in whom we can live. He is a rock that is a place where we can live in times of trouble and return to as needed. He is a rock; fixed, immovable and reliable. God is the “stronghold solid as rock” in which I can live.
- Be to me a rock of habitation to which I may continually come; You have given commandment to save me, for You are my rock and my fortress.” Ps. 71:3 NASB
God is My Fortress
One of the word pictures David provides of God in Psalm 18:2 is a fortress. A fortress is defined as a mountain castle. It is a stronghold against the enemy. Again it is providing a place of refuge, security and safety. I like the idea that God is my safe place, my fortress of peace in times of storms.
Ps. 144:2 paints a picture of a loving God who provides Himself as a fortress that is strong, that holds me fast, and delivers me from evil.
- “He is my loving God and my fortress,my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield, in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me.” Ps. 144;2
There are problems and evils in our world and in our own lives. Concerns about these problems can cause me to be fearful, insecure, and anxious. I believe other people feel these same concerns, especially the millennials of these times.
I believe the underlying fear and anxiety of the young millennials about good and evil in the world today is evidenced in their preoccupation with super heroes. These super heroes have super powers, vehicles, weapons and fortresses to combat evil. The scriptures tell me God is my fortress, my deliverer- hero.
God is My Deliverer
In Ps. 18:2 David calls God his deliverer. “Deliverer” refers to a way of escape; the one who brings me into security and safety; the one who rescues me.
In the New King James version, in Ps. 71:2 the word deliverer is actually translated “way of escape.”
- “Deliver me in Your righteousness, and cause me to escape; incline Your ear to me,
and save me.” Ps. 71:1-2
Other psalms and translations emphasize the concept of God as our rescuer or deliverer. In Ps. 40:17 David acknowledges his needy state and turns to God to deliver him.
- “Since I am afflicted and needy, let the Lord be mindful of me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God.” Ps. 40:17
In verses 1 and 2, David talks about how God delivered him from the pit. At times, I have been in the pit of discouragement, depression, sadness, or loneliness concerning things in my life. Being able to see and understand God as my deliverer gives me hope in those times. Having this picture of God in my mind leads me to trust Him and seek His help rather than remain stuck in the pit.
God is My Shield
Shields are protections typically used during times of battle. “Shield” in Hebrew is a buckler, a defense, something like the scaly armor-like hide of the crocodile that is fashioned and held up in a way that protects a person from death. Often in the book of psalms God is described as a shield.
- “But you, Lord, are a shield around me,my glory, the One who lifts my head high.: Ps. 3:3
- “We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our help and our shield.” Ps. 33:20
- “You are my hiding place and my shield;I hope in your word.” Ps. 119:114
In these verses we see God as placing Himself around us as a shield; lifting our heads in victory; a shield who is a help; and a shield behind which we can hide.
Describing God as a shield paints an amazing picture of who God is for us. Imagine being in a battle and God, himself steps in front of you as a shield and protection. He offers His body to receive the arrows, bullets or blows for you.
I believe that in the spiritual battles in life God is our shield daily, and most significantly He is this shield in Jesus the Christ, the Messiah: God incarnate offered Himself as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. He stood in our place. He is our shield against the enemy.
God is my Stronghold
The word translated “stronghold” is a different word from both fortress and refuge. It is a place of safety, a sanctuary, and a rock strong protection, but, it is different in that the word “misgav” focuses on the height to which we are removed to safety. It emphasizes a refuge that is up high; a high fortification.
A more appropriate word for stronghold is “high tower.” The King James Version of the Bible translates “misgav” as high tower, emphasizing not only its strength but the safety vantage of its height.
- “The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.” Ps. 18:2
It seems that in describing God, David wanted to relate to us all the different aspects of security in the presence of God. Height has always been a vantage point in times of trouble. Most women when they encounter a mouse or a spider get up higher than the creature by climbing up on a chair. Likewise we see pictures of men climbing trees to escape a vicious dog or a bear. During floods we see people seeking safety on the roofs of their homes. So, we understand the concept of safety in a high place.
God lifts us up high to help keep us safe in times of trouble. The ultimate lifting from God is that those who believe in Jesus are even now seated with Him in the heavenly realms (Eph. 2:6-7).
- “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” 2:6-7
It is important to note that God did not remove all troubles and difficulties in David’s life. “Bad things” happened because of choices people made, and even because of some of the choices David made. David was denied the God given position of King by a prideful and jealous man. David was the object of Saul’s murderous intent and was chased around the country side by Saul and his army for years. David’s son Absalom was so rebellious that he ran David out of town and then publicly disgraced David’s servants that were left behind. David was despised by his wife Michal. One of David’s sons died because of David’s sin. In all these things David interacted with God in a real way. He saw God’s presence and love during all these difficulties, and derived help and comfort from God.
The word pictures that David and other psalmists write are truths about the nature, character and heart of God; about His interactions with us, and of how we can think about and interact with God.
Many times these truths have provided for me stability, strength, endurance and a true sense of the presence of God in my life. I encourage you to read the Psalms and look for word pictures that make God come alive to you; pictures that cause you to marvel at the intimacy that He seeks with us.