Psalm 18 is a wonderfully exuberant psalm of personal thanksgiving and praise to God. It was written early in David’s reign, before his great sin, and at the point when his royal power was at its height. It begins with a rush of metaphors in which David relives his triumphs and many close shaves and reflects on the dramatic and tender way in which God has been his refuge and led him out of great danger into a ‘wide’ and secure place. But there, sitting right at the heart of the psalm, is a truth with which we must wrestle if we are to become the kind of people whom God blesses as he blessed David. It is the truth of the direct and proportionate link between our obedience and God’s blessing.
1. I love you, O Lord, my strength.
2. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
6. In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears…
16. He reached down from on high, he took me; he drew me out of the mighty waters.
17. He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from those who hated me; for they were too mighty for me…
19 He brought me out into a broad place; he delivered me, because he delighted in me.
20. The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he recompensed me.
21. For I have kept the ways of the Lord, and have not wickedly departed from my God.
22. For all his ordinances were before me, and his statutes I did not put away from me.
23. I was blameless before him, and I kept myself from guilt. (NRSV)
‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people; and walk only in the way that I command you, so that it may be well with you.’
God took delight in David and blessed him because of his obedience (v,19-24). Though we can never earn God’s favour by our own efforts, we are called to a life of obedience. From beginning to end Scripture speaks of this firm link between obedience and blessing. Obedience is everything in the spiritual life. It was the one thing that Jesus lived for and it is the one thing that God requires of His children. Jesus went on to teach his disciples (in John 14) that the blessing of God comes in direct proportion to our obedience to his commands. It is obedience that makes it possible for us to receive all that God wants to give us of his Holy Spirit, his wonderful love and his indwelling Son. It unlocks a truly extraordinary stream of blessing: unlimited answer to prayer, security in the storm, freedom through knowledge of the truth and so on. (See ‘Read around it…’ for references.)
‘The degree of blessing enjoyed by any man will correspond exactly with the completeness of God's victory over him.’
A. W. Tozer
In Mere Christianity, CS Lewis writes of how God is not looking for obedience to ‘a set of rules’, rather he is looking for people of ‘a certain sort’, (people of a certain character and disposition; those who love Him and are determined to do all they can to please him). This is a heart issue. David, himself, was a man ‘after God’s heart’ and that is why he resolutely set out to obey his God. The more closely our hearts are in harmony with God’s heart, and the more fully our lives are yielded to him, then the more his blessing will flow both to and through us, for the sake of others and to the glory of God. David’s experience will increasingly become ours as we increasingly learn to ‘keep the ways of the Lord’.
‘If there be anything that is capable of setting the soul in a large place it is absolute abandonment to God. It diffuses in the soul a peace that flows like a river and the righteousness which is as the waves of the sea.’ Francois Fenelon
‘(The devout person) lives no longer to his own will, or the way and spirit of the world, but to the sole will of God; who considers God in everything, who serves God in everything, who makes all the parts of his common life parts of piety, by doing everything in the name of God and under such rules as are conformable to His glory.’ William Law
Some questions to ponder:
- Spend some time reflecting on Jesus’ word that a life of obedience is only possible to a heart full of love (Jn. 14:15). How much do you love him? How much evidence of your love is there in the way you live? Perhaps, with John Wesley, you could ask God to kindle a flame of sacred love in your heart and to let it burn there with an inextinguishable blaze to his glory.
- Obedience to the will of God is not going to happen by accident. We need to plan for it. Do you have a strategy for coming to increasingly and routinely obey the will of God in every area of your life? Think about what such a plan might look like and how you might put one together? Who might help you formulate one?
Almighty God, by your Holy Spirit let us see your loving and perfect will for us with such clarity that we are consumed with the desire to obey it no matter what the cost.
Read around it in the week
Take some time to reflect on and pray over the following passages which provide an introduction to the primary place of obedience in Scripture and its direct and proportional link to the blessing of God.
Obedience and blessing in OT: Genesis 22: 1-19, Exodus 19:1-6
Obedience and blessing in OT: Deut 11: 26-28, Jer 7:23
The obedience of Jesus: John 6:38, 8:55, 14:31, Heb 10:7
The effects of Jesus' obedience: Romans 5:19, Phil 2:8-11, Hebrews 5:8-10
Jesus on obedience and blessing: John 14-23, Luke 11:27-28, Matt 7:24-27
John on obediences and blessing: 1 John 3:21-22, 5:2-4