While reading Psalm 18 this morning, I encountered something which, at first glance, just didn’t seem right. It was kind of like I was “listening” to a song when all of a sudden someone hit a bad chord. The notes didn’t quite line up. The melody took a weird turn. But I’m wondering if it isn’t because I am “listening” to a song within a song.
David wrote the Eighteenth Psalm for the choirmaster’s collection. It is a song of deliverance . . . a song of victory . . . a song composed on the occasion of the LORD rescuing him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. It is a song which starts big . . .
I love You, O LORD, my strength. 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. I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies. (Psalm 18:1-3 ESV)
The victor in this passage is LORD. The conqueror is the Rock. The “hero” is the Deliverer. And David can’t help but respond with praise and adoration.
The songwriter extols the might of heaven’s great Warrior. Of the LORD’s fierce intervention on the songwriter’s behalf. The earth reels as the LORD thunders in the heavens and rides on the cherub to battle on behalf of His beloved on earth. And the LORD rescues him . . . draws him “out of many waters” . . . brings him into “a broad place.” Why? Because the LORD delights in him (18:19).
Good so far. Love the melody. God’s greatness. God’s glory. Acting on behalf of a man he delights in because of God’s grace. I’m groovin’ with the tune!
But then there’s the bad chord . . .
The LORD dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me. For I have kept the ways of the LORD, . . . I was blameless before him, and I kept myself from my guilt. So the LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in His sight. (Psalm 18:20-24 ESV)
Twang!!!! Wait a minute. Back the bus up. That doesn’t sound right. There is none righteous, no not one. All our righteousness is as filthy rags. What’s this about?
What if, at least in part, the explanation lies in the fact that this is a song within a song. A song about David, but one about the Greater David. One about the king of Israel, but one that also speaks of his offspring, the Anointed, the King of Kings? What if a second battle is in view in this song, one that occurs on a cross centuries into the future. What if the One being delivered is Christ, the Righteous One? What if the Holy Spirit worked through David to write a song within a song?
What if the song within the song is a prophetic song foreshadowing One who, though tempted in all ways as we are, was yet without sin (Heb. 4:15)? One who could truly say He was blameless and kept Himself from guilt? And that the song is about heaven’s war against the enemies from hell who thought they had won the battle on Calvary’s cross, but in fact were defeated as He was drawn from the depths and raised in victorious, resurrected, eternal life.
And what if the song is hints at our own deliverance from the enemy because we have been credited with the righteousness of Another?
For this I will praise you, O LORD, among the nations, and sing to Your name. Great salvation He brings to His king, and shows steadfast love to His anointed (the Christ) to David (the Greater David) and His offspring (those born of the Spirit) forever. (Psalm 18:49-50 ESV with a little PV, Pete’s Version, added in)
What a sweet, sweet song within a song!