- A psalm of David.1 For the music leader. This is a song of David. He addressed these words to the LORD on the day the LORD saved him from enemies, including Saul.2
God is my safe place
- 1 I love you, LORD. You’re my strength.
- 2 The LORD is my rock wall, my castle fortress, my rescuer.
He’s my God and the rock I go to for protection.
He’s my shield, my power,3 and my safe haven.
- 3 I prayed to God, and he deserves high praise
Because I’m saved. My enemies are longer a threat.
- 4 Death hogtied me and dragged me away.
Thundering waves of wickedness beat me down.
- 5 Ropes of death4 had me in knots.
Lethal traps were set for me everywhere.
- 6 So, I sent a distress message to the LORD.
I cried out to God, praying for his help.
Sitting inside his temple, he heard me.
My prayer reached all the way up to him.
Here comes God
- 7 Suddenly, the earth started shaking,
From the mountaintops to the bedrock below.
God was feeling his anger.
- 8 Smoke burst out his nostrils.
Consuming flames from his mouth
Set coals on fire.
- 9 He broke a hole through the sky and came down.
Dark clouds descended with him, under his feet
- 10 He flew on a cherub,5
Soaring on the wings of the wind.
- 11 He cloaked himself in shadows
And dense clouds, dark with water.
- 12 In the bright glow of his presence,
Clouds exploded with lightening and hail.
God goes to war
- 13 The LORD thundered in the sky.
As God Most High6 raised his voice,
thunder roared and hail flew.
- 14 He shot his arrows and scattered my enemies.
His lightning sent them running for their lives.
- 15 Then your nostrils heaved a breath
And the ocean bottoms appeared,
Revealing the earth’s naked foundation.
- 16 I was in over my head
But he reached down from the sky
And pulled me out of deep water.
- 17 I was no match for my enemies
And the others who hated me.
But they were no match for God
Who rescued me.
- 18 They attacked when they saw me in trouble.
But the LORD was on alert to protect me.
- 19 I was in a tight spot and he got me out.
He saved me because I light up his life.
I made good choices in life
- 20 The LORD saved me because I make the right choices.
My hands are clean, so I get to live.
- 21 I’ve done what the LORD asked
And I haven’t strayed into sin.
- 22 His laws were there for me to see.
And I did not ignore them and set them aside.
- 23 I kept the laws without breaking any.
And I resisted the temptations I face to do bad things.7
- 24 The LORD saved me because I make the right choices.
He saw that my hands are clean, so I get to live.
- 25 You are kind to the kind ones.
You are good to the good ones.
- 26 You are a delight to the delightful.
You are a jailer to the crooks.
- 27 You rescue the humble.
You bring the proud to their knees.
- 28 You are the lamp that lights my way.
The LORD my God is the light in my darkness.
- 29 With you beside me, I can charge into an army.
By my God’s strength, I can jump over a wall.
- 30 Whatever God does, he gets it right.
And whatever he says, you can trust.
He’s a shield to anyone who comes for protection.
- 31 Who but the LORD could be God?
Who but God is the Mighty Rock?
- 32 My strength comes from God
Who helps me make good choices in life.
The feet of a sure-footed deer
- 33 He gives me the feet of a deer
So I can walk on the mountains when he puts me there.
- 34 He gets me ready for battle
And gives me strength to bend a bronze bow.
- 35 You gave me your shield, and it saved me.
Your powerful right hand reinforced me.
When you lowered yourself to help me,
You lifted me to greatness.
- 36 From baby steps you taught me giant steps.
And you made sure I didn’t trip and fall.
- 37 I chased my enemies and caught them.
And I didn’t go home until I finished them off.
- 38 I hit them so hard they fell and couldn’t get up.
They lay there under my feet.
- 39 You gave me the strength to fight this battle.
You defeated the enemies who joined forces against me.
- 40 You’re the reason my enemies turned and ran.
I wiped out those who hated me.
- 41 They cried out for anyone to save them.
They even called on the LORD, but he didn’t answer.
- 42 I pulverized them to power that blows away in the wind.
I scooped them up and dumped them out like mud from the street.
- 43 You gave me trouble-free relationships with people.
You put me in charge of many nations.
Now, people I’ve never met obey me.
- 44 When I tell them to do something, they do it.
Foreigners are afraid to approach me, and tremble when they come.
- 45 Foreigners are terrified of me.
They shake as they leave their fortified cities to meet me.
Three cheers for God
- 46 The LORD is alive.
He’s my rock, and I’m praising him
Let’s hear it, loud cheers for the God who saved my life.
- 47 I don’t need revenge since God settles the score.
He’s the one who keeps me in charge of the nations.
- 48 LORD, you rescued me from my enemies.
When people rose against me,
You raised me higher than them.
You rescued me from violent people.
- 49 So I’m thanking you, LORD
Right here in front of all the nations.
I’m singing your praises and calling you by name.
- 50 He’s a great rescuer for his king.
He’s kind and loving to the one he chose5 as king,
To David and his descendants for the rest of time.
The subtitle wasn’t part of the original psalm. And the possible byline “of David,” isn’t necessarily a byline. The vague phrase could mean the song was written by David, about David, or was inspired by David. Almost half of the psalms are attributed to David in this way, 73 of 150. Ancient Jewish history tells of David playing a lyre and writing songs. For one, he wrote a song of mourning at the battlefield death of King Saul and his sons: “How have the mighty fallen!” (2 Samuel 1:19-27 New American Standard Bible). An ancient Jewish scroll from about the time of Jesus, discovered among the famous Dead Sea Scrolls, reports that David wrote 3,600 songs.
In the story behind this subtitle and this psalm, if the subtitle is correct, King Saul became jealous of David’s popularity and decided to hunt him down and kill him (1 Samuel 19). But David and his men eluded the king and his military posse. Some scholars say it’s possible to translate the word for “Saul” as “Sheol,” a term for death. In that case, this is a thank-you song for being spared, in general, perhaps from a danger that didn’t involve King Saul.
Literally “horn of salvation.” Writers in ancient times used horns of animals, such as rams and bulls, as a metaphor for strength. People weren’t inclined to mess with horned animals charging into them. So, God was the horn leading the charge that plowed over David’s enemies.
Literally, Sheol, a word Old Testament writers used to describe the place of the dead. It is a kind of underworld where the dead are cut off from the living—and from God—and there is no coming back.
Kerubim in Hebrew. “Cherubim” is plural. Celestial beings mentioned throughout the Bible, perhaps a kind of angel. Ancient Middle Eastern creatures with similar names, such as kirubu, reportedly served gods. The creatures were portrayed in statues of beings such as human-headed lions with wings. These statues guarded entrances to cities and palaces. After God evicted Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, cherubim kept them out. “The LORD God drove them out of the Garden of Eden. East of the garden entrance he stationed angel guards called cherubim armed with a fiery, spinning sword. They kept people out of the garden and away from the tree of life” (Genesis 3:24).
This Hebrew name for God is Elyon.
The meaning of the Hebrew word in this context is unclear. The word is awon. It can mean guilt, perverse behavior, faults.
“Chose” is literally translated “anointed.” In the original language of Hebrew, the word is “messiah.” Many Christians see some references like this a foreshadowing of Jesus the Messiah a thousand years before he came to earth. But to the readers in King David’s day, the word simply meant their king. Israel’s kings were presented to the nation as God’s chosen leader, literally God’s anointed one. The ritual of crowning someone king involved an anointing—pouring olive oil over the ruler’s head. Samuel anointed young David as Israel’s king (1 Samuel 16:12-13). The ritual sounds messy, but the olive oil would have felt refreshing poured onto someone who had been traveling in ancient Middle Eastern heat.