While out taking walks, writer Martin Laird would often encounter a man with four Kerry Blue Terriers. Three of the dogs ran wild through the open fields, but one stayed near its owner, running in tight circles. When Laird finally stopped and asked about this odd behavior, the owner explained that it was a rescue dog that had spent most of his life locked in a cage. The terrier continued to run in circles as though contained inside a confined box.
The Scriptures reveal that we’re trapped and hopeless unless God rescues us. The psalmist spoke of being afflicted by an enemy, entrapped by “the snares of death” with the “cords of death . . . coiled around” him (Psalm 18:4–5). Enclosed and shackled, he cried to God for help (v. 6). And with thundering power, He “reached down . . . and took hold” of him (v. 16).
God can do the same for us. He can break the chains and release us from our confining cages. He can set us free and carry us “out into a spacious place” (v. 19). How sad it is, then, when we keep running in small circles, as if we’re still confined in our old prisons. In His strength, may we no longer be bound by fear, shame, or oppression. God has rescued us from those cages of death. We can run free.
Poetry is compact language which says a lot using few words. The poets who wrote much of the Old Testament spoke Hebrew. Hebrew poetry is slightly different than poetry written in modern languages, so we need to ask how poetry worked in that ancient Near Eastern culture.
Today we might be familiar with poetry that has rhyme and meter (a patterned rhythm). Hebrew poetry, on the other hand, doesn’t use either rhyme or meter. We learn how to read it when we become familiar with the tools the ancient poet used, particularly parallelism, imagery, and acrostics.
Parallelism is used throughout Psalm 18. It’s a term that describes the echoing effect within a single poetic line or verse by way of contrast or repetition. It may be the single most important poetic tool because it’s used so frequently in Hebrew poetry. – Tremper Longman