I am almost giddy in anticipation of this post. Psalm 18 is one of those psalms that converted me to Postmillennialism. It remains a strong portion of my hermeneutical grid to interpreting the Psalms. I might address some of that towards the end but I'll make sure to stay on point.
We're discussing prophetic language that occurs in the Old Testament and gives insight to interpreting the New Testament. These examples can be powerful for removing the veil that has covered up the eyes of modern readers. Under the guise of a "literal" understanding, the modern church has proceeded to lay its expectations and views back into the Bible and distorted the truth it contains.
Today's psalm is a historical psalm. The heading for Psalm 18 points to the rescue and vindication of David from his enemies. This isn't something to be fulfilled, though it is certainly Messianic, but something that was completely fulfilled in David's lifetime that acts as a type of vindication for Christ.
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. Then the earth reeled and rocked; the foundations also of the mountains trembled and quaked, because he was angry. Smoke went up from his nostrils, and devouring fire from his mouth; glowing coals flamed forth from him. He bowed the heavens and came down; thick darkness was under his feet. He rode on a cherub and flew; he came swiftly on the wings of the wind. He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him, thick clouds dark with water. Out of the brightness before him hailstones and coals of fire broke through his clouds. The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Most High uttered his voice, hailstones and coals of fire. And he sent out his arrows and scattered them; he flashed forth lightnings and routed them. Then the channels of the sea were seen, and the foundations of the world were laid bare at your rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of the breath of your nostrils. - Genesis 18:6-15
It is hard to stop at that portion of the text. But the truth is that there is more in those verses than I can even cover in one post. I pray that this passages of Scripture are slowly becoming more and more comfortable for you. I also hope that more and more New Testament verses are beginning to become more clear for you.
Temple & Earthquakes
The first response to the vindication of David is fascinating. The imagery found in Micah certainly comes to mind (Mic 1:2-4) from the temple imagery to the trembling of the mountains. God in His judgment against David's enemies did this just like His judgment against Israel for mistreating the poor and needy. A similar prophetic scene comes at the blowing of the seventh trumpet (Rev 11:19). Yet again, God's temple comes into view with the full chorus of earthly activity described here by the psalmist.
This image is of an angry God ready to place His proper king on the throne (Psa 18:24, 43-50). Likewise the whole of the book of Revelation proclaims the judgments upon Israel after the Lamb is seated upon His throne (Rev 5). This destructive imagery is by far conclusive in demonstrating the Jewish perspective of such language being about God's judgment against His enemies and not "literal" events.
Smoke, Flames & Clouds
The smoke that comes from the Lord makes bare the foundations of the earth. They are laid open before Him. The imagery of Joel and Peter immediately comes to mind (Acts 2:19-21). The destruction of the Day of the Lord is the vindication of His king Jesus. The smoke is smoke of His nostrils, the fire the fire of His breathe and the blood the blood of His enemies.
The darkness of the Lord will be the prevention of the sun and the light. God's judgments remove the light of His grace and mercy. Even God's transportation is fittingly consistent. He will ride on "the wind" just as Psalm 104 says He will do when He rides upon the clouds. Thick darkness is His transport. Clouds full of judgment are His visitation. And all for what? The vindication of David as he was persecuted by the false king Saul. How much more do you think this language would be appropriate for the vindication of Christ?
How appropriate then is this language when it is used by Paul in 2 Thessalonians (1:5:-12) . This text is difficult to interpret in a preterist fashion for many people. The idea of this being fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem is hard for people to concede for obvious reasons. This imagery has been traditional reserved in the church for the final judgment of God. But Psalm 18 shows us that this doesn't need to be the case. The church can safely appropriate this to A.D. 70 without denying the final judgment of God. It is quite possible that 2 Thessalonians has duel fulfillment in Christ's spiritual judgment and physical return in judgment.
I must also admit that this text has some very interesting implication for 2 Peter 3. I'm not yet willing to discuss that chapter but eventually I will likely have to speak towards it.
Thunder & Hail
We have previously discussion the importance of thunder and lightening to the judgment of God (Matt 24:27; Rev 11:19). Isaiah 30 will be an interesting text to evaluate on this very subject. But I want to make sure that the importance of hail as judgment in Revelation is seen. Three times hail is used in connection with judgment (8:7; 11:19; 16:21). Twice those are linked to the sound of a trumpet. One it incorporates the burning of the land which could bee seen as the "coals of fire" from the psalmist. The last one links back to the judgment upon Egypt to vindicate God's people from Egypt.
This language is so proto-typical judgment that David utilizes it in the description of his vindication. But this vindication is typologically fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
The final image here is almost completely replicated by Paul in the destruction of the "man of lawlessness" (2 Thess 2:8). This is a non-"literal" way of describing the judgment of God's enemies. God does it at the request of David. The Son of David does it in His own power.
The closing thought to this passage comes in the later portions of this psalm. David becomes king over his enemies (18:37-42). He became the head of nations that trembled before him (18:43-45). These blessings are for God's anointed king forever (18:50). All these things point to a fulfillment in Christ. But when shall these things be?