Metaphors for God

by Jeffrey W. Hamilton

Text: Psalms 18:1-19


I.         Figures of speech have long been used in communicating ideas.

            A.        Prior to the modern usage of font styles, the content of the text itself called the reader’s attention to what was important.

            B.        Figures of speech grabs your attention because they depart from the usual rules of grammar or word choice. We notice because they technically shouldn’t be there.

            C.        But, ironically, we use figures of speech so often that we often forget they are there.

            D.        Metaphors is a figure of speech where one idea or object is used in place of another.

                        1.         “The fog crept in on cat’s paws.”

                                    a.         Wait a minute! Fog doesn’t have paws.

                                    b.         But the substitution makes us consider the similarities between the two ideas.

                                    c.         Fog moves without making a sound, much like a cat

                        2.         Thus, the use of metaphors encourages the reader to think about how two ideas are similar and thus, get a better idea of what is being discussed.

                        3.         Anyone have a black sheep in your family?

                                    a.         Have you thought about what that literally means?

                                    b.         Do you have a relative who gave birth to sheep and one of them turned out to be black in color?

                                    c.         A black sheep is different from the normal color. It would stick out.

                                    d.         But black is also used as the color for darkness and unrighteousness, so it implies that this particular person is not a well-behaved person.

                        4.         Thus, metaphors are not intended to be taken literally. In fact, when a literal interpretation is absurd, then we generally know that a figure of speech (most likely a metaphor) is being used.

                                    a.         Example: Isaiah 55:12

                                                (1)       Mountains and hills don’t sing out in joy

                                                (2)       Trees don’t have hands, let alone clap them

II.        Psalms 18 uses a number of metaphors to describe God. It is also recorded in II Samuel 22:3.

            A.        The Lord is my rock

                        1.         This is a frequent metaphor for God - Psalms 19:14

                        2.         It appears several times in Psalms 18:2,31,46

                        3.         To understand this, think of a massive boulder or a rock cliff face.

                        4.         Cliffs made a natural fortress - Isaiah 33:16

                                    a.         Thus, God is a protection from enemies - Psalms 71:3

                                    b.         He is a place for us to dwell

                        5.         Large boulders and cliffs are stable

                                    a.         Thus, God is a constant in our life - Psalms 40:2

                                    b.         God, then, is our foundation

            B.        The Lord is my fortress

                        1.         With so many wars, most major towns and cities had at least a section of town behind walls.

                                    a.         Of course, the larger cities built their walls of more permanent material – stone or bricks.

                                    b.         This is where people fled for protection

                        2.         Thus, when we are in trouble, it is to God that we flee - Nahum 1:7

            C.        The Lord is my stronghold

                        1.         In a war, being on the high ground was an advantage. The enemy has to work harder to reach you, while you are able to shoot further from the higher position.

                        2.         The Hebrew word in Psalms 18:2 refers to an high, inaccessible place. In man-made constructions, it refers to the towers on fortress walls.

                        3.         It is both a defensive position and a place of safety - Psalms 46:1,7; 59:7-9

            D.        The Lord is my shield

                        1.         For the warrior, battle is brutal. A shield is for personal protection. In particular, this Hebrew word refers to a small, rounded wooden shield. It is sometimes translated as “buckler.”

                        2.         It is a protection of God’s people - Deuteronomy 33:29

                        3.         To say that God is my shield is to acknowledge that God doesn’t just protect in general but also on the individual level - Genesis 15:1

                        4.         In particular, God’s shield to us is the salvation He offers - II Samuel 22:36

            E.        The Lord is my horn

                        1.         This is not a horn that you blow, but the image of a ram’s horn - Genesis 22:13

                        2.         Rams attack by butting heads with their enemy, so the ram’s horn is a symbol of strength and power.

                                    a.         Thus, “horn” is a metaphor for a rulers’ power - I Samuel 2:10

                                    b.         To lift up someone’s horn is to exalt him - Psalms 75:10

                        3.         The two altars in the tabernacle featured horns on their corners - Exodus 27:2

                                    a.         Thus, to hold on to the horns was a symbol of an appeal to God’s power to protect - I Kings 1:50-51

III.       New Testament application

            A.        Consider that Christ is our rock

                        1.         The church is built on the rock of who Jesus is - Matthew 16:18

                        2.         His words are the rock we are to build upon - Matthew 7:24-25

            B.        God is our impenetrable refuge

                        1.         Nothing can separate us from God - Romans 8:39

                        2.         It is in Christ that we can flee for comfort - Matthew 11:28

            C.        He offers us a shield, if we will take it up - Ephesians 6:16

            D.        We also are protected by God’s power - I Peter 1:3-5

            E.        Will you lean on the everlasting arm of God or fight a losing battle against Him?

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