Passage: 2 Samuel 22:1–22:51
There is perhaps no other figure in the OT who receives as much attention as King David. His life is an engaging, even thrilling, testimony of how a lowly, overlooked person can rise to do great things for God. Think of all the different experiences Scripture records from David’s life. As a young man, David was brave and courageous, even to the point of fighting wild animals in order to rescue his sheep. David had a profound grasp of God’s character, which is what enabled him to charge the battlefield against Goliath the Philistine. David displayed wisdom beyond his years, as he resisted numerous opportunities to kill Saul and take the throne for himself. David was a leader, consistently rallying men to his cause. And on top of it all, David was creative and wonderfully artistic, as we just heard, composing songs with a skill that few other people in Scripture possessed. That’s just a brief survey of David’s accomplishments, but it’s enough to remind us that his life was an engaging, even thrilling one.
And therefore, it’s understandable that so much of the church’s attention on King David focuses on imitation. I can remember as a child sitting in Sunday school and hearing the lessons that encouraged me to have courage like David or to trust God like David. And on one level, that call to imitation is not wrong. Whenever we see God’s people acting in faith, it is appropriate for us to view their lives as an example that we should follow. By all means, I pray we’ve been exhorted by David to grow in faith, to increase in boldness, and to walk uprightly before the Lord. Those are good lessons to learn.
But at the same time, if we stop with imitation, then we miss the greatest and most important aspect of King David’s life. If David were among us today, I firmly believe this is what he would tell us. He wouldn’t recount the battle with Goliath. He wouldn’t describe the splendor of his royal palace. No, David would spend every minute with us proclaiming the glory and greatness of God.
Now, how do I know this? That’s a rather sweeping statement to make, so how can I claim to know what David would say to us? It’s because of our passage this morning, 2 Samuel 22. This chapter is David’s reflection on his own life. Having defeated his enemies and gained the throne, David looks back across the years, and what draws his attention is the work of God on his behalf. In fact, notice the opening lines of David’s song, vv2-3. Before David can say anything else, he bursts forth in praise to God. It’s almost as though David cannot contain himself. He can’t even slow down really. It’s rapid-fire worship – the Lord is my rock, my fortress, my deliverer, my refuge, my shield, my stronghold, the horn of my salvation, my savior. Do you hear it? It’s time for David to reflect on his life, and what’s the first thing he does? He erupts in praise to God. You see, that’s the message of 2 Samuel 22. It’s a declaration that the grand purpose of David’s life is not merely imitation but exaltation – the exaltation of the Lord God.
Now, before we consider the details of David’s song, we need to think about the psalm as a whole. The big picture of this passage is very helpful when considering the details. There are two different perspectives at work in David’s song, two different points of view. The first is that David’s song looks backward. You may remember that the book of 1 Samuel also began with a song, the song of Hannah. Remember, Hannah was barren until the Lord graciously gave her a son, Samuel. And in response to God’s mercy, Hannah sang, and her song was full of hope that God delights to turn the ways of this world upside down. God exalts the lowly, while at the same time, God brings low the proud. That was the testimony of Hannah’s life, and it gave her hope.
But most importantly, Hannah’s song ended with the hope that one day God would raise up his anointed one, and in his grace, God would strengthen this anointed one to rule over all the earth. That was Hannah’s greatest hope, the most important reason for her praise.
What do we find here in 2 Samuel 22? We find David singing those same truths. Like Hannah, David rejoices that God exalts the lowly and humbles the proud. Look at v28 – “You save a humble people, but your eyes on the haughty to bring them down.” Hannah’s testimony is also David’s testimony. From the humble place of keeping sheep, God has exalted David to the throne of Israel. You see, David’s song looks backward, and with great joy, David says to our sister Hannah, “Your hopes were true. God has been faithful, and he has raised up a king to reign on the throne.”
At the same time, David’s song also looks forward. Notice the last verse, v51 – “Great salvation he brings to his king, and shows steadfast love to his anointed, to David and to his offspring forever.” You may remember that God made a covenant with David, and in that covenant, God promised steadfast love to David’s descendants forever. It truly was an incredible promise – that forever, a Son of David would reign on his father’s throne, and through that Son, God would spread blessing over all the earth.
Here in v51, David looks forward to that future day. In faith, David sees the covenant fulfilled. He sees a Son reigning on the throne, upheld forever by God’s steadfast love. Now, does David know that Son’s name is Jesus of Nazareth? Of course not, but don’t let that obscure what David does see. David sees the covenant fulfilled. David sees the faithfulness of God holding firm across the ages. David sees the reign of the Messiah, a reign that would be rooted in God’s covenant love for his people.
As you read David’s song, you have to read it not only in the context of David’s life but also in the context of the Lord Jesus Christ. And that’s not reading into the passage. This is how David himself looks at his own life. V51 – David sees that great day by faith, and his song encourages to us do the same. David’s song looks backward, but at the same time, David’s song also looks forward.
David’s Reason for Praising God #1: The Almighty Scope of God’s Power
With those perspectives in mind, we’re ready to consider the details of David’s praise. As we said at the outset, the ultimate aim of this chapter is the exaltation of God, so it should be no surprise that the specifics of David’s song are God-centered. David gives us three reasons for his praise, and each one is connected with the character of God. The first is found in vv5-20 – David offers praise for the Almighty Scope of God’s Power. The setting of the song is presented quite clearly in vv5-7. David recalls the times when his life hung in the balance. He was in distress, and that distress was relentless. Notice the language of waves and torrents in v5. Like the never-ending crash of the sea, enemies assaulted David. And their goal, David declares, was his demise. Notice the repetition of death in vv5-6. It’s in every line – death, destruction, Sheol, death. You see, David was not merely in a tight spot. His life was repeatedly at risk.
And in such situations, David’s only recourse was to pray. Notice v7 – “In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I called. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry came to his ears.” Now, it’s incredible to think that God would hear David’s prayer and answer. We shouldn’t overlook that massive evidence of grace. But there’s also a hint of God’s power here in v7. Did you catch it? Where is God when he hears David’s prayer? He’s in his temple, that is, in the heavenly throne room. You see, David reminds us of how God’s people fight for faith in the face of hardship. We fight with the character of God. We take our eyes off the trials, off the enemies, off the terrifying waves, and we fix our eyes on our Heavenly Father. This is the grand purpose of knowing God through his Word. We don’t study to know facts about God – we study to know God so that when the waves relentlessly pour in, we can run to him, and he can receive glory as the God who hears from heaven and saves. That is David’s testimony here in v7. Relentless enemies are frightening, but they are no match for the God who reigns in heaven with unrivaled power.
And indeed, that’s what David goes on to describe in vv8-16. With vivid language, David describes the arrival of God, and his arrival is awesome. David envisions God descending from heaven, riding on a storm. Thunder, v14, booms as God speaks, and lightning, v15, flashes forth like arrows from God’s bow. Nothing can stand against this powerful God. The ground quakes, v8, and the seas split apart to reveal the earth’s foundations, v16. Don’t let the imagery distract you. Yes, David is speaking metaphorically, but that’s the point. The Lord’s power has been so magnificent in David’s life that he must resort to poetry to adequately display the glory. It wouldn’t be enough to say, “God is powerful.” It would be silly to simply say, “The Lord is mighty.” No, sometimes, it takes poetry, it takes metaphor, it takes holy imagination to communicate the awesome reality of the Almighty. The Lord rides on the storm, David sings. He rips apart the heavens and descends on a chariot driven by cherubim. He slings arrows of lightning, and all around him, an awful brightness proclaims his arrival.
And yet, what does this awesome God do on his arrival? Amazingly, he rescues David. Notice v17 – “He sent from on high; he took me.” V18 – “He rescued me…for they were too mighty for me.” V20 – “He brought me out into a broad place.” Oh, what incredible grace! David is not crushed by this storm-riding God who controls thunder and lightning. No, David is saved by God. All of the Lord’s unspeakable power is unleashed on David’s behalf and for his good.
We may not share the specifics of David’s testimony, but we should share his confidence in this great God. This rich, vivid description of God’s power is meant to press home upon our hearts the truth that the Lord is mighty to save. Listen, I could stand here this morning and give a lecture on the divine attribute of omnipotence. We could talk in very technical terms about the extent of God’s power and the ways in which his power is manifested through divine decree and through providence. And that discussion would be helpful on some level. But it probably wouldn’t be memorable. It probably wouldn’t stick with you the next time you are hemmed in by distress on all sides.
David’s song, however, is memorable. When the waves crash in, this song will stick with you and even prove to be a life preserver in the midst of the distress. How powerful is the Lord God? Mighty enough to shake the earth’s foundations. How awesome are his ways? Glorious enough to command creation’s attention. And most important of all, how does God use this awesome power? For the good of his people, as he reaches into the distress, rescues us from many waters, and plants our feet firmly in the good place of his presence. David delights in the almighty scope of God’s power, and while we may not share the specifics of his testimony, we can certainly share his confidence, for this is our God as well as David’s.
David’s Reason for Praising God #2: The Faithful Testimony of God’s People
The second reason for David’s praise comes in vv21-31 – he offers praise for the Faithful Testimony of God’s People. This is, undoubtedly, the most difficult section of the song to understand. I’m sure most of us were at least somewhat puzzled as we read v21 – “The LORD dealt with me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me.” That sounds man-centered rather than God-centered, doesn’t it? And I’m sure more than a few of us were thinking of Bathsheba and Uriah when David said in v23 – “For all his rules were before me, and from his statutes I did not turn aside.” From what we remember, it sure seemed like David turned aside on that palace rooftop. How should we take these verses? What is David saying here? There are two points to keep in mind. One is a clarification, and the other is a comparison.
First off, the clarification. At no point in these verses is David making a claim to sinless perfection. That’s not the sense of his terms. Take, for example, the word blameless in v24. The idea is not perfection in every particular, but integrity in the overall direction of one’s life. In other words, David claims he has not been hypocritical before God. He has not been double-minded or wishy-washy. Even when he sinned, David confessed, repented, and turned again to the Lord. You see, at no point is David making a claim to perfection. He hasn’t forgotten the rooftop with Bathsheba, but at the same time, we shouldn’t forget the heartfelt expression of brokenness that followed David’s fall.
If you look at vv21-25 with the idea of integrity rather than perfection, then you can see more accurately what David is claiming. His life has been characterized by wholehearted devotion to the Lord. David has held fast to the Lord, and the Lord, in turn, has shown David faithfulness as well. Has David fallen? Yes, and in spectacular ways. But even when he fell in sin, David did return, time and again, to seek the Lord’s face in repentance and faith. That’s the clarification. David is not speaking of perfection but integrity and wholeness, an overall faithfulness to the Lord.
Second, we should note here a comparison between David and Saul. This actually illustrates David’s point very well. Notice again v22 – “For I have kept the ways of the LORD and have not wickedly departed from my God.” It’s that last line that should get our attention. In some sense, the worst act of wickedness is to depart from God, to know his ways for a time but then to spurn him as not worthy of your trust. By God’s grace, that’s something David has never done. But sadly, that’s exactly what Saul did, isn’t it? Saul turned from God in disobedience, and even though God patiently pursued him, Saul wanted nothing to do with the Lord. For Saul, repentance wasn’t worth it. In fact, at the end of his life, Saul was so much in the grip of darkness that he chose to consult witchcraft rather than cast himself on the God who is merciful and gracious.
Do you see the difference between the two men? One persevered in the faith, while the other spurned God and wickedly departed from the Lord. You see, that’s what David is getting at here in vv21-25. Unlike Saul who turned away, David has remained faithful to the Lord.
And God, in turn, has been faithful to David. This is the point of vv26-28, which are arguably the center of the song. What is the result of David’s faithful testimony? It highlights the faithfulness of God. Those who trust in the Lord find mercy and salvation, while those who reject God are left to suffer the consequences of their own wickedness. The last line of v31 captures the truth of this section quite well. Notice the last line of v31 – “[God] is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.”
You see, this is why Scripture places such high value on faith, on trusting in God. It’s because our testimony of faith in God serves to magnify God’s faithfulness to save those who trust him. Faith is not a work we do to ensure that we earn God’s protection. Faith is not a prerequisite that merits our salvation. Let’s be clear – that’s not what David is saying here. No, faith is like a mirror – it’s value lies only in the fact that it reflects something greater than itself. Faith is a mirror that reflects the faithfulness of God. When I put my trust in the Triune God, I’m saying to the world, “This God is faithful.” I’m showing the world, “This God deserves to be trusted because he never fails to save those who come to him.”
Whenever you see a Christian holding fast to the Lord in faith, that moment is a reason for praise. And that includes our own lives. That’s the takeaway here from David. Our faithful testimony before the Lord is ultimately not about us. It’s about the faithful God in whom we trust.
And therefore, we should be encouraged that daily perseverance in trusting Christ is far more important, far more significant than we tend to think. The faithful testimony of God’s people, especially in hardship, says to the world, “This God is worthy to be trusted. This God is worthy of your faith.”
David’s Reason for Praising God #3: The Perfect Sufficiency of God’s Provision
David’s final reason for praise comes in vv32-49 – David offers praise for the Perfect Sufficiency of God’s Provision. Beginning in v32, David changes course and begins to describe the victories he has achieved over his enemies. And make no mistake, David intends for the note of triumph to ring out from this portion of his song. Notice v38 – “I pursued my enemies and destroyed them, and did not turn back until they were consumed.” Or look at v43 – “I beat them fine as the dust of the earth; I crushed them and stamped them down like the mire of the streets.” It’s not hard to hear David’s emphasis, is it? He has utterly decimated those who opposed him, and those victories get the emphasis in his song.
Now, as you read these verses, you might think, “Wow, David is awfully full of himself. This sounds boastful, even arrogant, at points.” But that’s actually not the case, not at all. David sings of his victories not to make much of himself, but to make much of God, whose provision made David victorious. In fact, from start to finish in this section, David joyfully proclaims the sufficiency of God’s provision. Notice how it plays out:
First off, David’s security owes to God’s work on his behalf. V34 – “He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights.” David’s situation was often precarious, and yet, he never fell. Why? Because God enabled him to stand firm. David’s security comes from God.
David’s strength and skill also come from God. V35 – “He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.” A bow of bronze was an extremely powerful weapon, but it required more than normal strength to draw back. Not just any man could use it. But through God’s provision, David was able to use such a weapon. He was a well-trained warrior, in other words, and his strength and skill come from the Lord.
David’s salvation also owes to God. V36 – “You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your gentleness made me great.” Here, salvation refers to protection. Time after time, David was protected from harm, and he attributes that solely to God’s provision. Like a shield, God guarded David from harm. David’s salvation owes to God.
And finally, David’s success is due to God. V37 – “You gave me a wide place for my steps under me, and my feet did not slip.” Why didn’t David fall in battle? Why did he so often find success? Because God put David’s feet in a wide place, on solid ground.
Do you see the pattern? Security, strength, skill, salvation, success – all of it has been provided to David by God. And if there were any doubt as to David’s point, notice v40 – “For you equipped me with strength for the battle; you made those who rise against me sink under me.” You see, it’s true – David is boasting in these verses, but he’s not boasting in himself. No, David’s boast is in the Lord. In his kindness, God has not only raised up a king for his people, but God has also equipped that king with everything necessary to defeat God’s enemies and save God’s people.
We shouldn’t read David’s praise in these verses without thinking ultimately of the Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, it’s good to reflect on God’s provision in David’s life, and yes, it’s appropriate to see how God provides for us as well. But as Christians, the great connection from David to us is not that we will succeed like David. It’s not that we will have strength and skill like David. No, the great connection between David and us is the Lord Jesus Christ. What David experienced here in part, the Lord Jesus has experienced in full. At every step of his life, the Father perfectly provided for the ministry of his Son. John 16.15, Jesus declares, “All that the Father has is mine.” And John 5.26, Jesus proclaims, “For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.” In his ministry, the Lord Jesus experienced the perfect sufficiency of God’s provision.
And through that perfect sufficiency, what has the Lord Jesus done? He has defeated God’s enemies at the cross so that even death itself is subject to Christ. And the Lord Jesus has, once and for all, saved God’s people to the uttermost. Waves of death will never overwhelm God’s people, and torrents of destruction will never crush those who belong to Christ. And therefore, in our distress, we can call upon God because there, in the heavenly throne room, at the Father’s right hand, sits King Jesus, reigning in triumph over all things.
2 Samuel 22 is not ultimately calling us to imitate the life of David. No, 2 Samuel 22 is calling us to exult in David’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. As Christians, there is no more fitting conclusion than v51. Hear it again and rejoice to know that from Hannah to David and on to the Lord Jesus, God has been faithful to his Word – “Great salvation he brings to his king, and shows steadfast love to his anointed, to David and his offspring forever.” Amen, let’s pray.
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