His Sacred Song
2 Samuel 22
2 Samuel 22 opens with the word "And," which at once suggests there is a close connection between its contents and what was has immediately preceded. The chapter which is now to be before us records Davidís grand psalm of thanksgiving, and, as its opening verse intimates, it was sung by him in celebration of the signal deliverances which God had granted him from his many enemies. In the previous chapter we had an account of the execution of the sons of Saul, followed by a summary of Israelís victories over the Philistines and the slaying of a number of their giants. In our last chapter we sought to point out the spiritual application of these things, as they bear upon the lives of Christians today, and the same line of thought is to be followed as we enter the present chapter. It is this looking for the practical hearing of the Scriptures upon ourselves which is so sorely needed, and which, alas, is now so much neglected by the present generation; only thus do we make the Bible a living Book, suited to our present need.
The spiritual and practical link of connection between 2 Samuel 21 and 22 is not difficult to perceive. As was shown in our last, the execution of the sons of Saul (seven in number, for the work must be done completely) is to be regarded as a figure of the believerís mortifying his lusts, and the conflicts which followed between Israel and the Philistines, David and the giants, symbolizes the fact that that warfare with sin which the saint is called upon to wage, continues till the end of his earthly course. Now the work of mortification is indeed a painful one, nevertheless it issues in a joyful sequel. The plucking out of right eyes and the cutting off of right hands doubtless produces many a groan, yet will they be followed by melodious thanksgiving. Death figures prominently in 2 Samuel 21, but 2 Samuel 22 opens with a "Song!" Here, then, is the obvious connection: when death be written upon our lusts, music will fill the heart; when that which is displeasing to God has been put away, the Spirit will tune our souls to sing Jehovahís praise.
It is a most interesting and instructive study to trace out the sacred "Songs" of Scripture, paving particular attention to their setting. The first one is recorded in Exodus 15. We read not of the Hebrews celebrating the Lordís praises while they were in Egypt, but only of their sighing and groaning (Ex. 2:23. 24). But when they had been delivered from the house of bondage and their foes had been drowned in the Red Sea, a song of worship ascended from their heart. Again, we read of Israel singing when the Lord supplied them with water (Num. 21:17). Moses ended his wilderness wanderings with a song (Deut. 31:22). Upon Israelís victory over the Canaanites they sang a song (Judges 5:1). Job speaks of God giving "songs in the night" (35:10)óa real, if a rare, experience, as many saints can testify. The Psalmist said. "Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage" (119:54).
There is a most marked similarity between the Song of David in 2 Samuel 22 and Psalm 18 (observe the latterís superscription), indeed so close is the resemblance that almost all of the commentators have regarded them as being one and the same, attempting to account for their verbal variations (which though incidental are by no means few in number) on the supposition that the latter is a revised edition of the former. But such an assumption does not seem at all satisfactoryóto us it appears a serious slight upon divine inspiration: surely the Holy Spirit never needs to make any emendations! We therefore greatly prefer the view of C. H. Spurgeon: "We have another form of this eighteenth Psalm with slight variations, in 2 Samuel 22, and this suggests the idea that it was sung by him on different occasions when he reviewed his own remarkable history, and observed the gracious hand of God in it all."
This particular Song of David is no exception to a general if not an invariable feature which marked all his inspired minstrelsy, in that we may see in it both a surface and a deeper allusion, both an historical and a prophetic significance. All doubt upon this point is definitely removed by the testimony of the New Testament, for there we find two of its verses quoted From as being the very words of Christ Himself, thus making it plain that a greater than David is here. In its deeper meaning it is the utterance of the Spirit of Christ in David, making special reference to His triumph over death by the mighty power of God (Eph. 1:19). David thankfully recounts the glorious actings of God on his behalf, yet in such language as rises above himself, to his Son and Lord, against whom all the powers of darkness were concentrated.
"And David spake unto the Lord the words of this song in the day that the Lord had delivered him out of the hand of all his enemies, and out of the hand of Saul" (2 Sam. 22:1). One of the outstanding features of the checkered career of David was the large number of his foes, both from the surrounding nations and among his own people, the chief of all being Saulóthe most formidable, malicious and inveterate. Nor should this unduly surprise us, even though, as Matthew Henry tersely expressed it. "David was a man after Godís heart, but not after manís heart: many were those who hated him." Why was this? First, God so ordered it that he might be an eminent type of Christ, who, throughout the ages has been "despised and rejected of men." Second. that thereby God might display the more conspicuously His faithfulness and power in preserving His own. Third, because this is generally the experience of the saints.
"And David spake unto the Lord the words of this song in the day that the Lord had delivered him out of the hand of all his enemies, and out of the hand of Saul." Therefore was he well qualified experimentally to declare, "Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivereth him out of them all" (Ps. 34:19). The Lordís "deliverance" of David from his many foes assumed a great variety of forms: sometimes in one way, sometimes in another, for the Almighty is not limited to any particular means or method. On occasions He employs human instruments; and again, He wrought without them. Let this encourage the tried and Satan-harassed believer. Though every avenue of escape seem fast shut to your eyes, yet remember that closed doors are no barrier to the Lord (John 20:26). When the long drought completely dried up the water which sustained Elijah at Cherith, God maintained him with oil at Zarephath.
This too is written for our learning and comfort. As we have traced the life of David through the two hooks of Samuel, we have seen him in some sore straits: again and again it looked as though his foes must surely prevail against him; yea, on one occasion, he himself dolefully declared, "I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul" (1 Sam. 27:1). Yet he did not! No, One infinitely mightier than Saul was watching over him. And this is equally the case with you and me, dear reader, if we belong to Christ: the combined forces of hell shall never prevail against us; the united assaults of the flesh, the world and the devil cannot destroy us. Why? "Because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world" (1 John 4:4). Then why should we be so fearful? let us seek grace to rest on that sure promise, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble" (Ps. 46:1).
Observe well Davidís response to these divine interpositions on his behalf: deliverance calls for thanksgiving. This is the very least we can render unto the Lord in return for all His benefits. Nor should there be any tardiness in discharging this delightful obligation: gratitude must issue promptly in praise. it did so with the sweet singer in Israel, and it should also with us. Then let us take to heart this word, "And David spake unto the Lord the words of this song in the day that the Lord had delivered him." We ought to present unto God a sacrifice of praise while His mercies are fresh and the heart is duly affected by them. We are not slow in crying to God when imminent danger threatens us: then let us be just as prompt in acknowledging His goodness when His delivering hand is extended to us.
Many of the commentators are of the opinion that this sacred song was composed by David at an early date in his life, but personally we fail to sec anything in the Scriptures which supports such a view. The very fact that the Holy Spirit has expressly told us it was uttered by David when "The Lord had delivered him out of the hand of all his enemies," is surely a plain intimation that it was uttered by him late in lifeóthe added words "and out of the hand of Saul" do not modify this view when the mention of him is regarded as being intended for the purpose of emphasis, he being his predominant foe. The main divisions of the Song are fairly clearly defined. First, is the preface, in which David is occupied with extolling Jehovahís perfections: verses 1-4. Second, he magnifies the Lord for His delivering mercies: verses 5-20. Third, he expresses the testimony of a clear conscience: verses 21-28. Fourth, he concludes with a prophetic anticipation of the glorious triumphs of the Messiah: verses 29-45.
"And he said, The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer" (v. 2). David begins by adoring Jehovah. He does so on the ground of his personal relation to Him, for all the benefits he had received, he bases upon his relation to God. Observe that in verses 2 and 3, he uses the personal pronoun no less than nine times. It is a grand thing when we have the assurance and can feelingly say, "The Lord is my Rock." While our enemies are hot upon our heels wounding us sorely, threatening our very life, we sometimes do not have this blessed assurance; but when Godís delivering grace is experienced afresh by us, new hope is kindled in the soul. "The Lord is my Rock and my Fortress." "Dwelling among the crags and mountain fastnesses of Judea, David had escaped the malice of Saul, and here compares his God to such a place of concealment and security. Believers are often hidden in their God from the strife of tongues and the fury of the storm" (C. H. Spurgeon).
"And he said, The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer." Let us not miss the connection between this and the preceding verse: they that trust God in the path of duty, will ever find Him a very present help in the greatest of dangers. And David had trusted God, with a faith which wrought miracles. Recall, for example, his intrepidity in Facing Goliath. All Israel were afraid of the Philistine giant, so that noneónot even Saulódared to accept his haughty challenge. Yet David, though then but a youth, hesitated not to engage him in mortal combat, going forth to meet him without any material armor, and with naught but a sling in his hand. And wherein lay his strength? What was the secret of his courage and of his success? It was at once revealed in the words with which he met the enemyís champion: "thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield; but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel" (1 Sam. 17:45)!
And is that, my reader, nothing more than a striking incident of ancient history? Has it no message for our hearts? Is not God the same today: ready to respond to a faith that dares! Is it not written "if thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth" (Mark 9:23)? Do we really believe this? If so, are we earnestly begging God to increase our faith? Faith is invincible, because it lays hold of One who is omnipotent. Faith is the hand which grasps the Almighty, and is anything too hard for Him! Is it not also written "according unto your Faith be it unto you" (Matthew 9:29). Ah, does not that explain why it is we so often meet with defeat, why it is that our enemies prevail against us? O for faith in the living God, faith in the efficacy of Christís mediation, to vanquish our lusts.
Yes, most important is it that we should heed the connection between the first two verses of our chapter: the deliverances David had from his enemies, and his implicit confidence in God. Nor was he by any means alone in this experience. It was by the miracle-working power of God that the three Hebrews were delivered from Babylonís fiery furnace. Yes, but that divine power was put forth in response to their faith: "our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of thine hand, O king" (Dan. 3:17). So again with Daniel himself, yet how often this particular is overlooked. From early childhood most of us have been familiar with that divine marvel which preserved the prophet from the lions, but how many of us have noticed those words, "So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God" (6:23).
"And he said, The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer" (v. 2). When almost captured, the Lordís people are rescued from the hand of the mighty by One who is mightier still. God never fails those who really exercise faith in Him: He may indeed severely test, but He will not suffer them to be "utterly cast down." As our "Rock" God is the strength and support of His people, the One on whom they build their hopes, the One who affords shade from the burning heat of the desert. As our "Fortress" God gives His people shelter from their assailants, supplying protection and securityó"The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe" (Prov. 18:10). As our "Deliverer" God saves us from ourselves, redeems us from the damning power of sin, rescues us from the roaring lion, secures us against the second death.
"The God of my rock; in Him will I trust: He is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my saviour; Thou savest me from violence" (v. 3). This piling up of metaphors indicates the strong assurance which David had in the Lord, the realization of His sufficiency to meet his every emergency and supply his every need. He saw in God one who was infinitely worthy of his fullest confidence: no matter how critical his circumstances, how desperate his situation, how numerous or powerful his foes, and how great his own weakness, Jehovah was all-sufficient. Such too ought to be our confidence in God. Yea, we have more ground to rest our faith upon than ever David had. God is now revealed as the (penitent) sinnerís Friend, as He never was then. In Christ He is revealed as the Conqueror of sin, the Vanquisher of death, the Master of Satan. Then have we not cause to exclaim in Him will I trust." O that this may become more and more of an actuality in the lives of both writer and reader.
"The God of my rock; in Him will I trust: He is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my saviour; Thou savest me from violence." These energetic figures of speech, which rise above the level of ordinary prose, reveal what God is to His believing people, for only as faith is lively and vigorous is He viewed thus. He is "my Shield" with which to ward off every attack: faith interposes Him between our souls and the enemy. He is "the Horn of my salvation," enabling me to push down my foes, and to triumph over them with holy exultation. He is "my high Tower": a citadel placed upon a high eminence, beyond the reach of all enemies, from which I may look down on them without alarm. He is "my Refuge" in which to shelter from every storm. He is "my Saviour" from every evil to which the believer is exposed. What more do we need! what more can we ask! O for faithís realization of the same in our souls. "Thou savest me from violence": again we would press the point that this is in response to faithó"He shall deliver them from the wicked, and save them, because they trust in Him" (Ps. 37:40).
"I will call on the Lord, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies" (v. 4). As an unknown writer has said, "The armour of a soldier does him no service except he put it on; so, no protection from God is to be expected, unless we apply ourselves to prayer." It is faith which girds on the spiritual armor; it is faith which finds all its resource in the Lord. "I will call on the Lord, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies": note carefully the words which we have placed in italics. This affords abundant confirmation of all we have said above: to "call upon the Lord" is to exercise faith in Him, such faith as praises Him before the victoryóSo shall we be saved from our enemies: by Godís mighty power in response to believing prayer and sincere praise.