His Sacred Song
2 Samuel 22
In this song David is celebrating the wondrous deliverances from his many enemies which he had experienced by the goodness and power of Jehovah. But unless we carefully bear in mind his particular viewpoint therein, we shall utterly fail to contemplate those experiences in their proper perspective. David was not here furnishing an outline of his entire history, but instead, confines himself to one particular phase thereof. Because they lay outside his present scope, he says nothing about his own sad failures and falls, rather does he restrict himself to what the Lord had wrought for and by him. There are passages, many of them, both in the historical books, and in the Psalms, wherein we hear him confessing his sins and bewailing his transgressions; but in this song he recounts his victories over and vanquishing of his foes, not by his own prowess, but by divine enablement.
In what has just been pointed out there is a most important lesson for the believer to take to heart. If there be times (as there certainly are) when the Christian may feelingly appropriate to his own use the mournful language of Psalm 38 and the abasing confessions of Psalm 51, it is equally true that there are times when he should employ the triumphant tones of Psalm 18, which is almost identical with 2 Samuel 22. In other words, if there be occasions when the saint can only sigh and groan, there are also seasons when he should sing and celebrate his triumphs, for David has left us an example of the one as truly as he has of the other. Nor should such singing be limited to the days of our "first love," the joy of our espousal. This song was composed by David in his declining years: as he reviewed his checkered career, despite his own failings and falls, he perceived how, after all, he was "more than conqueror through Him that loved him" (Rom. 8:37).
If on the one hand there be a large class of Satan-deceived professors who are fond of trumpeting forth their own achievements and of advertising their fancied victories over sin, there is on the other hand a considerable proportion of the Lordís people who are so occupied with their downfalls and defeats, that they are sadly remiss in recounting the Lordís triumphs in them and by them. This ought not to be: it is robbing the Lord of that which is His due; it is a morbidity which causes them to lose all sense of proportion; it conveys to others an erroneous conception of the Christian life. It is a false humility which shuts our eyes to the workings of divine grace within us. It is the presence and exercise of a true humility that takes notice of our successes and conquests so long as it is careful to lay all the trophies of them at the Lordís feet, and ascribe to Him alone the honor and glory of the same.
Let those who are engaged in fighting the good fight of faith remember that this is not the work of a day, but the task of a lifetime. Now in a protracted war success does not uniformly attend the efforts of that side which is ultimately victorious. Far from it. It usually falls out that many a minor skirmish is lost; yea, and sometimes a major one too, before the issue is finally determined. At times, even the main army may have to fall back before the fierce onslaughts of the enemy. There are severe losses, and disappointments, heavy sacrifices, the receiving of many wounds, before success is ultimately achieved. Why do we forget these well known facts when it comes to our spiritual warfare? They apply with equal force thereto. Even under the inspired leadership of Joshua, Israel did not conquer and capture Canaan in a day, nor in a year; nor without drinking the bitters of defeat as well as tasting the sweets of victory.
We are well aware that one of the principal hindrances against our rendering to God the praise which is His due, for the victories He has given us over our enemies, is a sense of present defeat. But if we are to wait till that be removed, we shall have to wait till we reach heaven before we sing this song, and obviously that is wrong, for it is recorded for us to use here on earth. Ah, says the desponding reader: others may use it, but it is not suitable to such a sorry failure as I am; it would be a mockery for me to praise God for my triumphs over the enemy. Not so fast, dear friend: ponder these questions. Are you not still out of hell?ómany of your former companions are not! Though perhaps tempted to do so, has Satan succeeded in causing you to totally apostatize from God?óhe has many others! Have you been deceived and carried away by fatal errors?ómillions have! Then what cause have you to thank God for such deliverances!
As the believer carefully reviews the whole of his career, while on the one hand he finds much to be humbled at in himself, yet on the other hand he discerns not a little to be elated over in the Lord. Thus it was with David. Though there had been tragic failures, there were also blessed successes, and it was these he celebrated in this song. After affirming that God had acted righteously in favoring him as He had (vv. 20-28), the purely personal tone is again resumed and he bursts forth into joyful strains of praise. The leading difference between the second half of this song from its first is easily ascertained by attention to its details: in the former David dwells on Godís delivering him from his enemies (see vv. 3-17), in the latter half he recounts his victories over his enemies: in each the glory is ascribed alone to Jehovah. In the first David was passiveóGodís arm alone was his deliverance; in the second he is active, the conquering king, whose arm is strengthened for victory by God.
"For Thou art my lamp, O Lord: and the Lord will lighten my darkness" (2 Sam. 22:29). This is the verse which links together the two halves of the song. At first sight the force of its connection is not too apparent, yet a little reflection will ascertain its general bearing. Davidís path had been both a difficult and a dangerous one. At times it was so intricate and perplexing, he had been quite unable to see whither it was leading. More than once the shadows had been so dark that he had been quite at a loss to discern what lay ahead. Once and again there had been much which tended to cast a heavy gloom upon Davidís soul, but the Lord had graciously relieved the tension, supplying cheer in the blackest hour. It is to be remembered that with the Orientals the "lamp" is used for comfort as much as for illuminationómany of them will stint themselves of food in order to buy oil; which helps us to understand the figure here used.
"For Thou art my lamp, O Lord." This is the grand recourse of the believer in seasons of trial: he can turn unto One to whom the poor worldling is a total stranger; nor will he turn to Him in vain, for God is "a very present help in trouble." It is then that the oppressed and depressed saint proves Him to be "the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort" (2 Cor. 1:3). Though his night be not turned into day, yet the welcome radiance of Godís countenance affords such cheer as to sustain the trembling heart in the loneliest and saddest hour. In the cave of Adullam, in the hold of Rephaim, in the fastnesses of Mahanaim, the Lord had been his solace and support; and now that old age drew near, David could bear witness "Thou art my lamp, O Lord." And is not this the testimony of both writer and reader? Have we not abundant cause to witness to the same glorious fact!
"And the Lord will lighten my darkness." This was the language of faith and hope: He who had so often done this for David in the past, would not fail him in the future. No matter how dense the gloom would be, there should be a break in the clouds. That which is incomprehensible to the natural man is often made intelligible to the spiritual. That loss of health, financial disaster, or family bereavement: yes, but "the secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him." Divine providence is often a mysterious deep, but God is his own interpreter, and He will make plain what before was obscure. Particularly is this the case with the believerís being plagued so fiercely and so frequently by his enemies. Why should his peace be so rudely disturbed, his joy dampened, his hopes shattered? Why should the conflict so often go against him and humiliating defeat be his portion? Here too we can confidently affirm "the Lord will lighten my darkness": if not now, in the hereafter.
"For by Thee I have run through a troop: by my God have I leaped over a wall" (v. 30). Occurring as they do in the second half of this Psalm, we do not (as some) regard these words as referring to Davidís escapes from his enemies, but to his vanquishing of them. It was not that he was almost surrounded by hostile forces and then managed to find a loophole, or that he was driven into some stockade and then climbed over it; rather that he successfully attacked them. Instead of picturing the difficulties from which David extricated himself, we consider this verse portrays his foes as occupying two different positions: in the open field, sheltering behind some battlement; and his prevailing over them in each case. The leading thought seems to be that the Christian warrior must expect to have a taste of every form of fighting, for at times he is required to take the offensive, as well as the defensive. A "troop" of difficulties may impede his progress, a "wall" of opposition obstruct his success: by divine enablement he is to master both.
"As for God, His way is perfect" (v. 31). What a glorious testimony was this from one who had been so severely tried by His adverse providences! Severely as he had been buffeted, rough as was the path he often had to tread, David had not a word of criticism to make against God for the way He had dealt with him; so far from it, he vindicated and magnified Him. What a resting-place it is for the heart to be assured that all the divine actions are regulated by unerring wisdom and righteousness, infinite goodness and patience, inflexible justice and tender mercy. "The Word of the Lord is tried" like silver refined in the furnace. Tens of thousands of His people have, in all ages and circumstances, tested and proved the sufficiency of Godís Word for themselves: they have found its doctrine satisfying to the soul, its precepts to be their best interests to follow, its promises absolutely reliable. "He is a buckler to all them that trust in Him" (v. 31): the covenant-keeping Jehovah is a sure Shield of protection to His warring people.
"For who is God, save the Lord? and who is a rock, save our God?" (v. 32). There is none to be compared with Him, for there is none like unto Him: all others worshiped as deities are but counterfeits and pretenders. "Who is like unto Thee, O Lord, among the gods? who is like Thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?" (Ex. 15:11). Who else save the living and true God creates, sustains, and governs all creatures? He is perfect in every attribute, excellent in every action. The opening "for" may be connected both with verse 30 and verse 31: "by my God have I leaped over a wall," for there is none else enables like Him; "He is a buckler to all that trust in Him," for He, and He alone, is reliable. Where can lasting hopes be fixed? Where is real strength to be found? Where is refuge to be obtained? In the Rock of Ages, for He is immovable and immutable, steadfast and strong.
"God is my strength and power: and He maketh my way perfect" (v. 33). by Him David had been energized and enabled, upheld and preserved, both as a pilgrim and as a warrior. How often the Christian soldier has grown weary and faint, when fresh vigor was imparted: "strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man." How often the task before us seemed impossible, the difficulties insurmountable, when such might was ours that we mounted up with wings as eagles and ran and were not weary. Nor can we take any credit for this to ourselves: God Himself is our strength and power, both physically and spiritually. "He maketh my way perfect," by which we understood David to mean that his course had been successful. There is a real sense in which each believer may make these words his own: because his steps are ordered by the Lord and because his path shineth more and more unto the "perfect day."
"He maketh my feet like hindsí feet; and setteth me upon my high places" (v. 34). "As hinds climb the craggy rocks and stand firm upon the slippery summit of the precipice, so David had been upheld in the most slippery paths and advanced to his present elevated station by the providence and grace of God" (Thomas Scott). The feet of certain animals are specially designed and adapted to tricky and treacherous ground. A threefold line of thought is suggested by the figure of this verse. First, God fits the believer for the position which He has appointed him to occupy, no matter how honorable and hazardous. Second, God furnishes him with alacrity and agility when the Kingís business requireth haste, for speed as well as sureness of foot characterizes the hind. Third, God protects and secures him in the most dangerous places: "He will keep the feet of His saints" (1 Sam. 2:9).
"He teacheth my hands to war; so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms" (v. 35). Whatever skill he possessed in the use of weapons, David, gratefully ascribed it unto divine instruction. The general principle here is of wide application: the artisan, the musician, the housewife, should thankfully acknowledge that it is God who has imparted dexterity to his or her fingers. In its higher significance this verse has reference to divine wisdom being imparted to the Christian warrior in the use of the armor which grace has provided for him. As it is in the natural, so it is in the spiritual: weapons, whether the offensive or defensive ones, are of little avail to us till we know how to employ them to advantage. "Take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day" (Eph. 6:13) not only means appropriate to yourself the panoply which God furnished, but also look to Him for guidance and help in the use of the same. The second half of our verse seems to indicate that David, like Samson, was at times endued with more than ordinary strength.
"Thou hast also given me the shield of Thy salvation" (v. 36). Here we find David looking higher than the material and temporal blessings which God had so freely granted him, to those special favors reserved for His own elect. There are common gifts of Providence bestowed upon the wicked and the righteous alike, but there are riches of grace communicated only to the high favorites of heaven, that infinitely surpass the former. What are bodily deliverances worth if the soul be left to perish! What does protection from human foes amount to, if the devil be permitted to bring about our eternal destruction! David was not only granted the former, but the latter also. Here is a plain hint that we should seek after the higher meaning throughout this song and interpret spiritually. Let it be noted that this is not the only place in it where Godís "salvation" is referred to: see verses 47, 51.
"And Thy gentleness hath made me great" (v. 36). The Hebrew word which is here rendered "gentleness," is one or considerable latitude and has been variously translated. The Septuagint has "Thy discipline," or Fatherly chastening; another gives "Thy goodness," referring to the benevolence of Godís actions; still another, and more literally, "Thy condescension." They all amount to much the same thing. This acknowledgment of Davidís is blessed: so far was he from complaining at the divine providences and charging God with having dealt with him harshly, he extols Godís perfections for the pains that bad been taken with him. David owns that God had acted toward him like a tender parent, tempering the rod with infinite patience; he affirmed that God had graciously sanctified his afflictions to him. Though he had been raised from the sheepcote to the throne and had become great in prosperity and power, a successful conqueror and ruler, he fails not to give God all the glory for it.