His Sacred Song
2 Samuel 22
If we are now to complete our exposition of this song we must dispense with our usual introductory remarks: we therefore proceed at once to our next verse. "Thou hast enlarged my steps under me; so that my feet did not slip" (2 Sam. 22:37). Here David praises the Lord because He had not only preserved but prospered him too, blessing him with liberty and expansion: compare verse 20. From the narrow mountain pass and the confinement of caves, he had been brought to the spacious plains, and there too he had been sustained, for the latter has its dangers as well as the former: "It is no small mercy to be brought into full Christian liberty and enlargement, but it is a greater favour still to be enabled to walk worthily in such liberty, not being permitted to slide with our feet" (C. H. Spurgeon). To stand firm in the day of adversity is the result of grace upholding, and that aid is no less needed by us in seasons of prosperity.
"I have pursued mine enemies, and destroyed them; and turned not again until I had consumed them" (v. 38). David was here alluding to occasions like that recorded in 1 Samuel 30: the Amalekites thought themselves clear away with their booty (v. 2), but when David’s God guided him in pursuit, they were soon overtaken and cut in pieces (vv. 16-18). It is not sufficient that the believer stand his ground and resist the onslaught of his Foes. There are times when he must assume the offensive and "pursue" his enemies: yea, as a general principle it holds good that attack is the best means of defense. Lusts are not only to be starved, by making no provision For them, they are to be "mortified" or put to death. God has provided the Christian warrior with a sword as well as with a shield, and each is to be used in its season. Observe that verse 38 follows verse 37: there must be an enlargement and revival before we can be the aggressors and victors.
"And I have consumed them, and wounded them, that they could not arise: yea, they are fallen under my feet" (v. 39). This calls attention to the completeness of the victories which the Lord enabled David to achieve. But does not this present a serious difficulty to the exercised saint? How far, far short does his actual experience come of this! So far from his enemies king consumed and under his feet, he daily finds them gaining the ascendancy over him. True; nevertheless, there is a real sense in which it is his holy privilege to make these words his own: they are the language of faith, and not of sense. The terms of this verse may be legitimately applied to the judicial slaughter of our foes: we may exult over sin, death, and hell having been destroyed by our conquering Lord! Forget not His precious promise, "because I live, ye shall live also" (John 14:19): His victory in the past, is the sure guarantee of our complete victory in the future.
"For Thou hast girded me with strength to battle: them that rose up against me hast Thou subdued under me" (v. 40). David had been both vigorous and valiant, yet he takes no credit to himself for the same. He freely acknowledges that it was God who had qualified him for his warfare, who had given him ability therein, and who had crowned his efforts with such success. Any measure of liberty from sin and Satan which we enjoy, any enlargement of heart in God’s service, our preservation in the slippery paths of this enticing world, are cause for thankfulness, and not ground for glorying in self. It is true that we have to wrestle with our spiritual antagonists, hut the truth is that the victory is far more the Lord’s than ours. It has long been the conviction of this writer, both from his own experience and the close observation of many others, that the principal reason why the Lord does not grant us a much larger measure of present triumph over our spiritual foes, is because we are so prone to be self-righteous over the same. Alas, how deceitful and wicked are our hearts.
"Thou hast also given me the necks of mine enemies, that I might destroy them that hate me" (v. 41). There is no doubt that such will be our peon of praise in heaven in a far fuller sense than ever it is in this world. Do we not get more than a hint of this in Revelation 15:1-3, where we are told that "those that had gotten the victory over the Beast," etc. sing "the song of Moses, the servant of God (see Ex. 15) and the song of the Lamb"? Meanwhile, it is our blessed privilege to rest upon the divine promise: "The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your Feet shortly" (Rom. 16:20). Rightly did Adams the Puritan when commenting on this verse in our song, exhort his hearers "Though passion possess our bodies, let patience possess our souls." In a protracted warfare patience is just as essential as is valor or skill to use our weapons. The promise of ultimate salvation is made only unto those who "endure to the end." In due season we shall reap if we faint not. The fight may be a long and arduous one, but the victor’s crown will be a grand recompense. Then look above the smoke and din of battle to the Prince of Peace who waits to welcome thee on High.
"They looked, but there was none to save: even unto the Lord, but He answered them not" (v. 42). The Companion Bible has pointed out that there is here a play on words in the Hebrew which may be rendered thus in English: They cried with fear, but none gave ear. They called both to earth and heaven For help, but in vain, God heeded them not For they were His enemies, and sought Him not through the Mediator; being given up by Him, they fell an easy prey to David’s righteous sword. "Prayer is so notable a weapon that even the wicked will take to it in their fits of despair. But men have appealed to God against His own servants, but all in vain: the kingdom of heaven is not divided, and God never succors His foes at the expense of His friends. There are prayers to God which are no better than blasphemy, which bring no comforting reply, but rather provoke the Lord unto greater wrath" (C. H. Spurgeon).
"Then did I beat them as small as the dust of the earth, I did stamp them as the mire of the street, and did spread them abroad" (v. 43). Let not the connection between this and the preceding verse be missed—emphasized by its opening "Then." It shows us how utterly helpless are those who are abandoned by God, and how fearful is their fate—compare the case of King Saul: 1 Samuel 28:6 and 30:3, 4! The defeat of those nations which fought against David was so entire that they were like powders pounded in the mortar. Thomas Scott saw in this verse, and we think rightly so, a reference to "the inevitable destruction which came upon the Jews for crucifying the Lord of glory and rejecting the Gospel. They cried, and they still cry, to the Lord to save them, but refusing to obey His beloved Son, He vouchsafes them no answer." How accurately did the figures of this verse depict the tragic history of the fetus: "dust" which is scattered by the wind to all parts of the earth; "mire" that is contemptuously trampled underfoot!
"Thou also hast delivered me from the strivings of my people, Thou hast kept me to be head of the heathen: a people which I knew not shall serve me" (v. 44). In the first clause David refers to the intense strife which had so gravely threatened and menaced his kingdom. There had been times when internal dissensions had been far more serious and dangerous than anything which the surrounding nations threatened; nevertheless God had graciously preserved His servants from their malice and opposition. Thus it is with the Christian warrior: though be opposed from without by both the world and the devil, yet his greatest danger comes from within—his own corruptions and lusts are continually seeking his overthrow. None but God can grant him deliverance from his inward foes, but the sure promise is "He which hath begun a good work in you will finish it" (Phil. 1:6). The same principle holds true of the minister: his most acute problems and trials issue not from without the pale of his church, but from its own members and adherents; and it is a great mercy when God gives peace within,
"Thou hast kept me to be head of the heathen: a people which I knew not shall serve me." God’s signal preservation of David intimated that he was designed and reserved for an important and imposing position: to rule over the twelve tribes of Israel, notwithstanding all the opposition the Benjamites had made against him, and to be exalted over heathen nations also: the decisive defeats of the Amalekites and Philistines were regarded as the pledge of still more notable triumphs. The practical lesson inculcated therein is one of great importance: hereby we are taught that the unchanging Faithfulness of God should encourage us to view all the blessings which we have received at His hands in the past as the earnest of yet greater favors in the future. God hath not preserved thee thus far, my faint-hearted brother, to let thee flounder in the end. He who did sustain thee through six trials declares "in seven there shall no evil touch thee" (Job 5:19). Say, then, with the apostle, "Who hath delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver; in whom we trust that He will yet deliver us" (2 Cor. 1:10).
"Strangers shall submit themselves unto me: as soon as they hear, they shall be obedient unto me" (v. 45). It will be observed that in this verse, as well as in the second half of the preceding one, our translators have made a change of tense from the present to the future. Opinions vary considerably as to where the last section of the song really commences, in which memory passes into hope, in which the successes of the past are regarded as the guarantee of still greater triumphs in the future. God had been David’s "buckler" (v. 31), his "strength and power" (v. 33). His condescension had made him great (v. 36), He had given him the necks of his enemies (v. 41): from all of which he draws the conclusion that God had still grander blessings in store for him. There can be little room for doubt that in the verses we are now pondering David was carried forward by the spirit of prophecy unto this New Testament era, his own kingdom being the symbol and portent of the spiritual reign of his Son and Lord.
The only matter on which there is any uncertainty is the precise point in this song where the historical merges into the prophetical, for the Hebrew verb does not, as in English, afford us any help here. As we have seen, Thomas Scott considers that verse 43, at least, should be included in this category. Alexander Maclaren suggested, "It is perhaps best to follow many of the older versions, and the valuable exposition of Hupfield, in regarding the whole section from verse 38 of our translation as the expression of the trust which past experience had wrought." Personally, we consider that too radical: we are on much safer ground if we take the course followed by the American Version and regard verse 44 as the turning point, where it is evident David was conscious that his kingdom was destined to be extended further than the confines of Palestine: strange tribes were to submit unto him and crouch before him in subjection.
Not only were the severe conflicts through which David passed and the remarkable victories granted to him prefigurations of the experiences of Christ, both in His sufferings and triumphs, but the further enlargements which David expected and his being made head over the heathen, foreshadowed the Redeemer’s exaltation and the expansion of His kingdom far beyond the bounds of Judaism. First, the antitypical David had been delivered from the strivings of his Jewish people (v. 44), not by being preserved from death, but by being brought triumphantly through it, for in all things He must have the preeminence. Second, He had been made Head of the Church, which comprised Gentiles as well as Jews. Third, those who had been "strangers" (v. 45) to the commonwealth of Israel, submitted to the sound of His voice through the Gospel and rendered to Him the obedience of faith. Fourth, Paganism received its death-wound under the labors of Paul, its pride being humbled into the dust: such we take it is the prophetic allusion in v. 46.
"As soon as they hear, they shall be obedient unto Me" (v. 45). "In many cases the Gospel is speedily received by hearts apparently unprepared for it. Those who have never heard the Gospel before, have been charmed by its first message, and yielded obedience to it; while others, alas! who are accustomed to its joyful sound, are rather hardened than softened by its teachings. The grace of God sometimes runs like fire among the stubble, and a nation is born in a day. ‘Love at first sight’ is no uncommon thing when Jesus is the wooer. He can write Caesar’s message without boasting, ‘Veni, vidi, vici’; His Gospel is in some cases no sooner heard than believed. What inducements to spread abroad the doctrine of the Cross" (C. H. Spurgeon).
"Strangers shall fade away, and they shall be afraid out of their close places" (v. 46). "Out of their mountain fastnesses the heathen crept in fear to own allegiance to Israel’s king; and even so, from the castles of self-confidence and the dens of carnal security, poor sinners come bending before the Saviour, Christ the Lord. Our sins which have entrenched themselves in our flesh and blood as in impregnable forts, shall yet be driven forth by the sanctifying energy of the Holy Spirit, and we shall serve the Lord in singleness of heart" (C. H. Spurgeon).
"The Lord liveth: and blessed be my rock; and exalted be the God of the rock of my salvation" (v. 47). After offering praise for past conquests and expressing his confidence in future victories, David returned to the more direct adoration of God Himself. Some of the glorious names of deity which he had heaped together at the beginning of his song, are now echoed at its close. The varied experiences through which he had passed had brought to the Psalmist a deeper knowledge of his living Lord: the One who had preserved Noah and ministered to Abraham long before, was his God too: swift to hear, active to help. One of the lesser known Puritans commented thus on this verse: "Honours die, pleasures die, the world dies; but the Lord liveth. My flesh is as sand, my fleshly life, strength, and glory is as a word written on sand; but blessed be my Rock. Those are but for a moment; this stands for ever; the curse shall devour those, everlasting blessings on the head of these" (P. Sterry).
"It is God that avengeth me, and that bringeth down the people under me, and that bringeth me forth from mine enemies: Thou also hast lifted me up on high above them that rose against me: Thou hast delivered me from the violent man" (vv. 48, 49). Here David recurs to the dominant sentiment running through this Song: all his help was in God and from God. To take matters into our own hands and seek personal revenge, is not only utterly unbecoming in one who has received mercy from the Lord, but it is grossly wicked, for it encroaches upon a prerogative which belongs alone to Him. Moreover, it is quite unnecessary, for in due time the Lord will avenge His wronged people. Though we may join with Stephen in praying "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge," yet when divine justice takes satisfaction upon those who have flouted His law, the devout heart will return thanks. After the battle at Naseby, in a letter to the Speaker of the House of Commons, Oliver Cromwell wrote, "Sir, this is none other than the hand of God, and to Him alone belongs the glory, wherein none are to share with Him."
"Therefore I will give thanks unto Thee, O Lord, among the heathen, and I will sing praises unto Thy name" (v. 50). What an example does David here set us of a holy soul making its boast in God in the presence of ungodly men. There is a happy medium between an unseemly parading of our piety before believers and a cowardly silence in their presence. We must not suffer the despisers of God to shut our mouths and stifle our praises; especially is it our duty to bow our heads and "give thanks unto the Lord" before partaking of a meal, even though we are "among the heathen," Be not ashamed to acknowledge thy God in the presence of His enemies. This verse is quoted by the apostle and applied to Christ in Romans 15:9, which affords clear proof that David had his Antitype before him in the second half of this Song.
"He is the tower of salvation for His king; and showeth mercy to His anointed, unto David, and to his seed for evermore (v. 51). David contemplated God not only as "the rock of his salvation"—the One who undergirded him, the One on whom all his hopes rested—but also as "the tower of salvation—the One in whom he found security, the One who was infinitely elevated above him. Though saved, he yet had need of being shown "mercy"! The last clause indicates that he was resting on the divine promise of 2 Samuel 7: 15, 16, and supplies additional evidence that he had here an eye to Christ, for He alone is his "Seed for evermore."