Remember as we first entered this final section of the Samuels I mentioned chapters 21-24 is an appendix, a poetic conclusion to the entire 1-2 Samuel story. We’ve spoken of the poetic structure of a chiasm before, often used to highlight a central point, and here we find another one:

A1 – A Three year Famine (21:1-14)

            B1 – Valiant Warriors, part 1 (21:15-22)

                        C – David’s Songs (22:1 – 23:7)

            B2 – Valiant Warriors, part 2 (23:8-39)

A2 – A Three day Plague (24)

The centerpiece being highlighted here is David’s praise to the Lord. Which is indeed a stout way to end his story because he is, despite his failures, a man after God’s own heart.[1]

Again, this matters because it’s a map, and as such it tells us how to sail the seas we’ve entered into. This map reminds us we’re entering the final section of the storyline that is by its very design is crafted to tell us a great truth: king David was one of the greatest kings Israel ever had. But the greatness of king David had everything to do with David knowing and David loving the greatness of God. That is the theme we’ll see over and over in this final section of the Samuels. And we’ll see it today too as we have now come to the centerpiece of these closing chapters, David’s Songs, part 1.

But think with me, about songs in general. Great songs of joy often come at the end of things. I could at this point out how almost every great movie from the 80’s seems to end this way. But I’m not going to simply because we don’t have to leave the Bible to see this occurring.[2] At the end of his long hard road Jacob sings a song of blessing in Genesis 49. After God led Israel through the Red Sea and rescued them from Pharaoh both Moses and Miriam lead the people in a great redemption song. After the giving of the Law and the wilderness wandering Israel, on the banks of the Jordan, is led by Moses in another song in Deuteronomy 32. And for us here in the Samuels we not only have Hannah’s song about her hopes of a kingdom to come to launch us out at the beginning of 1 Samuel, we have David’s songs about the glories of the kingdom that has come to wrap up 2 Samuel.[3]

Great songs of joy often come at the end of things. And it seems David’s songs are placed here not merely to inform us about God, but to inform and inspire us to worship God. v1 begins it all giving us some initial background saying, “And David spoke to the LORD the words of this song on the day when the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul.” While David was a man after the heart of God, v1 reminds us how David was not a man after the hearts of men. Many men sought his life, sought his ruin, his demise, his death even. And above all who sought him, it is Saul who is mentioned explicitly. Regardless, remember why is David singing? The Lord delivered David time and time again. There is a mighty lesson right here from the get-go.[4] The remarkable preservation of God ought to produce robust praise to God. Or we could say it another way: when we receive new mercies from God, we should respond with new songs of praise to God. Or we could say it another way still: a truly grateful heart will eventually lead to a grateful tongue. Or we could say it one more way: the one who’s been delivered from much praises much.[5]

The words of 2 Samuel 22 are the personal words of David to God. But sometime down the road these words were given to the choirmaster of Israel who made a few tweaks and turned it into the corporate hymn of praise we find in Psalm 18.[6]

Enough introduction. Let’s listen to this song for ourselves, shall we?

The Lord Our Rock (v2-4)

“He said, “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my savior; you save me from violence. I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.”

Right here from the outset we see David caught up in praise to God, so much so that it seems he cannot find words suitable or adequate enough to express his delight and pleasure in God. So what does he do? He stacks word upon word upon word upon word, piling up all that he knows and loves about what God is for him.[7] Rock, fortress, deliverer, God, rock, refuge, shield, horn of salvation, stronghold, refuge, and savior. All these words are very similar to Hannah’s praise of God at the start of 1 Samuel, and both there and here we know such praise toward God doesn’t happen for no reason, something always creates or sparks it. David’s reason for praising God is given in v3b-4. David was saved from violence, saved from his enemies, how? Because he called on the Lord, who is worthy of praise. This God answered and David praised. In Psalm 50:15 God explains again saying, “…call upon Me in the day of trouble, I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” For David, giving praise to God wasn’t about being religious, or being spiritual, or about knowing the right things, it wasn’t even about praising God because he was supposed to do that as king, no. David’s praise of God was intensely personal. It was literally about being saved from real and threatening danger.[8] Goliath, other Philistines, Saul, Absalom, Shimei, Ishbi-benob, and more. We’re almost tempted to think David might have lost count of how many times God had intervened to save him. Yet the number doesn’t matter, each new deliverance birthed a new song of praise.

David will end this song in with many of these same beginning words, but before ending it he gives more reasons for his praise to God. Next see…

A God of Salvation (v5-20)

v5-7, “For the waves of death encompassed me, the torrents of destruction assailed me; the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me. “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.”

Here we see a highly poetic portrayal fit for many occasions in David’s life. He describes these moments as if they were a flood washing over him, or a grave reaching up to catch him. David isn’t just being dramatic or exaggerating, this language is intense because his trials and distress were intense. And when faced with such distress where did he turn? He turned to the Lord, he called on the Lord. That he called is highlighted twice here, reminding us his calling wasn’t a onetime exercise but something of a continual pattern because troubles were continually present. Well what happened when he called to the Lord? He heard. How encouraging is that? God is big, Martyn Lloyd-Jones was right to say that all our issues in life are small in comparison to Him. Yet as transcendent as He is, He is also immanent to His people, such that when they cry to Him He is never too far to hear or too weak to save.

God not only heard David when he called out, He became angry. So angry in fact, the world almost becomes undone. We see this next in…

v8-16, “Then the earth reeled and rocked; the foundations of the heavens trembled and quaked, because He was angry. Smoke went up from His nostrils, and devouring fire from His mouth; glowing coals flamed forth from Him. He bowed the heavens and came down; thick darkness was under His feet. He rode on a cherub and flew; He was seen on the wings of the wind. He made darkness around Him His canopy, thick clouds, a gathering of water. Out of the brightness before Him coals of fire flamed forth. The LORD thundered from heaven, and the Most High uttered His voice. And He sent out arrows and scattered them; lightning, and routed them. Then the channels of the sea were seen; the foundations of the world were laid bare, at the rebuke of the LORD, at the blast of the breath of His nostrils.”

The earth reeled and rocked when David called to the Lord, why? Because the Lord grew angry. Does that seem unexpected to you? Why is God angry on hearing the prayers of His people? We can be sure it’s not because David cried out to Him, no. God is ever pleased when His people commune with Him in prayer. I think He was angry because His chosen King, David, was threatened with violence (v3), enemies (v4), waves and torrents (v5), even death (v6). These things brought David into great distress (v7), and in seeing His King distressed God grows angry.[9] Does this bother you? ‘God certainly isn’t an angry God, He’s a God of love’ some might say here from seeing this. The reason many take issue with God’s anger or God’s wrath is because they base who God is on who we are. And when we get angry or wrathful it isn’t usually a good thing, no. For us it’s usually a rageful response that feels out of control and violent even. People know this about themselves and so when they hear of God’s anger they attribute the same idea of an uncontrolled rage to God and arrive at a twisted idea of who God is and say ‘God’s surely not like that.’ And they’re right. God isn’t like that. God’s anger is always righteous and just. Meaning, while our anger usually stirs up at the wrong things and brings us to wrong places (like when we stub a toe and kick something else) God’s anger is always stirred up by the right things and always leads to the right reaction. It’s His perfect and holy response to all that is unholy.

So in His anger, see it in v10, God came down. Which implies God’s heavenly existence above and our creaturely existence here below. What happened when He came down? Fire, coals, darkness, thunder, arrows of lightning, seas split, and the foundations of the earth laid bare. It’s as if when David cried out and the Lord heard, grew angry, and came down, the terrifyingly worshipful scene at Mt. Sinai happens again.[10] But wait, I don’t remember any event in David’s life as recorded in Scripture where God did such visible outward signs of power, right? Right. Remember, this is poetic. It’s a song of praise filled with symbolic imagery. David could have simply shortened this whole chapter and just said, “I was in trouble, and God saved me many times.” But that wouldn’t have made a great song would it? So he didn’t say that, and I’m glad he didn’t because it shows us that, for David, when God answered his prayer it was as if David experienced the glory of Sinai for himself! Perhaps David uses poetic language here because he wants not merely to inform us about what God did for him, he wants us to see the God who did these great things for him. Such a God demands our praise.

Notice how this continues on in v17-20, “He sent from on high, He took me; He drew me out of many waters. He rescued me from my strong enemy, from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me. They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the LORD was my support. He brought me out into a broad place; He rescued me, because He delighted in me.”

For the first time since v7 David refers to himself again in v17. Perhaps this is a reminder to us of how in David’s story it’s David alone who brings the trouble while it’s God alone who brings the redemption. Words are piled up here again like before: God rescued David, was David’s support, God brought him out to wide open spaces, by confronting David’s enemies who were too strong and mighty for him. But notice one word David uses here.[11] In v17 he says God “drew him out.” This phrase in Hebrew is only one word, and it’s a word that occurs only one other time in Scripture, Exodus 2:10 where the daughter of Pharaoh names the child she found and raised, Moses, because she “drew him out” of the water. The name Moses in Hebrew is Mosheh which sounds like the word for ‘draw out’ mashah. That David uses this word mashah here tells us David likely had the Exodus event in mind as he looks back on how God delivered him in his distress. I don’t think this is a stretch at all. God drew out Moses from the water, saving him, and drew out Israel from Egypt saving them, and then brought them out to the broad place of the promise land…just as He drew out David and brought him out to a broad place in v20. David does mention one other reason why God rescued him in v20, “…because God delighted in me.”

Why did God delight in David? That is answered in v21-31 where we see…

A God of Righteousness (v21-31)

“The LORD dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands He rewarded me. For I have kept the ways of the LORD and have not wickedly departed from my God. For all His rules were before me, and from His statutes I did not turn aside. I was blameless before Him, and I kept myself from guilt. And the LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to my cleanness in His sight. With the merciful You show Yourself merciful; with the blameless man You show Yourself blameless; with the purified You deal purely, and with the crooked You make Yourself seem tortuous. You save a humble people, but Your eyes are on the haughty to bring them down. For You are my lamp, O LORD, and my God lightens my darkness. For by You I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall. This God—His way is perfect; the Word of the LORD proves true; He is a shield for all those who take refuge in Him.”

Anyone nervous about what David just said? But wait, I thought this song was all about God? Is David saying the reason God saved and rescued him is because of him? Is David saying God delighted in him because of his own righteousness and goodness? Is David as outrageous as this seems? I think we all feel like this reading these verses. The rub here doesn’t involve us understanding what David is saying, I think we get what he’s saying. The rub is how David can actually mean what he’s saying.[12] Any reader of 2 Samuel will get to this chapter after having read chapters 11-21, which record many grievous sins of David. How then can chapter 22 say this? Maybe David wrote this song when he was younger and full of religious zeal? Some say that. Maybe David doesn’t really mean what he says here and we can kind of make sense of it by explaining it away? Some others say that. I don’t agree with either of those. What then are we to do with this? Well, as hard as it may seem to us, we’re to take this as it is. Anyone remember what Nathan said to David in chapter 12 after he repented? “The LORD has also put away your sin; you shall not die” (2 Sam. 12:13). Now, some readers might still hold David’s sins against him, maybe you do. But guess what? God doesn’t. When David prayed in Psalm 51 repenting he prayed, “Wash me from my iniquity…cleanse me from my sin…and I shall be whiter than snow” (Ps. 51:1-7). David is not saying he is righteous here because he is and has always been righteous, no. He can say what he does here because God has washed him, cleansed him, and made him whiter than snow. In other words, David can say what he says here because he’s aware what God has done for him. David sees himself as God now sees him. Do you? If you have seen, hated, and turned from sin and clung to Jesus to save you can be sure He has made you white as snow. God now sees you different: your sin put on Christ, Christ’s righteousness put on you. In this sense we are truly righteous and blameless.

Do you know and define yourself like this? That may be a hard question for some of you. Others of you may find that very easy to do with yourself, but do you know and define others believers like this? Let’s get closer to home. Do you define other members of our congregation like this? Or are some ‘less than’? Are some not as civilized in doctrine or elevated in thought? Are some not as in tune with the Spirit in worship? Are some not walking the way they should walk? Far be it from you to think like this. The implication of gospel grace is that what has always been true of Jesus (righteous, sinless, and eternally loved by the Father) is now true of all those who have faith in Jesus…even those who sin against you. David seems to know this, because while v21-25 is very much about himself, v26-30 is very much about others. So perhaps I can just say what Kevin DeYoung has already said, “Every local church is flawed and imperfect. But the church is the ark of salvation, providing safety for God’s people in a storm of judgment to come. Climb aboard. Even if some of the animals stink from time to time.” Flawed and imperfect yes, but filthy sinners turned flawless saints by grace? Also yes! In light of all this David concludes this section with the words of v31, “This God—His way is perfect; the Word of the LORD proves true; He is a shield for all those who take refuge in Him.”

A God of Strength (v32-46)

“For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God? This God is my strong refuge and has made my way blameless. He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights. He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your gentleness made me great. You gave a wide place for my steps under me, and my feet did not slip; I pursued my enemies and destroyed them, and did not turn back until they were consumed. I consumed them; I thrust them through, so that they did not rise; they fell under my feet. For You equipped me with strength for the battle; You made those who rise against me sink under me. You made my enemies turn their backs to me, those who hated me, and I destroyed them. They looked, but there was none to save; they cried to the LORD, but He did not answer them. I beat them fine as the dust of the earth; I crushed them and stamped them down like the mire of the streets. You delivered me from strife with my people; You kept me as the head of the nations; people whom I had not known served me. Foreigners came cringing to me; as soon as they heard of me, they obeyed me. Foreigners lost heart and came trembling out of their fortresses.”

Here David begins repeating themes he’s already brought up, it is after all, a song, and repetition helps us remember the lyrics. But while we’ve heard these themes before in this chapter David comes at them from a different angle. David was once threatened with violent enemies, waves and torrents, death seemed to pursue him, and all of this together brought David into great distress. But now, David is strong. Feet like a deer, secure on the heights, hands and arms ready for war, and succeeding in war. What changed? Did David attend a self-help seminar? Did David read a book on positive thinking? Did David finally take the right personality test and find out who he truly was? No. God happened. God rescued. God delivered. David is no longer singing about how God redeemed him, David is now singing about what God’s redemption has done to him and rejoicing in what God is now doing through him as all his enemies are crushed under his feet.

Lastly, we end where we began…

The Lord Our Rock (v47-51)

“The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock, and exalted be my God, the rock of my salvation, the God who gave me vengeance and brought down peoples under me, who brought me out from my enemies; You exalted me above those who rose against me; You delivered me from men of violence. For this I will praise You, O LORD, among the nations, and sing praises to Your name. Great salvation He brings to His king, and shows steadfast love to His anointed, to David and his offspring forever.”

David’s song ends by once again being caught up in praise to God piling words upon words to express his great delight in this great God. And as he sings the final note he ends with a lyric praising God for God’s never stopping, never ending, always and forever love shown to David’s offspring. Church, this takes us to the Lord Jesus Christ, the One in whom all these lyrics most completely find their fulfillment. He is the Rock we can take refuge under, He is our shield who defends us, He is our Savior who redeemed us when we called.

Conclusion:

As George Whitefield was going around on his preaching tours, someone in Philadelphia once asked him if he could print his sermons. Whitefield responded, “Well, I have no inherent objection, if you like, but you will never be able to put on the printed page the lightning and the thunder.”[13]

This could be our problem in hearing this today, understanding David’s praise but not being caught up in it. By God’s grace, may that not be true of us.[14]


[1] Nearly every commentator points out the chiasm present in this section, though most differ on the nature of chapter 21-24.

[2] Robert Alter, The Hebrew Bible: A Translation with Commentary (New York ; London: W. W. Norton & Company, 2018), 407.

[3] Brevard S. Childs, quoted in Dale Ralph Davis, 2 Samuel: Out of Every Adversity, Revised edition (Fearn, Ross-Shire Scotland: Christian Focus, 2013), 283.

[4] Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, vol. 2 (Hendrickson Publishers, 1991), 437.

[5] Davis, 2 Samuel, 285.

[6] Bill Arnold, 1 and 2 Samuel (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2003), 628. This easily explains the differences between 2 Sam. 22 and Psalm 18.

[7] Sommer, quoted in Davis, 2 Samuel, 284.

[8] John Woodhouse, 2 Samuel: Your Kingdom Come, ed. R. Kent Hughes (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2015), 505.

[9] Woodhouse, 507.

[10] Davis, 2 Samuel, 286.

[11] Woodhouse, 2 Samuel, 509–10.

[12] Woodhouse, 511–12. This section is honest and very helpful.

[13] Cited in Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1971) 58.

[14] Davis, 2 Samuel, 288.

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