Week Commencing 9th September 2018
Notes for next Sunday’s sermon on 2 Samuel 22, “God as rock, fortress, deliverer”
DAY 1: Read Psalm 18 – a parallel passage to 2 Samuel 22
You may like to read (or skim read) the intervening chapters (19-21). Absalom is dead, and David mourns for him, leading to a rebuke from Joab (19:1-8) lest his men become disheartened. David’s kingship is reconfirmed (19:9-15), but there remains dissension and jealousy among the tribes (19:41-43). There is a three-year famine (21:1-9) and more battles against the Philistines. The book begins to draw to a close with David’s psalm of thanksgiving for God’s protection (ch 22), his last words (23:1-7), a census and a punishment for taking the census and David’s sacrifice to avert judgement (24).
Just as important as the content of these chapters, are the themes. Chs 21-24 form an epilogue to the (two) books of Samuel. This carefully arranged material presents us with important perspectives on the kingdom of David, the kingdom of God and the relationship between them. These chapters look back over the whole period of David’s reign (and earlier). The text is not arranged chronologically, but thematically. It’s fascinating to see the structure laid out this way: (from John Woodhouse)
21:1-14 A problem in David’s kingdom: God’s wrath, part 1.
21:15-22 The strength of David’s kingdom: his mighty men, part 1.
22:1-51 The hope of David’s kingdom: the Lord’s promise, part 1.
23:1-7 The hope of David’s kingdom: the Lord’s promise, part 2.
23:8-39 The strength of David’s kingdom: his mighty men, part 2.
24:1-25 A problem in David’s kingdom: God’s wrath, part 2.
DAY 2: Read 2 Samuel 22:1-20 – the intensity of praise
David’s psalm is a reflective piece, looking back over a long saga of salvation (v1). The commentator Hertzberg (cited in Davis) says: “David’s history could have been narrated as that of a great and powerful king. This chapter, however, is concerned that it should be understood as the action of a great and powerful God!” As such, David can only give thanks.
David does not begin to praise; he explodes in praise (read again vv2-3). David’s staccato, machine exuberance arises from his utter inability to stretch his praise to match God’s splendour. “He can’t say enough but he will say much – he will pile up plaudits in his vain quest to overcome his delicious frustration of adequately lauding Yahweh.” (DR Davis).
Why so full of praise? Vv5-7 – he was as good as dead, but God saved him. Death daily dogged his tracks. He was the most wanted man on Saul’s hit list. But God intervened and rescued him by earth-shattering means – vv7ff. God hears and comes! As David describes this, he wants you not just to know that he was rescued – that would have taken only one line. He wants you to see and feel God at work in all his saving fury. If you really hear vv4-20, you will understand David’s exuberance in vv2-3. Words and sentences may help you understand David’s praise; they can’t make you feel it. Someone once asked the famous preacher George Whitefield if he would give permission for his sermons to be printed. He said, “Well I have no inherent objection… but you will never be able to put on the printed page the lightning and thunder”. That is our problem. We can overhear the intensity of David’s adoration, and to some degree understand it, and yet not be caught up in it.
How does your praise go on the Richter scale of praise? God has many people walking around talking about him, calling him my ‘rock’, ‘my stronghold’, ‘my shield’; not because they must praise but because they can’t help but praise!
DAY 3: Read 2 Samuel 22:21-31 – A God of righteousness
If the way David described God’s rescue in the first section of his psalm sounded strange to our ears, his description of himself in vv21-25 sound bizarre! We have no difficulty understanding what he is saying; our problem is how he can possibly mean it. His life he said, followed ‘the ways of the Lord’; was guided by ‘his rules’ and ‘his statutes’. He was, he said, ‘blameless’ not just in his own eyes, but ‘before him’. What can David possibly mean by this outrageous (as it sounds to us) section of his song? Was he really saying that he was so good that God owed him the many rescues he had experienced? As so often in the Bible, the puzzling nature of what is said, invites us to think more deeply.
First, the compiler is no fool: he would have known that we were going to read this, after reading about David’s massive failure. Second, we must understand the significance of God’s redeeming work. If we take seriously 12:13, that the Lord has put away David’s sin, then he was in fact clean, because God washed him and cleansed him from his sin. It is what God did (not what David did) that made him “whiter than snow – Psalm 51:7). He did not (any longer) have blood on his hands!
God forgave David’s sin because of God’s commitment to David, not because of David’s commitment to God. His evil actions do not undermine the fruit of God’s grace in his life precisely because his wicked deeds have been forgiven, taken away and washed clean. David can describe his life without reference to his failures, not because he is self-righteous, but because he is deeply aware that God had done what Nathan told him God had done: “The Lord has put away your sin”.
We will have to leave aside commentary on vv26-31. But let’s reflect on what we have seen. David’s situation is ours. Because of the Lord’s work in our life, through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, God now looks on us and sees Jesus’ righteousness (2 Cor 5:21). And one day, we will appear before God, without spot or blemish – Ephesians 5:27. No wonder David was praising God. Are you?
DAY 4: Read 2 Samuel 22:32-51 – the invincibility of the Kingdom
This song has one more big idea to bring to us. It is that this God who had delivered David so many times from the dangers he faced (vv17-20), did so for a purpose. He intended him to be a great king. Not only had God made him blameless, God had made him a great warrior. Not only had he been rescued from the enemies who threatened to destroy him, but the tables had now been turned. The king had become the agent of God’s anger against the violent enemies who threatened destruction. They will not prevail. They will be overthrown by the Lord’s King. Note v42 – David called, and the Lord heard him. His enemies have no one upon whom they can call.
The main body of David’s song ends with a description of the outcome of all this. God’s king will be one before whom every knee will bow (vv44-46). This king will rule the world. His rule will extend to all nations. Note that this not David getting carried away with power – it is David understanding what God had promised. The promises were not fully realised in David’s lifetime, but as the promises said, there would be a son of David in whom it would be realised! This song of David makes sense fully when we realise that the one it really fits, is Jesus Christ. He is the Son of David who is everything David failed to be. Like David he was threatened with destruction. This culminated in the cross. Like David he called upon God his Father in his distress, and the Father rescued him from his strong enemy by raising him from the dead. He is the perfectly righteous, blameless, pure one. He is the Lord to whom all authority in heaven and earth has been given. The news of his kingdom is going into the nations of the world. He will overthrow all who make themselves enemies of his kingdom.
Way back in 1 Samuel 2:10, Hannah had said that the Lord would give strength to his king and exalt his anointed. The story told in these two books testifies that the Lord had done just that. Ultimately, Jesus is the ‘offspring’ referred to in the last line of this song. The way to have David’s wonderful God as your God today, is have Jesus as your King!
Reference: Commentary on 2 Samuel by John Woodhouse
(Some parts of these notes use Woodhouse’ text word for word or are a summary of his text.)