Is there a particular song that means a lot to you? That in some way is embedded in your life? There's a radio series called 'Soul Music', and each episode features a different song. People talk about the impact the song has had on their lives. Before Christmas it was the carol 'O Holy Night'. Well, this evening we're taking a look at soul music of the highest order. Without the singing, you'll be glad to hear.
My title is 'David's Song' – which is the whole of 2 Samuel 22. We're looking at this soul music because we're returning for one last time to our long-running winter evening series on the life of King David from 3000 years ago – 1000 years before the coming of Christ. Over the coming weeks we'll work through to the end of David's life, in 1 Kings 2. But placed here in 2 Samuel 22, just before that final sequence, is this song, written by David.
He was a prolific song writer. Many of his songs are in the Bible, of course, and we call them Psalms. Psalm 18 is a slightly different version of this one here. But this, placed in this key location in his story as it is, must have been seen as especially significant to him. That must have been both because of the time in his life from which it sprang, and also because of the themes it expresses, which were clearly fundamental to his life and faith. And we – by faith in Christ – are King David's spiritual heirs, so properly understand from a New Testament – after Jesus – perspective, these themes are key for us as disciples of Christ as well.
This chapter falls into six sections, so my outline does also, and that'll come up on the screens. The first and last sections are just one verse, and then the middle four are longer. I want us to look at each in turn. My headings sum up the main theme of each section. And then you'll see that below each heading I've also indicated how each theme applies to us as New Testament believers through faith in Christ, the eternal King of God's Kingdom to whom king David points. And there'll be a relevant New Testament reference.
Because this is not just a 3000-year-old song of interest to historians alone. This is part of the living and active Word of God. It speaks to us today. It's a song for today. It might not make the charts, but's it's far more relevant and enduring than any Number One.
Let me also say that I debated with myself whether to read out each section, simply because this is a long song. And I decided that I will, because this is not going to have its proper Holy Spirit impact on us if we just hear about it. Scripture is living and active and speaks for itself. So I want to give time so that can happen. I want this to be soul music for us, feeding our lives in Christ. It can't do that second hand. We need to feel the force of its language and imagery and truth direct. That means I'm making some demands on you, and you'll need to concentrate. So:
1. This is David the God-Anointed King Speaking to God
Look at verse 1:
"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."
So this is king David pouring out his heart to God. And the context is that finally Israel, with David at its head, is experiencing victorious peace. David had survived being hunted down by his predecessor king Saul who wanted him dead, and a long series of wars, not to mention civil war – even his son had tried to kill him. And his kingdom had been established and was dominating the region. David could take a breather and reflect on all that he had seen God do. And he knew that he owed everything to God – including his kingship. That's clear if you look down right to the end of the song, to verse 51, which says this:
"Great salvation [the Lord] brings to his king, and shows steadfast love to his anointed, to David and his offspring for ever."
It was God who had anointed David king. He was God's king. And it was God who had promised David that his dynasty would last for ever – a promise that would be fulfilled in king Jesus. How does that apply to us? In Christ we have been given open access to God – to an even greater degree than David. Galatians 4.4:
"And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!""
God has chosen us to be his royal children by faith in Christ, with all the privileges that come with that. What, then, were David's thoughts as he looked back? Well:
2. When David Called, God Delivered Him from His Enemies
This is verses 2-20. In verses 2-4 David piles up these praise-filled images of what it means to him that God has delivered and secured his life:
"[David] 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 [that is, the power] of my salvation,
my stronghold and my refuge,
my saviour; you save me from violence.
I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised,
and I am saved from my enemies."
Then in verses 5-17 he gets poetic, in order to make visible the unseen spiritual realities underlying his victories and preservation. He speaks of his human foes and his enemy death as like a raging sea that threatened to engulf and drown him. But God heard his cry and came down like a ferocious storm, and drove the raging, murderous sea away and took David up to safety. Verses 5-17:
"For the waves of death encompassed me,
the torrents of destruction assailed me;
the cords of Sheol [that's the land of the dead] 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.
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; [that is, David's enemies. And he sent …]
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.
He sent from on high, he took me;
he drew me out of many waters."
Then in verses 18-20 David puts in a nutshell the wonder of what's happened to him, and he makes very clear that he's in no doubt that without God's intervention his enemies would have destroyed him:
"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."
You can sense David's exultation in God's love and in the sheer exhilarating, peaceful open space that God has brought him into. And as Christians we can share that exultation and exhilaration – even though we wait for the fulfilment of our salvation. Through Christ, God has delivered us from our enemies, from Satan and death. In 2 Corinthians 1.10 the apostle Paul, reflecting, David-like, on his own experience, says:
"He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again."
And talking of all believers, Paul speaks in Galatians 1.4 of the Lord Jesus Christ…
"who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father."
God has loved us in Christ, and brought us out of the clutches of sin and Satan and death into a broad and delightful place of salvation.
3. David Speaks as One Made Blameless by God
In verses 21-33, at first sight surprisingly, David celebrates his own righteousness and cleanness and blamelessness. How can he do that? He is not claiming that he has not sinned – how could he, with his track record, any more than we could? But he is rejoicing that he hasn't abandoned faith in the true God. And the key to how he can speak so boldly is there right at the end of this section, in verse 33, where he says "God … has made my way blameless." He doesn't put it like this, but the spiritual reality is that David is righteous by grace through faith – not by his own works. So because they're a gift of God, his cleanness from guilt and his integrity of action are things to celebrate. Verses 21-33:
"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.
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."
We too, as those justified by grace through faith in Jesus and made righteous in him, can rejoice in what God has made us, sinners that we are. In and through Christ, God has made us blameless. As the apostle Paul prays in 1 Thessalonians 5.23:
"Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."
God has made us blameless and holy through faith in Christ, and he will keep us blameless to the Day when Jesus returns, and for all eternity.
4. God Strengthened David to Defeat His Enemies by God's Power
You could say that the Lord rescued David from his enemies by making David righteous and by making him strong, and by working powerfully through him to defeat his enemies. So David fought and won battle after battle and war after war. But David was under no illusions. It was all of God. God did it. Verses 34-43:
"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."
David's enemies very often were literally armies with swords and spears and chariots, seeking to kill him. After Jesus, things are different for the people of God, the church. We do have human enemies – let's not be naïve about that – but Jesus has told us to love them. Our real enemies are not people. The Bible says "we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against … the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." And our last and greatest enemy is death itself. These enemies – evil and death – we should hate. These enemies we fight against with our spiritual armour, knowing that our certain victory is all of God. Christ is the victor. He carries us with him. Though we are weak, God strengthens us by his Spirit to defeat our enemies. As the apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12.9-10:
"But [the Lord] said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" … For when I am weak, then I am strong."
5. God Exalted David His Humble King
The Lord didn't only rescue David out of otherwise certain destruction. He rescued him for glory. He rescued him to rule a great and growing kingdom. It was David's kingdom – but not ultimately his kingdom. It was God's Kingdom. Verses 44-49:
"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.
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."
Do you see those two phrases almost side by side: "exalted be my God" (verse 47) and "you exalted me" (verse 49)? Because with everything at his disposal – with his whole soul – David exalts the Lord, the Lord exalts David. And that is exactly the New Testament pattern as well. Jesus said, "everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted". When we humble ourselves, God exalts us in Christ. 1 Peter 5.6:
"Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you…"
6. David's Response is to Praise the One Who is Worthy of Praise
This whole song is a praise sandwich. Well really it's saturated with praise all through, but there's explicit mention of praise both at the beginning and at the end. If you look back up to the early part of the song, you'll see this in verse 4:
"I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised…"
This is a song to the glorious One who is worthy of praise. And this song is an expression of David's life, which for all its deep flaws was an outpouring of praise. So as David looks back across the years on all that God has done, and on all that he's learned about who God is, this is how he ends his song (verses 50-51):
"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 for ever."
As those who have put their trust in Jesus, crucified and risen, we are no less anointed by the Spirit of God than was king David all those years ago. And what was true for him then must be true for us now. For all our deep flaws, our lives too must be an outpouring of praise. The keynote of our lives is praise and worship. Revelation 5.12 gives us a glimpse of the song of heaven which is our continuous song on earth:
"Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing!"
That is our soul music.