The book of Samuel is bookended by two completely different people and their respective songs of praise. While their lives served a distinct purpose in furthering the plan of God, their song of praise was similar in its content as the God of Hannah is the same as the God of David. King David had gone through countless battles and faced one obstacle after another on his way to the throne. In all the storms of his life, he acknowledges that it was God who brought him safely to the other side.
The Image of God
The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;2 Samuel 22:2-3 (NIV)
my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield and the horn of my salvation.
He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior—
from violent people you save me.
David received strength from God during the toughest period of his life. During all those years that he was on the run from Saul, God gave him the strength to survive in the wilderness even when he was alone. He was able to slay the monsters of the jungle and the battlefield with the mighty hand of God by his side. Seeing the grace of God in his life and how God consistently delivered him from his troubles, David was ready to live a life according to God’s will.
He literally believed in God being his shield as he took the ark of God to the frontlines of the battlefield and even spared no expense in bringing it back to Jerusalem, he danced and rejoiced as the ark made its way through the town and villages of his province. His wife, Michal even objected when he danced in the presence of the Ark of God but he did not mind all that and went on singing and dancing for his God.
David wanted to keep God close to him, as he knew from his first-hand experience that there was no one stronger than God and that no one could even compare. Sometimes people are under the false impression that there is a battleground where God and satan are on equal footing. People are worried about the stronghold of the darkness because they do not understand that God is mightier than everything in this world and its princes can throw at us.
As for God, his way is perfect:2 Samuel 22:31 (NIV)
The LORD’s word is flawless;
he shields all who take refuge in him.
David counted God as perfect and His word as flawless and quite rightly so. Whatever God foretold, happened word for word in David’s life. From Saul’s swift fall from grace to his own rise to the throne of Israel, everything that the Lord told David came true in his life. Even when David sinned and chose his own path, God was still true to His word as David experienced his own fall from grace just as Nathan had prophecised. David would go on to become the most famous king in Israel’s history all because of the Grace of God and not because of his own wisdom.
Hears Our Bleating Cry
God is the shepherd who comes to the sheep’s rescue after hearing its bleating cry. Jesus gave us the parable of the lost sheep and portrayed Himself as a caring shepherd who would leave the ninety-nine just to search for the one lost soul. David experienced the same guiding hand of God in his life that lead him back to the His Father’s sheep pen.
I called to the LORD, who is worthy of praise,2 Samuel 22:4-6 (NIV)
and have been saved from my enemies.
The waves of death swirled about me;
the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.
The cords of the grave coiled around me;
the snares of death confronted me.
David was on the run from Saul from the days of his youth. When Saul was possessed by a demon, God chose David to calm the evil spirit that was within the king. David left his house at a young age and lived in Saul’s palace and would sit by the king’s side and play the lyre to calm the demon that tormented Saul. In his possessed state, Saul had even tried to pin David to the wall with his spear but the Lord protected David through his tenure in the house of Saul.
Whenever David was in trouble either from foreign kings or his own king chasing after him or wild predators coming after his father’s sheep, David called on the name of the Lord and received unbridled protection and David dedicated his life to the will of God. He was able to spare Saul’s life because he acknowledged that God was the reason for his conquests. It was God who helped him resist the temptation of taking Saul’s life when the opportunity presented itself to him (twice).
In my distress I called to the LORD;2 Samuel 22:7&11 (NIV)
I called out to my God.
From his temple he heard my voice;
my cry came to his ears…
He parted the heavens and came down;
dark clouds were under his feet.
He mounted the cherubim and flew;
he soared on the wings of the wind.
David was a warrior and thus sees God as a heavenly Warrior. He was able to place God as the Warrior of the universe with this imagery. This verse might misguide us to call God only during our distress but we must remember that David did not pick and choose the times of his life when he wanted to connect with God. He had a close connection with God right from his young days as a humble shepherd boy and through his reign as the king of Israel.
He made darkness his canopy around him—2 Samuel 22:12-13 (NIV)
the dark rain clouds of the sky.
Out of the brightness of his presence
bolts of lightning blazed forth.
David is painting a picture of darkness being used as an ornament for God. For God, nothing is darkness as everything is at His disposal. David understood God’s sovereignty over everything when his contemporaries could not fathom such existence of Yahweh.
Even during our darkest days when we are surrounded by fear and anxiety, when our friends have abandoned us and our families have turned their backs on us, we can have the confidence that God will still show up at the doorsteps of our hearts when we call on His name. He will deliver us out of the sinking hole that we have dug around us and take us to higher ground.
The LORD has dealt with me according to my righteousness;2 Samuel 22:21 (NIV)
according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me.
This song was most probably written before the later days of David’s rule after his life had gone into a downward spiral. David mistakenly believed that the blessings he received were attributed to his righteous living. But God was faithful to him even after he went his own way as He continued to look after him. David might have gotten this notion of righteousness being related to God’s benevolence by comparing the way God dealt with him and his predecessor Saul and equating it to God’s brand of justice.
This might seem like boasting before God as David calls himself blameless. However, this is a way to have a self-appraisal of where we stand in God and we need to do the same. The only difference is that our self-appraisals should be only between us and God and not to show off before others. Grace is the main ingredient in anyone’s path to righteousness but if our conscience blames us, we will not be able to face God
This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.1 John 3:19-20 (NIV)
Not only does David liken darkness to an ornament for God, but he also calls Him the lamp that turns every darkness into light. We live in a fallen world, because we have sinned we have fallen short of His glory. But we still have to live up to what we have already been given. Darkness is taken away from our lives and His light has been shone on us. We need to reflect His light on others to fully appreciate His grace in our lives.
I pursued my enemies and crushed them;2 Samuel 22:38-40 (NIV)
I did not turn back till they were destroyed.
I crushed them completely, and they could not rise;
they fell beneath my feet.
You armed me with strength for battle;
you humbled my adversaries before me.
When it came to his victories, both as the commander of Saul’s army and as the leader of Israel, David attributed everything to God. However, he fails to give credit to God when talking about his own righteousness. Even in our lives, we tend to take credit for things that we feel we are good at. Our skillset on our resumes lists all our strengths and sometimes we even embellish our weaknesses. But when God makes us excel in something that we have no idea about, we acknowledge God’s guiding hand in our lives.
Similarly for David who knew nothing about military conquests, it was easy for him to credit his victories to God but when it came to his righteousness, he gave himself a pat on the back for being faithful to God despite falling short several times. In the presence of our fellow believers, we will continue to fool others and ourselves and label ourselves as the most righteous. Only in the presence of God can we understand our actual state and submit our spiritual growth in His hands.
“If my house were not right with God,2 Samuel 23:5 (NIV)
surely he would not have made with me an everlasting covenant,
arranged and secured in every part;
surely he would not bring to fruition my salvation
and grant me my every desire.
David in his naivety thinks that God gives His grace only to the righteous people. He compares his life with the choices made by his predecessor and thinks of himself as super righteous. However, God is calling us to compare our holiness only with His holiness. There is no use in comparing ourselves with the people of this world as we were made in the image of God. We must examine ourselves by His standards to know our shortcomings and ask for His grace to make us whole.
He gives his king great victories;2 Samuel 22:51 (NIV)
he shows unfailing kindness to his anointed,
to David and his descendants forever.
David thinks that God’s grace is exclusively on the kings and prophets of his time not realising that our righteousness hinges on Jesus, as God’s grace has been poured out on all our lives in the form of Jesus’ blood that was shed on the cross. At first glance, it may seem that David is uttering senseless words in his song of praise but God uses those same words to bring out prophecies about the coming of Christ. Do we have a similar commune with Christ that He can use our meaningless words to reveal His plan in our lives and in the lives of those around us?