I. David’s Dependence on His Army 21:15-22
A. David falters in Battle 15-17a. One of the descendants of Goliath had the advantage on David and was on the verge of killing him. He had a mammoth spear and a new sword. Goliath’s revenge was at hand. One of his nephews, the brother of Joab and son of David’s sister Zeruiah, came to his aid and killed Ishbi-benob. Perhaps David had this in mind in Psalm 144:9, 10 in saying, “I will sing a new song to you, O God; upon a ten-stringed harp I will play to you, who gives victory to kings, who rescues David his servant from the cruel sword.”
B. His men forbad further participation on the part of David -17 – In spite of David’s many faults and his obvious weaknesses on several occasions, the men knew him as a king of the covenant and called him “the lamp of Israel.” They did not allow him to go out to war again.
C. The exploits of his men equal the exploits of David – 17-21 – Three other battles with the Philistines and the descendants of Goliath showed that God still protected Israel on account of his covenant with David. His men did equal exploits.
II. David’s Dependence on God – chapter 22 cf. Psalm 18
A. Many Psalms written for specific occasions – Ps 3 had the rebellion of Absalom in view. Psalm 51 arose from David’s sin with Bathsheba. Psalm 52 calls to mind 1 Samuel 22 and the treachery of Doeg. Psalm 54 recalls conflict with the Ziphites as narrated in 1 Samuel 23, 26. Psalm 56 looks to the help of the Lord when David was among the Philistines in Gath. Psalm 57 was written when David was in flight from Saul, etc.
B. Main ideas of this Psalm as 2 Samuel 22 reflects it constitute a summary of David’s knowledge of God’s protection of him in light of the covenant that in 23: 5 he calls, “an everlasting covenant with me, ordered in all things, and secured.”
- In verse 1-3, God as Rock, Refuge, and Shelter. Psalm 18 begins with the words “I love you, O Lord, my strength.” The entire rumination on God’s sovereignty, justice, and mercy arises from a heart that has been transformed by the tender mercies of God. Note how vivid to David’s mind is his immediate dependence on God as his protection here and his salvation forever. God, according to David’s experience and the revealed truth of these prophetic utterances, delivers from danger while we are here and grants us deliverance also from the wrath to come in eternity. The ideas of deliverance (salvation) and refuge so prominent in the Psalms are taken up in the New Testament as consummated in the covenant of redemption (Colossians 1:12, 13; 2:13-15; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; Titus 2:11-14; 2:4-7; Hebrews 6:18).
- David’s helplessness, verses 4-7.
- David does not call upon a God who is unable to answer his call or who is unworthy of his trust and love. He calls, not only because he is in trouble, but because he knows the intrinsic worthiness of the Lord.
- The foes he faces are invincible for David: Death, sheol, and torrents of destruction. He has no strength comparable to the challenge and must concede that if he is delivered, it will be only by the strength and merciful intervention of God. “In my distress, I called upon the Lord, yes, I cried to my God.”
- The reality of weakness and utter dependence David inserted in his celebration of God’s strength in Psalm 144: “O Lord, what is man that you regard him, or the son of man that you think of him? Man is like a breath; his days are like passing shadows” (3, 4).
- The appearance of God in vengeful anger 8-16. God heard him and “from his temple” answered this cry. God answered from the place of his covenant relationship with Israel in general and David in particular. David described the intervention of God in terms of God’s having all of creation in its most terrific and untamed forms at his beck and call. Even the foundations of the heavens quaked when God appeared in his anger toward David’s enemies. Images of darkness, fire, wind, floods, volcanic eruption, lightning, tsunamis, and earthquakes depicted the divine intervention on David’s behalf. Nothing in all of creation is beyond the immediate control of God to be made useful for his purpose and for the effecting of his decree.
- The Tenderness of God to David 17-20. God’s manifestation of great power in virtually uncontrollable fury was a manifestation of his tenderness and his care for David. His enemies were too much for him; he could not overcome them. Like Abishai against Ish-benob, except with infinitely greater power and love, God delivered David from enemies and circumstances that would have destroyed him. This rescue was so thorough and complete that, instead of feeling the threat of “many waters,” David was rescued and put in a “broad place.” For God’s covenant arrangement that placed the coming Messiah in the lineage of David, David could say, “He delighted in me.”
- The character of God’s people 21-28 –
- The covenants with Abraham, Moses, and David contained aspects of absolute promise and elements of dependent conditions. The absolute promises, called by Paul the “promises” or “the covenants of promise” (Romans 9:4; Ephesians 2:12; 3:6) God will carry through into eternity (2 Corinthians 1:20). Other aspects of these covenants were conditional within the historical situation. Obedience was required of the nation Israel if they were to prosper and not be taken out of the land.
- The kings were to obey the law of God and avoid idolatry. He was the representative for the people. A righteous king conferred blessing on the people. A wicked king brought reproach and judgment on the people. We see clearly in the historical narratives that the people prospered and had peace when the king honored God. Violent, covetous, and idolatrous kings brought a curse to the land and eventually exile from the land of promise. As Samuel Renihan summarizes, “The Davidic covenant focused the kingdom into one person, a king who was commanded to keep the law on behalf of the nation. Righteous kings were blessed, and the nation was blessed with them. Wicked kings were cursed, and the nation was cursed with them.” The kingdom prospered during the time of David because he kept the law before him, listened to wise counsel, even when he was reprimanded by it, sought for the purity of the worship of God, and loved the God of covenant faithfulness.
- It seems clear from David’s continued outflow of praise to God for his covenant love and in his exultation of the goodness of the law of God that he had done exactly what Deuteronomy 17:14-20 had established in verses 18-20: “And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And I shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right or to the left, so that he many continue long in his kingdom, he and his children in Israel.”
- The specific provisions of God 29-37
- (29) God is a God of light. He illumines our ignorance by his revelation of truth. He illumines our path of righteousness by his law and by the presence of his Spirit. Jesus Himself is the light of the world; his word brings light to our minds and our hearts. “In him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4). “God is light and in him, there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). “If we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
- (30) God is our strength against all enemies and equips us to fight with those who would destroy us. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm” (Ephesians 5:13ff).
- (31, 32) God is absolutely pure and holy, and his word has never failed. In him the weak and the sinner find their needed refuge. Though many may pretend to be invincible, and have authority, and set forth the way for life, only the Lord is God; only he is immovable and absolute in his knowledge, his truth, his promise, and his final judgment.
- (33-37) God provides protection and gives clear direction to those who observe his law and believe his truth. He equips them for every aspect of battle that they will confront and, by the truth of his revelation, gives them a vantage point (“high places, . . . enlarge my steps under me”) from which they may survey and defeat all the enemies of their soul. They indeed have been given the “shield of Your salvation” (36).
- Psalm 144:1, 2 gives a picture of David’s confidence in the Lord. “Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle; he is my steadfast love and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield and he in whom I take refuge, who subdues people under me.” This idea of God’s having subdued people under him, David expands in verses 44-48 mentioned below.
- The Strength of David under God 38-43
- Because of God’s covenant with Israel, and particularly with Israel’s king, the people fought with confidence against their many foes that sought to disrupt their security and prosperity. It was not their personal prowess in battle, for their foes often were larger both physically and numerically, and better equipped with instruments of war and more thoroughly trained, but God’s promise to David and his seed that brought victory and thus preservation of the messianic king. “Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven with the saving might of his right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright. O LORD, save the king! May he answer us when we call” (Psalm 20:6-9).
- Note also that in a time of disobedience, the victories given under David vanished and the people did not prosper, and even were taken from the land and were dominated by another people. Psalm 89 gives us a picture of what happened when a king unlike David ruled: “Once for all I have sworn by my holiness; I will not lie to David. His offspring shall endure forever, his throne as long as the sun before me. Like the moon it shall be established forever, a faithful witness in the skies. But now you have cast off and rejected; you are full of wrath against your anointed. You have renounced the covenant with your servant; you have defiled his crown in the dust. You have breached all his walls; you have laid his strongholds in ruins. All who pass by plunder him; he has become the scorn of his neighbors. You have exalted the right hand of his foes; you have made all his enemies rejoice. You have also turned back the edge of his sword, and you have not made him stand in battle. You have made his splendor to cease and cast his throne to the ground. You have cut short the days of his youth; you have covered him with shame. . . . 49 Lord, where is your steadfast love of old, which by your faithfulness you swore to David?” (Psalm 89:35-49).
- The Davidic covenant depended on the faithfulness of the king; infinitely perfect faithfulness, perfect righteousness, and unblemished love for God would be exhibited only by David’s greater Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness, therefore, God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions” (Psalm 45:6, 7; Hebrews 1:8, 9).
- Subjection of People to David 44-46.
- Psalm 89:22, 23 stated concerning God’s covenant with David, “The enemy shall not outwit him; the wicked shall not humble him. I will crush his foes before him and strike down those who hate him.”
- In this section of 2 Samuel 22, David testifies that this element of the covenant had come to pass. “Foreigners lose heart and come trembling” and in verse 48, “The God who executes vengeance for me, and brings down people under me.”
- Hebrews 1:13 cites as a royal prophecy fulfilled in Christ Psalm 110:1, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”
- Paul expands with exuberance this kingly aspect of the completed work of Jesus, whom he “raised from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:20-23).
- Summary of the ways of God with him 47-51 –
- God is the living God who is the only salvation and strong shelter for his people.
- All that would seek to destroy the eternal safety of the chosen of God shall surely fail. Our great Shepherd keeps us safe in his hand and none can take us from him (John 10:27-30),
- All of the Lord’s way toward us are deserving of praise and should bring forth love, gratitude, and worship in all situations and at all times. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:3-5).
- 51 is Messianic cf. “He is a tower of deliverance to His king, and shows lovingkindness to His anointed.” The resurrection of Christ from the dead and the deliverance of his people from wrath constitute the epitome of deliverance. The people’s expectations of God’s blessing on the Davidic king, the anointed one, are recorded in Psalm 18:50. “Great salvation he brings to his king, and shows steadfast love to his anointed, to David and his offspring forever.” Psalm 89: 28f promises, “My steadfast love I will keep for him forever, and my covenant will stand firm for him. I will establish his offspring forever and his throne as the days of the heavens.” “And he shall reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15) “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:32, 33).