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. 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.
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.
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. – 2 Samuel 22:1-16 ESV
It was A. W. Tozer who wrote, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God.” When studying the life of any man, we can easily become obsessed by his accomplishments and his failures, his actions and apparent attitudes about everything from life to leadership, family to financial success. And David is no exception. In fact, when looking into David’s life, we are provided with so many painfully transparent details that we can assume we know him well. But the one thing we can never really know about any man is his heart. God had to remind the prophet, Samuel, of this very fact when he was searching for the man to replace Saul as the next king of Israel. Seeing that the prophet was using external criteria as a means to determine the right man for the position, God had to tell him: “The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7 NLT).
We can’t see into a man’s heart. But in the case of David, we are given a glimpse into what he thought and how he felt at different points in his tumultuous life. In the closing chapters of 2 Samuel, we are provided with a revealing piece of literature written by David, that is almost like reading his personal, private journal. The verses above almost repeat word for word what David wrote in Psalm 18, a psalm that bears the description: “A Psalm of David, the servant of the Lord, who addressed the words of this song to the Lord on the day when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul.” It is important to keep in mind that the closing chapters of 2 Samuel serve as a kind of appendix to the entire book. They are not in chronological order, but function as a summation of David’s life, providing us with a more holistic image of who he really was as a man, leader, father, husband, and servant of God.
Based on the description that accompanies Psalm 18, it can be assumed that this particular psalm was written early on in David’s life. It clearly states that it was written after David had been delivered from the hand of Saul. So it is not a late-in-life exposé written as David lay on his deathbed, looking back in regret or in a fit of nostalgia. These are the words of a young man who found himself in the early days of his calling by God to be the next king of Israel, but having faced a litany of difficult circumstances that seemed to contradict both God’s call and the promises He had made to David. And yet, these words, which prefaced his life, were not negative or filled with complaints and fist-shaking diatribes against God. Yes, the are blunt and highly transparent. David was not one to mince words or to attempt to hide his true feelings from God. He is open. He is transparent. But he is also respectful and reverent in how he talked with God. He was willing to tell God how he felt, but he didn’t let his feelings influence his thoughts about God. Notice how he starts out:
The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior;
my God is my rock, in whom I find protection.
He is my shield, the power that saves me,
and my place of safety.
He is my refuge, my savior,
the one who saves me from violence. – 2 Samuel 22:2-3 NLT
All throughout this psalm, he will speak to and about God with reverential awe and honor. He saw God for who He really was: His rock, fortress, deliverer, savior, shield, refuge, and all-powerful, praise-worthy, transcendent God of the universe. David knew – from experience – that his God was almighty and yet all-loving. He was an ever-present God who was fully aware of David’s plights and heard his cries for help. His God was not distant and disinterested in the cares David faced. David’s God was not unresponsive or unapproachable, even though His dwelling place was in heaven. David knew he could call out to God and, not only be heard, but be helped. His God rescued and redeemed. And not in some passive way that left you wondering if it had really been Him at all.
David describes God’s actions in terms that appeal to the senses and leave little doubt as to His power and majesty:
…the earth quaked and trembled. The foundations of the heavens shook; they quaked because of his anger… – vs 8
Smoke poured from his nostrils; fierce flames leaped from his mouth. Glowing coals blazed forth from him. – vs 9
The Lord thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded. – vs 14
It is clear that David had a high regard for God. And it was this unique, personal relationship with God Almighty that set David apart from so many of his contemporaries. In reading this passage and so many of the psalms that bear David’s name, we are left with the inarguable conclusion that David really was a man after God’s own heart. And as we work our way through the remainder of chapter 22 of 2 Samuel, we will see that David not only knew and understood who God was, he was comfortable with who he was in relationship to him. David had no delusions about his own sinfulness and God’s holiness, but he could say, “he rescued me because he delights in me” (2 Samuel 22:20 NLT). He was a man who was at peace with his God and who delighted in the relationship he was able to share with God. He was confident, guiltless, content, joyful, grateful, without fear, and happy to praise his God for who He was and all that He had done.
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.