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Life of David

David's Victory Song

2 Samuel 22

David now nears the end of his life. He has been placed back on the throne, gone through many troubles, and like many other old men, writes down the meaning of it all. It is his victory song.


The theme of the song is simple: the Lord is my rock, my savior, my deliverer. David says it this way:

(2 Sam 22:1-3 NIV) David sang to the LORD the words of this song when the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. {2} He said: "The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; {3} 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 men you save me.

In this short passage there is much from David's life.

"my rock"

The word literally means an inaccessible crag in the mountains. It is a word picture of God:

  • God is inaccessible - no matter what we do in our own strength, we cannot reach him, for good or evil.
  • God is high above us - his ways are not like ours.
  • God is a place to hide - if we hide in him, we cannot be reached by the world. (Seek first the kingdom.)
"my fortress"

The word, interestingly, means not only a fortress - but a snare, as well. This too is a word picture of God:

  • The fortress cannot be taken; our salvation is assured.
  • The fortress is built to withstand assault. Whatever the world may do, God's kingdom will endure it.
  • It is a snare - for the enemies of God. How often have we seen the world go on the attack against God, proclaiming that (like Rousseau), "after me there will be no church." Rousseau is dead; God lives.
"my deliverer"

The word means one who carries me out of danger. It shows a God who actively intervenes in my situation, changing it for good.

"my shield"

The word is most interesting. It means a small shield (sometimes translated "buckler" in the King James Version); it also means a crocodile's hide! This too is a word picture of God:

  • As a shield, he is both impenetrable and terrifying to his enemies.
  • His shield is not just to hide in - but to use in personal combat.

And the sum of all this: I will take refuge in him. Other versions show this as I will trust him.

Danger, Cry and Deliverance

David now amplifies:

(2 Sam 22:4-20 NIV) I call to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies. {5} "The waves of death swirled about me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me. {6} The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me. {7} In my distress I called to the LORD; I called out to my God. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came to his ears. {8} "The earth trembled and quaked, the foundations of the heavens shook; they trembled because he was angry. {9} Smoke rose from his nostrils; consuming fire came from his mouth, burning coals blazed out of it. {10} He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet. {11} He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind. {12} He made darkness his canopy around him-- the dark rain clouds of the sky. {13} Out of the brightness of his presence bolts of lightning blazed forth. {14} The LORD thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded. {15} He shot arrows and scattered the enemies, bolts of lightning and routed them. {16} The valleys of the sea were exposed and the foundations of the earth laid bare at the rebuke of the LORD, at the blast of breath from his nostrils. {17} "He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. {18} He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. {19} They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the LORD was my support. {20} He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.


David now uses two word pictures to show us how he felt in danger. The first of these is drowning:

  • Do you remember the scene in I Love Lucy where Lucy was in the chocolate factory? How the chocolates she was supposed to box came on so fast she couldn't - and how she tried every which way to cope? That's the sensation here.
  • If you've ever been in a fast moving river, you know the power of flood currents. You feel so helpless, as if the river didn't even feel your efforts.
  • That's the feeling here: drowning in troubles, too many troubles coming too fast.

The second word picture is the cords of death:

  • Is there anything more menacing (in the cinema, anyway) than the tentacles of the wicked octopus? (Actually, I'm told they're rather shy - but we see them as gripping horrors.) That's the sensation here.
  • The word also can mean "snares" - rope traps for animals.[1] Have you ever had the feeling that you're trapped and can't get out?
  • The picture is vivid: you are tied down, trapped and helpless.

David cries for help. It is interesting to see his cry:

  • It is a cry that comes from distress. Sometimes God uses this method to get our attention!
  • It is also a reflection that David, the king, can't handle things. Some of us refuse to admit that.

And God answers him. But see the phrasing: "from his temple." Solomon's temple is not yet built; this again is a word picture:

  • It is a picture of the holy and separate nature of God. God does not sin as we do; he is holy.
  • It is also a picture that God is not like man, for God is sovereign.

David now begins a series of hyperbolic metaphors - fantastic descriptions of God. Why? David is a poet; we cannot imagine these descriptions to be visibly factual. David is trying to convey his impression of the awesome God, and we shall need to learn from it in the way he intended.

We begin with the glory of God:

  • Smoke, fire, coals - these are the symbols of the wrath of God. We don't like to remember this - but God has a permanently bad attitude towards sin.
  • Darkness - the symbol of the fact that we cannot comprehend everything about God; there is too little in us and too much in him.
  • Cherubs and winds - these represent both the rational and irrational sides of creation - both of which are subject to God.

Next we see the works of God. We begin with his power:

  • Are the channels of the sea and the foundations of the earth laid bare? This is a sign of the omniscience of God.
  • Likewise, the arrows and lightning signify the omnipotence of God.

Finally, the care of God:

  • All this - from smoke to arrows - is for one purpose: to deliver me. In all this he reaches down to rescue me. As high as is his glory and power, so is the depth of his care.
  • Note, please, that this is not without effect. It is not just to display who God is; it results in my deliverance. A small thing for him, perhaps - but of some importance to me.

The parallel to God's love in sending Christ is striking.

The basis of deliverance

Why would God do all this? David outlines this as being because of his (David's) righteousness. We need to see three things in this: just what that righteousness entails (and does not); God's reaction to righteousness and his reaction to wickedness.

David has told us the what; now we will get the how.

(2 Sam 22:21-46 NIV) "The LORD has dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me. {22} For I have kept the ways of the LORD; I have not done evil by turning from my God. {23} All his laws are before me; I have not turned away from his decrees. {24} I have been blameless before him and have kept myself from sin. {25} The LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to my cleanness in his sight. {26} "To the faithful you show yourself faithful, to the blameless you show yourself blameless, {27} to the pure you show yourself pure, but to the crooked you show yourself shrewd. {28} You save the humble, but your eyes are on the haughty to bring them low. {29} You are my lamp, O LORD; the LORD turns my darkness into light. {30} With your help I can advance against a troop ; with my God I can scale a wall. {31} "As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him. {32} For who is God besides the LORD? And who is the Rock except our God? {33} It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. {34} He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights. {35} He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze. {36} You give me your shield of victory; you stoop down to make me great. {37} You broaden the path beneath me, so that my ankles do not turn. {38} "I pursued my enemies and crushed them; I did not turn back till they were destroyed. {39} I crushed them completely, and they could not rise; they fell beneath my feet. {40} You armed me with strength for battle; you made my adversaries bow at my feet. {41} You made my enemies turn their backs in flight, and I destroyed my foes. {42} They cried for help, but there was no one to save them-- to the LORD, but he did not answer. {43} I beat them as fine as the dust of the earth; I pounded and trampled them like mud in the streets. {44} "You have delivered me from the attacks of my people; you have preserved me as the head of nations. People I did not know are subject to me, {45} and foreigners come cringing to me; as soon as they hear me, they obey me. {46} They all lose heart; they come trembling from their strongholds.

David's righteousness

David puts it this way:

  • He has "kept the ordinances." In other words, that which he knew was right to do, he did.
  • He did not turn aside to wickedness. In other words, if he was sure it was wrong, he didn't do it. Note that David makes no claim of being perfect in his knowledge of either.
  • But what about Bathsheba? By its absence we may infer something else: that God deals with us in righteousness as we are forgiven as well as when we keep his commands.
God's reaction to our righteousness

"What goes around, comes around." Remember that bit that David made no claim to perfectly understand God's commands? Have you ever been in a situation where you weren't sure what was right and wrong? Here's something of an answer: How God reacts to our righteousness.

  • Loyalty - when you don't know what's right, but you stick by those who've stuck by you, God rewards that.
  • Blameless - you may not know what is right - but you often know what isn't right. If you avoid that, God rewards your actions.
  • Pure - you may not know where to go or what to do - but you know what you ought to be. That's purity, and God rewards that too.
God's reaction to wickedness

God reacts to the wicked in a predictable way as well:

  • Those who think themselves shrewd soon find out that God cannot be fooled. There is a myth about that one who is righteous must be a fool, and God therefore the greatest fool of all. God makes it readily apparent that this is a grave misconception.
  • To the proud - those who defy him - he reacts by crushing them. Many have stood up proclaiming themselves to be most powerful. All but the latest are gone, and he will leave any day now.

God my strength

David sees God in three ways:

  • God is my lamp - he lights up my path. He shows me the way I should go, and makes things clear to me.
  • God is my strength - David gives us two types of strength here. The first is courage, always necessary for spiritual combat. But the second is more subtle: training. God, by sending us small adversity, prepares us for larger adversity.
  • God is my help - this two has two aspects. First, that God specifically stoops down to help me, specifically. He aids me in overcoming my difficulties. More than that, he smoothes the path before may - he makes it easier for me to triumph.

All in all, David proclaims God's strength in him like this; God expects David to do the work; David knows that God will give the victory in it.

Praise God!

(2 Sam 22:47-51 NIV) "The LORD lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be God, the Rock, my Savior! {48} He is the God who avenges me, who puts the nations under me, {49} who sets me free from my enemies. You exalted me above my foes; from violent men you rescued me. {50} Therefore I will praise you, O LORD, among the nations; I will sing praises to your name. {51} He gives his king great victories; he shows unfailing kindness to his anointed, to David and his descendants forever."

David concludes his song by praising God:

  • He praises him for salvation
  • He praise him for victory
  • He praises him for his unfailing kindness

All taken together, we should be willing to do the same.


There are four key lessons we can learn here, to take with us through the week:

1.            David's successes - and ours - are ultimately God's doing. If you are not being successful, look to your relationship with God.

2.            David's successes - and ours - are brought about by affliction and adversity. It is no success to triumph over no opposition. The Harlem Globetrotters play for comedy, the Lakers for victory.

3.            God's rescue comes from his wrath; it is his hatred of sin that causes the defeat of those who would sin against us.

4.            God is our refuge and strength; therefore, what have we to fear?

[1] See also Job 36:8

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