Sermon preached on 2 Samuel 22 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Worship Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 7/3/2016 in Novato, CA.
Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
2 Samuel 22
“Great Deliverance He Gives to His King”
I was working on this sermon during the VBS week, specifically when we were going through Jonah 2. Jonah chapter 2 is when Jonah finds that God saved him from drowning in the ocean, and so Jonah prays a psalm to God thanking him for saving him. It was very easy for the kids to get this idea. When God saves you from something, you should thank God. Well, this is a lesson that David understood as well. And it is a lesson for us to learn today.
The context for this psalm is given in verse 1. This is a psalm that David wrote and prayed to God. And he did this on the day when God delivered David from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. It’s hard to say exactly what “day” this might have in mind. Back in 2 Samuel 7 there came a time when David found rest from all his enemies. That’s when David wanted to build God a house, but God then told him that he actually hadn’t entered into a permanent peace yet, and that instead God would build David a house. God would then one day give that house a permanent peace. After that, we saw a number of enemies rise up against David such as Absalom and Sheba. But recently we read about David’s kingdom being reestablished after the revolts of Absalom and Sheba. And we read about those four Philistine giants being destroyed later in David’s career. And so it’s hard to say exactly what day David wrote this. But now as we near the end of David’s reign, we can pause with him and look back on all the ways God delivered him from his many enemies. And so that is what this psalm is about. It’s a royal psalm of thanksgiving where David thanks and praises God for how God has delivered him from all his enemies.
As for context, I also draw your attention to the last verse of the psalm. In verse 51, David causes us to look beyond just David as the beneficiary of God’s deliverance. The psalm closes with a reference to the office of the Lord’s anointed king, and to David’s house as it fills that office. In other words, David can thank God not only for the deliverance he’s known in the past, but he knows God has promised to build his house in peace in an eternal kingdom. And so David can thank God in advance for how he will do this in the future for David’s descendants. This means ultimately we can think about this psalm not only with regard to David, but also with regard to the greater son of David, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And as we think about this psalm in connection with Jesus, then we can also apply it to us who are united to Christ by faith. And that is how we will approach this psalm. As we work through it, we’ll see its initial fulfillment in David, its ultimately fulfillment in Jesus, and then finally its application to us. Those are the three vantage points we’ll take as study the content of this psalm.
So then, as to the content of the psalm, there are three main points of content in this psalm. First, this psalm describes how God delivers David. Second, this psalm explains why God delivers David. Third, this psalm thanks and praises God for the deliverance. That’s really sums up the main points of this psalm.
Let’s begin then to look at how God delivers David. You see, this psalm acknowledges that David has enemies. Look at verse 18 to see a little about these enemies. There it describes them as strong and people that hated David. Verse 49 refers to the enemies as violent. Verses 27-28 speaks of these enemies as devious and haughty. And so David has these unrighteous men looking to oppose and attack him, and they were formidable and intimidating enemies.
But God delivered David from them. There are two main ways that we see God delivering David from these the enemies. The first is found in verses 2-19. Basically, these verses speak of God as a refuge for David when the enemies came. These verses describe David’s complete inability to fight the enemies himself. Instead David found deliverance by taking refuge in God. Look at the titles that David gives God in verses 2 and 3 that express this. God is his rock, fortress, deliverer, stronghold and refuge. Later on in this section it describes God fighting on behalf of David. It describes God coming from heaven riding an angel and shooting arrows of lightning bolts at his enemies to vanquish them. Now obviously this is poetic language by David here. But the idea in this section of verses 2-19 is that the deliverance comes outside of David’s own actions. The deliverance described in verses 2-19 came about in some other way. The reference to the lightning bolt gives us one example of how God might have done such a thing. God could order nature and providence to work in some way that would help David and stop his enemies.
I remember for example that one time back in 1 Samuel when Saul was finally upon David and about to trap him and capture him when providentially the Philistines attacked Israel elsewhere and Saul had to stop pursuing David and go handle the Philistines. David didn’t lift a finger but God took care of the problem and delivered him. David’s refuge in the Lord at that time proved safe and secure. Or take for example when Absalom went after David. David’s men fought Absalom’s forces in the forest while David took refuge in the city and ultimately in God. Well, the forest was providentially helpful for David’s men and proved difficult for Absalom’s men and so David was delivered. And so the point is that one way this psalm describes David being delivered from his enemies involved him trusting in God, and God providing some providential way in which David was delivered. It was not something that David did himself to beat his enemies, it was something God did apart from David.
So that’s one way God delivers David according to this psalm. But then this psalm describes another way God delivers David. Look at verses 33-46. Here it again describes God delivering David, but God does it in a different way. Here the emphasis is on God empowering David himself to be agent of his own deliverance. In other word God gives David the strength and ability to personally conquer his enemies. In verse 33 David credits God for the source of this power. Then in verse 34 he describes how God makes him as swift as a deer. In verse 35 he says that God teaches his hands how to make war. In verse 37 David describes how God keeps David’s feet from slipping. The result in verse 38 is that David pursues his enemies and destroys them. The verses go on to further emphasize this.
What a difference here. This psalm basically has two sections that describe how God delivers David. The first emphasizes David’s weakness so that he has to simply take refuge in God and wait for God to somehow act to save David. In contrast the second section describes how God empowers David to personally defeat his enemies.
Maybe a somewhat simplified way to think about these two kinds of deliverance, is that one is more defensive and one is more offensive. In the first section, David defensively takes refuge in God while God takes care of the problem. In the second section, David is empowered by God to go on the offense to defeat his enemies. Two very different approaches for how David is delivered. And yet the common denominator is God. In both ways that God delivers David, God is to be praised for the victory.
Thinking ahead to Christ, we see how God’s deliverance was also seen in similar ways. Sometimes you see a more defensive posture by Jesus as he takes refuge in God. Like in that passage in Luke 4. When people wanted to stone him, you don’t see him fighting back. But somehow, God delivered him and he could peacefully pass through their midst. Other times we see Jesus more on the offensive. He used his words as offense against the Pharisees as one example, repeatedly defeating them in all their attempts to trap him or find fault with him. And of course when Jesus went to the cross it was actually an offensive attack against the Devil. That’s when Jesus crushed the head of the serpent. And we saw Jesus receiving power from God at the cross through the resurrection from the dead. As Jesus said, he had the power to lay down his life, and the power to take it up again, John 10:18. And so we are not surprised to see Jesus, son of David, finding this deliverance. As we mentioned, today’s psalm sees not only this deliverance for David but looks to David’s descendants on the throne. Since Jesus is ultimate promised king from the line of David, he knows the deliverance described here in the most exalted way. Jesus’ defeat over his and our enemies will come to a final climax at the end. Revelation 11:15 says that on that day the announcement will be, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” Revelation 11:15.
And so, in Christ, we find application to this as well. Christians have been united to Christ in faith. His life and story finds a reflection in our own now. As he suffered and was delivered and exalted, we are promised the same. And so think specifically what we’ve seen here. We like David and Jesus will have enemies. We need to look in all circumstances for God’s deliverance. We should pray for his help. And we should thoughtfully look to the different ways he might answer that prayer. Sometimes the deliverance might come outside of ourselves. We might simply defensively take refuge in God and he might bring about your deliverance apart from your actions. Other times he might use you in actively combatting the obstacles and opponents in your life. Sometimes the way the deliverance comes might even be surprising to the world, like how he has used the death of Jesus and the death of many Christian martyrs to actually deal blows of defeat to the enemy. We of course don’t judge success according to the flesh but according to the spirit. Look for the different ways God brings deliverance. Seek him for it!
Okay, so the next point of content I would like us to see in this psalm is why God delivers David. This is the middle portion of the psalm, in verses 20-28. The surrounding sections are what we just talked about how God delivers David. But the centerpiece of the psalm highlights why God delivered David. The simple answer is summarized in verse 21. David says because the LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness. He goes on to talk of how God took notice of David’s law keeping, his mercy, his purity, his humility, and his trust in God. Verses 26-28 almost sound like the Beatitudes from the New Testament, when Jesus talks about how blessed are the merciful, and blessed are the meek, and blessed are the pure in heart.
And so I would interpret David’s rationale here in a way similar to what I would say about Jesus’ beatitudes. No one except Christ is perfect in his righteousness. Yes, David appeals to his righteousness, but we shouldn’t think David is saying he is perfect in his righteousness. We know well that David is a sinner. So what he is appealing to here must be an acknowledgement of what God’s grace has done for him. Think in terms of justification and sanctification. David too was justified by grace through faith, and was being sanctified by grace through faith. His justification means that when God looks at him, God see him as righteous along with all God’s people; while he sees the rest of the world as wicked. And his sanctification means that God is growing him in righteousness and hopefully this is making him and all God’s people look different than the rest of the godless world who doesn’t care about righteousness. And so David can appeal to both his standing before God and the fruit God is bringing in his life. You might think it simply as a sort of an appeal that David is saying that he is one of God’s people. And yet I think it helpful to see that God’s people should be characterized as the righteous, even as the world is characterized as the wicked.
And yet as we think of how this relates to Jesus Christ, we realize the far grander way this reasoning applies to him. If David could appeal to his grace borne imperfect righteousness as the reason why God delivers him from his enemies, think of Jesus. Jesus’s righteousness is perfect and perpetual. There is no enemy, particularly the wicked, who should expect to have victory over the righteous Jesus. The Bible is replete with comparing the righteous versus the wicked, and declaring the righteous will ultimately prevail over the wicked. And yet whenever we read that, we remember that there is no one truly righteous in the world, except Jesus Christ.
And that’s the ultimate reason for us and for David that we can find deliverance from our enemies. Our righteousness, like David, comes from Christ. Our justification is available through faith only because of the cross of Jesus Christ. Our sanctification is available only because of the Spirit of the perfect Christ within us. So we should have these categories in our minds, the distinction between the righteous and the wicked. In our humility we know we should be put in the category of the wicked. But in faith we rejoice that God doesn’t put us in that category any longer. God calls us the righteous. We are the righteous in Christ, the pure in Christ, the merciful in Christ, and the humble in Christ. and so God will deliver us from our enemies, for this reason: for who we are in Christ.
Well, the last point of content to observe from this psalm is the call of thanksgiving. David’s deliverance from his enemies was cause to glorify God. David praised and thanked God for this deliverance because he knew that it was the Lord’s doing. Verse 50 is a helpful summary. After recounting all what we’ve studied today, he says, “Therefore I will give thanks to You, O LORD, among the Gentiles, and sing praises to Your name.” David says that thanksgiving and praise is the fitting thing to give God in light of this deliverance. And I like how David does that. He gives fitting titles to God, titles that describe what God has done for David. And he also describes poetically the deliverances of God. All of this magnifies God. And the fact that David relates it to righteousness, shows God’s holy delight in righteousness, which further glorifies God.
When we see David praising and thanking God like this, I think it is important to recognize that this chapter records David personally delivering this God. We get a window into David’s personal prayer life. We see some of this with Jesus in the New Testament too, this intimate personal prayer life of Christ. John 17 is a great example of this. And the exhortation there for us is that we too need to set aside the time regularly for this type of personal prayer and thanksgiving and praise to God. Make time one on one with you and the Lord for this kind of prayer.
But I also think we see with this psalm the importance of also having this time for praise and thanksgiving on a corporate level. I say that because if you look at Psalm 18 you’ll find it very similar to this psalm. Evidently this psalm that originated as a personal prayer by David later gets adapted by David into a song that gets included in the psalter. The difference then is that this chapter records David’s personal prayer to God. But then Psalm 18 shows a similar expression to be used by the whole congregation of God’s people. So that tells us that there is a time and place for both your private praise and thanksgiving to God, as well as our corporate praise and thanksgiving to God when we gather as a church. Let us prioritize both!
Lastly, we see how David mentions in verse 50 that his praise will also go out to the Gentiles, to the nations in other words. This reminds us that our praise and thanksgiving is not only directed to God, but is also to be a testimony to the world. This is part of how we glorify God. We not only praise and thank him directly. But we also speak his praise to others. We also tell others how thankful we are to him. This too glorifies God.
Well, as we get to the end of this psalm and the end of this sermon, we see that the psalm ends with a reference to David, his house, and his being anointed of the Lord. When they studied this psalm back then, they’d be pointed to the Lord’s anointed and what God has done for their nation through their king. And that’s where we should end today as well. We end with remembering what God has done for us in our king, in the Lord’s anointed, in his Christ. King Jesus is our Great Deliverance. May Jesus’ strength and victory be praised. He is that rider on the white horse whose name is Faithful and True. He is the one coming in righteousness to judge and make war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on his head are many crowns! And following behind will be the armies of heaven. And out of his mouth goes a sharp sword with which he will strike the nations, ruling them with a rod of iron, and treading the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of the Almighty God. Of course I quote there from Revelation 19. The point is that our King Jesus is awesome and mighty in power. Let us end this psalm and this sermon looking again upon his glory and upon the deliverance God will bring for us through this amazing Messiah.
And so we give thanks and praise to the Almighty God who in Jesus Christ has delivered us from sin, and the world, and Satan, and even death. Amen.
Copyright © 2016 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
All Rights Reserved.