Faith to Follow (II Samuel 22:1-20)
Topic: II Samuel Passage: 2 Samuel 22:1–22:20
Crying for a King
Faith to Follow
II Samuel 22:1-20
(One Lord: So Great a Salvation )
May 25th, 2014
I. A Man of Faith
If we truly understand what God is telling us in the Bible, if truly understand how bad things are for us because of sin, if we truly understand how good God is and the goodness of the forgiveness and life He offer us, each of us will undoubtedly want faith to follow Jesus, saving faith.
But when it comes to that faith to follow, is there a faith to follow? That is, is there an exemplary faith, a trust that will provide for us a pattern of trust? Who can model that kind of belief for us?
I believe that is precisely what we've been given this morning; what the author of II Samuel had in mind when he constructed the composite conclusion we find in chapters 21 through 24 of that book. Let me remind you of the design of those final four chapters:
A. God's Judgment and David's Intercession: Famine (21:1-14)
B. David's Mightiest Men (21:15-22)
C. David's Song (22:1-51)
C. David's (Last) Song (23:1-7)
B. David's Mightiest Men (23:8-39)
A. God's Judgment and David's Intercession: Plague (24:1-25)
As you can see, the structure points us to the center of this section. And at the center of this section we find two songs, composed by David. But why? Why are these songs at the heart of this conclusion? Why after fifty-one chapters does the author want us to focus on these songs?
Well, consider from the structure what we learn about David. Even though the books of Samuel (or book in the Hebrew canon) are named for Samuel, they are really all about David. And as we see from this conclusion, David is presented in three roles: first, as the king who represents God's people; second, as they soldier/general who fights for God's people; but most important of all, third, as the man of faith who should inspire God's people.
II. The Passage: “I Called upon the LORD” (22:1-20)
If you haven't done so already, turn over to II Samuel 22. In this song, and in the song of chapter 23, we find a beautiful picture of David's faith, of an exemplary faith. Now, as you can see from looking over chapter, it's a long chapter: fifty-one verses! So this morning, let's focus on the first twenty verses and see what they reveal about the kind of faith we should follow.
A. David's Song of Faith: His Deliverance (22:1)
The first thing I want you to notice is the introduction we're given in verse 1. Look at what it tells us:
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.
Did you see the occasion for David's song of faith? David sang this song to God “on the day”, which can also mean, “in that season of his life” when Yahweh delivered him from “all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul.” II Samuel 7:1 is where we read about the time “when the king lived in his house and the LORD had given him rest from all his surrounding enemies”.
And if we think about everything that came before and led up to II Samuel 7, from the first time David was anointed by Samuel, to him being on the run, hiding from Saul, to the death of Saul, and to David's ascension to the throne, the period of time during which David composed and sang this song must have been a time in which he was overcome with gratitude and humility and awe in light of what God has done in his life.
Can you look back over your life in the same way? Has God delivered you? When? In what ways? If so, does His deliverance inspire praise. One commentator described David's motivation like this
...As the one who's forgiven much loves much (Luke 7:47), so the one who has been delivered from much praises much. (Dale Ralph Davis)
B. David's Song of Faith: His Deliverer (22:2-20)
But if the opening verse reminds us of David's deliverance, the song is unabashedly focused on David's deliverer. But at the same time, I also want you to see what the song tells us about David's faith.
1. Faith in the God Who Protects (22:2-4)
Look with me at the first three verses of David's song:
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.”
The first thing we learn here about David's faith is that it is faith in the God who protects. Look at how David just piles on the descriptive words here. Yahweh is his “rock”, his “fortress”, his “refuge”, his “shield”, “his stronghold”. And because He is, David can add to this list: “my deliverer”, “the horn of my salvation”, “my savior”. David is gushing here, isn't he? It's so clear that God IS “worthy to be praised”.
And really what we find in the rest of this section, in verses 5-20, is a more detailed description, the specifics of God's protection and salvation. Let's look at those specifics.
2. Faith in the God Who Hears (22:5-7)
Verse 5-7. David tells us...
“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 [i.e. His heavenly dwelling] he heard my voice, and my cry came to his ears.”
Did you see how David uses four different phrases to describe the fact that death was snapping at his heels. From the Philistines all the way to Saul and his henchman, David had no lack of enemies who wanted to take him out. What distressed David was no longer the possibility of losing a sheep. It was the very real and regular possibility of losing his life.
But this is where we see David's faith in the God who hears. The God David is praising is the God who hears the cries of His people. In another Psalm, David expressed his faith in this way:
The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry... When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. (Psalm 34:15-17)
3. Faith in the God Who Thunders (22:8-16)
But look at what David goes on to tell us about what God did after He heard David's cry:
[v. 8]...“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.”
Now, there is no doubt that what David is describing here is an amazing picture of God's power. This is David's faith in the God who thunders! Because of David's unjust suffering, God is angry, and His anger is blazing hot. And creation is coming unraveled as the Creator flexes His muscles in order to deliver His servant. The trouble with these verses is not understanding the awe-inspiring view of God they communicate. The trouble is understanding their connection to verse 1.
Let me explain what I mean. As we drawer closer to the end of our study of I and II Samuel, I can't remember any account in which God showed up in this way in order to deliver David. Smoke? Fire? Thunder and lightning? Was David delivered from “all his enemies”? Absolutely! In addition to victories in battle, there were warnings from friends, there was help from unlikely sources, there were a number of near-misses, and there was, through war or assassination, the eventual elimination of every person who threatened David.
So I think it would be natural to ask, “What is David describing here?” Well, I think David is describing everything I just mentioned: victories, warnings, assistance, near misses, assassinations; all of it! You see, the language David is using is not simply poetic. At Mount Sinai when Moses was given the Law, Exodus 19 tells us there was thunder, lightning, smoke, and fire as God's presence descended on the mountain. And even within David's generation, I Samuel 7:10 tells us that...
...the LORD thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion, and they were defeated before Israel. (1 Samuel 7:10)
So I think David is drawing on these ideas, and then, with poetic exuberance, he is describing how God's power, the kind of power best described with the language of verses 8-16, that power is what lies behind His protection and deliverance. David is saying, “The God of Sinai came down into my distress and revealed His power.” Don't you love that kind of faith?
So the God who thunders is the God who speaks powerfully against His enemies in order to deliver His servants, His people.
4. Faith in the God Who Rescues (22:17-20)
And David goes on in verses 17-20 to describe that deliverance. Listen as he express his faith in the God who rescues...
“He sent from on high, he took me; he drew me out of many waters.  He rescued me from my strong enemy, from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me.  They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the LORD was my support.  He brought me out into a broad place [that is, he was no longer “in a pinch”, no longer trapped or pinned down]; he rescued me, because he delighted in me.”
God's power is not only evident in his Hearing and coming, but ultimately, in His saving. God did not allow David to drown in those “waves of death” from verse 5. And David knows he could have never survived without the God who hears, thunders, and rescues. His enemies, verse 18, “were too mighty for [him]”. God is the one he leaned on. God is the one who held him up (v. 19).
III. Has Been, Is, and Will Be
So as we think about these first twenty verses of David's song, I think we need to remember why they've been included in this book, and even more so, why they are positioned at the center of the book's conclusion. I think one commentator can helps us understand this...
[He wrote...] David's history could have been narrated as that of a great and powerful king. This chapter, however, is concerned that it should be understood as the action of a great and powerful God. (Hans Wilhelm Hertzberg)
If there is anything that the people of Israel needed to understand, if there is anything that we need to understand, it is this: God has been, is, and will be at work in all things for the deliverance of those whom He loves. The faith that is commended to us in this chapter is not simply a belief that God did something long ago, or that God will do something one day in the distant future. It is faith, it is a trust that God protects us NOW, by hearing our cries, thundering against our enemies, and rescuing us from death.
Is that the kind of faith you have this morning? When you think of that situation you made it through even though you were certain you wouldn't, when you think about that financial provision you didn't expect, when you think about that word of encouragement that came at just the right time, when you think about that painful event that loosened your fearful grip in a particular relationship, or in a particular job, or with a particular idol of the heart, when you remember that accident, or that sickness, or that suffering you should not have survived, but did...do you see the actions of a great and powerful God?
Do you announce...The LORD thundered from heaven, and the Most High uttered his voice.  And he sent out arrows and scattered [my fears...my sickness...my idols...my selfish pride...my lack...He scattered that which threatened me]? Do we cry out, “Did you see what God did...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.”
Brothers and sisters, the God who thundered from Mount Sinai, the God who King David praised, is the God who has been, is, and will be at work in the lives of any who trust Him and love Him. As the Apostle Paul put it a thousand years after David, And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
But we will always struggle to have this kind faith perspective unless verses 5 and 6 contain the description you affirm in terms of your own spiritual condition: “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.” We have to be able to say with David in verse 18, in reference to our sins, “they were too mighty for me”.
David rejoiced in verse 20: he rescued me, because he delighted in me. That makes me think of another verse: Matthew 17:5... He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”
The waves of death not only encompassed Jesus. They drown Him. The cords of Sheol, of the grave, not only entangled Jesus, they choked the life out of Him. Why? For you. For me. But God rescued Him, because he delighted in Him. And through faith in Him, by trusting Christ and Christ alone, we can also know the God who protects, hears, thunders, and rescues. He thundered at the cross against all the forces of the world, the devil, the flesh, of death and Hell. Is that your song? Not just a song you would sing, but YOUR song?
David's faith was not narrow and cold and static. It was a broad and passionate and dynamic. It didn't simply see God in a creed or a story from long ago. His faith saw THAT God at work in His own life, in the present. That's the faith God wants to commend to us this morning. That's the kind of faith that should inspire songs of praise in our hearts.
David's greatest legacy was not as a king, or as a musician, or as a soldier. It was as a man of faith. That's what made him a man after God's own heart (I Samuel 13:14). May the same be true of us.