Let us now turn to David’s song of praise in chapter 22. This song is uncanny in the sense of its difference from his final words in chapter 23 – the key distinguishing factor is that this song is very much a historical account of God’s redemptive tale, not merely of David’s life, but an account of what has happened from Genesis up to 2 Samuel 21. Though David speaks in first person, many of the details cannot be directly applied to David’s life, especially if we were to look at his debacles in 2 Samuel compared to 1 Samuel.
However, it is more appropriate to look at David’s words in chapter 23 in light of his whole life, compared to his song here. The chronology of this song seems to be firmly placed between the two books: v.1 indicates that David spoke these words “on the day when the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul” (1 Samuel 20:16; 25:21-23). The placement of Saul at the end of v.1 implies that Saul was the last persecutor before David’s song of praise.
2Sa 22:1-51 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. (2) He said, “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, (3) 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. (4) I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.
What a mighty man David is – and we are first introduced to him as a humble shepherd boy (1 Samuel 16:11), who elected Himself to be Israel’s mediator (1 Samuel 17), and thereafter become the rejected champion of the worthless men (1 Samuel 30:22), though loved by Jonathan the heir to Israel’s throne (1 Samuel 20:16), and his life uniting both the Israelites and the Gentiles under the banner of David. This is the David who looked not to his own glory, but understood the redemptive plan which worked through him by Him – the LORD who is his Rock and his Deliverer. Is this “rock” the man David? Is this “rock” Peter (Matthew 16:18), the first man of the Catholic apostolic succession? No – this Rock is Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4). David’s object of worship is the Son of God, the Rock on whom we build our foundation and drink the Spiritual waters, (Exodus 17:6).
Yet, when we come to v.5, we begin to see that David is musing on events which he did not himself witness, but God’s redemptive acts prior to David’s life so popularly preached through the ages:
(5) “For the waves of death encompassed me, the torrents of destruction assailed me; (6) the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me. (7) “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. (8) “Then the earth reeled and rocked; the foundations of the heavens trembled and quaked, because he was angry. (9) Smoke went up from his nostrils, and devouring fire from his mouth; glowing coals flamed forth from him. (10) He bowed the heavens and came down; thick darkness was under his feet. (11) He rode on a cherub and flew; he was seen on the wings of the wind. (12) He made darkness around him his canopy, thick clouds, a gathering of water. (13) Out of the brightness before him coals of fire flamed forth. (14) The LORD thundered from heaven, and the Most High uttered his voice. (15) And he sent out arrows and scattered them; lightning, and routed them. (16) 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. (17) “He sent from on high, he took me; he drew me out of many waters. (18) He rescued me from my strong enemy, from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me. (19) They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the LORD was my support. (20) He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me.
V.5-20 clearly are prophetic words in relation to Christ on the cross – these are words which Christ speaks and which no other man can speak (Psalms 18:5-11; 30:3; Acts 2:25-28). Can David literally say that the cords of Sheol entangled him? No – though poetically yes. Yet, it is the habit of the New Testament Christians to look back on David’s psalms (Peter’s sermon in Acts 2) and interpret them knowing that David wrote concerning Christ. Can David say that the Father heard David’s voice from the temple and caused earthquakes and the routing lightning? But Christ can indeed say so (Matthew 17:24, 27:54; Luke 24:27).
David then mixes in the imagery of the LORD’s salvation of Israel through Moses in Moses’ definitive life as the “one drawn from the waters” (v.17), the one who is saved (Mosheh, מֹשֶׁה, meaning drawn out of or saved from (the water)). V.16 is more appropriate in describing the travel through the Red Sea, for it is there that the Holy Spirit (Exodus 14:21) which revealed the bottom of the sea, and “the foundations of the world were laid bare, at the rebuke of the LORD” (Matthew 8:26). Such a rebuke that the Israelites walked through it, following the Rock, and were baptized (1 Corinthians 10); but the Egyptians instead became the subject of the rebuke as they had no Rock to be their refuge and shelter. And why did the LORD rescue David? “Because he delighted in me” (v.20). Such words make so much more sense in light of the Christ, whom the Father loved at the foundation of the world (John 17:24). All the Father’s love poured out on the Son, that we must stand in Him to receive the Father’s delight. That we must stand upon the Rock to be delighted by – and not to seek his delight through our works, our sacrifice, our pain, and our gain. David had much to boast – but he chose to boast in Christ Jesus; he chose to revel in the LORD who parted the waters, the LORD who brought His anointed one out of the tangles of Sheol, the LORD who brought Israel through baptism into new life.
(21) “The LORD dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me. (22) For I have kept the ways of the LORD and have not wickedly departed from my God. (23) For all his rules were before me, and from his statutes I did not turn aside. (24) I was blameless before him, and I kept myself from guilt. (25) And the LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to my cleanness in his sight. (26) “With the merciful you show yourself merciful; with the blameless man you show yourself blameless; (27) with the purified you deal purely, and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous. (28) You save a humble people, but your eyes are on the haughty to bring them down. (29) For you are my lamp, O LORD, and my God lightens my darkness. (30) For by you I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall. (31) This God–his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him. (32) “For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?
And v.21-22 is very apparent in displaying David’s focus in the praise song. Is David inadvertedly praising himself? Has he truly kept the ways of the LORD and has not wickedly departed from His God? What of (1 Samuel 22:11-19)? Yet, indeed, until David’s fall in 2 Samuel, he had loved the LORD and followed His mandates closely – until v.28 we cannot have a clear-cut definition of what this ‘cleanness’ and ‘righteousness’ might mean. This cleanness and righteousness is identified with the humble who are saved; furthermore, this cleanness and righteousness is brought about by the One who is our lamp, by Whom we can run against a troop, by Whom we can leap over a wall (v.30). So v.21-22 turns into a praise song, because it is this God, whose “way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him”. Indeed – the LORD is the truly righteous, truly perfect, truly blameless one – and he looks on David with favour, the David who walks in Christ’s path. V.32 immediately negates any misinterpretations of self-righteousness – rather, David looks vicariously through his righteousness to truly give thanks to the LORD who is the foundation of David’s refuge and strength throughout 1 Samuel. He has made David’s way blameless (v.33). He has declared David righteous:
(33) This God is my strong refuge and has made my way blameless. (34) He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights. (35) He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. (36) You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your gentleness made me great. (37) You gave a wide place for my steps under me, and my feet did not slip; (38) I pursued my enemies and destroyed them, and did not turn back until they were consumed. (39) I consumed them; I thrust them through, so that they did not rise; they fell under my feet. (40) For you equipped me with strength for the battle; you made those who rise against me sink under me. (41) You made my enemies turn their backs to me, those who hated me, and I destroyed them. (42) They looked, but there was none to save; they cried to the LORD, but he did not answer them. (43) I beat them fine as the dust of the earth; I crushed them and stamped them down like the mire of the streets. (44) “You delivered me from strife with my people; you kept me as the head of the nations; people whom I had not known served me. (45) Foreigners came cringing to me; as soon as they heard of me, they obeyed me. (46) Foreigners lost heart and came trembling out of their fortresses. (47) “The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock, and exalted be my God, the rock of my salvation, (48) the God who gave me vengeance and brought down peoples under me, (49) who brought me out from my enemies; you exalted me above those who rose against me; you delivered me from men of violence. (50) “For this I will praise you, O LORD, among the nations, and sing praises to your name. (51) Great salvation he brings to his king, and shows steadfast love to his anointed, to David and his offspring forever.”
After reading these words of praise, can we divorce them from the true Christ, the true anointed, the object and cause of the everlasting existence of the house of Israel through David’s bloodline? Even David acknowledges this in the final verse of his song: “Great salvation he brings to his king, and shows steadfast love to his anointed, to David and his offspring forever”. Though this applies to David, who is the king of Israel; who is the first anointed one; yet the blessing is to extend to his offspring forever. These words may apply to David – but he is but formed, like us, in the image of God. Yet, it is Christ who is the true image (Colossians 1:15; Romans 8) of the Father. He is the true alpha and the omega (Revelation 1:8; 22:13) of the Father’s Anointing; He is the alpha and omega of the Father’s election (Isaiah 42; Genesis 3:16; Revelation 13:8; John 17); and He is the alpha and omega of the One who was thrown into Sheol; who was resurrected from the waters of judgment; who stood tall as the true king of the Jews (Matthew 27:37) and that all nations are but his footstool (Psalm 110:1; Hebrews 1:13). For though David spoke of his life, it is more accurately the lives of the saints – but most predominantly, and prophetically, he speaks of the life of the one who is anointed and chosen to inherit the everlasting kingdom of Israel (2 Samuel 7).