In 2 Samuel 22, David sings a long song of praise to God. As I read it, I couldn’t help but think about David’s life.
As a young boy, David was anointed to be the king of Israel…then sent back to tend his father’s sheep. The youngest of many sons, as he grew older, he was treated as the annoying little brother. After killing Goliath, he had three different responsibilities that seem a strange mix of talents: He became a warrior for King Saul, he tended to his father’s sheep, and he was taken into King Saul’s court to play the harp for him when Saul was anxious. During this time, he seemed to shuttle back and forth between the responsibilities. That seems like a pretty strange life to me: One day playing for the king, the next day tending sheep. It would have been easy for him to begin to resent the trips back and forth or the difference between sleeping in the king’s palace and sleeping near the sheep.
During that time, David developed a deep friendship with Saul’s son Jonathan. It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime friendships. But the friendship was torn from him when Saul became irrationally enraged at David and sought to kill him. Saul’s anger sent David on the run for many years, and he sometimes came within minutes of losing his life.
Eventually Saul died and David became king. There were some good years, but even the good years were filled with fighting wars. War is not pretty and it’s not good.
There was the dalliance with Bathsheba, and the death of David’s son as a result of it. David knew it was because of his sin that his son died. What a heavy burden to carry.
David had many sons and daughters. Tamar was one of his beautiful young daughters; she had an equally good looking brother Absalom. Life was good…until Tamar was raped by a half-brother, Amnon. Absalom killed Amnon then fled to live in exile. On that day, he lost two sons.
Eventually Absalom becomes bitter toward his father, David, and sought to kill him. David was again on the run for his life.
Eventually, Absalom was killed by David’s men, and David mourned the loss of another child.
Absalom’s death restored David to the throne of Israel, which carried with it the responsibility to fight more wars to protect the country. At one point, Scripture describes David as “weak and exhausted,” cornered by his enemy and about to be killed (2 Samuel 21:15-16). One of his soldiers came to his rescue.
David’s one desire was to build a temple for the Lord. The Lord said “thanks, but no thanks.” David was a man of war and the Lord would not give him permission to build the temple. He gave him permission to gather all the supplies so that his son, Solomon, could build the temple. While I imagine it would have been a blessing to know that his son would be able to build the temple, I can’t help but imagine that there was a bittersweetness to it because it was something David so longed to do.
Eventually David died and was buried.
My point in reiterating all of this is to say that this mighty man of God lived a pretty crappy life, by my standards. He was unappreciated by his family, his best friend was ripped from him by a crazy father and king. He spent years on the run because that king was to kill him, then years later he spent more time on the run because his own son was trying to kill him. (He’d done nothing to provoke the anger of either.) His son died and the responsibility for that death was laid at David’s feet. His daughter was raped, and two more sons were killed because of it. David’s burning desire was to build a temple for God and God only allowed him to collect supplies. Even during the good times, his life was full of the horrors of war and the separation from his family.
And yet, 2 Samuel 22 (as well as many of the Psalms) records David’s song of praise to the God.
The Source of David’s Song
As I reflected on David’s life and his reaction to it, I realized that it is not an easy life that puts a song of praise in our mouth. It is not money and the adulation of others. It is not being rich in family and friends. It is not even fulfilling the purpose for which God has created us. Those things might bring a measure of happiness, a measure of ease of living, but it is not from those things that our song of praise truly resonates. It is from the nearness of God in the midst of trial that our faith is built and our love for a Savior is forged.
In chapter 22 of 2 Samuel, David’s song of praise rings out. “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my savior,” he sings. David knew God as the One who is faithful, strong and able to save. Had he not experienced the wars in his life, he would not have truly known God ability to rescue the one who needs to be rescued. David described his need for God’s help: “The waves of death surrounded me; the floods of destruction swept over me…But in my distress I cried out to the Lord…He heard me from His sanctuary; my cry reached His ears.”
David knew that God heard his cry, and he then described God’s powerful response in the eleven verses that follow. His description illustrates a God that moved heaven and earth to rescue His servant. He sang of the quaking of the earth and the thundering of the Lord from heaven, and in verses 16 and 17 he summarized what happened: “Then at the command of the Lord…He reached down from heaven and rescued me.”
The lyrics of David’s song are strong and forceful and they leave no doubt that David had been in the dire straits and that God had delivered him. In fact, he concluded that portion of the song with verse 19: “They attacked me at a moment when I was weakest, but the Lord upheld me.”
David finished his song with 31 additional verses proclaiming God’s goodness, faithfulness, strength, and love. “The Lord lives!” David sang out. “Blessed by my rock! May God, the rock of my salvation, be exalted!…O Lord, I will praise You among the nations; I will sing joyfully to Your name.”
It is a powerful song written under the influence of the Holy Spirit to extol the power of a living, active God. (Click here to read the entire song.)
Let me reiterate, it was not the goodness of the Lord in good times that David sang about. It was God’s goodness when David was at his weakest.
Want to know one of my dirty-little-secrets? Come close. Here it is: I’d like to have a cushy life. I’d like to not have to worry about having too many things to do or not enough money to pay the bills or the pain in my left knee. I’d like things to be easy. And sometimes I get frustrated and tired when they’re not.
Stories like David’s, a man described by God as “a man after my own heart,” remind me that my desires are still so unholy, so unsanctified, so untransformed. The word “holy” really means “set apart” or “totally other than.” To have a faith and love like David had, in the midst of the life David lived, would be “totally other than” anyone else I know.
I’ve taken some punches in the past few years. I bet you have, too. I have a book title in my head, but I know that I haven’t turned the corner enough to be able to write the book. The title is Dancing with a Broken Wing. It’s about dancing with joy out of a background of pain. David was a dancer.
David’s secret, is that his focus was on the Lord, not on his trials. Read the song. Yes, he tells what dire trouble he was in, but it’s a necessary part of the story. Look at the number of verses given to the trouble compared to the number of verses gloriously given to the power of God. David’s focus is on the awesome power, faithfulness and goodness of His God. And it is that focus that enables Him to sing a song of praise instead of a lament of the troubles of life.
The words of David in Psalm 16 confirm that David’s joy came from focusing on the Lord instead of his own situation:
8 I have set the LORD always before me.
Because he is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.
9 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,
10 because you will not abandon me to the grave,
nor will you let your Holy One see decay.
11 You have made known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
David’s joy came from his confidence in a God who held David firmly in His hand and who transcended time and space to enjoy being “present” with David during David’s life and through eternity.
Did you catch all three of those things? Let me reiterate them in the first person:
- God holds me firmly in His hand - I need not be shaken!
- God transcends time and space to come down to my level so that I can enjoy His presence - and what unspeakable joy those encounters bring!
- God transcends time and space to take me to His presence after my life on this earth is over - eternal pleasures!
It’s a word I use in almost every blog, but I have to say it again - Wow! My problems, no matter how big or small, truly are insignificant when I fix these three thoughts in my mind. God is so very good! Why would I want to focus on the problems of this life when I’ve got such a great God?
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