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Weekly Prompts for Thinking Through Scripture Covering 2 Samuel 22- 24

Refresher: David. A childhood spent as a shepherd turns into years of running and waiting to officially come into his anointing as king. He is finally seated on the throne over the 12 tribes. Then after a period of success, in which the Lord helps him defeat his enemies, he is tripped up by his own lust. Then a descent into judgment; his family devours each other, falls apart. Afterward, restoration, but things are not the same as before. And now, the end of his life. Goliaths still need to be felled, but younger, stronger men not named David will need to stand before them.

Day One

**wasted by the pastor’s holiday**

Day Two

Read 2 Samuel 22 – A long reading, but poem-songs are best read in one sitting.

· The first thing to note about this song is that it’s a repetition of Psalm 18. The fact that God’s Spirit chose to repeat verbatim this song lends it extra oomph.

· The second thing to note is that because the psalm is written down twice, and because one presentation of it is placed at the conclusion of David’s life, it can be taken as kind of a theme song for David’s journey. Taken thus, to make sense of David’s course of life you’ll need to know that “Jehovah is His rock and his fortress and his deliverer…”

· Related - something fun, but it’ll take a little mental effort: Consider what words you’d place over your life which would generally explain it. Not trying to draw up the guilt, but: is God referred to in those words over your life?

· One last general observation from this psalm: David’s life was full of challenges, enemies, trouble. As he says in another place, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous.” It has ever been thus. Also true: across the world and over the generations the troubles show up differently and the enemies shift shape, but God is always a faithful refuge to every generation as it fights its appointed battle. Recently, I’m hearing a lot about feeling sorry for the upcoming generation, trouble looming etc. Don’t waste time feeling sorry for them! Rather, do what you can to connect the upcoming generation to David’s “stronghold and refuge and savior…”

Day Three

Read 2 Samuel 23: 1-7

· V. 1 – “Last words” - Even if you just woke up, “last words” should make you sit up a little straighter. A man who has slain giants, who has spent months…years on the run, who has risen to the top of his nation - - what words will he leave the world to reflect on?

· V. 1 – “who was raised on high.” David could have said something like: ‘I was patient, clawed and scratched, worked my tail off, and finally reached the top!’ But David constantly referred his situation to God’s working. He identified himself with what God had done. Learn from him! Flip back to 1 Samuel 2:7,8 and note again the book of Samuel’s theme: God raises up and brings down.

· VV. 3,4 – David’s last words home in on LEADERSHIP. The quality of life one enjoys has much to do with the rule under which he sits. Expand out that principle and the conclusion is that outcomes of entire societies have much to do with their human leadership. And thus the hope of the world is… wait for it… A RIGHTEOUS LEADER. Obviously, these verses and the principle they contain point to the Christ. But in our little spheres, we remember that leadership matters a lot. Fathers, mothers, elder siblings, managers, teachers, principals – ask the Spirit of Christ to train you into the kind of leadership that is “like rain that makes grass to sprout from the earth.”

· VV. 5-7 – Finally, David marvels over the huge fact that God has made him/his house to be a kind of watershed in human history: On one side there are those who are somehow aligned with, enfolded into God’s covenant with David; and on the other there are those outside of that covenant, “worthless men” who are dangerous to themselves and those who deal with them. Let’s put it this way: up until the 21st century the world is still divided between those under David’s covenant and those who aren’t.

Day Three

Read 2 Samuel 23: 8-38

· How interesting that even after David’s “last words,” and at the risk of burying those words, still we are provided an additional impression: under Heaven, the men that surrounded David were largely responsible for the success he enjoyed. This emphasis agrees with another observation of the ways of God: in God’s story there is a Main Man, but alongside Him many other sons are also being brought to glory.

· VV. 8-12 – The three mighty men renowned for different things: Josheb-basshebeth, a man of great strength and capacity. Eleazar, the one who won’t drop his sword, who doesn’t know how to quit. And Shammah, who as others cave, takes a lonesome stand against Israel’s long-time enemy. Truly, mighty men present in different ways. Passages like this turn our thoughts to Paul’s teaching on the Spirit’s multi-faceted gifting of the body of Christ. Learn to appreciate different kinds of strengths.

· VV. 13-17 – What unites these champions is their loyalty unto death for their King. Notice that what compels these men to risk their life is not David’s command, but rather something of a whimsical wish that he voices. Real devotion is almost never reluctant, but stands on tippy toes, eagerly straining to please. May the Spirit of Christ ignite in us a similar love for our King.

· V. 16 – “He poured it to the LORD” – A gift obtained at such high risk is fit only to be dedicated to God. Our mind returns to the beginning of 1 Samuel, to another precious gift offered to God. I wonder if you can think of something today that might parallel this, some applications?

· VV. 24-39 - 37 – If it does, it brings to mind lines from Henry V: “…then shall our names/Familiar in his mouth as household words/ Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter/ Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester/ Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd...” – In serving the coming King lies ETERNAL renown.

Day Four

2 Samuel 24: 1-14

· V.1 – “[The LORD] incited David…” - God cannot sin, but he certainly uses evil and agents of evil unto his purposes. The ways of God are very very deep, and the minute you think you have Him figured out…

· V. 3 – Joab! We’re justly suspicious of pretty much everything he says and does, but you do have to be impressed by the fact that he’s the farthest thing from a “yes man” as can be. And here, he’s right in questioning David’s desire/motive to take stock.

· V.10 – “David’s heart struck him” – such pangs of regret is the sign of a healthy heart. But what exactly had David done wrong? It appears that his desire to count Israel came out of hubris. Remember, the book of Samuel (1 & 2 being originally one book) is an assault on human pride, so it makes sense to end the book with this account. “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” Maybe you can think of how that directive might apply to your particular situation today.

· VV. 12-14 – Do you remember another passage where the transgressor gets to choose his punishment? I don’t.

Day Five

Read 2 Samuel 24: 15-25

· V. 16 – Fascinating. The angel of judgment (and where did he come into the story?) is ready to continue inflicting pain, which must mean that the three days aren’t totally elapsed, but “the LORD relented…” We said yesterday that the ways of God are deep and murky. There are a couple things that we can make out though: judgment is God’s “strange work,” but he delights in mercy.

· V. 17 – “Then David spoke…” – And throw into the mix this prayer of repentance/taking responsibility/intercession to explain why God stopped the angel from continuing his destruction. Somehow the will of God and prayer work together. You don’t have to know the secret sauce though…. Just get to praying.

· V. 18 – “Araunah the Jebusite – Remember the Jebusites were the original inhabitants of Jerusalem, the city formerly known as Jebus.

· V. 18 – God appoints WORSHIP to both mark the end and be the end of judgment. What should God’s people do in times of judgment? Worship. What should God’s prophets call people to during times of judgment? Worship.

· V.24 – “I will not offer…to the LORD my God that costs me nothing.” Araunah is willing to simply hand over to David the instruments of worship, but David can’t accept the gift. I’ve thought about this verse a lot. Worship costs something.

· Note that this threshing floor will become the site for Solomon’s temple, that is, the first temple. The story has moved from God’s judgment to God’s Presence, with repentance, mercy, and worship as the transition. Perhaps that’s a good way to end this great book, as we also stand between God’s judgment while awaiting a new manifestation of His Presence when He will dwell with us, and – to a new degree – be our God. In the meantime, we keep repenting of our sins, leaning into His mercy, and taking pains to worship Him.

Day Six

Read a sermon explaining Psalm 18

This is a sermon preached a few years ago by yours truly to the church I served among in Newton MA. Hopefully this will help to explain this last portion of 2 Samuel a little bit more.



I invite you to turn in the Scriptures to 2 Samuel 22.

How do they do it? What’s their secret? If someone is deemed to be a success in some endeavor or generally in life, those are the questions that people like I want to ask them: how’d you do it?

Well, when I consider the great people of history, very near the top of the list is King David. So, I want to ask him – what’s the secret sauce? Thankfully, as the historian of Israel is bringing his account of David’s career to its conclusion, he drops in this psalm that we find in 2 Samuel 22. The obvious message is: if you want to understand this man, you’ll have to give this lengthy psalm a good think.

Just that – the placement of this psalm – makes it remarkable. But here’s the thing (and I’ve mentioned this before so it’s no surprise), 2 Samuel 22 is a verbatim reiteration of what we know as Psalm 18.

So today, I’d like you to follow along as I read this psalm and comment a little bit. Will you now turn there? Of course, this psalm isn’t mainly about us, but I think it will help us to fathom the greatest man who has ever lived, and surely just thinking on him will give us some encouragement.

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, the servant of the Lord, who addressed the words of this song to the Lord on the day when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. He said:

VV. 1-2

I love you, O LORD, my strength. 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.

The horn of salvation brings to the mind’s eye an image of an ox arrayed with long horns, used to deliver blows and pierce the flesh of its assailants. The Lord as the horn of salvation focuses on God as an instrument, or agent of salvation, who rescues not by stealth, but by smashing.

Another image: God is the stronghold. Do you recall what we’ve learned before about the stronghold? There might be a series of cities or fortifications from which a people fight to defend against an enemy. But those defenses could fall, one after another. The last line of defense is thestronghold, often built into some natural defense (against a body of water or carved out of a mountain). At last resort the populace would move into the stronghold – the most secure place they know.

To call God your stronghold is not to claim that there are no other means of security… Wealth, alliances, family, political know-how, strong legal position, routines, self-discipline. All of these are gifts of God, these are each effective… and each of them can be breached. It’s possible, though, to have been dismantled of every form of security (I think of someone with Alzheimer’s), and yet actually you’re as anchored as you could be, because God has known you, and has committed himself to you. He’s a stronghold.

V. 3

I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.

“I call upon the LORD” – prayer…to the LORD: that’s the spark which sets off the events of this psalm. Surely, we can assume that a prayer with these kinds of magnificent results must at least be sincere, and focused, energetic. Do these adjectives to any degree describe your prayers?

David had enemies, those who were opposed to him, to his plans, to his principles. And not that they simply disagreed, the word “enemy” implies some level of hostility. Their spirit is against his spirit. Their desire is to see him come to some harm. V. 17 says they hated him. And these were no trifling opponents. They were strong, actually too mighty for David to think he could outmatch them – better equipped, more resources, perhaps more intelligent.

V. 4

The cords of death encompassed me; the torrents of destruction assailed me; the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me.

The attacks against David aren’t small. As a result of his enemies’ actions, David is close to death. {Pause} So with that observation – that David is about to be killed by some people – for the first time in the poem we realize that we can’t apply David’s situation here directly to ourselves. There’s still a lot of principles and patterns that pertain.

David is surrounded by death. He can’t shake off the lethal ties, and the more he struggles the tighter death’s stranglehold. The other image that describes his peril: torrents. He’s being carried along in rapids, tossed against his will. There aren’t any techniques to apply, no channels of help. He’s in big trouble. Even if our lives have never been in peril, we know something about trouble. So let’s lean in…

V. 6

In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.

There, we see it again! The turning point is prayer. Prayer to God. God in is his heavenly temple– a sacred place. A place that is uncommon, that is unusual to the utmost, unlike anything in our dimension. Other. Dollars, biceps, IQ, alliances, status – here, in God’s temple none of these mean that much. On the other hand, there there are resources and means of which we have no name.

Vv. 7-19

Then the earth reeled and rocked; the foundations also of the mountains 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 came swiftly on the wings of the wind. He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him, thick clouds dark with water. Out of the brightness before him hailstones and coals of fire broke through his clouds.

The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Most High uttered his voice, hailstones and coals of fire. And he sent out his arrows and scattered them; he flashed forth lightnings and routed them. Then the channels of the sea were seen, and the foundations of the world were laid bare at your rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of the breath of your nostrils.

He sent from on high, he took me; he drew me out of many waters. He rescued me from my strong enemy and 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; he rescued me, because he delighted in me.

When David contacts God, God reacts big time. He’s angry that His anointed is being attacked. As we’ll see, he directs his anger at David’s enemies. As David describes what God does, he uses the imagery of a storm, so violent that it rakes away anything that had been laying on the surface of the earth; the angry blast from God’s nostrils drives away the sea water and exposes the deep passageways hitherto covered by water.

God is angry. Angry because of evil. Angry because of love.

Did David actually see a violent storm break out? Probably not. So then the storm is just a figure of speech? Not necessarily. There is an earthly realm and there is a heavenly realm. There are the shadows that we dwell in and the realities in back of them. I think there was, in a realm we cannot look on, an actual magnificent storm.

The end of David’s prayer and then God’s storm was God bringing David out into a broad place. Before, he was entangled, stuck, claustrophobic, drowning. He woke every day with the threat of death overhanging. And then after the storm of God…David’s in Wyoming, and he looks every which way and there’s space and freedom and possibilities and agency. Ahhh! The Lord, who is worthy to be praised, saved him from his enemies!

Vv. 20-24

The Lord dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me. For I have kept the ways of the Lord, and have not wickedly departed from my God. For all his rules were before me, and his statutes I did not put away from me. I was blameless before him, and I kept myself from my guilt. So the Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight.

Now, interpreting this psalm gets a little more interesting. God saved him, David explains, because he was blameless before the Lord, and so the Lord rewarded him according to his righteousness.

Now, we know from the scripture, and the fact is borne out in our experience – no one is really blameless: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

But David claims to be morally clean - repeatedly, confidently, so brazenly. Who does this psalm singer think that he is?! And with that question, we stumble upon a deeper understanding of this psalm.

We find in this psalm some principles that apply to us, but it’s not fully our story. David is telling his story, and it’s certainly more his than it is ours, but even he doesn’t fully fit into what is being described here.

To illustrate, I wear an XLT shirt. If Liesel would put on my shirt, it would cover her, but it would be much too big for her. If Paul put on my shirt, it would fit him a lot better than Liesel, but still you would look on him and know that this isn’t quite his shirt. And so, when we read Psalm 18, some things in it we can apply to our life, yet we realize that the scenes described here are much too grand for us to claim them in total. But even when David here writes about what happened to him, it all works, in a way… still not all the facts fit snugly around David’s situation.

David - his rescue from Saul and what happened afterward – is a type of what is going on here, but the full correspondence will wait until Christ appears. Better than anyone else, Christ is described in this psalm.

Vv. 25-27

With the merciful you show yourself merciful; with the blameless man you show yourself blameless; with the purified you show yourself pure; and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous. For you save a humble people, but the haughty eyes you bring down.

God deals with people according to their character. The ultimate validation of that principle is the account of Christ’s resurrection and vindication before his enemies, and his eternal exaltation. That account of Christ is also the gospel – in all that happened to him in death and life he was legally, before Heaven, representing His people. Yes!

And so, by extension, Christ’s people get to enjoy the pleasant part of the pattern described in 25-27: Because Christ was merciful and pure, and the Christ legally represents me, God will therefore ultimately show himself merciful and pure to me.

But there is more to reality than the legal situation. And because that’s true, there is still a possibility that Christ’s people – though they’re ultimately under the mercy of God – might for a time also experience the uncomfortable side to the pattern above. Under the sun, in our experience, we can be crooked, and thus for a time we could experience God making himself torturous to us.

On the other hand, we can in our lives be merciful and honest, and God will return that mercy and honesty back to us.

But remember - these are principles for us derived from this story that is firstly about Christ, or more fully, God’s rescue of Christ from the entanglement of death.

Vv. 28-36

For it is you who light my lamp; the Lord my God lightens my darkness. For by you I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall. 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.

For who is God, but the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God?— the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless. He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights. He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand supported me, and your gentleness made me great. You gave a wide place for my steps under me, and my feet did not slip.

God doesn’t only save from death. He equips and trains and positions and energizes and supports.

Just taking one of these phrases: He made my feet like the feet of a deer/ and set me secure on the heights. You’ve probably seen pictures or videos of goats or mountain sheep making their way along some impossibly sheer cliff, exposed to hundred feet drops, yet somehow moving toward their destination.

And this is what God does with the one he saves: he keeps them moving forward even in delicate and slippery circumstances. There are those who have been rescued by God who remain in impossibly fragile situations, in a marriage fraught with difficulty, attempting to live normally in a society that is tense and failing. Yet withal the precariousness, they’re still moving forward. This is what God does!

What does it look like to be trained by God? And even though this is a summary David does provide a little specification: 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. To be trained by God is to be directed by his word. But directed isn’t a sufficient term. You’re hiding out in the word, away from worldly rhythms and priorities and worries. Attending to His word is the way God protects his people.

Vv. 37-42

I pursued my enemies and overtook them, and did not turn back till they were consumed. I thrust them through, so that they were not able to rise; they fell under my feet. For you equipped me with strength for the battle; you made those who rise against me sink under me. You made my enemies turn their backs to me, and those who hated me I destroyed. They cried for help, but there was none to save; they cried to the Lord, but he did not answer them. I beat them fine as dust before the wind; I cast them out like the mire of the streets.

Because God grants this to him, God’s Anointed beats his enemies fine as dust before the wind. The salvation of God doesn’t simply involve a rescue, but a smashing victory over enemies. Repeat: We shouldn’t suppose that the enemies of God’s Anointed will merely be brought to frustration or bankruptcy, or any other situation besides total destruction.

Christ will destroy his enemies. Those who are opposed to Jesus Christ – the real Jesus and not simply some convenient fabrication – will be slain by Jesus Christ. Thrust through by the one who will appear again on the earth with a sword in his mouth.

Moreover, when those opposed to Jesus Christ – his person, his agenda, his statutes – call out to God for help, but without resolving to make their peace with Jesus, God will ignore their prayers. God loves Jesus Christ and only loves others through Jesus Christ.

Vv. 43-45

You delivered me from strife with the people; you made me the head of the nations; people whom I had not known served me. As soon as they heard of me they obeyed me; foreigners came cringing to me. Foreigners lost heart and came trembling out of their fortresses.

Not all of his enemies continue to oppose God’s Anointed. God sets the Anointed as Head over nations, and some of those leave off their striving against his agenda and person, and begin serving him. God gives his Anointed a people.

Notice, they don’t all begin to serve him out of lofty motives. Fear of him, of the knowledge that the power of God is backing him – impels many to leave off from fighting him and grudgingly surrender to him. For some, and for a time, fear draws them to him and they come reluctantly.

Do you remember Peter’s reaction when, at Jesus’ direction, he hauled up a huge pile of fish? He cries out, “Go away from me Lord, I am a sinful man.” A few years later we see him diving into the water to get back to him.

C.S. Lewis describes his conversion to theism thus:

In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England. I did not then see what is now the most shining and obvious thing; the Divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms.

“A dejected and reluctant convert” echoes this part of the psalm.

Vv. Read 46-48

The Lord lives, and blessed be my rock, and exalted be the God of my salvation— the God who gave me vengeance and subdued peoples under me, who rescued me from my enemies; yes, you exalted me above those who rose against me; you delivered me from the man of violence.

There’s the synopsis: God’s Anointed was in big trouble. Out of a terribly zealous love God rescued his Anointed from his enemies. But so much more: He subdued peoples under him, exalts him over all nations.

That’s how David summarized his life – his life was shaped by calling to God, rescue, victory, rule.

But as we’ve observed: David was only a type; Christ was the fulfillment. More than anyone, it’s Christ’s earthly career that this psalm summarizes.

And thus, this is also the story of the world. The peoples of the earth come to serve the victorious and exalted Christ, the King who has been saved by God, because God fervently loves him. If they remain hostile to the King, resisting and undermining his rule, he will destroy them. From subjects of the king to their fellow humans, the incessant cry is, Peoples of the earth, kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish under his wrath. You might not love him now, but you should fear him. You’ll learn to love him.

Vv. 49-50

For this I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations, and sing to your name. Great salvation he brings to his king, and shows steadfast love to his anointed, to David and his offspring forever.

At the psalm’s end, we’re left with the picture of Messiah praising God among the peoples that have been placed under him. And this scene takes us back to Romans 15, where Paul cites v. 49 to show that it has ever been God’s intention for the nations to be brought near to him through Jesus Christ.

What have we learned from pursuing this citation? The peoples around Christ are there as a result of God’s rescue of and vindication of Jesus Christ. We are secure in Christ, not because of our works of righteousness or our inherent appeal, but because God loves His Christ.

Some of these peoples surrounding Jesus Christ have come to him reluctantly, fearfully. That’s ok, there’s solid reasons to be afraid of him. You’ll learn to love him.

The peoples gathered around Jesus Christ impel him to offer glad thanksgiving to God the Father, because they remind him of God delivering him from death, and the steadfast love behind that deliverance. So, part of the King’s joy in God runs through his people.

The people gathered around Jesus Christ are there because the Father has given them to His dearly beloved Son.

Some of the love of the Father to his Son runs through us. Some of the gladness and praise of the Son to the Father runs through us.

Folks, we have become ingredients in the divine happiness. We are a feature in the rich glorious inheritance of joy among the Trinity that the Eternal God was after when he planned the Gospel.

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