David’s song of thanksgiving highlights one theme again and again. That theme is not, look at what I have done and my accomplishments as king, but look what our great God has done for me. If some of these verses sound familiar to you, be of good cheer, for they are not only referenced in some other passages of Scripture, but also paralleled in Psalm 18. Remember that the most common way to emphasize something in the Hebrew language was by repetition (e.g. Isaiah 6:3). So the fact that David’s psalm, song of thanksgiving appears here in 2 Samuel 22 and again in Psalm 18 should tell us something. A simple conclusion on this would be the centrality of thanksgiving for God’s people (compare Romans 1:21).
With a large amount of text to explore, let’s break it down into smaller chunks with a comment or two on each section. Verses 2-20 emphasizes exuberant praise for Yahweh’s deliverance. Verses 21-31 speak on David’s claim of righteousness. Then verses 32-51 on the greatness of God’s kingdom. With this simple outline, let us consider several points.
The opening verse is the backdrop, or the title, of the setting of David’s song. “And David spoke to Yahweh the words of this song on the day when Yahweh delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul” (2 Sam. 22:1). For the reader of 1 & 2 Samuel, you know of so much of God’s deliverance of His anointed king when being pursued by Saul (1 Sam. 19; 23:15-29) or by other enemies, like Absalom (2 Sam. 15). David would “call upon Yahweh, who is worthy to be praised” (2 Sam. 22:4a) and be saved from his enemies. Take a moment to imagine the picture David is drawing in vv. 8-16. This is Yahweh on a mission, on a mission to destroy David’s enemies, who were His enemies too, and rescue His servant David (v. 18).
In the second section, verses 21-31, we get a little uncomfortable by David’s language. “Yahweh dealt with me according to my righteousness…” (v. 21a, see v. 25). Or we consider some of the things that have taken place in 2 Samuel (e.g. 2 Samuel 11) and then hear David say, “For I have kept the ways of Yahweh…” (v. 22a) and we think, should he be talking like this? Even David knows of his sin (see 2 Sam. 12:13; Psalm 51). Some will say that David wrote these words before his sin with Bathsheba and against Uriah. But this doesn’t need to be the case. It is important to remember that such a claim is not a claim of faultlessness, but rather one of faithfulness to Yahweh. David is able to speak like this because of his loyalty to Yahweh and to His commandments. Perfection? No. But remember how the song began, “Yahweh 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” (vv. 2-3). What is the guiding principle in David’s life? The steadfast love (חֶסֶד or ḥesed) of Yahweh. “Great salvation He brings to His king, and shows steadfast love to His anointed, to David and His offspring forever” (v. 51).
The final section, verses 32-51, remind us of the greatness of God’s kingdom. Some enemies were subdued (vv. 38-39) while others came cringing before David (vv. 45-46). For you’ll notice that David is king over Israel, but we also read David’s words, “You kept me as the head of the nations” (v. 44). The nations, foreigners, come cringing before David and recognizing his kingship. “Foreigners came cringing to me; as soon as they heard of me, they obeyed me” (v. 45). Psalm 72:11 pictures perfectly this reality when David’s Son and David’s Lord, Jesus Christ, sits on the throne, as He is even now (see Matthew 28:18-20). Psalm 72:11 says, “May all kings fall down before Him, all nations serve Him!” What if I don’t want to?
Remember the words of Psalm 2, “Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve Yahweh with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way, for His wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in Him.” Have you taken refuge in Jesus Christ (see Matthew 11:25-30)?