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136 - A Final Poem and a Hall of Fame

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: 2 Samuel 22–23; 1 Chronicles 11:10–47

King David is entering his golden years, and we now have the opportunity to listen to him reflect on what God has done for him as he composes a hymn of praise and thanksgiving. We are in 2 Samuel chapter 22, and by the way, we will come across this same song later in our Wisdom Journey, when we arrive at Psalm 18.

I want to highlight four major ideas David sings about here in this great song. First, David sings of the Lord’s sovereign protection. Notice how 2 Samuel 22 opens:

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. 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.” (verses 1-3)

David refers to the Lord as his rock, fortress, deliverer, shield, horn of salvation, stronghold, refuge, and savior. This is all part of David’s testimony as he looks back over his life—there has been one moment after another of sovereign protection. 

Second, David sings of the Lord’s saving power. He writes these lyrics in verse 4: “I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.” I have sung these same words in a little chorus I learned as a child: “I call upon the Lord … and I am saved.”

You might notice down in verse 18 that David sings of God, “He rescued me from my strong enemy, from those who hated me.” And why did the Lord rescue David? It was not because he deserved it or because he was some kind of special case that got preferential treatment. No, David was saved because it was God’s delight to do so (verse 20). This is a reference to the grace of God demonstrated through His saving power.

Now, I need to slow down and explain the next few verses because, on the surface, they sound like David thinks he is without sin. Note especially verses 24-25:

“I was blameless before him, and I kept myself from guilt. And the Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to my cleanness in his sight.”

How does David sing this with Bathsheba in the next room and the memory of Uriah haunting his past? You need to understand that David is not claiming to be sinless here; he’s claiming God’s forgiveness. Here is a wonderful theological truth: when God forgives our sin, it’s as if the slate is wiped perfectly clean. God views us as blameless only because His Son took our blame. PQ

And David’s future son, the Messiah, will pay the penalty for David’s sins—and yours and mine too. And from that vantage point, we can view ourselves as blameless--no longer condemned but forgiven.

My friend, if you have received Jesus Christ as your Savior, your sins—all of them, past, present, and future—are forgiven. Your status has changed from sinner to saint. You still sin, but God sees you through the atoning blood of Christ. As the apostle John writes, “The blood of Jesus . . . cleanses us [continually] from all sin” (1 John 1:7). Like David, we too can sing of God’s saving power.

Now third, David sings of God’s significant provision. David acknowledges that God provides wisdom and direction: “For you are my lamp, O Lord, and my God lightens my darkness” (verse 29). God also provides strength and victory. David says in verse 40, “You equipped me with strength for the battle.” Every day, every battle, every problem can be met with God’s significant provision.

Finally, King David wraps up this psalm with a sincere pledge in verse 50: “For this I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations, and sing praises to your name.” In other words, he’s saying, “I want to praise God before everybody I know.”

Now with that we come to chapter 23, where we are told, “Now these are the last words of David.” These are not the last words David spoke to others, but they represent his final formal writing. Like the previous chapter, they are written in poetic form.

David describes himself here in verse 1 as “the anointed of the God of Jacob, the sweet psalmist of Israel.” As a psalmist, David wrote one song after another, marveling at the greatness of God and the need for us all to walk with God in true worship. As troubling as our lives might be at times, David’s poetry urges us to trust and wait on the Lord—our rock and our refuge.

The rest of 2 Samuel 23 shifts rather suddenly to the names of David’s mighty men. Their names are listed here, along with some of their military accomplishments. But this is absolutely appropriate. This is like the credits that scroll at the end of a movie. These are the men who effectively made David’s life and reign possible. These are the men God used to rescue David and provide for him. They fought alongside David and brought great blessing to his life, so let’s not skip the credits.

Thirty plus men are named in this chapter. They were the core of David’s army. Their names are also recorded in the parallel passage in 1 Chronicles 11:10-47. The list there is introduced with these words:

These are the chiefs of David’s mighty men, who gave him strong support in his kingdom, together with all Israel, to make him king, according to the word of the Lord. (verse 10)

Now three men here in David’s Hall of Fame in 2 Samuel 23 stand out with special honor. The first is Josheb-basshebeth, who is called in verse 8 “chief of the three.” He is known for the incredible feat of killing eight hundred men “at one time.”  

Second is “Eleazer, the son of Dodo.” He is described here as boldly standing with David against the Philistines, striking down the enemy “until his hand was weary, and his hand clung to the sword” (verse 10). Through him “the Lord brought about a great victory.”

The third man specially honored here is Shammah. Verses 11 and 12 describe how he stood against the Philistines on “a plot of ground full of lentils” while his fellow Israelites fled, leaving him alone to face these enemy warriors. But again, the emphasis is that through him “the Lord worked a great victory.” 

Now I don’t know for sure, but these might have been the same three men who once broke through enemy lines to bring David some water to drink from the well of Bethlehem (verses 13-17). What I do know is that all of these men here made the life and ministry and kingdom of David possible.

Also listed in these credits are other notable men, like Abishai, who killed three hundred enemy soldiers (verse 18); and Benaiah, who defeated a famous Egyptian warrior, and as verse 20 tells us, also killed a lion that was evidently threatening his comrades.

I think it is interesting that in this list of mighty men is Uriah the Hittite (verse 39). His name stands as a silent and sad reminder that David’s adultery led him even to the murder of one of his finest soldiers.

Have you ever considered that your victories in life—your successes—are dependent on faithful people around you?No one is an island unto himself. Make sure you act like David here and give credit where credit is due.