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Pondering God's Blessings
2 Samuel 22:18-25
"He delivered me from my strong enemy, From those who hated me, for
they were too strong for me.  They confronted me in the day of my calamity,
But the Lord was my support.  He also brought me forth into a broad
place; He rescued me, because He delighted in me.  The Lord has rewarded
me according to my righteousness; According to the cleanness of my hands
He has recompensed me.  For I have kept the ways of the Lord, And have
not acted wickedly against my God.  For all His ordinances were before
me; And as for His statutes, I did not depart from them.  I was also
blameless toward Him, And I kept myself from my iniquity.  Therefore
the Lord has recompensed me according to my righteousness, According to
my cleanness before His eyes."
Our text today is taken from David's Song of Deliverance. Portions of
the Psalm seem to be referring to his distant past and this conflict with
King Saul, other parts seem to refer to his conflict with his son Absalom
(vs 18). While this Psalm certainly has roots in specific events, I take
it to be a general praise for God's goodness and Mercy in David's life.
Some noteworthy verses are vs. 3-4, "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, Thou
dost save me from violence.  I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to
be praised; And I am saved from my enemies." We've sung and prayed these
lines many times in response to our own overwhelming sense of God's goodness
in our lives. And then there is the wonderful exclamation of praise in
verses 31-34: "As for God, His way is blameless; The word of the Lord is
tested; He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him.  For who is God,
besides the Lord? And who is a rock, besides our God?  God is my strong
fortress; And He sets the blameless in His way.  He makes my feet like
hinds' feet, And sets me on my high places." Who among us hasn't taken
strength from these verses? These verses declare that God is our rock,
our strong fortress who establishes us and strengths us to be able to fight
the good fight.
David ends the Psalm with a great summation of his praise in verses
50-51, "Therefore I will give thanks to Thee, O Lord, among the nations,
And I will sing praises to Thy name.  He is a tower of deliverance
to His king, And shows lovingkindness to His anointed,To David and his
descendants forever." David reflects upon his life and willingly gives
praise to God and sings to Him because of the goodness God has showered
down upon him and to his family.
My first reaction is to say good for David. Think about it. He could
have been bitter against God for the calamity he had to endure. Saul certainly
didn't treat David fairly. He had no justification for trying to kill him
on numerous occasions. All David did was to defeat Saul's greatest enemy
and faithfully serve the king. He never acted with presumption, but had
a servant's heart. Really, David was a role model for living a faithful
life as a young man. Yet, while he lived this model life, Saul's jealousy
ran rampant, forcing him to treat David unjustly.
Later in life, after David's throne was firmly established, he lived
through a lot of heartache. His son raped his daughter. Another son killed
one of his brothers and headed up a rebellion against David, trying to
take his throne from him. Weigh the pain involved in those last two sentences.
If you had a son try to ruin you after he killed one of your other sons
because he raped your daughter, how would you feel? Throw in the pain of
losing another son shortly after he was born and the constant threat from
outside enemies, would you feel like praising God? I'm not so sure I would.
Perhaps I would feel more like complaining or even blaming God for my misfortune.
After all, I believe in the power and might of God. I believe He is my
rock, my fortress and my deliverer who saves me from my enemies. I am amazed
that David was able to praise God the way he did in the midst of his trials.
But my second reaction to David's Psalm isn't so positive. I want to
say, "David, you've got to be kidding! Do you really think all this good
stuff happened to you because of your purity?" In verses 18-25 David sees
a "cause and effect" relationship between God's blessings and his purity.
He claims that God rewarded him proportionate to his (that is David's)
righteousness and the cleanness of his hands. David says that he has kept
the ways of the Lord, And has not acted wickedly against God. Further,
David says that he's kept all of God's statutes and that he was blameless
toward God, keeping himself from sin. He sums up his belief in verse 25
when he says, "Therefore the Lord has recompensed me according to my righteousness,
According to my cleanness before His eyes."
David's theology, simply stated says God will have to be good to me
if I am good to him. Outlandish, isn't it? First because David considered
himself worthy of God's goodness, when the record shows otherwise. The
single act of committing adultery with Bathsheba, followed by killing Uriah
seals the deal that he didn't have "clean hands" and that he didn't "keep
all of God's statutes." There is no way that David was clean before the
eyes of God. God said his behavior was "evil." And that is the final word.
But David's theology is also outlandish because no one can ever be good
enough to force God to be good to him. David was correct when he wrote,
"Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived
me." (Psalm 51:5 NASB) And his question in Psalm 130:3 shows an understanding
of man's sinfulness, "If Thou, Lord, shouldst mark iniquities, O Lord,
who could stand?" (NASB) The obvious answer, of course is no one. So how
could David write that his own goodness forced God's blessings upon him?
Especially when he was aware of his own specific sinfulness and the sinfulness
of man in general?
Well for about a split second I thought David was writing about his
forgiven state. That when God looks at him now, He doesn't see his sin
because it is forgiven. In Psalm 103:12, he wrote, "As far as the east
is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us." (NASB)
But his language in verse 25 doesn't support that thought at all. He wrote,
"Therefore the Lord has recompensed me according to my righteousness, According
to my cleanness before His eyes." The only response God has to our righteousness
is judgement. As Isaiah wrote, "But we are all as an unclean thing, and
all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf;
and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away." (Isaiah 64:6 KJV)
David wasn't writing about his forgiven state, and neither do I believe
he was having a memory lapse. I think he was being totally honest. Either
he was weighing his good works against his bad works, and felt that on
the whole, he was a clean, righteous person (which I agree with) or he
was comparing himself to other people he knew and felt he was as good or
better than any of them, (which I'd also agree with.) Regardless, David
believed that God would have to be good to him if he was good to God.
What about Tamar? Was she not good to God? Is that why her brother brutally
raped her? Was she to blame? Did she "deserve" what she got? Of course
not. Her suffering was not because of her goodness or badness, but because
of the wickedness in her brother's heart, which incubated in the environment
of her Father's sin against Bathsheba and Uriah.
While we'd like a world that is black and white with easy, pat answers
to why some people suffer and others don't, we won't find it.
Sometimes people suffer because of sin they've committed. But sometimes
they suffer because of sin that other people have committed. And still
other times they suffer just because we live in a fallen world.
Never is it correct to say that good things happen to us because of
our goodness, like David did. To be correct, we would have to say that
good things happen because of God's goodness, not ours! And because of
His purposes, not ours.
In his book, Out of the Whirlwind, Mark Tabb answers a question I've
always asked, "Why did God allow so much evil to befall such a good man
as Job?" Let me read what he wrote, "By allowing Satan to attack Job, God
launched a counterattack against Satan. Satan accused God of buying people's
affections. God responded through the character of Job. When Job clung
to the Lord in spite of his material losses and personal pain, in spite
of his fear that God had turned against him, God's point was made and Satan
was silenced." (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)
of the Whirlwind at Amazon.)
The circumstances of Job's life had more to do with spiritual battles
that he knew nothing about. His life, regardless of the circumstances he
lived in was the proof that God used to prove Satan he was wrong.
David was wrong. God didn't bless him because he was pure. God blessed
David because it suited His purposes to do so.
Now for the big question. Will you serve, love and praise Him in all
circumstances? Or just if you think it will force Him to be good to you?