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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. [19] They confronted me in the day of my calamity, But the Lord was my support. [20] He also brought me forth into a broad place; He rescued me, because He delighted in me. [21] The Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness; According to the cleanness of my hands He has recompensed me. [22] For I have kept the ways of the Lord, And have not acted wickedly against my God. [23] For all His ordinances were before me; And as for His statutes, I did not depart from them. [24] I was also blameless toward Him, And I kept myself from my iniquity. [25] 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; [3] 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. [4] 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. [32] For who is God, besides the Lord? And who is a rock, besides our God? [33] God is my strong fortress; And He sets the blameless in His way. [34] 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. [51] 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)

(Get Out 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? 

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