When your standard of morality is who hates democratic, liberal civilization the most then you are compelled to depraved extremism if you desire to rise on the Progressive Pyramid of Moral Authority.
When your standard of morality is who hates democratic, liberal civilization the most then you are compelled to depraved extremism if you desire to rise on the Progressive Pyramid of Moral Authority.
The causes, nature and consequences of this “prison of guilt” were brilliantly summarized in an essay titled “The Strange Persistence of Guilt,” by Dr. Wilfred M. McClay in The Hedgehog Review.
What makes the situation dangerous for us, as Fredriksen observes, is not only the fact that we have lost the ability to make conscious use of the concept of sin but that we have also lost any semblance of a “coherent idea of redemption,” the idea that has always been required to accompany the concept of sin in the past and tame its harsh and punitive potential. The presence of vast amounts of unacknowledged sin in a culture, a culture full to the brim with its own hubristic sense of world-conquering power and agency but lacking any effectual means of achieving redemption for all the unacknowledged sin that accompanies such power: This is surely a moral crisis in the making—a kind of moral-transactional analogue to the debt crisis that threatens the world’s fiscal and monetary health. The rituals of scapegoating, of public humiliation and shaming, of multiplying morally impermissible utterances and sentiments and punishing them with disproportionate severity, are visibly on the increase in our public life. They are not merely signs of intolerance or incivility, but of a deeper moral disorder, an Unbehagen that cannot be willed away by the psychoanalytic trick of pretending that it does not exist.
This is the description of a culture in which the affected members feel guilt-ridden about every possible ill that exists in this fallen world because they have been convinced that it all can somehow be traced back to them as the prime cause.
Dr. McClay also discusses the means by which the post-Christian world has employed to deal with this overwhelming sense of guilt.
But victimhood at its most potent promises not only release from responsibility, but an ability to displace that responsibility onto others. As a victim, one can project onto another person, the victimizer or oppressor, any feelings of guilt he might harbor, and in projecting that guilt lift it from his own shoulders. The result is an astonishing reversal, in which the designated victimizer plays the role of the scapegoat, upon whose head the sin comes to rest, and who pays the price for it. By contrast, in appropriating the status of victim, or identifying oneself with victims, the victimized can experience a profound sense of moral release, of recovered innocence. It is no wonder that this has become so common a gambit in our time, so effectively does it deal with the problem of guilt—at least individually, and in the short run, though at the price of social pathologies in the larger society that will likely prove unsustainable.
Here we recognize that class of people who, by identification with the world’s certified victims, claim a moral purity (and thus moral authority) that places them above other mere mortals. And, it is clear that in order to maintain this status they cannot support war, since it by definition is the act of a victimizer. It is by these bizarre moral gymnastics that millions of people in the West have convinced themselves that support of civilizational suicide is the only moral path available by which their guilt can be assuaged.
The obvious issues are that:
I am not here denying or diminishing the fact that there are victims in this world who are to be affirmed and assisted. What I am opposing is the creation of a post-Christian (in and outside of the Christian church) moral economy in which the currency of moral authority is fraudulently credited only to those who most loudly claim victimhood or identification with the same. Everyone else is thus arbitrarily condemned to the outer darkness of moral poverty, including any member of a certified victim group who won’t play by the established rules.
This post-Christian moral economy is irreconcilable to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For, whereas this fraudulent economy separates humanity into saints and sinners via victim status (by gender, race, civilization, orientation, class, etc.), the Gospel unequivocally unites all of humanity in our common fallenness, our uniform need for a Savior.
21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. …
27 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. 28 For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. (Romans 3:21-25a, 27, 28)
Here we finally see the ultimate consequence of having succumbed to pacifistic, narcissistic and perfectionistic modes of thought. For, we have turned our backs on the Gospel in order to obtain counterfeit moral currency. The fact that this ideology exists in general society is understandable. The fact that it exists in any church calling itself Christian is inexcusable. It is long past time for those of us who reject this moral con game to speak up, particularly those of us who claim allegiance to Christ’s Gospel.
Thus, I return to King David: Warrior and Poet After God’s Own Heart. In this series I have attempted to reestablish the connection between King David and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I have also attempted to show how this flesh and blood man who lived within the challenges and joys of his era became, through God’s grace alone, the greatest king in all history.
David obtained this position not because he was a great man, but rather because God filled him with a great faith that no evil in this world could overcome. By that faith he fought for his life and that of his civilization. By that faith he was inspired to compose Psalms and prayers of wonderous beauty. By that faith his reign served as a foreshadow of Christ’s eternal kingdom.
And, by this same faith our civilization can be renewed and defended.
My primary purpose in taking up David’s life as revealed in 1 and 2 Samuel was to reestablish the undeniable connection that exists between this worldly King’s temporal reign and Christ’s eternal reign. Although this connection is utterly obvious and thus unavoidable, yet our contemporary theologians, pastors and parishioners all too often have attempted avoid it. Although they are motivated by numerous and sundry causes, one of the most prevalent is that David’s reign is related to Christ’s as a foreshadowing in time of what God has done in eternity. Thus, when it is found that David’s life was at utter variance from the “officially approved” contemporary Christian model, powerful and deeply disturbing questions are raised about the credibility and truthfulness of that model. So, rather than, in submission to Scripture, bringing their model into alignment with the testimony of Scripture, they all too often attempt to diminish if not outright discredit it.
Thus issue is of particular relevance now, as citizens of the West find themselves under siege from self-loathing, hateful internal ideologies; from aggressive new entrants who reject the foundations of our civilization; and from nations who are openly and proudly building the means by which to intimidate and even eradicate us. Under this uniform assault from within and without the West’s confidence as a civilization worth preserving has been powerfully undermined. Although that preservation in the vast majority of cases involves nonviolent acts, there are situations in which acts of violent self-defense by our governments may become necessary.
David faced this necessity through his entire life — from lonely battles with lions and bears protecting his family’s sheep to facing the monster Goliath to repelling King Saul’s murderous assaults to war with surrounding nations to civil war with his own son — David took up the sword and smote these enemies. How can such a story, which is connected to Christ in unmistakable ways, be integrated into a pacifist conception of Christianity? I don’t believe that it can be. Those holding the pacifist position are welcome to explain how it can be.
This is not in any way an argument for violence as a first, second or even third option. No, Christ did indeed teach that His followers are expected to live peaceable lives and to seek peace first and always. However, as I demonstrate in the posts following that just referenced, the goal of peaceableness does not preclude the use of violence in extremity.
The final inexcusable insult is that God gave this bloody warrior the heart of a wondrous poet, capable of creating inspired Psalms of worship and beauty that have stood for millennia within God’s Word. By their ideology a man can be a thoughtless warrior or a sensitive poet, but not both simultaneously. As is usually the case with crude ideology, it constrains the world within arbitrary, false bounds that simply cannot encompass the actual complexity of reality. Nor can it account for God’s acts of providence.
How do we explain the apparent dichotomy between David the man who acted in this world with such abandon, sometimes in exceedingly sinful ways, and David the king whose temporal reign is unmistakably tied to Christ’s eternal reign, and, whose house was used by God to be the source for Jesus Christ’s humanity, that being a “descendant of David?” Unfortunately, the contemporary Christian church provides virtually no assistance to we perplexed parishioners.
Since our contemporary clergy is either disinterested in or not up to this task, we must turn elsewhere to find the light of Christian guidance. One theologian who was forced to consider this issue in the most extreme of contexts was Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who’s life is currently summarized in Wikipedia as:
a German pastor, theologian, spy, anti-Nazi dissident, and key founding member of the Confessing Church. His writings on Christianity’s role in the secular world have become widely influential, and his book The Cost of Discipleship has become a modern classic.
Anyone who has actually read Bonhoeffer’s books, or, about his life, knows that he was a personally committed Christian and brilliant theologian who eventually decided that active (including violence) resistance to the Nazi regime was absolutely necessary to fulfill his Christian calling. Thus, he had to wrestle with this very issue in order to act with a clear Christian conscience. The following excerpt from Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy explains how Bonhoeffer eventually resolved the dichotomy under discussion here.
Bonhoeffer knew that to live in fear of incurring “guilt” was itself sinful. God wanted his beloved children to operate out of freedom and joy to do what was right and good, not out of fear of making a mistake. To live in fear and guilt was to be “religious” in the pejorative sense that Bonhoeffer so often talked and preached about. He knew that to act freely could mean inadvertently doing wrong and incurring guilt. In fact, he felt that living this way meant that it was impossible to avoid incurring guilt, but if one wished to live responsibly and fully, one would be willing to do so.
This resolution harmonizes perfectly with David’s life as revealed in Scripture. It absolutely rejects the perfectionist Christian pacifism that is at the center of most contemporary Mainline Protestant theologies; which appear to work hand-in-glove with the contemporary secular Progressive political movement. Through Christian perfectionism they have built a prison of guilt into which their parishioners have been thrown. That prison exists because it serves their interests, not because it is true to Scripture.
These “last words of David” are out of order in the Scriptural text, as he continues to be the subject of verses later in 2 Samuel and then at the beginning of 1 Kings. However, the lack of chronological coherence need not prevent us from considering this passage from the perspective specified.
These are the last words of David:
“The inspired utterance of David son of Jesse,
the utterance of the man exalted by the Most High,
the man anointed by the God of Jacob,
the hero of Israel’s songs:
2 “The Spirit of the Lord spoke through me;
his word was on my tongue.
Note that David’s utterance is specifically designated to be inspired by the Most High. Thus, this is a case in which the general conclusion that Holt Scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit … All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV)… is specifically confirmed.
3 The God of Israel spoke,
the Rock of Israel said to me:
‘When one rules over people in righteousness,
when he rules in the fear of God,
4 he is like the light of morning at sunrise
on a cloudless morning,
like the brightness after rain
that brings grass from the earth.’
Here David appears to be speaking about the best case for rulers in this fallen world. That is, it is a human ruler who should rule in the fear of God.
5 “If my house were not right with God,
surely he would not have made with me an everlasting covenant,
arranged and secured in every part;
surely he would not bring to fruition my salvation
and grant me my every desire.
David turns from the temporal to the eternal, where God’s mighty and mysterious acts of salvation come into view. Yes, David’s house is indeed right with God. We, with the benefit of Christ and the New Testament are now able to more completely understand the nature and implications of this undeserved state of grace (see Romans 3:21-31). Note that, though David does not have these advantages, he yet places total confidence in both God’s act in this everlasting covenant and His faithfulness in the fruition my salvation.
6 But evil men are all to be cast aside like thorns,
which are not gathered with the hand.
7 Whoever touches thorns
uses a tool of iron or the shaft of a spear;
they are burned up where they lie.”
These very last words of David’s Last Words may strike contemporary ears as unworthy. My first response is that, given the sustained and deep human evil with which David had to contend throughout his entire life, how could he be other than deeply affected, even to the very end? Secondly, this is appropriate as a final warning to all who are blessed to be reading this passage of Holy Scripture. That is, evil will not ultimately triumph in God’s eternal economy, and, He will support and uphold those in this temporal world who oppose it.
Finally, these last words confirm the entire theme of this set of posts, that being “King David: Warrior and Poet After God’s Own Heart.”
King David now concludes his prayer, giving all praise and glory to the Lord God his Savior. Nothing here is held back as this elect man contemplates the depth and breadth of God’s salvation.
47 “The Lord lives! Praise be to my Rock!
Exalted be my God, the Rock, my Savior!
48 He is the God who avenges me,
who puts the nations under me,
49 who sets me free from my enemies.
You exalted me above my foes;
from a violent man you rescued me.
50 Therefore I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
I will sing the praises of your name.
51 “He gives his king great victories;
he shows unfailing kindness to his anointed,
to David and his descendants forever.”
I can do no better than allowing John Calvin to have the last word. Recall that Psalm 18 is an almost exact duplication of this prayer from 2 Samuel 22. Note that what Calvin’s translation rendered as “seed,” the NIV has rendered as “descendants.”
And it is to be observed, that by the word seed [descendants] we are not to understand all his descendants indiscriminately; but we are to consider it as particularly referring to that successor of David of whom God had spoken in 2 Samuel 7:12, promising that he would be a father to him. As it had been predicted that his kingdom would continue as long as the sun and the moon should shine in the heavens, the prophecy must necessarily be viewed as descending to him who was to be king not for a time, but for ever. David, therefore, commends his seed [descendants] to us, as honored by that remarkable promise, which fully applies neither to Solomon nor to any other of his successors, but to the only begotten Son of God; as the apostle, in his Epistle to the Hebrews, (Hebrews 1:4,) teaches us, that this is a dignity in which he excels the angels. In conclusion, we shall then only duly profit in the study of this psalm, when we are led by the contemplation of the shadow and type to him who is the substance.
John Calvin commentary on Psalm 18
We now arrive at the place in King David’s prayer that so discomforts our Christian pacifist friends. Here, King David, looking back upon his life, speaks of God’s sovereign acts by which David was able to defeat his enemies in mortal combat.
38 “I pursued my enemies and crushed them;
I did not turn back till they were destroyed.
39 I crushed them completely, and they could not rise;
they fell beneath my feet.
40 You armed me with strength for battle;
you humbled my adversaries before me.
Yes, David is attributing the crushing destruction of his enemies to God’s providential acts of direct support.
41 You made my enemies turn their backs in flight,
and I destroyed my foes.
42 They cried for help, but there was no one to save them—
to the Lord, but he did not answer.
43 I beat them as fine as the dust of the earth;
I pounded and trampled them like mud in the streets.
David continues his vivid, unblinking description of the death and destruction meted out to his enemies. They not only were killed, but their bodies were obliterated, becoming nothing more than dust of the earth.
44 “You have delivered me from the attacks of the peoples;
you have preserved me as the head of nations.
People I did not know now serve me,
45 foreigners cower before me;
as soon as they hear of me, they obey me.
46 They all lose heart;
they come trembling from their strongholds.
There is no avoiding the explicit nature of David’s statements concerning God’s direct action in these matters of warfare.
I have on many occasions observed the rejection of passages such as this by progressive Christian pacifists. The simple fact is that they will not countenance the possibility that the God revealed in the Bible would be allowed to violate their personal moral code. No, they too often would rather disregard any offending passage than submit to the authority of God’s Word concerning God’s own nature.
In many cases they seek to dissociate David of the Old Testament from Jesus of the New Testament. But, as I have pointed out in the first of these current posts:
In the first verse of the first Book of the New Testament, the Gospel of Matthew, the name of David occurs at the twelfth word.
This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham:(Matthew 1:1, NIV)
Thus, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ is tied in the most intimate manner with King David, a warrior and poet after God’s own heart.
I now ask: Is there anywhere in the New Testament where David’s conduct with respect to warfare is criticized, let alone disavowed? None come to mind. However, it is not only in the Gospel of Matthew where King David is directly tied to Christ’s Kingdom. For, in the greatest theological Epistle, the Apostle Paul does precisely the same thing.
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God— the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 1:1-4)
Note well that in reference to Jesus Christ “his earthly life was a descendant of David.”
What, you might rightly wonder, is my motive for making the point with such force. Is it because I am a warmonger? Do I own stock in the arms industry? Am I filled with hate for other nationalities, religions, races, cultures, etc.? Or, as some of my pacifist friends have not so subtlety asserted, am I a defective Christian?
I don’t believe that it is any of these motives. I would love to live out my life in peace, and to know that every other person will be able to do so as well.
I certainly understand that actions taken by the United States will all too often cause friction and conflict as they intersect with other cultures and countries. Yes, and the reason for this will too often be in significant measure our own fault. But this admission in no way absolves the others of moral responsibility for their actions.
This is the point of departure between myself and progressive pacifists. For they, in order to justify demands for passivity on our part, insist that the the only group with moral agency in these conflicts is us. Thus, those who attack us with terrorism and threaten us with destruction bear no responsibility for their evil. No, they are just blameless puppets who are responding to the evil that we do. It is thus they who dehumanize the other, turning them into subhuman creatures whose character does not rise to the level at which moral responsibility can be expected.
The reason that there is a Western Civilization at all is because Christians of earlier ages didn’t falsely turn God’s Word into an excuse for cowardice and defeatism. This statement pertains to a time as recent as decades ago and extends back through centuries. If Western Civilization is destroyed and replaced by Political Islam or resurgent Communism, the resulting death and destruction across the planet will be far worse than if we had stood and fought.
But what’s all that compared to maintaining a faux sense of personal moral purity? On the answer to that question hangs the fate of uncounted millions, both within and outside of Western Civilization.
King Davis continues to praise our wondrous God.
26 “To the faithful you show yourself faithful,
to the blameless you show yourself blameless,
27 to the pure you show yourself pure,
but to the devious you show yourself shrewd.
28 You save the humble,
but your eyes are on the haughty to bring them low.
One of the primary things that leads into doubt concerning God’s character is the apparent victory of the devious and haughty in this world. The swindler who lives in opulence or the dictator who dies peacefully in his sleep come immediately to mind. But there are so many other examples from which to choose. Why doesn’t God immediately smite every wrongdoer and reward every act of kindness?
To answer the first part of this question, were God to immediately smite each act of wrongdoing then we would all be dead within five minutes. To answer the second part, there are lessons that God intends for His elect to learn in this worldly life, with patience one of the most important. Here’s a paragraph that discusses one aspect of this vast issue.
The Bible’s understanding of patience as a Christian virtue is rooted in the totality of Christian truth. Patience begins with the affirmation that God is sovereign and in control of human history, working in human lives. With eternity on the horizon, time takes on an entirely new significance. The Christian understands that full satisfaction will never be achieved in this life, but he looks to the consummation of all things in the age to come. Furthermore, we know that our sanctification will be incomplete in this life, and thus Christians must look to each other as fellow sinners saved by grace, in whom the Holy Spirit is at work calling us unto Christlikeness.
29 You, Lord, are my lamp;
the Lord turns my darkness into light.
30 With your help I can advance against a troop;
with my God I can scale a wall.
31 “As for God, his way is perfect:
The Lord’s word is flawless;
he shields all who take refuge in him.
32 For who is God besides the Lord?
And who is the Rock except our God?
33 It is God who arms me with strength
and keeps my way secure.
34 He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;
he causes me to stand on the heights.
35 He trains my hands for battle;
my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
36 You make your saving help my shield;
your help has made me great.
37 You provide a broad path for my feet,
so that my ankles do not give way.
Note the intermingling between David’s description of physical prowess and it’s source in God’s purposes. David the saved man has been overcome by the Holy Spirit’s power to use the profane for holy purpose.
The time may well be arriving in which these words, seemingly so far removed from our experience or need, will once again provide hope and courage to a civilization under siege. Unless, that is, God has decided in His perfect wisdom to render us incapable, where our: thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened (Romans 1:21b).
I’m going to deviate from my normal practice on this particular passage of Scripture. That is, rather than simply commenting on its meaning, I’m going to discuss the interpretative challenges that it creates, which can be described as follows:
The Bible consists of over 750,000 words written over a period of millennia by dozens of (Holy Spirit inspired) authors. Therefore, there are passages that appear to contradict one another.
The nature of these apparent contradictions can vary from minute (e.g., dates, names, etc.) to immense (e.g., the Law and Grace). I have chosen to address this issue here because the doctrinal issue is indeed immense — that being the place of human works in salvation. In this particular case, a Scriptural passage that appears to be contradictory is Ephesians 2:8-10.
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Now read this section of King David’s prayer.
21 “The Lord has dealt with me according to my righteousness;
according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me.
22 For I have kept the ways of the Lord;
I am not guilty of turning from my God.
23 All his laws are before me;
I have not turned away from his decrees.
24 I have been blameless before him
and have kept myself from sin.
25 The Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness,
according to my cleanness in his sight.
I trust that you see the issue. In the Ephesians passage the Apostle Paul forcefully removes all ground for salvation by works, but, King David, apparently directly contradicts this position by claiming that “The Lord has dealt with me according to my righteousness.“
Two dominant (in my opinion) erroneous Christian positions are taken in response to apparent contradictions. I will conclude with a discussion of the orthodox Reformed solution, which I believe to be the closest to correct.
This solution pretends to uphold the authority of all Scripture by isolating individual passages, treating each one as authoritative, and then applying them to a specific situation. For example, a Christian, when feeling particularly confident, might proclaim the requirements of works to earn salvation (just as if they had they so earned it). However, when caught in clear sin, they might use another passage of Scripture to justify their behavior and/or minimize its significance. In each case the Christian is claiming the absolute authority of Scripture. However, in practice, by partitioning Scripture into a mere means of justifying their current specific position, they implicitly admit that Scripture is so contradictory that a passage can be found to justify the vast majority of positions that they find the need to advance. Most sentient people will eventually catch on to this inconsistent theological behavior.
This solution explicitly embraces the conclusion that Scripture is chockfull of contradictions. By so doing they can recast the interpretative challenge to be that of deciding which of the so-called contradictory passages are authoritative (if any). The Jesus Seminar was an honest instance of this position. Far too much of Western, Mainline Christian leadership is a dishonest holder of this position, with the consequential sorrowful impact on the laity. That is, while they pretend to uphold the authority of Scripture, they actually only uphold that portion of Scripturre that meets their human (and thus faulty and unstable) standard of what is authoritative. Thus, what is ultimately authoritative is their particular beliefs, and, Scripture is at best a tool by which they can be justified.
This solution begins with the bedrock assumption that all Scripture is authoritative. It also affirms that there are Scriptural passages that appear to be contradictory. Thus, the interpretative challenge is to create a theological structure within which as many as possible of these apparent contradictions can be logically resolved. In some cases this is easily accomplished. In others even the application of the best theological minds admittedly fall short. However, the fact that we frail humans sometimes fail to fully understand doesn’t shake our conviction that in the fullness of God’s Mind there is a true solution.
Sometimes this solution’s results can be confused with those of the Cafeteria’s. That is, the line between explaining how seemingly contradictory passages actually are not and selectively adhering to one passage over another can sometimes become blurry. The way to differentiate is that the Orthodox Reformed theology has affirmed that it has failed if the two passages can’t be logically resolved with respect to each other and the entire witness of Scripture. The Cafeteria theology is perfectly fine with keeping the offending passages separate from each other and from the rest of Scripture.
So, how did one of the greatest Reformed theologians, John Calvin, attempt to resolve the specific theological issue raised by the above passages? Here’s the relevant excerpt of his commentary on the parallel passage from Psalm 18.
David, in opposition to these accusations, with the view of maintaining his innocence before God, protests and affirms that he had acted uprightly and sincerely in this matter, inasmuch as he attempted nothing without the command or warrant of God; and whatever hostile attempts his enemies made against him, he nevertheless always kept himself within the bounds prescribed by the Divine Law. It would be absurd to draw from this the inference that God is merciful to men according as he judges them to be worthy of his favor. Here the object in view is only to show the goodness of a particular cause, and to maintain it in opposition to wicked calumniators; and not to bring into examination the whole life of a man, that he may obtain favor, and be pronounced righteous before God. In short, David concludes from the effect and the issue, that his cause was approved of by God, not that one victory is always and necessarily the sign of a good cause, but because God, by evident tokens of his assistance, showed that he was on the side of David.
He adds, I have not wickedly departed from my God This implies, that he always aimed directly at the mark of his calling, although the ungodly attempted many things to overthrow his faith. The verb which he uses does not denote one fall only, but a defection which utterly removes and alienates a man from God. David, it is true, sometimes fell into sin through the weakness of the flesh, but he never desisted from following after godliness, nor deserted the service to which God had called him.
You and I can disagree on the extent to which Calvin has resolved the issue. But the key point here is that he is openly and honestly attempting to deconflict these passages within the context of a well-defined theological structure. Finally, it’s certain that Calvin gives all the glory to God for David’s soundness of salvation even under the overwhelming power of this world’s effort to negate it.
In the previous passage David describes God’s wrath and its consequence on his enemies. David now describes God’s purpose.
17 “He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
he drew me out of deep waters.
18 He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
from my foes, who were too strong for me.
19 They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
but the Lord was my support.
20 He brought me out into a spacious place;
he rescued me because he delighted in me.
Thus, God’s acts were in support of His sovereign choice to make David king. However, by the combination of David’s (God-given) character and David’s (God-ordained) experience, the resulting nature of this king was unlike any other. That is, God has seen to it that David’s kingship would be the seed from which would grow the church of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. John Calvin brilliantly describes this act of God thus.
Here there is briefly shown the drift of the sublime and magnificent narrative which has now passed under our review, namely, to teach us that David at length emerged from the profound abyss of his troubles, neither by his own skill, nor by the aid of men, but that he was drawn out of them by the hand of God. When God defends and preserves us wonderfully and by extraordinary means, he is said in Scripture language to send down succor from above; and this sending is set in opposition to human and earthly aids, on which we usually place a mistaken and an undue confidence.
John Calvin’s Commentary on Psalm 18
Thus, David’s experience of God’s grace was so clear, so profound that he could not possibly conclude that it originated from “human and earthly aids.”
Finally, when David says that God “delighted in me” he is speaking from the position of divine election. We in this life cannot claim a shred of justification for why God should have “delighted in me.” However, how can one so redeemed, protected and justified discuss such an ultimate salvation without reference to the personal nature of this mysterious, blessed gift from God?
David’s song of praise in 2 Samuel is also included (with minor differences) in God’s Word as Psalm 18. I will therefore lean on John Calvin’s commentary on Psalm 18 as we work our way through this magnificent prayer.
David sang to the Lord the words of this song when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. 2 He said:
Note first that this prayer was composed late in David’s life, after he had experienced danger and want due to everything from persecution by King Saul, to foreign wars, to treason by his own son, among much more. Let Calvin provide the background.
David had discomfited many foreign enemies, and had also suppressed the rebellion of his own son Absalom. But, persuaded that it was a singular manifestation of the grace of God towards him, and eminently worthy of being remembered, that he had for so many years escaped from innumerable deaths, or rather that as many days as he had lived under the reign of Saul, God had wrought, as it were, so many miracles for his deliverance, he firstly mentions and celebrates in particular his deliverance from the hands of this relentless enemy. By calling himself the servant of God, he doubtless intended to bear testimony to his call to be king, as if he had said, I have not rashly, and by my own authority, usurped the kingdom, but have only acted in obedience to the oracle of heaven. And, indeed, amidst the many storms which he had to encounter, it was a support highly necessary to be well assured in his own mind of having undertaken nothing but by the appointment of God; or rather, this was to him a peaceful haven, and a secure retreat in the midst of so many broils and strange calamities.
John Calvin Commentary on Psalm 18
So now King David begins his prayer of praise and thanksgiving.
“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
3 my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield and the horn of my salvation.
He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior—
from violent people you save me.
When God ordained that young David would become King of Israel the powers that be did not quietly submit. Rather, they struck out with cunning and cruelty, making every possible attempt to void God’s purpose by killing David.
What surprises is, after reading the story in 1 and 2 Samuel, we see that it apparently was David’s own guile and prowess by which these enemies were defeated. And yet, here we find David in prayer, giving all of the glory to God. How can this be so?
When we examine the facts, though, we see that throughout David’s entire life on the run the opposition usually had an overwhelming power advantage. An unredeemed man who had overcome in these circumstances would find the temptation of pride irresistible. However, David, redeemed and justified by God, responds in the opposite way. Thus, this prayer of thanksgiving and praise was spoken not because David was a better person, but because God chose to work through this particular person. Perhaps the Apostle Paul can help us to understand.
For I am the least of the apostles and am unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:9,10)
David now proceeds to describe in vivid detail the depth of danger and the height of grace which he had experienced.
4 “I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise,
and have been saved from my enemies.
5 The waves of death swirled about me;
the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.
6 The cords of the grave coiled around me;
the snares of death confronted me.
We simply cannot imagine the terrors that David had experienced.
7 “In my distress I called to the Lord;
I called out to my God.
From his temple he heard my voice;
my cry came to his ears.
8 The earth trembled and quaked,
the foundations of the heavens shook;
they trembled because he was angry.
9 Smoke rose from his nostrils;
consuming fire came from his mouth,
burning coals blazed out of it.
10 He parted the heavens and came down;
dark clouds were under his feet.
11 He mounted the cherubim and flew;
he soared on the wings of the wind.
12 He made darkness his canopy around him—
the dark rain clouds of the sky.
13 Out of the brightness of his presence
bolts of lightning blazed forth.
14 The Lord thundered from heaven;
the voice of the Most High resounded.
15 He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy,
with great bolts of lightning he routed them.
16 The valleys of the sea were exposed
and the foundations of the earth laid bare
at the rebuke of the Lord,
at the blast of breath from his nostrils.
What troubles so many current Western Christians in the above passage is the violence of God’s response. God is filled with anger at those who oppose His decree. He thus induces terror in those who oppose Him. This response is the opposite of the kumbaya expectation of those who have fallen prey to the “gentle Jesus, meek and mild” theological error. Therefore, too many current Christians choose to spiritualize or even outright ignore passages such as this.
I don’t stress this point to provide blanket justification for any act of war/violence by a Christian majority group/country. Rather, my purpose is to correct those among us who have turned Christianity into a suicide pact when confronted by aggressive evil. This idea is spread by the falsehood that pacifism is central to God’s character. I have addressed this issue in detail, starting here.