The Wisdom of Life
David, Wisdom, Perspective
As you grow mature in years you usually have gained a measure of wisdom and perspective. When you are young everything is urgent. As you get older you realize that most things can wait. When you are younger you believe more activity leads to more successful living. As you mature you learn that balance and building quiet into your life is the key to success. When you are younger you have no time for the things of God. As you mature you hopefully realize that only when God gets priority do the other things fall into place.
It is sad that we tend to dismiss those who are older as being “out of touch”. By not listening to the wisdom gained from the years, we set ourselves up to make mistakes that could have been avoided.
As we turn to 2 Samuel 22 we encounter David near the end of his life. The glory days had given way to a time when David had a clear perspective on life. He had experienced much and reflected deeply. 2 Samuel 22 and Psalm 18 are virtually the same. There are only minor differences of spelling between the two. These spelling differences most likely come from the way the text was used. 2 Samuel was written to be heard by the people (so it was more formal spelling) and the Psalm was meant to be spoken by the people (so it had a more popular spelling).
What we want to do this morning is to listen to what David has learned. Our hope is that we can build on his life lessons as we live our own lives. We will spotlight six life lessons we can take from David’s words.
The Lord is a Reliable Shield and a Rock – Rest in Him (1-20)
David’s first words are, “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge.”(2-3)
In the Middle Eastern deserts things could get really hot. An over-heated traveler would find respite by resting in the shade of a large rock. When the winds blew a rock formed a shield from the sand and dust. If David was writing this today he might say, “The Lord is my shade tree” or “the Lord is my shelter house”. He might even say “the Lord is my storm shelter.”
David had learned this lesson from the experiences of his life. As you read his words he reflects back on those times when it seemed like David was in desperate shape. There were the times when Saul was chasing him in the desert or throwing spears at him in the palace. There were civil wars and the battles with the Philistines. And there was the coup orchestrated by his son.
There were also personal times of failure when David gave in to his lusts and committed adultery and then in his attempted cover-up contracted a murder. Family conflicts must have led David at times to feel overwhelmed by feelings of failure as a dad. And there were times of personal devastation when he had to bury his sons.
As David looked back on his life the one thing that was constant was the Lord’s faithfulness in caring for him. In verse 17 we read,
He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
He drew me out of deep waters.
He rescued me from my powerful enemy.
Through all the difficulties of life David had learned that his source of strength was the Lord. No matter what happened . . . He could depend on the Father.
This is an important lesson. The Lord cares for us, He delights in us, He is eager to protect and lead us. We do not have to question His love. He has proved it again and again. Steven Curtis Chapman (who has faced his own heartache) wrote familiar words,
His strength is perfect when our strength is gone.
He’ll carry us when we can’t carry on.
Raised in His power, the weak become strong.
His strength is perfect, His strength is perfect.
Chapman has learned the same lesson as David: the Lord is our Shelter and our shield.
The Lord is Gracious – Trust Him 21-25
In verses 21-25 we read verses that make us scratch our head. David writes,
“The LORD has dealt with me according to my righteousness;
according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me.
For I have kept the ways of the LORD; I have not done evil by turning from my God. All his laws are before me; I have not turned away from his decrees.
I have been blameless before him and have kept myself from sin.
The LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness,
according to my cleanness in his sight. [21-25]
We find ourselves saying, “You can’t be serious!” We know David’s story. We know some of the skeletons in his closet. How can David talk about the “cleanness of his hands” or “I have kept the ways of the Lord”? Can he be serious?
David is most likely speaking generally about his life. There are some dark stains in his life story. However, for the vast majority of his life, he was a very faithful man. It would be like one of us saying, ‘I’ve tried to live a godly life.” David understood the simple principle that even though no one does what is right all the time, when we live for God and try to go in his way, the Lord cares for us and blesses us. In other words, even though you and I stumble and sometimes fall hard . . . if we will get up and keep seeking to follow the Lord, He will bless us and do what is right in our lives.
In Romans 1:17 we read, “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” The text reminds us that those of us who are in Christ have been made righteous (or holy) in God’s eyes by the sacrifice of Christ. We are righteous because of our faith, not because of our goodness. God deals with us on the basis of our righteousness that has come by God’s grace.
This is not a guarantee of a trouble free life. If we have learned anything from this series we have learned that David’s path has included heartache and disappointment. In looking back David realizes that even in the hard times God’s grace was supporting him.
The Lord is an Unfading Light – Follow Him (29-32)
Don’t you hate it when the power goes off and you grab your flashlight only to find that the batteries are dead? David affirms “You are my lamp, O Lord; the Lord turns my darkness into light” (29). He is the light that never burns out.
When we are in the darkness it confuses our senses. It is easy to be disoriented (who of us haven’t gotten up in the night and banged our shin against some object?) In the darkness we often become fearful. Strange sounds combined with a vivid imagination can terrify. However, when we turn on the light, the confusion goes away.
John wrote, “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all”. (1 John 1:5) Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
The Bible describes non-Christians as those who are in darkness. They are lost, confused, and aimless in life. The light of the Lord makes it possible for us to see. In Psalm 119 David wrote that the Word of God is a “lamp to our feet and a light for our path”. In this Psalm David says “the Word of the Lord is flawless” David had come to understand that God’s word is an infallible guide.
The Bible is given to us as God’s infallible GPS. If we will follow His directions we will arrive at our destination. David learned throughout his life that when he did what God told him to do he found blessing. When he ignored the directions, he became lost. The same is true for us. The things we tend to turn to for guidance in life will fall short.
- People will disappoint and deceive you
- Our conscience is warped
- Academia is biased
- Our feelings are fickle
- Other religions fall short of answering life’s basic questions
None of these things are reliable guides for our lives. Only the Lord Himself can give us light. Only the Word of God is an infallible guide. It alone is the light that will not grow dim. If we want to live with direction and purpose we need to follow His light.
The Lord Defends Us and Trains Us – Submit to Him (33-37)
David was known as a mighty warrior. He had a whole wall full of commendations and souvenirs from scores of battles. David was one of those men who could keep an audience on the edge of their seat as he told his war stories. Yet in this Psalm, David acknowledged that his victories belonged to the Lord. David wrote,
It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect.
He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights.
He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
David understood two things: first, He understood that every victory he enjoyed in life came from the hands of a gracious God. Second, he understood that every circumstance in his life was God’s training ground for future effectiveness.
These are important lessons. Human nature is such that we are quick to blame others for anything that goes wrong in our life and just as quick to take credit for anything that goes right. No matter what goes wrong: a car accident, a downturn in the market, a diminished crop yield, or an argument with our spouse and we are sure to look for someone to blame. And when we can’t find someone to blame, we blame God!
On the other hand, when things go well: when we avoid an accident, have a bumper crop, make a killing on the market or have a great weekend with our spouse, we will walk taller and swell with pride at OUR accomplishment.
David has learned to do just the opposite! He took responsibility for his failures and praised God for His successes. He recognized that EVERY good and perfect gift comes from above. Every delight is a gift from God.
David also learned that God trains us through the circumstances of life. James told us that tribulation is the means God uses to teach us the patience that is the foundation of all our other blessings. When Joseph spoke to his brothers when they came to Egypt he had the same perspective on life. He said, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20)
Please realize that both David and Joseph affirmed this lesson as they looked back on life. It’s not always easy to see when you are going through a crisis. They recognized that the hard times when they may have felt most abandoned by God was actually God’s training ground. It will not always be clear in our lives how God is working. However, we can learn from both David and Joseph and say with Job, “He knows the way I take, when He has tested me I will come forth as gold.” (Job 23:10)
The Lord Administers Sure Justice – Wait on Him (38-49)
In verses 38-48 David said, “He is the God who avenges me, who puts the nations under me, who sets me free from my enemies. You exalted me above my foes; from violent men you rescued me.” Paul reminded us of the same thing: “Vengeance is mine says the Lord”.
David entrusted his future to the Lord. When he was on the run from Saul he refused to strike down the King (even when he had the opportunity). He could have fought Absalom but he waited to see what God would do. Time and again David chose to wait on the Lord.
It is not our job to fix every situation. We don’t have the knowledge or the wisdom to administer true justice (even though we think we do). Only God sees the heart. Only the Lord knows the mitigating circumstances. He is the only reliable Judge.
David had learned to stop keeping score. It is a waste of time to spend life holding a grudge. Many people could escape being miserable if they could learn this same lesson. God can be trusted to sort out right and wrong. We should let Him handle these things.
The Lord will Provide a Redeemer – Run to Him (50-51)
David concludes his Psalm with these words, “He gives his king great victories; he shows unfailing kindness to his anointed, to David and his descendants forever.” David saw beyond his own life. He recognized that God’s goodness would extend to future generations.
David seemed to recognize that one of his descendants would provide God’s greatest gift to mankind. Jesus was that Son who reflected God’s goodness in all its glory. It is a reminder that just as God raised up David to lead His people, so He would raise Jesus to do for us what we could not do on our own. Peter wrote,
10 This salvation was something even the prophets wanted to know more about when they prophesied about this gracious salvation prepared for you. 11 They wondered what time or situation the Spirit of Christ within them was talking about when he told them in advance about Christ’s suffering and his great glory afterward.
12 They were told that their messages were not for themselves, but for you. And now this Good News has been announced to you by those who preached in the power of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. It is all so wonderful that even the angels are eagerly watching these things happen. (1 Peter 1:10-12 NLT)
David understood that he was a bit-player in God’s drama of redemption. The central character is Jesus. We would be wise to learn the same lesson.
Someone who goes to serve at the White House “serves at the pleasure of the President”. They understand that their job is to bring about the policies of the Commander in Chief. We have the same job! He does not exist to serve us; we exist to serve Him. God has provided for us a Savior. We should run to Him and serve Him.
This is a long passage but it is not hard to understand. David, at the end of his life, recognized that the most important thing in life was his relationship with the Lord. It’s interesting that when David was a young man he was passionate for the Lord. Now as an old man that passion has not weakened, it has grown deeper. Through the course of life David proved what He had previously affirmed: God is faithful.
David now passes these lessons on to us. We can dismiss them as the ramblings of a man who’s arteries were hardening or we can recognize them for the seasoned wisdom they contain. David is passing on the most important lessons he has learned. We would be wise to listen. He reminds us.
- The Lord is a Reliable foundation and our sure security, we should rest in Him.
- The Lord is Gracious, we should trust Him
- The Lord is an unfailing light, we should follow Him
- The Lord defends us and trains us, we should submit to Him
- The Lord administers justice, we should wait on him
- The Lord has provided a Redeemer, we should run to Him.
Augustus M. Toplady (1740–1778) was traveling in the country when a storm came upon him and he was forced to take shelter in the cleft of a great rock. While he was waiting for the storm to pass he reflected on the spiritual parallels of what he was doing, and the words of a hymn began to form in his mind. Looking down at his feet, he discovered a playing card that someone who had been there earlier had dropped. So he picked it up and used it to record these words. The card is still in existence.
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From thy riven (or ripped) side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Cleanse me from its guilt and power.
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in thee.
Augustus M. Toplady had learned some of the same lessons as David. I pray we will learn those lessons too. May we learn them sooner rather than later.
James Montgomery Boice, Psalms, Originally Published: Grand Rapids, Mich. : Baker Books, c1994-c1998., Pbk. ed. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2005), 158.