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2 Samuel 22:2-3 The L-rd is my rock, and my fortress and my deliverer. G-d - my rock in whom I trust, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my high place and my refuge, the one who saves me - You save me from violence.
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A slightly longer piece of Hebrew text starts our thoughts for this week. It is taken from from the beginning of David's 'song' of deliverance that the narrator sets at the end of the book(s) of Samuel. The song is almost completely duplicated in Psalm 18, though with enough detailed editorial changes to show that it isn't an exact copy. The whole passage (2 Samuel 22:1-51) has been chosen by the Sages as the Haftarah for the seventh day of Pesach to complement the Song of Moshe (Shemot 15:1-19), sung immediately after our people passed through the Reed Sea, that ends the festival Torah reading for the day. The Sages also designated this passage for reading at the graveside following the burial of a loved one because of its affirmation of HaShem's sovereignty. Walter Brueggemann comments that, "this inclusion provides a theological context in which the whole of the literature of I and II Samuel is to be understood. The history of David (and Israel) is not simply a tale of power and conflict but concerns the enactment of Yahweh's sovereignty."1
The words , my rock, and , my salvation, reappear almost at the end of the song, starting the final paragraph of David's speech, forming a frame for David's narrative memory of the way thatHaShem has upheld him and looked after him during his life. Michael Fishbane says that, "clearly, the primordial fastness of mountain rocks was the hymnist's preferred metaphor for inviolable stability on earth."2
2 Samuel 22:47 The L-rd lives! and blessed be my rock. And exalted be G-d, the rock of my salvation.
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What is David saying in these tightly packed framing verses surrounding the ups and downs of his life? What pictures or snapshots has he left for the generations that have followed him down to the present day? Perhaps the first thing to notice is the prevalence of the first person possessive pronoun appended to many of the nouns and verbs. Bruce Birch points out that "all of these terms are personalised by the 'royal narrator' with the use if the possessive pronoun 'my': rock, fortress, deliverer, refuge shield, horn of salvation, stronghold, saviour."3 The two verbs (in verse 3) also carry first person object pronouns - 'me' - and the closing verse is similarly adorned. David is the king of Israel; wouldn't it have been better to 'share' HaShem with his people and use the plural pronouns - our or us - so that everyone can be included? RabbiHirsch disagrees: "These verses express the different ways in which G-d's love had proved itself in the life to which David looks back here." David uses my/me because he had a personal relationship, a series of personal encounters with HaShem, in which He has consistently saved, rescued, protected, empowered, enabled and otherwise blessed David in his struggle to walk out the anointing of 'king' and to bring the Israelites together as the people of G-d, rather than twelve squabbling and bickering sibling tribes.
Ronald Youngblood suggests that in verses 2-3, the "nine epithets underlining G-d's protecting presence are divided into three groups of three."3 These are: rock, fortress and deliverer; rock, shield and horn of deliverance; high place, refuge and saviour. Each trio begins with a rock-like or mountain image - so typical of the Judean mountains where David lived, hid and fought when being pursued by Saul - and ends with a form of the root , "to deliver, save, set free" (Davidson). In fighting (fortress), protecting (shield) and fleeing or hiding (refuge), HaShem was there for David and never let him down.
The psalms are redolent with strong personal linkages between G-d as a rock and G-d as saviour or salvation. Twice David says, "He is my rock and salvation, my haven; I shall not be shaken" (Psalm 62:3,7), while the psalmist cries out, "Be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may continually come; You have given the command to save me, for You are my rock and my fortress" (Psalm 71:3, ESV). A psalm attributed to Ethan the Ezrahite ascribes these words to David, "You are my father, my God, the rock of my salvation" (Psalm 89:27), and the psalmist encourages the people to praise G-d together: "Come, let us sing joyously to the L-RD, raise a shout for our rock and salvation" (Psalm 95:1). It seems impossible to miss the depth of connection, both in language and in personal experience, that the ancients had with G-d.
Isaiah sees the days when a righteous king will reign in Jerusalem and he and his ministers will be like rocks providing shelter: "Behold, a king will reign in righteousness, and princes will rule in justice. Each will be like a hiding place from the wind, a shelter from the storm, like streams of water in a dry place, like the shade of a great rock in a weary land. Then the eyes of those who see will not be closed, and the ears of those who hear will give attention" (Isaiah 31:1-3, ESV). Reflecting and reversing the commission first given to the prophet - "Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed" (6:10, NJPS) - Isaiah describes the leaders in the kingdom of G-d who - under the authority of Yeshua - will protect and guard His flock as they share the gospel and grow His kingdom. They will be a refuge, a shelter and a rock for their people, calling on the presence of the Lord and His Spirit to resource and enable them to stand for Him in this world. Eyes will be open and will see the truth; ears will be open and will hear the truth.
Where do we find the breadth and depth of connection with G-d as believers in Yeshua? Can we look at the words of David and apply them to ourselves and derive comfort and support from them? The answer to that question is most certainly 'yes'. Although the New Covenant Scriptures don't use exactly the same pictures and analogies that were part of every day life for the Psalmist and it would seem that we live in a very different world, many of the challenges that David faced - humiliation, homelessness, discrimination, intolerance, sometimes outright hostility and even personal vendettas - remain part of our lives too. How do we process these things?
The first thing to do is to remember Rav Sha'ul's words: "All Scripture is inspired by G-d and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of G-d may be adequate, equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NASB). Understand that when Sha'ul wrote that, the Hebrew Scriptures were the only Scriptures, so the words of the Psalmist, the words of the prophets, the words of the Torah are inspired and profitable for us; guided and interpreted by the Spirit, they are sufficient to equip us in every way to serve Yeshua in this age. As if that weren't enough, Sha'ul tells us that "whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope" (Romans 15:4, NASB). We can legitimately find our hope, instruction and encouragement in the pages of the Hebrew Bible as well as in the Apostolic Writings.
Secondly, we do what David did: we pray. David poured out his heart to G-d many times, some of whose words are recorded for us in the Tanakh. We can pray through the Psalms, using those words to enable our prayers; we can find expression in the words of the prophets; we can stand alongside the intercessors and cry out as they did. G-d, whose character never changes, will hear our prayers and respond to us as he responded to them. Peter tells us: "Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of G-d, so that at the right time He may lift you up. Throw all your anxieties upon Him, because He cares about you" (1 Peter 5:6-7, CJB). This is very much a case of picking the battles - only fighting the ones the Spirit tells us where and when we should. That is what Sha'ul meant when he said, "Take up the whole armour of G-d, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm" (Ephesians 6:13, ESV).
We move when the pillar of cloud and fire moves; otherwise we stand our ground and refuse to be moved. When we stand in His strength, in the power of Spirit, "the gates of hell shall not prevail" (Matthew 16:18, ESV). No, "in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us" (Romans 8:37, ESV). Knowing this to be true, "the peace of G-d, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Messiah Yeshua" (Philippians 4:7, ESV). With David, we shall know that Yeshua is our rock, our fortress and our deliverer!
Chag Pesach Sameach!
1. - Walter Brueggemann, First and Second Samuel, Interpretation, (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2012), page 339.
2. - Michael Fishbane, Haftarot, The JPS Bible Commentary, (Philadephia, PA:, Jewish Publication society, 2002), page 318.
3. - Bruce C. Birch, "1 and 2 Samuel" in The New Interpreter's Bible Commentary, Vol II, edited by Leander E. Keck, (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2015), page 616.
4. - Ronald F. Youngblood, "1, 2 Samuel", in The Expositor's Bible Commentary, Vol 3, edited by Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009), page 585.
Further Study: Psalm 144; Isaiah 26:3-4; Romans 8:38-39
Application: Do you read the Psalms and hanker after the obvious closeness that the ancients had with G-d? Ask the Holy Spirit about it today; ask Him to draw you into the power and presence of G-d and deep fellowship with Yeshua. Yeshua promised never to leave us and to hear our prayers when we ask in His name. That is as true for us - me and you - today as it was for Peter and Rav Sha'ul in the first century. Reach out and call; He is there for you!
Comment - 12:51 28Mar21 Janet Gray: Pesach, last year and this year has increased depth for us all. I have never been so aware of the activity of the adversary on a world wide and local basis. The experiences and writings of the men and women of our Heavenly Father in the Scriptures are so much more relevant and practical facing these days prophesied in these writings. As David found and describes the closeness and direction from Our Saviour we too are strengthened.
© Jonathan Allen, 2021
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