My God is my rocky summit where I take shelter, my shield, the horn that saves me, my stronghold, my refuge, my savior. You save me from violence! – 2 Samuel 22:3 (NET)
When we read about David’s God as a shield and a stronghold and a savior that saves from violence, we do well to refrain from reading and applying these words in only a spiritual sense. David’s God---our God---acts within history, and He is to be praised as the Creator, as well as the maker of covenant, and the exerciser of providential power to bring His covenants to pass, whether that be the covenant promises made to Adam, to Abraham, to Israel, or specifically to David. Once we understand that a God of history has purposes that He is working out, in history, through and for His creation, and once we locate ourselves within that history that ceaselessly points to His redemptive purposes, trusting that He is a God that promises and powerfully delivers on those promises, as the historical record indicates, then we turn the substance of David’s praises inward, with the proper realization that God, by His Spirit, transforms us by being all of these things for us, so that He might make us fit for His service and the performance of His good in and for His world. If we do not first have a God, as David did, that is rooted in history, then what we have is nothing more than a conjuring of our imagination. Such considerations should serve as a reminder of the importance of the historical life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus.
David continues on and says, “I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I was delivered from my enemies” (22:4). Here, it is appropriate to reflect upon the fact that the king of Israel is the representative of the people. As the representative of the people, it is incumbent upon the king to know the history of the people, and to connect himself with that history. David uses exodus language quite heavily in this song of praise. He couches his song of praise not only in the language of exodus, but in the story of the Egyptian exodus itself. This serves to demonstrate that the story of the exodus is what gives Israel its purpose and identity. Separating Israel and its Scriptures and its self-understanding from the story of exile and exodus separates Israel from that which is determinative of its existence, which is why it is so incredibly pervasive.
Exodus is such a powerful concept that the greatest threat that the Lord delivers against His people is the threat of ending their lives of exodus, and returning them to exile. If we were to look at it, this would be foundational for the story of Absalom, as he relied upon the story of the exodus, positioning himself as a new Moses, sent to deliver the people from his father, who had become a corrupt and cruel oppressor not unlike the Pharaoh of Egypt (Jesus, of course, also positions Himself as a new Moses, which is a common theme for Israel’s leaders). In his efforts, Absalom understood and counted upon the people’s realization of the significance of the story, and David experienced the powerful effects firsthand, so it is no wonder that David would make the effort to firmly ensconce himself within this powerful tradition. If this is true of Israel in the time of David, so also is it true of the Israel of God in this day.
It is impossible to understand the Scriptures and the mission of the people of God apart from the story of exile and exodus. So when David says “I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I was delivered from my enemies,” he is appealing directly to the exodus tradition. Because the Egyptian exodus was not an event that had simply taken place several hundred years prior, but rather, was celebrated each year at Passover, and was the context for the life and purpose of Israel, David could make that appeal, fully expecting those who heard this song to see the connection that is being made. David’s words would cause his hearers or the readers to look back to Israel in Egypt, to hear Israel groaning “because of the slave labor” (Exodus 2:23b). With this groaning, “They cried out,” calling out like David, “and their desperate cry because of their slave labor went up to God” (2:23b). They called out because they knew that they had a promise from God. David called out because he knew that God had fulfilled His promises, and because of that, was “worthy of praise.” We read that “God heard their groaning, God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob, God saw the Israelites, and God understood” (2:24-25). As a result, God sent forth a deliverer to rescue Israel from its oppressors---its enemies. This is how David looks upon his God.
For David, the God of Israel was, and is, and forever will be the God of deliverance---the God of exodus! Within this framework, we can now see David position himself as Israel, through the medium of his being their representative, so when we read “The waves of death engulfed me; the currents of chaos overwhelmed me. The ropes of Sheol tightened around me; the snares of death trapped me” (22:5-6), we hear the words of David and we think of Israel in Egypt, engulfed and trapped by death, and overwhelmed by chaos, in desperate need of the Lord’s salvation, which would be their exodus. Israel needed deliverance into the Lord’s purposes for them, as did David almost constantly, as do all that call upon His Name. That is rescue. That is exodus.