26 “With the merciful you show yourself merciful;
with the blameless man you show yourself blameless;
27 with the purified you deal purely,
and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous.
28 You save a humble people,
but your eyes are on the haughty to bring them down. (2 Sam. 22:26-28)
David was writing a song of victory when he wrote the words that are now known as “David’s song of deliverance” in 2 Samuel chapter 22, and modified as a public hymn in Psalm 18. Verses 26 through 28 of 2 Samuel 22 are the pinnacle thesis of all that David is saying, and summarize much of what he learned through the trials of being chased down by his enemies.
The world of entertainment seeks to imitate and glorify heroes in the archetype of David. Christopher Nolan‘s first in the famous series “Batman Begins”, depicts Bruce Wayne, before he became “Batman”, originally as a renegade outlaw who experiences redemption. Bruce Wayne then goes on a conquest to find his true identity and destiny, which leads him to the league of Shadows (i.e. “Ninja Camp”). Here he is trained by Ra’s Al Ghul, who later becomes his arch nemesis. Bruce doesn’t know this yet, but when the Ninja camp burns down, Ra’s Al Ghul almost falls off a cliff, and Bruce saves his life.
This is an allusion to the kind of life David lived. He was pursued by a mad King, Saul, who was convinced that it was God’s will to ruin and kill David. Enraged by jealousy of David being destined to one day take his throne, Saul chased David through the countryside, forcing him into exile. As the book of 1 Samuel describes, Saul threw spears at David numerous times, and David evaded death by the skin of his teeth. At one point David had Saul trapped in a cave. Saul was taking a leak and unaware that David and his men were hiding in the shadows waiting to ambush him, David gave Saul a free pass instead of killing him. But David warned Saul that his wicked ways would come to an end at the hand of the Lord Himself. David then shockingly displayed grace, forgiveness and pardon instead of the wrath and vengeance that Saul so deserved. Mind you, Saul had tried to kill David numerous times, and David was letting him go. David was risking his life to do the right thing, and dumping insane grace on Saul’s murderous, covetous heart.
With the merciful you show yourself merciful…
David understood the mercy of God on a deeper level through actually living it out in his life. We, as followers of Jesus, can understand God’s ways in our skull. But when the rubber meets the road, and we’re faced with an extremely challenging scenario- maybe a boss, or relative, or friend, or spouse or sibling, or stranger who betrays us or mistreats us, and we have the chance to get even… What will we do then? It’s only a God-ward perspective that can lead to the revolutionary response that David had to Saul. God’s only Son Jesus summarized this when he said; “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matt. 5:44-45)
Does this mean being a doormat? Not at all. When David spared Saul’s life, he warned him that God was going to deal with Saul’s transgressions. David didn’t want to step in the way of God taking care of things and showing Himself to be who He is. David didn’t want to do the wrong thing in response to being wronged. He understood God’s mercy. God looks down at all of humanity and easily sees our imperfection… I mean, He’s God! So for Him, it’s not a hierarchy of who’s more messed up than who… He sees wrong as it is, and we’re all loaded with corruption from our head to our toes. But God desires all to get a shot at knowing Him. He’ll even patiently, lovingly overlook some screw-ups in order to give people a chance to truly turn their hearts to him. If we had it our way, we’d be reacting with immediate payback to every dumb thing that is done to us. But God is not that way… He is full of love and mercy.
with the blameless man you show yourself blameless;
with the purified you deal purely,
David wasn’t a totally blameless man. He was a polygamist. He saw a naked girl on a roof, slept with her, and she became pregnant. He then had her husband slaughtered on the front lines of battle to hide the dirty deed. But when David was called out on this by the prophet and sage Nathan, he admitted his wrong and accepted the consequences of being a bonehead.
And when we pursue to perfection and purity of God, we will be grieved at blowing it. Hopefully none of us will ever do something as whacked as what David did with the pregnant girl and her husband. But we all do stupid things, or think stupid thoughts daily that remind us we’re not God! These are reminders to stay humble.
When we chase after God’s perfection, we begin to bask in His flawless ways. We honor Him and love Him for all that He is, and we’re amazed by it. We also progressively want more of His character infused into ours, and as we continually admit our shortcomings, He fills us with His love and His ways.
with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous.
It’s funny that people in the midst of crookedness would see God as being “tortuous”. This is a common view of God- that He’s a wrathful, nasty old grandpa with a love for Baptists and a hatred for fornication. It could be that crooked folks view God this way because His commands seem so impossible in the midst of confusion and bewilderment. When one sees God as He is- loving, caring, fair, merciful, pure, holy, beautiful, etc., etc…, It’s easy to follow Him. And one finds that when they do fulfill what God is asking, one also becomes more loving, caring, fair, merciful, pure, holy, and… well maybe not always beautiful, but you get what I mean!
There are crooked religious people of course. I’m talking of the Christian sort here. They have a jacked up view of God. Particularly sourpuss religionists view God as a nasty lawgiver who makes demands that no one can live up to. The religionist outwardly appears to fulfill these demands, while inwardly they waste away in guilt, duplicity, frustration, and hidden misdeeds that go on unannounced.
Could it be that King Saul viewed God as tortuous? Saul claimed to know and obey God. At times he was seen even falling on his face before God, getting caught up in worshipping God, and even seemingly, though probably not genuinely, repenting of his wrongdoings. Could it be that David was thinking of Saul when he wrote this? God only knows.
May we be ones who view God as He is… loving, merciful and good.