Matthew Henry comments on David’s song of deliverance in 2 Samuel 22, saying: “[David] had, for the main, made religion his business, so that he could take God’s favors to him as the rewards of his righteousness, not of debt, but of grace. God had recompensed him, though not for his righteousness, as if that had merited any thing at the hand of God, yet according to his righteousness, which he was well pleased with, and had an eye to.” We must get this point. The Lord does show favor to those who, in the main, seek to obey Him, but we dare not understand this favor as something we merit. Even when the Lord rewards us “according to [our] righteousness, according to [our] cleanness in his sight” (2 Sam. 22:25), this occurs only by His grace. After all, God ordains and empowers our faithfulness, and this with no respect to anything in us (Eph. 2:8–10). Indeed, we possess nothing in ourselves. We have nothing that we did not receive from the Lord (1 Cor. 4:7).
We find this theme in today’s passage as we wrap up our study of David’s song of deliverance. Note how David attributes any success he has had in battle to the work of our Creator. God made his “feet like the feet of a deer” on the heights—the Lord made him surefooted in war, able to navigate precarious territories and situations (2 Sam. 22:34). Although David “pursued [his] enemies and destroyed them,” beating them “fine as the dust of the earth” (vv. 38–39, 43), he did so only because God “equipped [him] with strength for battle” and “made [his] enemies turn their backs to [him]” (vv. 40–42). Yes, David exerted effort in his victories and deliverance, but ultimately, God, working in and through him, rescued him (vv. 44–50). As the Lord promised in His covenant with David, He showed “steadfast love to his anointed” (v. 51).
Certainly, we can draw personal applications from this, for God promises to be with His people always (Matt. 28:20). But we would be remiss if we were to miss the Christological significance of this text. David received special favor and special success because he was the chosen king and representative both of God and of the people of Israel. Yet this favor and success pale in comparison to the success and favor shown to Jesus, Son of David and Son of God. He is the Christ—the Anointed One—and the favor and success He received was not mere earthly success but victory even over the enemies of death and the devil.