Have you ever felt utterly overwhelmed by life? Perhaps your to-do list is growing longer even as the time to complete it grows shorter. Perhaps your needs are increasing as your resources dwindle. Perhaps a sense of exhaustion is setting in and you simply cannot find the time to rest. Perhaps your enemy list is growing while your friend list diminishes. You know that God loves you and you believe that he intends what is best for you, but the realities of life do not seem to match his promises. King David could relate.
Step into David’s sandals for a moment. Imagine you are a young man, relegated to shepherding your father’s flocks. A famed prophet arrives and anoints you as king of Israel. A little while later, you father sends you to take provisions to your brothers on the battlefield where you easily defeat the enemy’s fiercest warrior with a simple slingshot, while your king, your brothers, and their fellow warriors cower in their own tents. As unbelievable as the promise of kingship once seemed, things are beginning to look up. The future is as bright as the promises of God.
Before long, you are called to serve the troubled king with your soothing musical skills and, soon, you strike up an unbreakable friendship with the king’s son. The people you are destined to lead begin verbalising your praises.
The king doesn’t take this very well. Twice, he tries to kill you with his spear and, when that proves unsuccessful, he appoints you as a commander in his army and puts you, inexperienced as you are at war, on the frontline. But God is with you and gives you great success in battle. The king promises you his daughter’s hand in marriage if only you can bring proof of a hundred dead Philistines. Without much difficulty, you provide him proof of two hundred dead Philistines and, before you know it, you are the king’s son-in-law. But the rivalry continues.
Time and again, the king chases you down to kill you. Time and again, God delivers you. Even after you twice spare the king’s life, he does not cease his hatred toward you. Those once-bright promises seem a distant memory and you spend the rest of the king’s life as a refugee from the land over which you were promised to reign.
The king eventually dies in battle and the people, at first reluctantly but eventually overwhelmingly, receive you as king. But your troubles do not cease. You battle enemies from without and coup attempts from your own sons. Your own sin nearly devastates your kingdom. The life of ease that you once dreamed of as a young shepherd now seems a faint whisper.
That is exactly the kind of life that David led. As we read the account of his life, we marvel that he managed to persevere. Our troubles often seem but momentary afflictions compared to his. And yet, somehow, in the midst of all those trials, he maintained his sanity and kept serving the Lord—imperfectly, to be sure, but persistently, nonetheless. How did he manage it?
Second Samuel 22 (and its parallel—Psalm 18) give us the answer. Samuel’s record sets the historical scene for us: “And David spoke to the LORD the words of this song on the day when the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul” (v. 1). When he finally glimpsed a glimmer of hope in the darkness, he sang to the Lord. Listen to these words: “For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God? This God is my strong refuge and has made my way blameless” (vv. 32–33). David understood, in the words of a later prophet, that he was sustained not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord (see Zechariah 4:6). God was his strength—the one who sustained him.
The Hebrew words translated “God … my strong” (v. 33) are Elohei Ma’uzzi, and they form the name of God that we will consider in the coming week. It took a great deal of strength for David to persevere as he did, but it was not his strength, but God’s strength, that enabled his perseverance.
The two versions of this song—2 Samuel 22 and Psalm 18—contain a slight variation in these verses. In 2 Samuel 22, as we see above, David praises God who is his strength; in Psalm 18, he praises God for equipping him with strength (vv. 31–32). There is no contradiction, of course, for God equips us with strength by being our strength.
Paul learned this truth when he wrestled in prayer regarding his thorn in the flesh. He pleaded with God three time to remove the thorn, but God’s reply was firm: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul concluded, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9). He was able to persevere in his trial because God’s strength had become his strength.
As a believer in Christ, you can be sure that you will face trials in this life. Those trials will at times seem overwhelming. At times, you may be so utterly burdened beyond your strength that you may despair of life itself (2 Corinthians 1:8). But that is precisely when you must learn to rely, not on your own strength, but on God’s strength, who raises the dead (2 Corinthians 1:9). When we reach the end of our rope, we must rely on Elohei Ma’uzzi to strengthen us to persevere. Our God is our strength.
David composed this song after God had given him rest from his enemies. Sometimes hindsight is the best sight. Sometimes it is only with the benefit of hindsight that we see how God strengthened us in our trials. But when our trials blind us to God as our strength, we need to look to Scripture to be reminded that it is true. And when we by faith embrace Elohei Ma’uzzi as our strength, it will make a difference in our lives. David’s song in 2 Samuel 22 shows at least a threefold difference that God his strength made in his trial.
First, it moved him to praise (vv. 2–20). It is not easy to praise God in the face of overwhelming trial, but David’s song helps us to remember that Elohei Ma’uzzi is our strength when we feel strong and when we feel weak. In fact, it is precisely when we are overwhelmed by our weaknesses that God’s strength shines most brightly in us.
Second, it moved him to righteousness (vv. 21–31). David was far from perfect. He committed some truly heinous sins. And yet he was able to confidently assert, “The LORD dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me” (v. 21). His confidence was not in self-made righteousness but in the fact that Elohei Ma’uzzi had made him blameless (v. 33). God’s strength is most clearly seen in the gospel, by which sinful men and women—utterly powerless in their sins—are made righteous in his sight. And as God grants us the positional righteousness of Christ, he enables us at the same time to grow in practical righteousness.
Third, it moved him to confidence (vv. 32–51). David knew that his troubles were not behind him. There would be more battles to fight and more enemies to overcome. But he knew that Elohei Ma’uzzi –God his strength—would enable him to overcome because God’s own kingdom was at stake. God would not allow his kingdom to fall, so David could be confident as he continued to walk with God.
As you pray this week, allow the truth of God as your strength to guide you into adoration, even when you feel utterly overwhelmed by the trials of life.