David sang to the Lord the words of this song when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. He said: “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior— from violent people you save me. “I called to the Lord , who is worthy of praise, and have been saved from my enemies. The waves of death swirled about me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me. The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me. “In my distress I called to the Lord ; I called out to my God. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came to his ears. – 2 Samuel 22:1-7
This passage begins the Song of David. I must admit the content of the song seems different to me than some of the previous songs of praise given by Moses and others. David’s Song is reminiscent of circling back to review where one has been. This song is different in that it seems like war and conflict language are more prominent than praise. David’s posture sounds like he is under siege. In many ways he is right, as it seems like everyone in this part of the world is chasing after one another for one reason or another.
The water imagery in this passage is interesting and rich with meaning. David describes “waves of death swirling about him”. I live near Lake Michigan, which was called “meicigama” or great water by the Chippewa Indians. It is truly a huge lake with many different faces and moods. I am dictating part of this post as I walk along the beach…not another soul in site. The lake is calm and gentle waves are lapping at the shore. I have been to the beach when the waves were larger than I am. David clearly has large and dangerous waves in mind when he describes “waves of death” swirling about him. What David is describing is more like the rip currents which kill swimmers every summer on the Lake Michigan beaches. Rip currents are an interesting phenomenon that is caused by a breach or gap in the linear bars of sand that exist just offshore. The waves crash in and, as the water rushes out again, the water is concentrated at one spot and returns with great force and speed. Strong and capable swimmers are killed every summer by rip currents because they try to swim against this strong current and become tired and drown. The safest thing to do if one is caught in a rip current is to relax and allow the current to carry you out — or swim along the shore to get out of the current.
I think at this point in David’s life he is realizing that in many ways he has been caught up in a current of revenge, retribution, destruction, and poor choices made earlier in his life. I am not sure that David knows how to get out of the current and this song is in some ways a song of desperation. Ultimately, I think David needs to do what a person caught in a rip current should do — let the current take him. In other words allow God to take him where he needs to go by replacing his own self interest and desires with God’s.
The other bit of water imagery used in this passage is the description of “Torrents of destruction”. When I hear the word “torrent” I think of a river or stream in flood with so much debris and mud that it is difficult for a person to escape if one were to fall into it. A phenomena best observed from afar. Torrents have so much mass and momentum that they make it difficult for anything to escape. David’s life seems like a torrent at the moment. His family is dysfunctional and in shambles, his kingdom is tenuous and under siege, and he is threatened from all sides. I suspect he feels trapped by his circumstances. He knows that he needs to trust God and faithfully follow Him, but it is not really working. The momentum of all the people that are arrayed around David, and the weight and debris from his past decisions, have David stuck.
I think there are two important lessons to take away from this: 1) If it feels like you are swimming against a current that you can’t beat perhaps you are swimming the wrong way and need to allow yourself to be led by God out of the current and into safety; and 2) if you feel like you’re being overwhelmed by the sheer weight and magnitude of things happening around you, or past decisions you have made, your best hope is to look toward something even weightier and more massive — God.
Prayer: God help us to trust you to lead us out of strong currents and free us from the debris of past poor choices.