[The audio for this week’s evening service is available at Sermon.net, as is a PDF file of the notes for the service. You should be able to download the audio directly with this link, if you prefer (right-click, save link as….)]
2 Samuel 23:1 Now these are the last words of David: The oracle of David, the son of Jesse, the oracle of the man who was raised on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, the sweet psalmist of Israel…
This song is described as an oracle, usually associated with a prophet. But it also a wisdom psalm. The song is quite similar to Proverbs 30, the Sayings of King Lemuel. In that case, the words are described as advice given to him by his mother prior to becoming king. The content of both songs is similar, being advice from an older, wiser person on how to be a successful king.
The heading for this song describes David with three titles:
The man whom the Lord raised on high. The verb is passive, God is the subject. As we have seen frequently in this series, David always attributes his rise from a young shepherd to the king of Israel to the power and guidance of God. To be “raised on high” was a major theme of the previous Psalm in 2 Sam 22. David was a the lowest point imaginable and the Lord lifted hum out of the pit and raised him to a high, level, and safe ground.
The anointed one of God. This is a theologically packed title, one which will develop into the idea of messiah. By the time of the New Testament, Messiah is the title of the coming deliverer who will restore David’s kingdom to Israel. At this point in history, however, to be the “anointed of God” is to be specially chosen by God for a particular task, in David’s case, to be the ruler of a united Israel. While a literal anointing with oil is part of the coronation of a king, it is possible that David also has in mind the presence of the Holy Spirit in his life. When David was anointed as king in 1 Sam 16 he in fact received the Holy Spirit and was from that time on guided and led by God’s Spirit.
The “Sweet Psalmist of Israel.” The ESV does a good job with the noun נָעִים (na’im)which has the connotation of pleasant or delightful. Frequently this is in the context of music which praises God (Ps 81:3, 135:3, 147:1) or wisdom (Prov 22:18, 23:8, 24:4). The NIV (1984) has “singer of songs,” the TNIV has “the hero of Israel’s songs,” although I cannot understand why they chose “hero” for this noun. The cognate verb can mean “be friendly with” or even “good to the taste” and the cognate adjective is usually translated “sweetness” or “charm” (נַעַם, but this form does not appear in the Hebrew Bible).
But this is not music alone, he is the sweet singer (זָמִיר) of Israel. David is described as the one who created songs for the nation’s worship. This may have been intentional since one factor in creating a national spirit is to use music. There are certain songs, even styles of songs which are a part of a nation’s psyche. John Philip Sousa strikes a patriotic chord for most Americans. Think of the National Anthem scene in Casablanca. Music can create nationalism. David uses music strengthen Israel’s national story, although it is his version of that story!
Just as music has the power to unite a people, so too it instructs. Human minds are wired to remember lyrics set to pleasant melodies. (How many songs can you recall compared to scripture? My guess is most people my age know more lyrics to Margaritaville than scripture.) David created a body of music which not only supported a developing nationalism, but also a particular view of God. He is different than the gods of the Canaanites.