2 Samuel 22:36
You have also given me the shield of your salvation: and your gentleness has made me great.
Thy gentleness hath made me great. David had been raised from a humble position to one of greatness. He had become great in arms, in royal dignity, in the extent of his dominion. In these words he ascribes all his greatness to the condescending goodness of God. The word translated "gentleness" is elsewhere used only of men, and signifies "humility" (Proverbs 15:33; Proverbs 18:12; Proverbs 22:4). But in speaking of God, we use the word "condescension" rather than "humility." Yet it is said of him (Psalm 113:6) that "he humbleth himself to behold the things that are in heaven and in the earth;" i.e. he stoops to regard them; it is condescension in him to notice them. The words of the text may be used by all Christians; especially by some of them.
I. THE GREATNESS TO WHICH CHRISTIANS ARE EXALTED.
1. All of them are made great. For they are made:
(1) Sons and daughters of the great God, brothers and sisters of Jesus the Son of God, having a nature corresponding with the names. They are "partakers of the Divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4), and therefore God like, in holiness, righteousness, and love.
(2) Wise with heavenly wisdom. A nobler wisdom than that of philosophers. "Taught of God" (John 6:45), who reveals to them what he hides from the worldly wise (Matthew 11:25).
(3) Powerful with the noblest power, that which is moral and spiritual, by which they "overcome the world" (1 John 5:4), rule their own spirits (Proverbs 16:32), and subdue others to the obedience of faith.
(4) Friends and associates of the best of God's creatures - holy angels and redeemed men; with whom they form one family (Ephesians 3:15).
(5) Heirs, and at length possessors, of a grand and enduring estate (1 Peter 1:4). These things are not mere names or fancies; they are solid and enduring realities, to have the lowest place and the humblest share in which is, in the nature of things, to be greater than the greatest of earthly dignitaries who have no part in them.
2. Some of them are made specially great. They realize, in a larger measure than others, the various elements of greatness mentioned above. They have more of God in them; and hence are richer in spiritual wisdom and goodness, exercise a wider and stronger influence, do a greater work, attain to greater honour and renown in this world and the next. Apostles, martyrs; eminent teachers, evangelists, missionaries, and reformers; monarchs, too, and statesmen, poets, etc., who are also devoted Christians. Such special greatness arises sometimes and in part from:
(1) Greater natural endowments. More of physical energy, or intellectual power, or emotional force, to begin with.
(2) Or greater opportunities, which may be such as rank and fortune give, or the state of things around them, or such as poverty, affliction, and persecution afford.
(3) Special earnestness, faithfulness, and diligence in the cultivation and employment of powers and opportunities (Luke 19:16-26).
(4) Special prayerfulness. Hence abundant impartation of the Holy Spirit, the Source and Sustainer of all spiritual excellence.
(5) Deeper humility. Without this all seeming greatness is not greatness at all "in the kingdom of heaven," and will shrivel into nothingness (Matthew 18:1-4; Luke 9:48; Luke 14:11).
II. TO WHAT SUCH GREATNESS IS TO BE ASCRIBED, AND IS ASCRIBED BY THOSE WHO ATTAIN TO IT. To the condescension of God. David recognized that all his greatness was owing to the goodness and power of God, and in their exercise on his behalf he discerned unspeakable condescension. Similar should and will be the feeling of all who are raised to spiritual greatness.
1. The work of God in their exaltation is a work of condescension. This appears as we consider:
(1) His greatness and holiness, and their littleness and sinfulness (Psalm 8.; Isaiah 57:15). God must stoop to reach and raise such creatures.
(2) His various operations upon and for them. When we consider what is involved in the Divine processes by which they are exalted, they resolve themselves into attention (so to speak) to, and animating or controlling influence over, a countless multitude of small matters. Yet we shall not be astonished at this when we remember that not a sparrow is forgotten by God, and that his children "are of more value than many sparrows" (Luke 12:6, 7). Also that great results depend on small things; and that, in fact, to the Infinite Mind there is nothing great, nothing small.
(3) And pre-eminently, the incarnation and work of the Son of God. The self-humiliation of the eternal Word in becoming man (John 1:1-3, 14), and of the God Man in lowly service to lowly people, patiently enduring the greatest indignities and most painful and ignominious sufferings, "obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" (Matthew 20:28; Luke 22:27; John 13:2-5; Philippians 2:6-8).
(4) The work of the Holy Spirit. Stooping to dwell in the hearts of the mean and sinful, bearing with neglect, waywardness, resistance, and disobedience.
2. The condescension thus displayed promotes spiritual greatness. Not only as it is exercised in the ways before mentioned, but:
(1) As it is apprehended and realized. The majesty, holiness, and justice of God tend to humiliate and repress the human spirit, and discourage aspiration and effort. At best it produces only a "spirit of bondage" (Romans 8:15). But under the influence of condescending love, love is enkindled, confidence is awakened, the heart expands and enlarges, is inspired with the freedom and courage which prepare for noble service of God and man, rises heavenward and yet looks on earth with kindlier eye, and more resolute purpose to labour and suffer for its good.
(2) As it incites to imitation. Contemplating the grandeur and beauty of the Divine condescension, we become transformed into its image. We learn to stoop to the lowly and even the degraded. We are content to serve in lowly offices, if thereby we can benefit our fellow men. It no longer seems strange that we should be required "to wash one another's feet" (John 13:14). And this is the way to become great (Mark 10:43, 44). Yet we must not indulge the thought or assume the air of condescension, or we shall fail both to benefit others and to secure honour for ourselves. Rather let us accustom ourselves to think in how many and important respects we are on a level with those whose good we seek. This will produce in us genuine humility, and enable us to feel towards our brethren a brotherly sympathy which will banish the sense of superiority. - G.W.
Parallel VersesKJV: Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy gentleness hath made me great.
WEB: You have also given me the shield of your salvation. Your gentleness has made me great.