2 Samuel 22:36 reads, “You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your gentleness made me great.”
This short snippet in the midst of David’s last words is striking. The poetry is full of war talk -troops, bows, battles, torture, enemies – with themes of meekness and mercy sprinkled throughout. But it’s the shield and gentleness that grabs me.
When I think of a fight, salvation and gentleness are not the weapons that first come to mind. Yet, as Martin Luther noted, the cross of Christ turns everything upside-down. In the Lord’s economy, rather than burying dirt to save your career or smearing your opponent as an offensive tactic, salvation is a shield and gentleness makes one great. That’s countercultural.
If I am honest, self-defense and pointing the finger is my gut instinct. But shielding oneself and being a bullish accuser rarely protects. At best it provides the opportunity for more dirt to stick, and, at worst, it is mimicking the devil. My best defense is not self-defence or accusation, but the breastplate of righteousness in Christ (i.e. salvation).
On the one hand I am tempted to lash out. It feels good to use sarcastic and cynical offensive tactics. On the other hand I’m tempted to be silent and passive. But principled gentleness does not allow for either. The greatness of biblical gentleness is that it accompanies the strength to work for a principled and true peace without using those principles as clanging gongs.
Therefore, to restate the verse above, resting in God’s salvation is a shield against ultimate harm, and greatness comes with principled gentleness.
This week our worship service will include some “war-talk” and “war-songs.” Some folks are uncomfortable with this, and rightly so given certain historical events. But when you consider that our ‘armor’ should actually be things like truth, peace, righteousness, salvation, and even gentleness if we borrow from David, it transforms both our discussion and our actions. This week at Christ Covenant, among other things, we consider Ephesians 6:14-17 and the putting on of the helmet of salvation and the readiness of the gospel of peace.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Or, to paraphrase David: blessed are the gentle, for they shall be made great.