In many cultures, gentleness is not considered a virtue. In the early history of God’s people Israel, being gentle ran contrary to the thinking of the pagan world around them. Many of His people thought the same way. Even David, who was destined to be king and called by God as a man after His own heart, wrote many a personal testimony about the power of God and how He was his source of strength. Yet David recognized something about God that runs contrary to most ideas of what God is like, and even seems contrary to David’s description of His power.
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. He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights. He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your gentleness made me great. (2 Samuel 22:32–36)
David sees God as a rock, a strong refuge where he can safely stand. He sees Him as one who forgives sin and guides him in righteous living, for God has made his way blameless. God is his resource and equipper. God has given him speed and security, trained him to fight so that he could bend a bow reinforced with bronze, difficult to draw but a powerful weapon with which to defeat his enemies.
David also understood that God had given him a shield. This may be a literal shield to save him from enemy attacks, but can also refer to the protection found in having a saving relationship of faith. The shield of salvation protects the entire person from spiritual judgment and destruction. By knowing God had forgiven and saved him from the penalty of sin, David was confident to move ahead with God’s leading. He had no concerns for his own safety or destiny because he knew that God had taken care of him.
The last phrase is a surprise. All the greatness (increase, abundance, authority, excellence, plenty) that David knew came to him because of God’s gentleness, not His might or power or forcefulness, but through an entirely opposite characteristic of God.
The word means condescension, clemency, humility, meekness. This is a term that shows a side of God that ran contrary to pagan ideas about what a god should be. They wanted power not humility, meanness toward enemies, not meekness. Condescension was the last thing they expected from their gods. But David’s God, and my God, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, humbled Himself that we might becomes great.
(Jesus) who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:6–8)
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9)
The God whose gentleness made David great still does the same for those who are people after His own heart. He builds up all those who know there is no God but the Lord, no rock like Him.
Lord, this is a grand thought. You, the most powerful Being, are willing to give that strength to those of us who are weak, needing forgiveness and grace. The more helpless we are, the greater Your blessing. The less secure we feel, the more You come to our rescue. Truly, Your gentleness is the most amazing thing about You. Like David, I am in awe of all that You do — certainly because You are strong, but also because You are gentle.