During a battle with the Philistines, it is recorded that “David waxed faint” (2 Samuel 21:15). Although it isn’t exactly clear what this phrase means, it is probably a metaphor that refers to David being weak and unable to fight as he once was. At this point in David’s military career, he was probably in his 50s, maybe over 60 years of age, so it makes sense that he would be losing his strength, except that there were other men, such as Caleb, that were fighting battles after they had reached the age of 80 (Joshua 14:10).
One explanation for David’s loss of strength is spiritual warfare. Sometimes the unseen battle we are engaged in as believers takes more of a toll on us than physical warfare. An indicator that David’s problem was spiritual rather than physical is the definition of the word translated faint. The Hebrew word ‘ûwph (oof) means to cover (5774). It is associated with dimness or the covering up of a light.
In response to David’s weakness, it says in 2 Samuel 21:17, “Then the men of David sware unto him, saying, Thou shoult go not more out with us to battle, that thou quench not the light of Israel.” David’s men believed that keeping David alive was a matter of national security. So fragile was the peace that, it appeared the nation of Israel might crumble if David was to die.
What David’s men failed to realize was that God was the one that provided the light. Spiritual strength comes as a result of connection to God. Rather than trying to keep David alive, the people needed to turn to God and worship him as David did. In David’s psalm of praise, it says, “For thou art my lamp, O LORD: And the LORD will lighten my darkness” (2 Samuel 22:29). The word translated lamp is this verse is the same word translated light in 2 Samuel 21:17.
When David said, “the LORD will lighten my darkness” (2 Samuel 22:29), I believe he was talking about the LORD fighting David’s spiritual battles for him. Darkness is used figuratively to represent misery, destruction, sorrow, and wickedness (2822). Evil and darkness are often contrasted with goodness and light in order to portray the spiritual realm where warfare determines future events. In David’s time, Satan had not yet been defeated and the battle for control of the world was still being fought.
David’s attempt to establish peace in Israel was the first step toward conquering Satan. In the same way that the lamps in the tabernacle were to burn continually as a sign of God’s presence, so David’s life became a symbol of God’s presence in the nation of Israel. Until the Messiah came, the LORD would not let David’s light be extinguished. At the time of Solomon’s death the LORD spoke these words through the prophet Ahijah. “And unto his son will I give one tribe, that David my servant may have a light always before me in Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen me to put my name there” (1 Kings 11:36).