This is not a single sermon on David. It is backbone of a series of studies meant to encourage open discussions with my youth class. The concept is to look at some of the salient points in the life of David, and to try to pry open what was going on in David's thoughts and feelings through a look at relevant Psalms. Originally the intention was to study the entire life of David, but circumstances shortened the project to David's life up to his triumphant return to Judah.
Preached in short form before New Wine Christian Fellowship Sunday, May 4, 2014. The emphasis was on how David overcame despondency in a difficult circumstance.
1 Samuel 16:11 Then Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and get him, for we will not sit down till he comes here.”
We know David as the great king of Israel. But as a child, David was not getting the vote as most likely to succeed. We don't know many details, but we do know that he was constantly tending the sheep, while there is never a mention of his brothers doing the same. When the brothers go to war, David is sent to bring them supplies. It would appear that he was treated more like a servant than a son. Was there some reason why he singled out, we don't know. What we do know is that when Samuel arrives to anoint a new king, Jesse calls the seven elder sons, but not David. Let's look at the passage:
God commands Samuel the prophet, “Fill your horn with oil, and go. I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” (1 Samuel 16:1). When the great prophet arrives in Bethlehem, he sees Eliab, Jesse's eldest son and thought, “Surely the LORD's anointed is before him.” (1 Samuel 16:6). Saul was very tall (1 Samuel 10:23). Here again was a tall and handsome warrior, surely he would make an excellent king. But, God said, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7).
One by one, Jesse parades each of his seven favorite sons before Samuel. One by one, God says no (1 Samuel 16:8-10). Seven sons are presented, but not one is chosen by God. Samuel is hearing from God so what is wrong? “Then Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Are all your sons here?’ And he said, ‘There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep.’” (1 Samuel 16:11). Jesse, David's father has not intended to present David, nor has he even called David to be present to see one of his brothers honored. Samuel is not interested in Jesse's thoughts on the matter.
“Send and get him, for we will not sit down till he comes here.” (1 Samuel 16:11). When David appears, the first thing noted is that he was ruddy (1 Samuel 16:12). David spent most of his time out of doors. Samuel looks on this bright eyed young man, God says “Arise, anoint him, for this is he.” (1 Samuel 16:12).
Samuel anoints David, the Spirit of the LORD rushes upon him (1 Samuel 16:13). It would seem that David's stock should have risen in the family circle, but keep reading. Saul needs a psalmist, one who is skillful at soothing him when he is agitated. David's name is mentioned and so David is sent for. Where is he? David is still with the sheep (1 Samuel 16:19).
Maybe David was just there training a replacement. Turn to the next chapter. The Philistines gathered for war. Goliath, a giant man of war stands as the champion of the Philistine army. The Israelite army is terrified of him. David's three oldest brother's Eliab, Abinadab and Shammah are sent to join Saul's army (1 Samuel 17:13). David serves Saul, but also continues to go back and forth the Bethlehem to feed his father's sheep (1 Samuel 17:15). After all that has happened to honor David, his family is still treating him like a servant.
And then comes the day that Jesse sends David on an errand: “Take for your brothers an ephah of this parched grain, and these ten loaves, and carry them quickly to the camp to your brothers. Also take these ten cheeses to the commander of their thousand. See if your brothers are well, and bring some token from them.” (1 Samuel 17:17-18). Notice that there are other brothers available to send, but David is the one who is sent to carry supplies to his elder brothers.
1 Samuel 17:26 What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?
The anointing on David begins to show we he is confronted by the sight of Goliath sneering at the troops of Israel, and troops cowering at his stature. “What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (1 Samuel 17:26). “Have you seen this man”, David is listening to the men exclaim, “the king will enrich the man who kills him with great riches and will give him his daughter and make his father's house free in Israel.” (1 Samuel 17:25). So he begins in the way of the world, the way of the conversation in front of him “What shall be done for the man…?”
David's vision ceases to be self focused, but shifts upward. David shifts to the man who “takes away the reproach from Israel”, and finally to the uncircumcised Philistine who defies… the living God. The anointing on David is enlarging David's heart. He no longer sees himself as a shepherd of sheep, even though his family still sees him in that role, he is now, without any worldly title or direction, the shepherd of Israel. It is contained in the destiny spoken over him when Samuel poured the oil of anointing over him. Looking down on this defiant Philistine before whom all of Israel cowered, David heart “grew two sizes that day”.
David's brother hasn't any idea of what is happening. “Now Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spoke to the men. And Eliab's anger was kindled against David, and he said, ‘Why have you come down? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your presumption and the evil of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle.’” (1 Samuel 17:28). Eliab was present when Samuel anointed David, but it has had no impact on him. He is accusing David of playing hooky from his job, tending sheep.
Eliab is another Israelite who sees the giant Philistine as another river too big to cross. David sees a giant who is insulting God's people, in front of God. David is embracing God's people, because God asked him to. I sincerely doubt that any of this is coming out of David because of some conscious deliberation on his part. His destiny has changed, so his heart's cry has changed. It just bubbles up like an excellent belch. But this one has the fragrance of heaven in it.
Eliab's sneer takes David off guard, “What have I done now? Was it not but a word?” (1 Samuel 17:29). The situation before David, the situation before Israel, the situation before God, has pushed all of the normal family dynamics so far away that David seems to struggle to understand Eliab's taunt.
By some miracle of heaven, this young man is sent on behalf of the armies of Israel, not dressed for war, but dressed as a shepherd, staff in hand, with a pouch of stones and a sling (1 Samuel 17:40). The Israelites are undoubtedly wondering what is wrong with Saul's thinking, allowing David to step out on behalf of all Israel dressed as a shepherd. Saul is probably thinking the same thing. Goliath is fuming at the insult. But, David is confident that he is there with God beside him. “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the LORD saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the LORD's, and he will give you into our hand.” (1 Samuel 17:45-47).
David is speaking with boldness, with indignation at the insult cast upon God's chosen people, and with absolute confidence in God's intention to defeat the Philistine threat. Why is David's boldness so much more fierce than all of the rest of Israel's army? Why this concern for the dignity of Israel? How does he know that the battle is the LORD's? It is all in the anointing. It is all in the prophetic words spoken over him, fixing his destiny. David has seized the word, believed the word, and is now taking his first step into the words pronounced by Samuel.
I think of this much like the concept of the person with a well thought out plan can quickly control a meeting. So too, a person whose destiny is matched to them can quickly begin to see the vision and become the embodiment of that destiny. God, through the prophet Samuel, has matched heaven's desire with the young man David. He is well prepared to begin. He has spent countless hours braving the weather, wild animals and loneliness. He has spent countless hours talking to God, worshiping God, and learning the heart of heaven. David is ready for phase two of his training.
A last important point: this destiny is from heaven. David doesn't see it, Samuel doesn't see it, David's family definitely doesn't see it, but God sees it. God saw it in Saul, but Saul failed to step into the role heaven intended. God's trust in David has given him the push. Now David is stepping into the vision, the heart of heaven is being released with every step. It will be fifteen years before he becomes king of the southern kingdom. David is beginning to see the world differently and to act differently. Like a fine steel blade he will find himself heated, hammered and suddenly cooled many times before he becomes the man after God's own heart.
1 Samuel 18:7 And the women sang to one another as they celebrated, “Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands.”
With the head of Goliath in his hand David is no longer ignored. Saul takes him into his service and will not let him return home (1 Samuel 18:2). David becomes best friends with Jonathan the son of Saul so that they made a covenant with each other and David went out in Jonathan's armor (1 Samuel 18:3-4). David was successful at everything Saul sent him to do, so that Saul set him as general over his armies (1 Samuel 18:5). David was greatly admired and beloved by the people (1 Samuel 18:7). Possibly for the first time in his life, David is admired and respected, he is in an important position and he is excelling. What could possibly go wrong?
Well things do go wrong. The reason is Saul. As Saul and David are returning from a successful campaign against the Philistines, the women come out to greet them. They sing and dance with joy singing, “Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” (1 Samuel 18:7). Unfortunately, Saul was a very self-conscious king. Moreover, he lived in a time when palace coups were common. He feared David and was jealous of David's reputation. “And Saul was very angry, and this saying displeased him. He said, ‘They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed thousands, and what more can he have but the kingdom?’ And Saul eyed David from that day on. The next day a harmful spirit from God rushed upon Saul, and he raved within his house while David was playing the lyre, as he did day by day. Saul had his spear in his hand. And Saul hurled the spear, for he thought, ‘I will pin David to the wall.’ But David evaded him twice. Saul was afraid of David because the LORD was with him but had departed from Saul.” (1 Samuel 18:8-12).
In a moment, through no fault of his own, David goes from being the king's favorite to being the king's dangerous opponent. David respects Saul and does his best to show it, but it is no use. Saul seeks to kill David by sending him against the Philistines in return for his daughter's hand in marriage. David is not killed, and Merab, Saul's daughter is given to another in marriage (1 Samuel 18:19). Saul tries again, suggesting his second daughter Michal who was in love with David, shall be his for a dowry of a hundred Philistine foreskins (1 Samuel 18:20-25). Saul is sure this shall be the end of David (1 Samuel 18:25). David brings 200 foreskins to Saul, so Saul has no choice but allow David to marry Michal (1 Samuel 18:27). David continues to be successful and Saul gets more fearful and jealous until he begins to encourage the murder of David (1 Samuel 19:1). In the end, David has no choice but to flee. Both Jonathan, Saul's son and heir apparent, and Michal, Saul's daughter and David's wife aid David in escaping.
David doesn't have any idea of where to go, so he goes to the place that seems the most sensible, to Samuel. Saul sends men to chase David down. Three squadrons come under the power of the Spirit in Samuel's presence and begin to prophecy until Saul himself comes and immediately goes under the power of the Spirit (1 Samuel 19:18-24). David goes back to his true friend Jonathan. David is having a hard time believing that Saul really wants to kill him so Jonathan is given the duty of testing his father one more time. The conclusion is clear, David must flee for his life (1 Samuel 20:1-42). This time he runs to Nob where there are a large number of priests (1 Samuel 21:1). Now let us slow down and notice two things. Most of us jump easily to the belief that so-and-so doesn't like us and wants to do us harm. David is the opposite. Saul has tried to kill him several times, but David still can't believe it. Secondly, when things go badly, David looks for the men of God. In the end, all of his nights learning to sing to the hosts of heaven while watching the sheep will have to be his guide. Ahimelech the priest of Nob is nervous, he has heard rumors, but David assures him that all is well. Ahimelech helps David who then travels on, but not without being spotted by Doeg the Edomite who runs to tell Saul.
This will cause a problem which David doesn't see as yet. It doesn't occur to David that anyone would kill priests. David figures that if he hides out in Gath, a large Philistine city state, no will know him and Israelites are unlikely to be traveling to Philistine territory, Saul most particularly. Unfortunately, one of the servants of Achish the king of Gath recognizes David. The servants call David “king of the land” know well the song of women of Israel “Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands” (1 Samuel 21:11). David seems to have leapt from the frying pan into the fire. Thinking quickly David feigns madness (1 Samuel 21:13). The ruse works and Achish has David ushered out (1 Samuel 21:14-15). David escapes back to Israel.
The psalm that captures the emotions of this event is Psalm 56. According to the superscript above the psalm it was written just after the event. “They stir up strife, they lurk; they watch my steps, as they have waited for my life. For their crime will they escape? In wrath cast down the peoples, O God! You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?” (Psalm 56:6-8). Here it is easy to sense David's fear, how hunted he feels. You can also see bitterness to those who have betrayed him. Oddly he never seems to direct bitterness against Saul. He shakes off all of his negative emotions to praise God and to say thankyou for saving me. He doesn't for an instant imagine that his own cunning has saved his kneck. “In God, whose word I praise, in the LORD, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me? I must perform my vows to you, O God; I will render thank offerings to you. For you have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.” (Psalm 56:10-13).
Psalm 34 is also tagged as commemorating the same events. In this one the fear and the anger have subsided. Instead it rings a jubilant tone from the start. “I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together! I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.” (Psalm 34:1-4).
David escapes to the cave of Adullam. Here he hears the ugly news, which we can read in 1 Samuel Chapter 22, Doeg the Edomite informs Saul that David had received help from the priests of Nob. Saul calls them before him and confronts them. Of course they have little to say since they didn't know that Saul was chasing David at the time. Never-the-less, Saul commands the guards to slay the priests, but they would not (1 Samuel 22:17). Doeg obliges Saul killing 85 priests that day and he continued on to Nob where he killed men, women, children, even the livestock (1 Samuel 22:18-19). David is crushed. Abiathar one of the sons of Ahimelech and a priest has escaped to David. David mourns, “I have occasioned the death of all the persons of your father's house.” (1 Samuel 22:22).
Psalm 52 shows the contempt that David has for Doeg and his actions. He contrasts Doeg's attitude with that of a godly man, describes the results: “Your tongue plots destruction, like a sharp razor, you worker of deceit. You love evil more than good, and lying more than speaking what is right.” (Psalm 52:2-3). “God will break you down forever”(Psalm 52:5). “The righteous shall see and fear, and shall laugh at him, saying, ‘See the man who would not make God his refuge, but trusted in the abundance of his riches and sought refuge in his own destruction!’ But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God. I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever.” (Psalm 52:6-8).
1 Samuel 22:2 And everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soul, gathered to him. And he became commander over them. And there were with him about four hundred men.
Since hiding in Philistine territory proved nearly fatal, David returns to Israel. He goes to hide in “the cave of Adullam” (1 Samuel 22:1). There is considerable debate as to where this cave was, (the Hebrew could also imply a stronghold). Some say near Bethlehem as chapter 23 of 2 Samuel (2 Samuel 23:13-17; also 1 Chronicles 11:15-19) relates the story of three of his strong men breaking through Philistine lines to collect water there. Most would place location south of Jerusalem. There is a ‘Tel (or hill) Adullam’ overlooking the West Bank about fifteen miles south of Jerusalem. Word got out that David was there, so many people gathered to him. Some were mighty warriors who had served under him, his family came, but also many who were angry or bitter, many who were fleeing debt burdens in a day when bankruptcy was not an option. His company swelled to four-hundred men, not including women and children. Before he would return from the wilderness, he would be leading six hundred men.
First David is careful to take care of his mother and father, taking them to Mizpeh and placing them under the protection of the King of Moab (1 Samuel 22:3-4), we assume for a fee. The prophet Gad comes to David and warns him to flee (1 Samuel 22:5), so David begins his wilderness trials fleeing from place to place, just trying to stay one step ahead of Saul. At the same time David is attempting to protect many who are simply fleeing the fate of the priests of Nob. His force is not large enough to confront Saul, nor is it David's desire to confront Saul. But with hundreds of mouths to feed, it is difficult for David to hide for long.
As if that is not enough, news comes to him: “the Philistines are fighting against Keilah and are robbing the threshing floors.” (1 Samuel 23:1). He could have said, Saul is the king, he needs to take care of that issue. David asks God, “Shall I go and attack these Philistines?” (1 Samuel 23:2). His men were already in fear of Saul, but to take their small force and attack a Philistine army intentionally seems foolish to them. David inquires again, and God says, “Arise, go down to Keilah, for I will give the Philistines into your hand.” (1 Samuel 23:4).
There are several things that this passage makes clear. First is that David has a genuine concern for the people of Israel. His care for his people outweighs his concern for self-preservation. He immediately asks God for direction. When his men object, David asks God for confirmation, but with that confirmation, he acts decisively. David and his small army route the Philistines and save Keilah (1 Samuel 23:5). Afterwards, David seeks God's council again and realizes that he must flee Keilah.
David flees deeper into the Negeb, a barren land in the southern part of Israel. Here there are few trees, food and water is scarce, and raiding parties are frequent. Here David will begin to feel the full weight of his exile. “Look to the right and see: there is none who takes notice of me; no refuge remains to me; no one cares for my soul. I cry to you, O LORD; I say, ‘You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.’ Attend to my cry, for I am brought very low! Deliver me from my persecutors, for they are too strong for me!” (Psalm 142:4-6). So David's prayer rings out from “when he was in the cave” (Psalm 142:1).
David is not relying on any schemes he might concoct. He is declaring, “You [God] are my refuge (Psalm 142:5). Psalm 63, “written when he was in the Judean wilderness” (Psalm 63:1), clearly displays the longing of David's heart. It has become a favorite contemporary worship song. If we look at the circumstances in which David wrote this psalm, we will notice an intensity in it that the lyric beauty of the psalm tends to mask.
Psalm 63 A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah.
- O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
- So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.
- Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.
- So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.
- My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
- when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
- for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
- My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.
- But those who seek to destroy my life shall go down into the depths of the earth;
- they shall be given over to the power of the sword; they shall be a portion for jackals.
- But the king shall rejoice in God; all who swear by him shall exult, for the mouths of liars will be stopped.
The first two verses voice an incredible longing for God's presence. This psalm matches Psalm 42 in many ways. That psalm starts with another memorable statement of longing: “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” (Psalm 42:1-2). Exiled to the Negeb, thirst seems to be an apt metaphor for his desperate situation. While most of us tend to ruminate Job-like for seeming ages, David follows the flow upward: “I have looked upon you”… “beheld your power and your glory”… “my lips will praise you”, and so David launches into several verses of the most magnificent praise. In Psalm 42, the psalmist stops the flow to ask, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?, and then “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” (Psalm 42:5-6). David, on the other hand, moves effortlessly between ruminating on his struggles and reaching upwards in praise. The psalm sweeps us right along with him.
David continues to move higher in his devotions, he sees his own deliverance from woe: “My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food” (Psalm 63:5). This is no prosperity gospel, his vision is based on the firm foundation of his relationship with God, which is a tried and tested relationship. David is confident of God's help, he states, “for you have been my help” (Psalm 63:7).
What we are seeing at work is David with a tried and true formula for overcoming the darkness from without that is trying to work its way into his soul. I doubt he ever wrote it out as his five points to spiritual fitness, rather it is a pattern that slipped under his skin on many lonely nights when the cold and dark pressed about him, whispering rejection. He would pull out his harp and play a song for the LORD. Psalm 57, also written “when he fled from Saul, in the cave” (Psalm 57:1), exposes the warfare underneath. “Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge” (Psalm 57:1), he begins, “I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.” (Psalm 57:2). His gaze upwards allows him to shift into confident declaration: “He will send from heaven and save me” (Psalm 57:3). The psalm struggles back and forth: “My soul is in the midst of lions” (Psalm 57:4)… “Be exalted, O God” (Psalm 57:5)… “They set a net for my steps” (Psalm 57:6)… “they have fallen into it themselves” (Psalm 57:6)… “My heart is steadfast, O God” (Psalm 57:6). And then we see him break through, “Awake, my glory! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn! I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. For your steadfast love is great to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!” (Psalm 57:8-11).
By this process of internal warfare, external praise, and remembering all the good that God has done for him so far, David is able to stir his soul so that he clearly sees his enemies defeated, as he sees God's care for him, “But the king shall rejoice in God; all who swear by him shall exult, for the mouths of liars will be stopped.” (Psalm 63:1-8). At this point, I do not believe that David is affirming a creed or ‘standing on the word’. He is declaring what his soul sees. It is all a part of his relationship with God.
1 Samuel 24:9-10 And David said to Saul, “Why do you listen to the words of men who say, ‘Behold, David seeks your harm’? Behold, this day your eyes have seen how the LORD gave you today into my hand in the cave. And some told me to kill you, but I spared you. I said, ‘I will not put out my hand against my lord, for he is the LORD's anointed.’”
David spares Saul's life, not once, but twice (1Samuel chapter 24 & 26). In chapter 24, Saul, who is pursuing David to kill him, enters a cave to relieve himself. He is alone and therefore quite vulnerable. He is unaware that David and his men are hiding in this very cave (1Samuel 24:3). His men press David with his own words “Here is the day of which the LORD said to you, ‘Behold, I will give your enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it shall seem good to you.’” (1Samuel 24:4).
Psalm 143:12 And in your steadfast love you will cut off my enemies, and you will destroy all the adversaries of my soul, for I am your servant.
David is in a dark and desperate place. He is not being opposed, he is being hunted down, pursued with one purpose in mind: the death of David. Psalm 143, from which the prophecy* above is drawn, is a picture of a man with nothing left to lose: “my spirit faints within me; my heart within me is appalled.” (Psalm 143:4). Of his adversary, David says, “the enemy has pursued my soul; he has crushed my life to the ground; he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead.” (Psalm 143:3). It is interesting that in this psalm, David speaks of sitting in darkness, which in the circumstances of the En Gedi cave is exactly where David is sitting, and he says, “the enemy has pursued my soul”. David clearly realizes that not only is his life in danger, but all of his thoughts and feelings are being pushed towards darkness.
The most remarkable aspect of David's personality is his ability to continually free his thoughts from the world in front of him and to look for God, both in past victories over tremendous difficulties and in promises and prophecies. It is this aspect of David's personality that makes him a true leader loved by God. In the midst of very difficult circumstances, David is able see God's path ahead of him, and refuse to deviate from it, not even for a prophetic word repackaged to fit the needs of the moment.
Psalm 143:5 I remember the days of old; I meditate on all Your doings; I muse on the work of Your hands.
Although Psalm 143 doesn't specify which past events he is thinking about, David is telling God, in this psalm/prayer, ‘I remember’. Is David remembering how the towering giant Goliath fell before him? One stone found its mark, while Goliath stood still mocking the boy. Or is David remembering how he eluded Saul's spear on more than one occasion? Why did King Achish let David go? How is it that in the moment that David was being pinned down in the wilderness of Ziph that Saul suddenly had to pull away to stop a Philistine attack? Search the word ‘remember’ in the Psalms, it is a theme which comes up again and again.
God's covenant is celebrated in what He has done. In this way, we can trust in our hope of what He will do. The future is informed by the past. We see this in the celebration of the first Passover celebration: “Then Moses said to the people, ‘Remember this day in which you came out from Egypt, out of the house of slavery, for by a strong hand the LORD brought you out from this place. No leavened bread shall be eaten.’” (Exodus 13:3). When Jesus was about to face capture and a torturous death, “he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’” (Luke 22:19). The promises are made concrete not by our imagination, but by remembering what has already been done.
The Passover or the Eucharist bread and wine are large scale covenant celebrations. Within these larger covenants are the individual relationships with God. Every Jew and every Christian has the ability to draw near to God. How? Calling on God in prayer and fasting. Finding God's heart in the Bible and in putting into practice the actions which win God's heart: mercy, kindness, justice and so on. Resisting the voices, loud and many, to compromise, try a little perversion, a little rebellion, do your own thing. In this way, small miracles begin to pile up. Someone is strengthened who had no hope. A life is changed. A catastrophe is averted. Peace comes in a fearful situation. Whatever happens, notice when God shows up, and remember. Remember that God hears you, and God responds. God has a relationship with the body of Christ, with godly nations, but God also has a relationship with every living soul that has breath, and that means you. Covet that relationship and deepen it, by personal interaction and by remembrance. This is what we see David doing time and time again.
Psalm 143:8 Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.
The second encouragement that David has is that several prophecies have been spoken over him. First he was anointed by Samuel (1 Samuel 16:12-13). The meaning was clear. When God tells him to go, Samuel protests, “Saul will kill me” (1 Samuel 16:2). Samuel goes under the pretense of making a sacrifice (1 Samuel 16:3-5). He anoints David in front of his family alone and quickly leaves (1 Samuel 16:13). The need for secrecy and the fear surrounding Samuel's visit shows that this was not a simple ‘impartation’. It says that “the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon David from that day forward.” (1 Samuel 16:13). David's awareness of God, and of his own destiny in God were magnified from that day forward.
Most remarkable is that Jonathan, the son of King Saul and the heir apparent, knows that God is with David. He has already made a covenant with David because of it: “do not cut off your steadfast love from my house forever, when the LORD cuts off every one of the enemies of David from the face of the earth.” (1 Samuel 20:15). Jonathan comes to David in the wilderness and “strengthened his [David's] hand in God.” (1 Samuel 23:16). How? Jonathan prophesies over David, “Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you. Saul my father also knows this.” (1 Samuel 23:17). Jonathan, as heir apparent, would not be disposed to believing that David would be the next king. But he does and comes to David to pledge his support.
So here is David: he is running and hiding in a barren inhospitable land with little food or water. He has a band of six-hundred misfits and social rejects. Pursuing him is a well trained, well armed, well supplied army of three thousand chosen men who have lookouts everywhere. His situation looks hopeless. On the other hand, he knows that God has been protecting him, and further he has every reason to believe that God wants to make him king over Israel. In this dilemma, suddenly David finds Saul right in front of him, inches from the tip of his blade, caught literally with his pants down (1 Samuel 24:3).
Does he put and end to Saul right now? Jonathan, Saul's son, has said the ‘LORD will cut off all the enemies of David’, and all his men know that God's word to David is that, ‘Behold, I will give your enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it shall seem good to you.’ (1 Samuel 24:4). Saul is definitely an enemy to David. Why should David hesitate?
There is only one explanation, it doesn't feel right. In the midst of this highly charged moment, David and breathes, “Answer me quickly, O LORD! My spirit fails!” (Psalm 143:7). He rises and quietly cuts off the edge of Saul's robe (1 Samuel 24:4). He has promised himself to Saul, and even now refuses to betray that trust. An interesting side note, is that because of Saul's disobedience to the word of the LORD, Samuel prophecies that Saul has been rejected by God. When Samuel turns to leave, Saul grabs Samuel's robe and it tears. Samuel prophecies, “The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this day and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you.” (1 Samuel 15:28). It appears that this prophecy is echoed in this instance.
When Saul and his army have moved away some distance, David stands on a bluff holding the edge of Saul's robe, displaying his lack of ill-will towards Saul. Saul replies, “Is this your voice, my son David?” And Saul lifted up his voice and wept. He said to David, “You are more righteous than I, for you have repaid me good, whereas I have repaid you evil. And you have declared this day how you have dealt well with me, in that you did not kill me when the LORD put me into your hands. For if a man finds his enemy, will he let him go away safe? So may the LORD reward you with good for what you have done to me this day. And now, behold, I know that you shall surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in your hand. Swear to me therefore by the LORD that you will not cut off my offspring after me, and that you will not destroy my name out of my father's house.” (1 Samuel 24:16-21).
Psalm 143:12 And in your steadfast love you will cut off my enemies, and you will destroy all the adversaries of my soul, for I am your servant.
Saul does not keep his word. He is soon back pursuing David. In an even more remarkable way the scene from En Gedi repeats itself. David and two men approuch Saul's army at night. All three thousand men are in a deep sleep. His friend Abishai tells David, “God has given your enemy into your hand this day. Now please let me pin him to the earth with one stroke of the spear, and I will not strike him twice.” (1 Samuel 26:8). David is immediate in his reply, “Do not destroy him, for who can put out his hand against the LORD's anointed and be guiltless?” And David said, “As the LORD lives, the LORD will strike him, or his day will come to die, or he will go down into battle and perish. The LORD forbid that I should put out my hand against the LORD's anointed. But take now the spear that is at his head and the jar of water, and let us go.” (1 Samuel 26:9-11). Since the last encounter, David has had time to mull over his responce and is now quick and decisive. He knows his answer ahead of time.
1 Samuel 25:33-31 “And when the LORD has done to my lord according to all the good that he has spoken concerning you and has appointed you prince over Israel, my lord shall have no cause of grief or pangs of conscience for having shed blood without cause or for my lord working salvation himself. And when the LORD has dealt well with my lord, then remember your servant.”
We have already seen that David was surrounded by social rejects, misfits, criminals and debtors. Their counsel was not trustworthy. David relied on his prayers to God, as well as inquiries to the ephod that Ahimelech had brought when he fled Saul (1 Samuel 23:6 & 9-12). But David was a man of action. He occasionally went into action before he had stopped to think through the results or inquire of the LORD. This is abundantly clear in the incident in the wilderness with Nabal and Abigail.
In First Samuel, Chapter 25, the story unfolds: David, besides running from Saul, has also been protecting the settlements in the wilderness of Judah. It was the time of sheep shearing and David heard that a very wealthy man by the name of Nabal was shearing sheep with his men. David sent some of his young men to ask for food from Nabal (1 Samuel 25:5-9). “And Nabal answered David's servants, ‘Who is David? Who is the son of Jesse? There are many servants these days who are breaking away from their masters. Shall I take my bread and my water and my meat that I have killed for my shearers and give it to men who come from I do not know where?’ ” (1 Samuel 25:10-11). Nabal accused David of rebellion, which is untrue, and unwisely insulted a man with an large army of 600 men. Even if David's men are largely misfits they are now a seasoned fighting force. Moreover, there are several exceptional warriors, David's mighty men (1 Chronicles 11:10-47).
When Nabal's reply is relayed to David, his answer is quick: “Every man strap on his sword!” (1 Samuel 25:13). David and 400 men march towards Nabal's encampment. Nabal's servants know that this will not end well for them and so they tell the situation to Abigail, Nabal's wife. “Behold, David sent messengers out of the wilderness to greet our master, and he railed at them. Yet the men were very good to us, and we suffered no harm, and we did not miss anything when we were in the fields, as long as we went with them. They were a wall to us both by night and by day, all the while we were with them keeping the sheep. Now therefore know this and consider what you should do, for harm is determined against our master and against all his house, and he is such a worthless man that one cannot speak to him.” (1 Samuel 25:14-17).
Abigail immediately loads a large store of provisions on donkeys and sends servants ahead to announce her coming. She, herself, comes with the gift. David is steamed to say the least: “Surely in vain have I guarded all that this fellow has in the wilderness, so that nothing was missed of all that belonged to him, and he has returned me evil for good. God do so to the enemies of David and more also, if by morning I leave so much as one male of all who belong to him.” (1 Samuel 25:21-22).
Abigail arrives and gets down, bowing low before David, she begins to apologize and to reason with David:
1 Samuel 25:24-31 “On me alone, my lord, be the guilt. Please let your servant speak in your ears, and hear the words of your servant. Let not my lord regard this worthless fellow, Nabal, for as his name is, so is he. Nabal is his name, and folly is with him. But I your servant did not see the young men of my lord, whom you sent. Now then, my lord, as the LORD lives, and as your soul lives, because the LORD has restrained you from bloodguilt and from saving with your own hand, now then let your enemies and those who seek to do evil to my lord be as Nabal. And now let this present that your servant has brought to my lord be given to the young men who follow my lord. Please forgive the trespass of your servant. For the LORD will certainly make my lord a sure house, because my lord is fighting the battles of the LORD, and evil shall not be found in you so long as you live. If men rise up to pursue you and to seek your life, the life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living in the care of the LORD your God. And the lives of your enemies he shall sling out as from the hollow of a sling. And when the LORD has done to my lord according to all the good that he has spoken concerning you and has appointed you prince over Israel, my lord shall have no cause of grief or pangs of conscience for having shed blood without cause or for my lord working salvation himself. And when the LORD has dealt well with my lord, then remember your servant.”
David hears in Abigail's plea, great wisdom. It's as if the recently departed prophet Samuel had come back to life to give him counsel. “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me! Blessed be your discretion, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodguilt and from working salvation with my own hand! For as surely as the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, who has restrained me from hurting you, unless you had hurried and come to meet me, truly by morning there had not been left to Nabal so much as one male” (1 Samuel 25:32-34). He receives Abigail's gift and turns his troop around.
It does not end well for Nabal. When Abigail returns to tell him what has transpired, Nabal is inebriated so she waits. When she tells him the next day, Nabal is in shock, literally. “In the morning, when the wine had gone out of Nabal, his wife told him these things, and his heart died within him, and he became as a stone.” (1 Samuel 25:37). Ten days later he dies. “When David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, ‘Blessed be the LORD who has avenged the insult I received at the hand of Nabal, and has kept back his servant from wrongdoing. The LORD has returned the evil of Nabal on his own head.’ Then David sent and spoke to Abigail, to take her as his wife.” (1 Samuel 25:39).
So Abigail becomes David's wife. Now stop and think about this situation. David is worked up emotionally and with hundreds of men in his company he sets out to remove his reproach. But, he is met by a woman who convinces him that he is on the wrong track. He changes his mind and withdraws. David is living in an patriarchal society, and he the leader has been stopped in his tracks by a woman. He recognizes the wisdom in Abigail's argument, and humbles himself to it. With 600 pairs of eyes on him, David says thankyou for stopping me. The men could let that pass, since they did get a large peace offering. Myself, when confronted, I think I would have difficulty humbling myself if there was one witness. David goes beyond that, he takes this woman as his wife. How do his men reconcile this in their minds? Has she beguiled him?
Looking over the life of David, we notice several things which are at work here. One is that David is not particularly concerned with his image. What is important is his relationship with God. And he knows that his worship will bring respect from God's people. Notice his answer to Michal, Saul's daughter who sneers at his “shameless” dancing before the LORD: “I will celebrate before the LORD. I will make myself yet more contemptible than this, and I will be abased in your eyes. But by the female servants of whom you have spoken, by them I shall be held in honor.” (2 Samuel 6:20-22).
Secondly, David respects wise counsel and keeps wise advisors around him. When David flees from the rebellion of his own son Absalom, it is told to him that a particular counselor Ahithophel has gone over to the rebellion. David prays, “O LORD, please turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness”, (2 Samuel 15:31). Cleverly, David sends his loyal friend and counselor, Hushai the Archite to subvert the counsel of Ahithophel (2 Samuel 15:34). Oddly, this rebellion was facilitated when David listened to the counsel of a wise woman of Tekoa, who is put to the task by Joab, resulting in Absalom's restoration to royal privledge (2 Samuel 14:1-21). In this case, the counsel seemed unwise. The important point is that David keeps wise and godly men and women around him intentionally.
And finally, David's respect for truth before God, causes him to humble himself before Nathan the prophet when he is confronted over his sin regarding Bathsheba. When Samuel had a word of rebuke for Saul, he had to leave Saul's presence (1 Samuel 15:35). When God tells Samuel to go and anoint David, Samuel protests, “How can I go? If Saul hears it, he will kill me”, (1 Samuel 16:2). It was dangerous to rebuke Saul. David, on the other hand, welcomed Godly counsel whether it was to his liking or not. Nathan had ready access to David, regardless. In Second Samuel Chapter 12, Nathan appears with a stinging rebuke from the LORD complete with the pronouncement of God's curses (2 Samuel 12:1-12). David doesn't miss a beat. He says, “I have sinned against the LORD.” (2 Samuel 12:13). “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”, David says in his prayer of Psalm 51 (verse 10). This is “A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba” according to the superscription above verse 1. The psalm flows with contrition: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Psalm 51:5). David understands, “Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.” (Psalm 51:6). He has violated the truth set in his inward being and moved against the wisdom set in his heart. David has no quarrel with Nathan, his quarrel is with God, for which he can only ask for mercy. David sees the truth and honors it.
Psalm 18:16-19 He sent from on high, he took me; he drew me out of many waters. He rescued me from my strong enemy and from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me. They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the LORD was my support. He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me.
The darkest hour is just before dawn. This old phrase is the perfect description of David's wilderness troubles. David has been in the wilderness running from Saul for more than a decade and there seems to be no let up. He decides, “Now I shall perish one day by the hand of Saul. There is nothing better for me than that I should escape to the land of the Philistines. Then Saul will despair of seeking me any longer within the borders of Israel, and I shall escape out of his hand.” (1 Samuel 27:1). Things are pretty hopeless when the safest place to be is under the protection of Achish, king of Gath, from whom he had fled ten years earlier. But there David goes with his band of men. Achish grants him the town of Ziklag to dwell in (1 Samuel 27:6).
To make his presence palatable to the Philistine king, convinces him that he is raiding Israelite villages when in fact he is raiding anything but Israelite or Philistine villages (1 Samuel 27:8-12). This becomes a problem when the Philistines decide to make war on Israel (1 Samuel 28:1). David has no choice but to agree to go up to battle along side Achish against Israel.
As the Philistine troops pass in review before the Philistine commanders, there is David and his 600 men. The commanders where angry and insisted that David and his men be sent back to Ziklag (1 Samuel 29:3-7). In case David was not feeling insecure enough, now his presence with the Philistines is exposed, his situation is likely to get even more uncomfortable.
But wait, it gets even worse. “Now when David and his men came to Ziklag on the third day, the Amalekites had made a raid against the Negeb and against Ziklag. They had overcome Ziklag and burned it with fire and taken captive the women and all who were in it, both small and great. They killed no one, but carried them off and went their way.” (1 Samuel 30:1-2). David's story is starting to look like Job's.
David's misery is compounded when the blame isn't focused on the Amalekites, but on him: “David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and daughters.” (1 Samuel 30:6). This is the place for all those cute aphorisms: ‘down to zero’, ‘lower than snail slime’, and so on. But imagine the turmoil in his heart. I've been in this sort of turmoil. It's impossible to sleep. I wasn't even able to lie down, I just crouched in the corner all night long. ‘Slough of despond’ doesn't begin to capture the despair. But…
“But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.” (1 Samuel 30:6). David's relationship with God is so close, that in the midst of earthly desolation, he never feels alone. He has somewhere to go and receive strength and refreshing. Immediately David is able to snap into action: “David said to Abiathar the priest, the son of Ahimelech, ‘Bring me the ephod.’ So Abiathar brought the ephod to David. And David inquired of the LORD, ‘Shall I pursue after this band? Shall I overtake them?’ He answered him, ‘Pursue, for you shall surely overtake and shall surely rescue.’ (1 Samuel 30:7-8).
Clear thinking and confidence changes the desperate atmosphere instantly. David and all 600 men set out to pursue the Amalekites. They overtake the raiders and decimate them. Every captive is recovered. All of their stolen goods are recovered as well as the plunder from numerous other raids (1 Samuel 30:9-20).
In victory, David does not exalt. One third of the men had been too exhausted to continue on to the final battle. Remember that many of those who follow David are societies least desirable, “wicked and worthless fellows”. Their pronouncement: “Because they did not go with us, we will not give them any of the spoil that we have recovered, except that each man may lead away his wife and children, and depart.” (1 Samuel 30:22). David is firm. “You shall not do so, my brothers, with what the LORD has given us. He has preserved us and given into our hand the band that came against us. Who would listen to you in this matter? For as his share is who goes down into the battle, so shall his share be who stays by the baggage. They shall share alike.” (1 Samuel 30:23-24).
David is also generous. When he returns to Ziklag, he immediately sends a part of the spoil to the elders of Judah, as well as to all of those towns and cities where he had the occasion to find himself in his times of trouble (1 Samuel 30:26-31).
Saul and Jonathan are not so fortunate. The battle with the Philistines goes badly. Saul and Jonathan are overtaken and killed. On the one hand, this is good news for David. His troubles are over and he is now able to return to Israel. But David seems to ignor that completely. This is bad news for Israel, who has been defeated at the hand of the Philistines. Saul and his good friend Jonathan are dead and the Philistine's exalt over their victory. In this account, the Amalekite who has brought the news claims to have killed Saul at his own request (2 Samuel 1:2-13). David is indignant, “How is it you were not afraid to put out your hand to destroy the LORD's anointed?” (2 Samuel 1:14). David orders him to be killed immediately (2 Samuel 1:15).
And so David laments the fall of Saul and Jonathan as the fall of great warriors fallen in battle. Verses 19 through 27 of Second Samuel contain “The Song of the Bow”, David's lament that he commanded to be taught to all of Judah. “Your glory, O Israel, is slain on your high places! How the mighty have fallen!” (2 Samuel 1:19).
After inquiring of the LORD, David goes up to Hebron where the men of Judah anoint him king.
2 Samuel 2:1-4 After this David inquired of the LORD, “Shall I go up into any of the cities of Judah?” And the LORD said to him, “Go up.” David said, “To which shall I go up?” And he said, “To Hebron.” So David went up there, and his two wives also, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel. And David brought up his men who were with him, everyone with his household, and they lived in the towns of Hebron.
And the men of Judah came, and there they anointed David king over the house of Judah.
It would be good to review and re-examine some of the things which make David the obvious candidate as replacement for Saul. While Saul had spent a great deal of time hunting down his greatest general in order to kill him, David was continually hunting down the raiding parties which plagued Judah. While Saul levied taxes and conscripted young men to harass David, David was quick to share the spoil taken from large raiding parties. David was a continual blessing to Judah even in the midst of his trials. David was a mighty warrior, with a reputation greater than that of Saul. It didn't hurt that David was of the tribe of Judah, whereas Saul was a Benjamite.
It seemed obvious to many people that David was destined to be the king. We hear that from Abigail (1 Samuel 25:30). But more importantly, Jonathan, the heir apparent, encourages David and prophecies that David will be king (1 Samuel 23:17). It is not clear that Samuel's anointing of David was public knowledge, but Samuel's public rebuke of Saul was well known: “The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this day and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you. And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret.” (1 Samuel 15:28-29).
But this is all the view from the world's vantage point. Politics was running in David's favor. Heaven's view also favors David, but for very different reasons. Heaven has anointed David through Samuel as we know. Where Saul used the position to his own advantage, he never cultivated the anointing. David has stepped into that anointing even though he is not yet king. As Abigail states it: “my lord is fighting the battles of the LORD, and evil shall not be found in you so long as you live.” (1 Samuel 25:28).
We saw that already in the confrontation with Goliath, David's perspective of the situation was very different from any one else around him. He saw the battle as the LORD's battle and the people of Israel as the LORD's people. A threat against Israel was to challenge God directly. David's personal concerns became small in light of national concerns and especially God's concern. We see this also when the Philistines are attacking Keilah, David's heart is immediately to go and to rescue this town. He inquires of the LORD and determines to go despite the fears and objections of his men (1 Samuel 23:1-5).
David, the giant slayer, inspired great warriors. His patriotic and Godly vision gave purpose to the battle. 1 Chronicles 11:10-12:40 lists the warriors who surrounded David in the wilderness and helped to establish him when he became king. It should be obvious that many of these men would never have become great without the inspiration of David leading them. The list starts with Jashobeam who killed three hundred men in a single battle. Abishai did the same (1 Chronicles 11:20). Benaiah killed a giant (1 Chronicles 11:23). As David's kingdom is established his warriors will kill several more giants. There is nothing like a giant slayer to inspire giant slayers. David listened to advice and kept the best advisors around him, but when the advice he got didn't seem right, or the issue was too important to decide lightly, he always sought the Chief Advisor. Time and time again we see David calling for the Ephod or getting apart to ‘refresh himself in the LORD’. He knew that some things only God could answer. David trusted that he would get the right answer if he sought God's will. Even in the matter of whether or not to leave the territory of the Philistine's and to return to Judah after the death of Saul, David asked God, “shall I go?”, and if so “to which [city]?” (2 Samuel 2:1). Given the circumstances, would we have even thought to ask?
David's attitude, his anointing, his willingness to listen to advise, even harsh advise, and David's quickness to inquire into God's advise all stem from one thing: David's relationship with God. This is seen in the Psalm's many of which we have seen were written in David's dark days in the wilderness. In complaint, in fear, in anger and upset, David always stayed close to God, ha always believed that God was his friend.
From the beginning of David's trial in the wilderness we see his heart displayed in the Psalms. David flees unprepared and without clear plans. His first stop, as we saw, was a visit to the priests of Nob who helped him on his way. Unfortunately, Doeg the Edomite sees David there and runs to tell Saul who kills all but one of the priests there. In Psalm 52 David has harsh words for Doeg actions, but finishes the psalm by refocusing on his relationship with God: “But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God. I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever. I will thank you forever, because you have done it. I will wait for your name, for it is good, in the presence of the godly.” (Psalm 52:8-9). Soon, he finds himself in trouble in Gath where the Philistines have recognized him. He manages to escape, but his problems haven't gone away. He admits to feeling watched and hunted (Psalm 56:1-2, 5-6) and to fear (Psalm 56:3). I can almost see him in prayer behind a bush rocking and praying in the peculiar way Jews do: “In God, whose word I praise, in the LORD, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me? I must perform my vows to you, O God; I will render thank offerings to you. For you have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.” (Psalm 56:10-13).
The notes proceeding the psalms tell us that both Psalm 56 and Psalm 34 were written in response to David brush with death there in Gath. Psalm 56 has the urgency of someone whose heart is still beating fast. Psalm 34 reads like he has had time to calm down and reflect. In it, David soars lyric in his celebration of what God has done. There are great lines that have leant themselves to song: “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!” (Psalm 34:8), and “Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.” (Psalm 34:5). In other words, the more David thinks about it, the happier he gets, until he just has to sing. David has not suddenly wandered onto easy street. He is simply seeing that God is there with him, protecting him.
His trials in the wilderness will continue for another 12 or 13 years. During this time he writes several more psalms some of which are notated as having been written during this period. Psalm 54 is short thankyou for rescue: “I will give thanks to your name, O LORD, for it is good.” (Psalm 54:6). Psalm 57 shows how he is making spiritual warfare: “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast! I will sing and make melody! Awake, my glory! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn!” (Psalm 57:7-8). What can be said about Psalm 63. Three thousand years later, it makes a great contemporary worship song: “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1). And finally Psalm 142 is a woeful prayer at a particularly difficult time: “Attend to my cry, for I am brought very low! ” (Psalm 142:6). Dozens more of the psalms of David read as if they were also written during his time in the wilderness, or on remembering those times.
There are two psalms of special interest at the moment when David's time of trial in the wilderness has ended. One the Song of the Bow, which David instructed be taught to all of Judah (2 Samuel 1:18), and Psalm 18, a psalm written after Saul has died and David returns to Israel. Let's look at Psalm 18 first. It has none of the wild and honest emotionalism of the psalms written in the wilderness. It could well have been written as an inaugural statement upon taking the throne of Judah: “you made me the head of the nations; people whom I had not known served me” (Psalm 18:43) and “Great salvation he brings to his king, and shows steadfast love to his anointed, to David and his offspring forever” (Psalm 18:50). The poetry is grand: “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer” (Psalm 18:2), “Then the earth reeled and rocked; the foundations also of the mountains trembled and quaked, because he was angry.” (Psalm 18:7), “For by you I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall.” (Psalm 18:29), “He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights.” (Psalm 18:33). The entire psalm paints a picture of David's close relationship with God, David's travails, God's fierce defense all in brilliant brush strokes. There is no mention of David's fears, his despondency or his anger. The psalm is a fine tribute to the king taking the throne, but we miss the personal touch that makes so many of the psalms so special.
The ‘Song of the Bow’, found in 2 Samuel Chapter 1, is different. It must have been written at about the same time, but the tone is entirely different. Saul had spent well over a decade pursuing David to kill him, but David is unable to hate Saul but rather laments his death: “Your glory, O Israel, is slain on your high places! How the mighty have fallen!” (2 Samuel 1:19). He pronounces a curse over mountains of Gilboa: “let there be no dew or rain upon you, nor fields of offerings” (2 Samuel 1:21). According to Derek Prince, the Israeli government has had a successful tree planting program through Israel, except on Mount Gilboa. For some unexplainable reason the trees won't prosper there. “Saul and Jonathan, beloved and lovely! In life and in death they were not divided; they were swifter than eagles; they were stronger than lions.” (2 Samuel 1:23). David, unlike Saul, has no fear or jealousy about extolling the greatness of those around him, or those who proceeded him. He perfectly shared honor where honor was due.