2017 · David's Life · Food for Thought · Scripture

Judgement Versus Discernment: Reading the Bible Righteously

judging bathshebaIt is very rare that I ever hear a good word spoken about BathSheba, except by some Rabbis, who declare David and BathSheba’s association as the greatest love story in the Bible. That may be because King Solomon came from their union.

When pressed to answer what I think about her, the only response I have is, “I don’t know the lady. I have no idea what she was like, so I really don’t think it’s my place to judge her. She is someone’s wife and someone’s mother: so she was loved.” I honestly cannot say more than that. I try and relate to her as a fellow human, rather than a good or bad person.

David and BathSheba is the story of what happens when things get way out of hand… when you can no longer control the circumstances, then fall into shame and block out the need to repent. Both David and BathSheba could have lost their lives over their adultery. It’s a serious matter, but while I can learn a great deal from their mistakes, there is still no need for me to slide into any judgement of what they did. That’s only the Lord’s job. [See footnote about rape.]

There is a tendency to condemn and vilify those whose stories grace the pages of our Bibles. We have blurred the line between discerning a lesson and personal criticism, based on our own opinions. Jacob is another example of someone who is pulled to pieces. He is a controversial figure and we tend to remember the bad. We remember that Samson was strong… but weak when it came to women. Rahab is a heroine, despite that she was a prostitute, because she helped God’s chosen people. We look at small snapshots of long, complex lives, then we make a decision on whether that person was predominantly good or bad. As most of us fall prey to negativity biases, often the decision is damning.

Yet the Bible clearly labels Jacob and Samson as righteous and servants of the Lord. So why are we sticking the knife into their backs?

Another sobering question I was confronted by, when I was writing my Christian novels, was if I speak badly of these people or misrepresent them, when I get to heaven and actually meet them face to face, then what am I going to say? How am I going to feel when they stand there clean and forgiven, and I’ve previously assaulted them?

That issue made me think long and hard. If I behave in an insensitive and inhumane way towards BathSheba, what will I say to my beloved David when I see him, and hear how much he did love his wife; or that he wishes people had been willing to consider that perhaps the situation was much more complex and from this a brief account, we haven’t understood it?

What if I went up to him and said, “Absalom was such a rat! I don’t know how you put up with that kid, he must have driven you nuts!” Then I could be confronted with a father’s sadness over a lost son.

That would hurt. I never want to be in that situation.

img_1682Maybe we all need to reconsider the way we teach the Scriptures and talk about ‘dead’ people? As they are names on pages, we feel no connection to, or responsibility towards them. That is the exact same psychological phenomenon that drives bullying and trolls on the internet. We can’t see the faces of the real people, so what we do just doesn’t matter. Yet it does. The Bible says, don’t judge. It doesn’t make any distinction on whether or not that responsibility stops with someone’s death. Orthodox Jews call people who have died, “… of blessed memory.” The person, regardless of whether they are family or not, are treated with respect. That is excellent role modelling.

People who died in right relationship with the Lord are not with us, but it doesn’t mean they have been deleted from existence. It doesn’t mean we will never squirm when we realise how badly we treated them. It doesn’t mean the Lord won’t rebuke us for our unrighteousness, for wielding swords of justice which are only, rightfully His.

So I have striven to err on the side of mercy and fairness when studying and writing about David, and that is, at times, quite a challenge. I have no respect for Saul, Joab or Absalom, but I do not want to stand before the Lord and have to explain why I acted with such harshness when the Father has been so merciful and tender with me. So I try and state the facts about them without including my personal opinion, name calling, or other derogatory low blows.

I have found, that another benefit has sprung up from me being more aware of how I treat David and his family. Amending my attitude has led to a greater awareness of how I judge and speak about the people in my immediate, real life, vicinity. That involves my family, my problematic neighbours and the people I meet in every day life, some of who annoy me.

Learning not to judge is a life skill that is necessary. Scripture tells us directly not to do it. We know we should act with the fruit of the Spirit, we know the standards. Even if we see others pulling apart people, we must resist the impulse to do the same. Judging others in teaching been done through many generations, and it will take some serious work to change our habits. However, for the sake of our character, it’s worth doing.
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Footnotes:
a) Scriptures on Judging: Luke 6:37Matthew 7:2Hebrews 10:30
b) Did David Rape BathSheba?
No, he didn’t. Why? Well, the Bible calls rape, rape and that is not what we see here. It is more likely that as he was a king, she was flattered or awed by him and he may have offered her an incentive such as wealth, land, a promotion for her husband: anything that would enable him to fulfil his desire. Who wouldn’t want to be more popular with the King and attain a higher position in life? Many people would take an opportunity like that and she may have seen it as an honour. [Ref. 2 Samuel 11-12]

Why do I think that?
1. As I said above, the Bible calls rape, rape. It pulls no punches about where David went wrong, so why would it here?
2. When David and BathSheba’s first child dies, David is able to comfort her. There is no indication of a fractured relationship, such as the one he had with Michal. A raped woman would be traumatised. David and BathSheba went on to have four other sons together and she became Queen, which we know as the succession of all her sons is listed.
3. David is such an overtly honest person, he would have confessed it in the Psalms.
4. David was so guilt-ridden over what he had done, had he raped her, it is possible he would have arranged for her to live, well cared for and safe somewhere.
5. It did not appear to be within David’s nature to be so violent outside of war. One example is the number of times the head of his army, Joab, wanted to assassinate a direct threat to his life and kingship. Each time, David said no, even though his refusal flew in the face of common sense. Violence was not his first choice. He looked to the Lord for deliverance. [Ref. 2 Samuel 2 Samuel 15-18]


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The King David Project by Cate Russell-Cole is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-SA 4.0).
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Please note that this does NOT apply to any of the images on this site except for the free Psalm images which are marked as free. Most photos are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you.

2017 · Food for Thought · Scripture

How to be “Led in God’s Righteousness:” Spiritual Maturity

Lead me in Your righteousness because of my foes.” I was reading Charles Swindoll’s “Living the Psalms,” when that sentence bought me to a dead halt. I don’t know about you, but I don’t talk like that. I’d say, “Lord guide me;” or “please strengthen me so I don’t become want revenge;” but I’d never think to ask straight up for righteousness.

Righteousness was a good choice. David got straight to the heart of everything he needed by using that word. It’s another example of the exemplary spiritual maturity that he showed from a surprisingly young age. I am well over double the age David was when he dealt with Saul’s attacks in a wise way, and I can’t hold a candle to his example. I would be trying to fight my way out of that situation, rather than maintaining my innocence to stay clean before the Lord. It takes more self-control to do that, than I possess.

Spiritual maturity is hard to quantify: it’s not static. It is not something that is gained which stays at a minimum fixed level; rather it’s a process of becoming holy, balanced and responsible. It affects the totality of how you react, think and feel and you can lose it all, or parts of it. When David sinned with Bathsheba and killed Uriah for convenience, he ignored the moral part of his maturity for a time, even though he was still mature in other areas. That incident is a reminder that we all have to work hard to keep our heads on straight. We never arrive with no danger of backsliding.

Spiritual maturity (and growth) are not accumulatively achieved as a result of ageing. It comes through surviving tough life experiences and hard work. A working definition of spiritual maturity covers an extensive number of areas and behaviours in life, and I see many of them in David. (This definition list is by no means exhaustive.)

– Uncompromising obedience to the Lord;

– God alone becomes your primary resource of strength, wisdom and guidance;

– you act and serve other people in love, not out of obligation, or seeking reward;

– you bring peace rather than create strife or problems, and settle disputes wisely;

– your pride is well on the way to dead; plus you don’t focus on your achievements publicly;

– you respond to your failures and sins with repentance and a desire to please God, picking yourself up off the floor, determined to do better (teachable and humble);

– you desire God’s correction and are willing to make adjustments to your thinking and behaviour;

– regardless of what hits you in life, you push forwards with hope, praising God;

– your attitude and faith are a catalyst which strengthens other people’s faith;

– you don’t treat God as a needs-delivering vending machine, but instead respond to Him with joy, trust and the positive expectation that He is there for you, whether you can feel that or not;

– you build your relationship with the Lord daily, without prompting, or because you’re desperate;

– you have tamed your tongue and are not caught up in appearances;

– you do not act out of vengeance or judgement, but with the fruit of the Spirit;

– you give all credit to God, or other people as appropriate, never yourself;

– you care for the elderly, sick and disadvantaged in the community without doing so because you feel motivated by guilt or duty;

– you’re kind, generous, loyal and dependable;

– you can be trusted to be moderate in dangerous areas, such as in the use of power, alcohol and sex…

… or to put it very succinctly, you have learned that God is in charge, where you stand in Him and you continuously lose your selfishness in order to follow and obey Him.

The rewards of seeking spiritual maturity are greater joy, peace, hope and stability. You cope with the ups and downs of life better, find more fulfilment in the path the Lord is leading you down and have an enriching, dynamic relationship with Him, which will pull you through any havoc that life can throw at you. That makes the process of slowly killing off your selfishness to become mature worth it. It is a long learning curve which is never easy, but the benefits make every moment of sacrifice undeniably worthwhile.


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The King David Project by Cate Russell-Cole is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://cateartios.wixsite.com/kingdavidproject.

Please note that this does NOT apply to any of the images on this site except for the free Psalm images which are marked as free. Most photos are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you.

2017 · David's Life · Food for Thought

When No One Can Agree on David: How to Solve Differences of Opinion

siphonophore_8482692352I get frustrated and angry when I see Christians arguing over aspects of David’s life; it seems that no one can agree on anything. It’s more than disagreeing, it’s the outright contempt and disrespect towards other’s opinions which I see from time to time, that really gets to me, and worse than that, it stops people from getting the full benefit of the Word of God.

I understand that some Christians haven’t thought Scripture through, or have come to a poor conclusion from accessing a limited amount of information, but when the ego-propelled knives come out, I unplug. At the moment I don’t follow or participate in any Christian groups online, which is a shame, but I can really do without the fighting.

Through nature, the Lord has given us a beautiful vision of how He wants us to work together. In the deep oceans are creatures called siphonophores. They appear to be one organism, but they are not. They are a colony of hundreds, or thousands of organisms, which are all joined together and work together for survival. Some propel the colony along, some catch food and ensure that all are fed, some have stingers which catch prey. They are majestic, beautiful and a stunning example of how we are supposed to be: one united group with our individual gifts, which should be carried out for the benefit of the whole. As Paul said:

“For even as we have many members in one body, and all members do not have the same function, so we the many are one body in Christ, and each one members of one another. Then having gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us… Let love be without hypocrisy, shrinking from evil, cleaving to good; in brotherly love to one another, loving fervently, having led one another in honour. As to diligence, not slothful, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord…” Romans 12:4-6a and 9-11

general_principles_of_zoology_1896_14759526896The New Living Translation represents verses 9 and 10 even better: “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honouring each other.”

This is where we fall apart. We are so caught up in pride, wanting our opinion to be the only one; craving having our interpretation of Scripture to be the only endorsed correct one, that we walk all over each other, and give Christianity a poor reputation… even to other Christians.

I also see these traits in other religions and scientific disciplines. Where there are two people, there seems to be a power struggle, whatever the topic. There is, however, a cure for this.

“Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” Ephesians 4:2

“Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8

“One day Jesus said to his disciples, “There will always be temptations to sin, but what sorrow awaits the person who does the tempting! It would be better to be thrown into the sea with a millstone hung around your neck than to cause one of these little ones to fall into sin. So watch yourselves! If another believer sins, rebuke that person; then if there is repentance, forgive. Even if that person wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, you must forgive.” Luke 17:1-4

“You shall do no unrighteousness in judgment. You shall not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty; but you shall judge your neighbour in righteousness.
You shall not go as a slanderer among your people; you shall not stand against the blood of your neighbour. I am Jehovah. You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall always rebuke your neighbour, and not allow sin on him. You shall not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people; but you shall love your neighbour as yourself. I am Jehovah.” Leviticus 19:15-18

So if someone drives you nuts, or you totally don’t agree with them, at least hear their point of view, respectfully share yours and don’t let your fleshly ego win. Who knows, there may be something important you can learn from each other? Regardless, any act of loving kindness you make towards anyone is always a righteous decision.


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The King David Project by Cate Russell-Cole is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-SA 4.0).
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2017 · David's Life · Food for Thought

Hidden Sins

1024px-shkediya02_st_04
Blooming despite the snow: Isra’el.

Sin is one of those areas that we prefer to avoid dealing with, unless something we have done wrong is staring us in the face, and has to be dealt with. One of David’s traits that I admire is his habit of asking God to show him where he is messing up. He does it with a thoroughness that puts me to shame.

“How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart?
Cleanse me from these hidden faults.
Keep your servant from deliberate sins! (or presumptuous sins)
Don’t let them control me.
Then I will be free of guilt
and innocent of great sin.
May the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing to you,
O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:12-14

This is one of the many times where I wish I knew far more about David than I do. In the era that David lived in, the people who had chosen to worship gods in addition to Yahweh, lived in fear of doing something to upset them. This practice goes back several thousand years before David, and as he was living around people with that deeply ingrained cultural mindset, could it have also have made him concerned with making a bad move he wasn’t aware of, and disappointing Yahweh? Or was his behaviour entirely based on the Torah? I won’t be able to find that answer, but regardless, his attitude is a valuable example for us.

The New English Translation Bible puts the wording “hidden faults” this way: “Who can know all his errors? Please do not punish me for sins I am unaware of.” Pagans, or polytheists, believed that if you were sick or going through some kind of calamity, whether it be personally, or as a tribal or city unit, you had to have angered the gods by doing something wrong. It didn’t matter if you didn’t know you were doing wrong, if you didn’t make the grade, you paid. Mankind was thought to be created to serve the gods as slaves: “Man shall be charged with the service of the gods, that they might be at ease.” Slaves dare not disobey.

David was in a covenant relationship with God and carefully followed the laws which God had set down via Moses. He would have given God a weekly burnt offering, which would have served as a constant reminder of his sinful state; plus David must have never forgotten that Saul lost his Kingship because of disobedience. “You have preserved my life because I am innocent; you have brought me into your presence forever.” Psalm 41:12

In addition to that, David’s attitude was heavily influenced by living in a world where judgement for sin was carried out during your life. There was no belief that you were either punished or blessed in the afterlife for what you have done. The accounts were settled now, so you had to be far more careful about what you did.

2016-01-13_01-01-47“O LORD, don’t rebuke me in your anger
or discipline me in your rage.
Return, O LORD, and rescue me.
Save me because of Your unfailing love.
For the dead do not remember You.
Who can praise You from the grave?” Psalm 6:1, then 4-5

“O LORD my God, if I have done wrong
or am guilty of injustice,
if I have betrayed a friend
or plundered my enemy without cause,
then let my enemies capture me.
Let them trample me into the ground
and drag my honour in the dust.” Psalm 7:3-5

So what does this mean for us? It’s a reminder to be aware of the full extent of our failings. We can sin deliberately, or without meaning to do so, or without knowing that we have; but bless God, there is grace for all of these errors, we simply need to remember to prayerfully cover all those bases. It is a wise move to do as David did and ask God to show us where we have been wrong and yes, that takes courage! But ensuring we are as holy as we can be, and the resulting benefit of getting closer to God, makes that step of bravery worth it!

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts,
and see if any wicked way is in me; and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24


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The King David Project by Cate Russell-Cole is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://cateartios.wixsite.com/kingdavidproject.

Please note that this does NOT apply to any of the images on this site except for the free Psalm images which are marked as free. Most photos are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you.

2017 · Food for Thought · Scripture

What David’s Sins Teach Us: Multiple Points of View

There are so many differing opinions on David’s character and motivation, it makes me dizzy. It can be difficult to work out which point of view is correct, as each time I read one, it seems absolutely spot on. Then I read something opposing, and that seems right too… Have you ever had this problem when trying to understand the Bible?

What matters the most is what we take away from David’s story. Below are views which I find encouraging, as they make me pause and consider how I react to sin, and how God reacts to me when I mess up. May they encourage you too.

2015-01-20_13-45-56_01Charles Swindoll: A Man of Passion and Destiny, Great Lives Series, Book 1:
There were three major failures in David’s life: (heart-breaking disappointments)

1. he became so involved in public pursuits that he lost control of his family – Amnon, Absalom, Adonijah
2. he indulged himself in extravagant extremes of passion – BathSheba
3. he became a victim of self-sufficiency and pride – census

“No pursuit is more important than the cultivation of a godly family.”
“No character trait is more needed than genuine integrity.”

“When God measured the tree of David’s life… He didn’t condemn it to be cut down for kindling. In His great love, mercy and grace, He honoured the many efforts of this man on behalf of God’s people and the Name of Jehovah, as well as the integrity of the heart.”

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Charles Spurgeon, A Treasury of David:

2015-01-20_13-53-02_01Psalm 59: “Strange that painful events in David’s life should end in enriching the repertoire of the national minstrelsy… Had he never been cruelly hunted by Saul, Isra’el and the church of God in after ages would have missed this song. The music of the sanctuary is in no small degree indebted to the trials of the saints.”

Psalm 43, when David escaped Abimelech feigning madness, [1 Sam 21:1-15] “Although the gratitude of the Psalmist prompted him thankfully to record the goodness of the Lord in vouchsafing an undeserved deliverance, yet he weaves none of the incidents of the escape into the narrative, but dwells only on the grand fact of his being heard in the hour of peril… We may learn from his example not to parade our sins before others… David played the fool with singular dexterity, but was not so real a fool as to sing of his own exploits of folly…” This Psalm was “intended to commemorate that event… It is well to mark our mercies with well carved memorials.”

Psalm 25: “Here we see “the very heart of “the man after God’s own heart.” It’s evidently a composition of David’s later days, for he mentions the sins of his youth… It is the mark of a true saint that his sorrows remind him of his sins, and his sorrow for sin drives him to his God.” 

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From Understanding the Old Testament by Dr Paul House:

paulhouseDavid’s failings do not negate Gods faithfulness. And the king praises the Lord’s goodness in chapter 22:1 through 23:7. This is a full and wonderful confession of David of all that God has done for him. Whatever his other flaws, and there are many, David rarely forgets how he rose from shepherd boy to king. He is not guilty of ingratitude, he always gives God the praise for the good things he has.” 

“God will indeed not clear the guilty. But never forget God’s main impulse is to be patient and kind and forgiving and loving. It is not His first impulse to judge but He is willing to judge and the guilty will not get away with their sins.”
“God commands Isra’el to make offerings such as the sin offering, because: “He does not expect the people to be sinless, to be flawless moral beings. He knows their weakness. He knows their sinfulness. And He makes a system so that their sin might not stand between them and God.” 

logo-mediumUnderstanding the Old Testament by Dr Paul House is available free from: https://www.biblicaltraining.org/understanding-old-testament/paul-house
29200701_mr3x3xrrrFrom The Bible Illustrator
“What were the means which God took to awaken David to a sense of his wickedness and danger? Did He raise up enemies round about him to lay waste his country and destroy his people? Or did He rain down fire and brimstone from heaven, as He once did upon the guilty cities of the plain, in order that He might sweep this wretched monarch from off the earth? Or did He send terrors to take hold of him, and the messengers of death to arrest him? No; He sent to him one of his own humble and faithful ministers, in order that he might reason the matter over with him, call his sin to remembrance, and convince him of his guilt.”

“What effect God’s message produced on David. Did he fly into a rage with the man of God for thus faithfully discharging his duty? Did he exclaim, with an outburst of angry passion, “Hast thou found me, O mine enemy?” Or did he call to the governor of the city, and say unto him, “Take this fellow away, and put him in the prison, and feed him with bread of affliction and water of affliction?” Or did he, like his father Adam, try to shift the blame from himself, and lay it upon the woman? David was so horrified at the picture which Nathan had drawn of his own conduct, and so convinced of its truth, that he exclaimed without a moment’s hesitation, “I have sinned against the Lord.”

What lessons we ourselves may gather up from the contemplation of this painful subject.
1. In the first place, then, we may learn that there is no sin beyond the reach of God’s mercy.
2. And, lastly, let no notorious sinner be emboldened, from David’s unhappy fall, to presume on God’s mercy. Let such a one remember that David’s sin was committed but once: he was no habitual transgressor. (E. Harper, B. A.)”

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Expositors Bible Commentary:

Bathsheba: “When everything prospers to a man’s hand, it is a short step to the conclusion that he can do nothing wrong. Then there was the absence of that very powerful stimulus, the pressure of distress around him, which had driven him formerly so close to God. His enemies had been defeated in every quarter, with the single exception of the Ammonites, a foe that could give him no anxiety; and he ceased to have a vivid sense of his reliance on God as his Shield.” 


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The King David Project by Cate Russell-Cole is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://cateartios.wixsite.com/kingdavidproject.

Please note that this does NOT apply to any of the images on this site except for the free Psalm images which are marked as free. Most photos are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you.

2017 · David's Life · Debunks · Food for Thought · Psalms · Research · Scripture

David, His Enemies and Vengeance: Psalm 109 “The Iscariot Psalm”

vending machineThis article is going to take an interesting look at how interpretations of Scripture can vary wildly; and suggest with respect, that if you wish to understand any part of the word of God: read, read, read and don’t just accept the first explanation placed in front of you. In this case, don’t just accept the second either!

The psalm in question is Psalm 109.

“To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David.
O God of my praise, do not be silent;
for the mouth of the wicked and the mouth of the deceitful are opened against me; they spoke against me with a lying tongue.
And they surrounded me with words of hatred; and fought against me without a cause.
For my love they are my foes; but I am in prayer.
And they have rewarded me evil for good, and hatred for my love.
Set a wicked man over him; and let an adversary stand at his right hand,
when he is judged, let him be condemned; and let his prayer become sin.
Let his days be few; let another take his office.
Let his sons be fatherless, and his wife a widow.
Let his sons always beg and be vagabonds, and seek food out of their ruins.
Let the money-lender lay a snare for all that is his; and let strangers take the fruit of his labor.
Let there be none to give mercy to him; nor any to favour his fatherless children.
Let his posterity be cut off; and in the generation following let their name be blotted out.
Let the iniquity of his fathers be remembered to Jehovah; and let not the sin of his mother be blotted out.
Let them be always before Jehovah, that He may cut off their memory from the earth,
because he did not remember to do mercy, but persecuted the poor and needy man, and sought to kill the broken-hearted.
Yea, he loved cursing, so let it come to him; he delighted not in blessing, and it was far from him.
As he clothed himself with cursing, as with his robe, so let it come into his bowels like water, and like oil into his bones.
Let it be to him as the robe which covers him, and for a girdle with which he is always clothed.
This is the reward of my foes from Jehovah, and of them who speak evil against my soul.
But You, Lord Jehovah, deal kindly with me for Your name’s sake; because Your mercy is good, deliver me.
For I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me.
As a shadow when it is stretched out, I am gone; I am shaken off like the locust.
My knees stumble from fasting; and my flesh is losing its fatness.
And I became a shame to them; they looked on me; they shook their heads.
Help me, O Jehovah my God; save me according to Your mercy;
and they will know that this is Your hand; that You, Jehovah, have done it.
They will curse, but You will bless; they arise, and are ashamed; but let Your servant rejoice.
Let my foes be clothed with shame, and let them cover themselves with their own shame, as with a cloak.
will greatly praise Jehovah with my mouth; yea, I will praise Him among the multitude.
For He shall stand at the right hand of the poor, to save him from those who condemn his soul.”     [Modern King James Version]

2015-01-20_13-53-02_01My first introduction to the Psalm came from Charles Spurgeon’s “A Treasury of David,” which shows not only Spurgeon’s thoughts, but interpretations from other commentators. This is what Spurgeon had to say: “Not the ravings of a vicious misanthrope, or the execrations of a hot, revengeful spirit, David would not smite the man who sought his blood, he frequently forgave those who treated him shamefully; and therefore these words cannot be read in a bitter revengeful sense, for that would be foreign to the character of the son of Jesse. The imprecatory sentences before us were penned by one who with all his courage in battle was a man of music and tender heart, and they were meant to be addressed to God in the form of a Psalm, and therefore they cannot possibly have been meant to be mere angry cursing… one author has ventured to call [it] “a pitiless hate, a refined and insatiable malignity.” To such a suggestion we cannot give place… Truly this is one of the hard places of Scripture, a passage which the soul trembles to read; yet as it is a Psalm unto God, and given by inspiration, it is not ours to sit in judgement upon it, but to bow our ear to what God the Lord would speak to us therein…”

From there, things went in a few different directions which baffled me.

J.J. Stewart: “The language has been justified, not as the language of David, but as the language of Christ, exercising His office of Judge… It has been alleged that this is the prophetic foreshadowing of the words, “Woe unto that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It had been good for that man if he had not been born.” [Ref: Matthew 26:24]

There were a number of commentaries which spoke along those lines, of David penning the holy, zealous, powerful words of a prophet, which absolutely had to be about Judas Iscariot betraying Jesus. I was wondering whether or not I should believe them, as while David did pen several Messianic, prophetic Psalms, this didn’t sound like one of them. To me, this sounded too much like the other Psalms where David was facing a very steep challenge. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary helped me think clearly again.

“The combination of devout meekness and trust with the fiery imprecations in the core of the psalm is startling to Christian consciousness, and calls for an effort of “historical imagination” to deal with it fairly. The attempts to attenuate the difficulty, either by making out that the wishes are not wishes, but prophecies of the fate of evildoers, or that Psa 109:6-20 are the psalmist’s quotation of his enemies’ wishes about him, or that the whole is Messianic prediction of the fate of Judas or of the enemies of the Christ, are too obviously makeshifts. It is far better to recognise the discordance between the temper of the psalmist and that enjoined by Christ than to try to cover it over. Our Lord Himself has signalised the difference between His teaching and that addressed to “them of old time” on the very point of forgiveness of enemies, and we are but following His guidance when we recognise that the psalmist’s mood is distinctly inferior to that which has now become the law for devout men.”

That, I agreed with wholeheartedly! It seems it is easy to try and smother parts of Scripture which make us squirm, by falling into analysis paralysis. We add in a sweeter meaning, to dodge the hard realities of human emotion. Psychology is often criticised for going too deep, making mountains out of mole hills and over analysing things to depth. As theology is based on human nature (like it or not,) it can readily fall into the same trap.

As for me, I think this comes from righteous anger when an injustice has been done to an exhausted man, who has had a hard life. David has just had enough and has reacted in a very human manner; not a perfect one, but a genuine one and we’ve all done the same.

Ashalim_stream_(Nahal_Ashalim),_Judean_Desert,_Israel_(1)F.B. Meyer: “This psalm is like a patch of the Sahara amid a smiling Eden. But, terrible as the words are, remember that they were written by the man who, on two occasions, spared the life of his persecutor, and who, when the field of Gilboa was wet with Saul’s life-blood, sang the loveliest of elegiacs to his memory. These maledictions do not express personal vindictiveness. Probably they should be read as depicting the doom of the wrong-doer.”

From all the study I have done on David and his culture over the past few hears, what I read in this Psalm is in line with the beliefs that David had: that enemies receive their judgement when alive, as there was no concept of a final judgement, so he had every right under the Torah to call for such extreme actions to be taken against them. It makes far more logical sense to interpret it in line with the mindset of David’s time, than to jump to a sophisticated, theological conclusion.

This Psalm is also very much in line with what we know of the culture of the day, in that as long as prayer was accompanied by praise, you could be brutally honest with God and it was far more than acceptable to do so. It was an act of supreme faith.

I ‘d like to finish with Matthew Henry’s conclusion, which gives us something beautiful to take away from this Psalm: “It is the unspeakable comfort of all good people that, whoever is against them, God is for them.”
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See also:
~ How Gentle Kings Become Killers: David as a Warrior and Psalmist
~ Boldly Approaching God: The Example of David


kdpcpyrght

Creative Commons License
The King David Project by Cate Russell-Cole is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://cateartios.wixsite.com/kingdavidproject.

Please note that this does NOT apply to any of the images on this site except for the free Psalm images which are marked as free. Most photos are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you.

2016 · David's Life · Encouragement · Food for Thought · Research

“But I Will Trust in You…” King David and the Art of Bouncing Back

Bestofblog“…I praise the LORD for what He has promised.
I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?
What can mere mortals do to me?
I will fulfil my vows to You, O God,
and will offer a sacrifice of thanks for Your help.
For You have rescued me from death;
You have kept my feet from slipping.
So now I can walk in Your presence, O God,
in Your life-giving light.” Psalm 56:10-13

When I was first getting to know David’s full life story, I heard a Rabbi say that David had endured a very hard life. I have to agree. He left a life of obscurity to follow a promise from the Lord, but along the way suffered demotions, multiple assassination attempts, long-term separation from his first wife, many years in hiding fearing for his life, wars, the death of at least four of his sons, long-term serious health problems, three uprisings against his kingship, multiple persecutions because of his faith… plus all the usual popularity and approval issues, which go with being the leader of a nation.

Aside from those problems, he dealt with some of the most toxic forms of stress which are commonly considered to be killers. His sources of stress were: constant, unpredictable and uncontrollable. That he died in old age, having cleared the nation of it’s enemies and having achieved so much for the Lord, is nothing short of a providential miracle.

Or could there be more to it than that?

When the Psalms are being dissected and preached about, there is nearly always an admiring acknowledgement of David’s ability to bounce back up while appearing to be sinking. Here is another example.

Psalm 13
“For the choir director: A psalm of David.
O LORD, how long will you forget me? Forever?
How long will you look the other way?
How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul,
with sorrow in my heart every day?
How long will my enemy have the upper hand?
Turn and answer me, O LORD my God!
Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.
Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!”
Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.
But I trust in your unfailing love.
I will rejoice because you have rescued me.
I will sing to the LORD
because he is good to me.”

David often pushes himself from despair to hope, in a manner which has been said to appear bipolar. He isn’t bipolar in any respect. David knew how to pump up his morale and change a negative picture to a potentially positive one, by seeing the potential for the Lord to work for his good and by consciously determining to aim for a positive outcome. In some Psalms this took some time. For example, in Psalms 38 and 39 he appears disconsolate, however, in Psalm 40 that bounce appears. It’s a human, not an automatic, process.

David did this by reflecting on his past victories and by trusting the Lord, through prayer and praise. This determined action gave his circumstances new meaning. David also constantly turned to the Lord for direction, comfort and grounding and despite persecution from his own people over his unrelenting faith in God, he publicly praised the Lord and pointed the hearts of the people towards Him. David is inspirational.

As psychology has grown, researchers have spent more and more time looking at the positive aspects of human behaviour, rather than staying focussed on what can go wrong. Their findings help explain why David was able to keep his head above water, despite the forces that worked against him. In 2006 Richard G. Tedeschi and Lawrence G. Calhoun studied post traumatic growth, which is exactly what David experienced many times. This growth results in a positive attribute termed resilience.

This is a Creative Commons image. pikiwiki_israel_17643
This is a Creative Commons image. pikiwiki_israel_17643

Resilience is is when you fall down, but get up, and are able to do that repeatedly, becoming stronger each time you arise. It means expecting positive outcomes, despite the risks and stresses that come your way. It involves an ability to adapt when you just have to make the best of a tough situation and clinging onto your purpose in life.

Tedeschi and Calhoun’s work beautifully describes how resilience is enabled. While at first people may show high stress signs and be depressed or overwhelmed by what they have been through, in time they can grow to come through with:

– “Increased perception of competence and self-reliance.
– Enhanced acceptance of one’s vulnerability and negative emotional experiences.
– Improved relationships with significant others.
– Increased compassion and empathy for others.
– Greater efforts directed at improving relationships.
– Increased appreciation of own existence.
– Greater appreciation for life.
– Positive changes in one’s priorities.
– Stronger religious/spiritual beliefs.
– Greater personal intimacy with God.
– Greater sense of control and security through belief in God.
– Greater meaning about life and suffering through religion.”

If David was writing this, I am sure that he would emphasise the last four points, as he repeatedly did in the Psalms. It was faith that gave him the greatest lift; however, his own personality traits of perseverance, willingness to take action, empathy, teachability and bravery, also had an important impact on his resilience. The Lord moulds us like a potter moulds clay, but the process works better if the quality of the clay is good.

To be resilient, David also needed supportive people around him such as Samuel, Nathan, Hushai the Archite and Jonathan; and resilient role models. His mother is mentioned as a role model in Psalms 116:16: “Truly I am your servant, Lord; I serve you just as my mother did; you have freed me from my chains;” and 86:16.

How David dealt with his mistakes was also a major factor in determining his success. A positive attitude to mistakes has been found to enable people to make better choices in the future, which in turn increases their overall happiness and ability to function in life. Belting yourself up with guilt only sends you backwards. David responded to corrections by Abigail and Nathan and was always able to get back up on his feet, no matter what hardship or grief hit him. [Refs. 1 Samuel 25 and 2 Samuel 12]

If you feel you are low on resilience, take heart. According to the research, resilience can be taught and role modelled. Studying David’s life has certainly helped boost my resilience. I am inspired by his courage, gently rebuked by his righteous responses to stressful situations and comforted by his trust in the Lord. He is a blessing that has never stopped giving.

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Helpful References:

– Post Traumatic Growth: http://www.posttraumaticgrowth.com
– Post Traumatic Growth: Conceptual Foundations and Empirical Evidence: Richard G. Tedeschi and Lawrence G. Calhoun http://data.psych.udel.edu/abelcher/Shared%20Documents/3%20Psychopathology%20(27)/Tedeschi,%20Calhoun,%202004.pdf
– Resilience Videos on TED Talks: Search via https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=resilience+ted or enter “resilience TED” into search box.
– Kelly McGonigal: How to make stress your friend: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RcGyVTAoXEU
– Firdaus Dhabhar: The positive effects of stress: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nsc83N-Q1q4
– Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996, 2004, 2007.


kdpcpyrght

Creative Commons License
The King David Project by Cate Russell-Cole is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://cateartios.wixsite.com/kingdavidproject.

Please note that this does NOT apply to any of the images on this site except for the free Psalm images which are marked as free. Most photos are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you.