Book Review: Worship in Ancient Israel: An Essential Guide

705424Jacket Blurb – don’t let the heavy wording put you off, see what I have to say about it below! : In an engaging style–characteristic of the author, Walter Brueggemann–this Essential Guide describes the leading motifs of ancient Israel’s worship traditions in the Old Testament. The author guides the reader through the themes, central texts, prayers, festivals, and practices of that worship. He sees throughout the Old Testament a central emphasis on worship as a covenantal gesture and utterance by the community in the presence of God. In addition to being an essential guide to this subject, this book is intended to be in the service of current theological and practical issues concerning worship of the church in its ecumenical character.

As this month contains a number of significant festivals in the Jewish calendar, (which I have blogged about), this book fits right in. The festivals were based around celebrating the provision and faithfulness of God towards Isra’el, and of course, that is done through worship.

I will start by saying that I learnt masses through this great little book. I picked it up to learn about David, then found myself spending more time thinking about how I worship. While not every reviewer has agreed with Professor Brueggemann, he inspired me to take a look at whether I fit in with the current church trend and praise God their way, or whether I worship genuinely, using my own initiative as my heart leads me. This is both a book to help you understand the past, and to make you take a good look at where you’re at with God now.

Professor Brueggemann’s chapter which spoke of the Israelites honest communication with God, was challenging and comforting to me, as I am pretty much a straight talker in the prayer department too. If I feel hard done by, the Lord knows about it and has a sore ear. David was the same, as were quite a few people I had never thought of. I was relieved to know that this is acceptable, as long as I am respectful of Who God is and don’t stoop to abuse or blame; (that last part was my reasoning, not Professor Brueggemann’s content.) A blog post on this topic will be coming out shortly, as it inspired me so much.

The way God’s relationship with Isra’el was interpreted in terms of His covenant with His people and their response, was absolutely correct and added a beautiful rich texture to the book. The focus on worship building a relationship, and adding constant new depth to it was just awesome.

loyaltyHonestly, I think David would really like this book and how he and his nation are represented. It’s not a theological tome on what people did, it’s a key hole view into how God built His nation, and how Isra’el was able to freely embrace and benefit from that in a loving way. Worship is the key response and still is. Some things have never changed.

The Psalms are mentioned in quite a few places and some of Professor Brueggemann’s breakdown of their structure was the least dry assessment I have read yet: and I have slogged through many cracked, mouldy dissections which bled the life out of David’s beautiful responses to God.

There is one problem, sadly… while the jacket blurb refers to an engaging style, the heavy theological language that this book started out with, was anything but engaging and easy to read. I had picked this book up a year ago, tried to read it and failed. This time, I knew I needed the content, so I hung in there, and thankfully, that perseverance paid off exceptionally well. If you cannot handle theological language, big words, or academic, formal writing styles, you won’t appreciate the book, which is a shame as it has so much to offer. My only other criticism is I wish I knew what Professor Brueggemann meant by “thick.” I can take a guess, but a definition would have been beneficial.

I do recommend this work. It doesn’t take too long to read, and has left me more aware of the depth of God’s love for me.

 

amazon-logo_transparentGet it on Amazon
Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2005 ISBN: 0-687-34336-4.(This post has been neither sponsored or requested.)

Read a second opinion / review from a theologian. ~


Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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.

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Boldly Approaching God: The Example of David

baldhonestfaithWe are familiar with Hebrews 4:16: “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most;” and Ephesians 3:12: “Because of Christ and our faith in Him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence;” but what you may not know, is that boldness before God isn’t a New Testament privilege that arrived with Jesus.

This confident attitude in approaching God is evident in how David communicates with the Lord, and was also seen in Moses, Job and other Psalmists. It may look a little disrespectful sometimes, but it is a hallmark of a dynamic, covenant relationship with God.

“I cried out to you, O LORD.
I begged the Lord for mercy, saying,
“What will You gain if I die,
if I sink into the grave?
Can my dust praise You?
Can it tell of Your faithfulness?
Hear me, LORD, and have mercy on me.
Help me, O LORD.” Psalm 30:8-10 (See also Psalm 44 by the Sons of Korah)

I didn’t know about these ancient roots of boldness, until I read “Worship in Ancient Israel,” by Walter Brueggemann. On page 46-47 he writes: “Isra’el also engaged in truth telling about its life with YHWH in confession, lament and protest… Isra’el was not a submissive, second-rate player, but was a full, vigorous partner to YHWH with an unapologetic presence and an unembarrassed voice that refused to be silenced or cowed… Isra’el refuses to submit too readily to YHWH’s sovereignty when that sovereignty was seen to be unfaithful; in such circumstances, Isra’el instead of submitting, made a claim for itself against YHWH.”

Page 49: “Such speech, in its rawness, is in fact an expression of great faith; it expresses deep conviction that when YHWH is mobilised in order to honour YHWH’s covenantal commitments to Isra’el, YHWH has full capacity and power to right any situation or wrong. Thus the voice of protest and rage is characteristically in the service of plea and partition to YHWH.”

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I agree with Professor Brueggemann that calling God to action like this can seem irreverent. However, David is never rebuked by God for being too direct. God could destroy him for speaking out, but as David’s boldness is coupled with praise and dependence on God for help, He doesn’t. It seems that those without the faith to get in God’s face and speak their mind lose, and those with the faith to be bold, win. Honesty with God obviously pays off.

“Protect me! Rescue my life from them!
Do not let me be disgraced, for in You I take refuge.
May integrity and honesty protect me,
for I put my hope in You.” Psalm 25:20-21

Calling on God is submissive, rather than subversive. David could have taken his problems into his own hands and dealt with his enemies by the sword. Instead, he persisted in knocking on God’s door, and his perseverance got him a better answer.

If you study the Psalms, you will find that his entreaties to God are also tempered by praise and a promise to make an offering to God when deliverance has been granted. God gets His due recognition, gratitude and with David, the testimony of what God had done is also shared among the people via a Psalm, to encourage them as well. David’s brave, bold faith benefitted many people, including us today.

“Declare me innocent, O God!
Defend me against these ungodly people.
Rescue me from these unjust liars…”
verse 4: “Then I will go to the altar of God,
to God—the source of all my joy.
I will praise You with my harp,
O God, my God!
Why am I discouraged?
Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
I will praise Him again—
my Saviour and my God!” Psalm 43:1 and 4-5 (Also see Psalm 66:13-15)

So are there limits to how bold we can be? Yes; the limits begin if we abuse the Lord, blame Him for our problems, or in short, cease to address Him with any attitude that doesn’t demonstrate the *fruit of the Spirit. He is merciful and patient, but He is neither a scapegoat, nor a punching bag. Respect is absolutely always called for, in every situation and praise absolutely must accompany these kinds of prayers. Submission is always a requirement.

There are times when like David, regardless of the trouble we are in and how urgent it is, we just have to wait patiently for an answer and keep hoping in the Lord. There are other times when due to complications, such as the effect of other’s free will on our circumstances, God can’t do as we ask, and we have to submit to His authority and wisdom, like it or not. Plus there are times when we’re wrong. Our ‘fix it’ answer was a poor one. In all these conditions we need to adopt the humble attitude Job had when he said:
“I know that You can do anything,
and no one can stop You.
You asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’
It is I—and I was talking about things I knew nothing about,
things far too wonderful for me.” Job 42:2-3
Despite how humbled he is, Job still has the courage to front up and reply to the Lord.

So the next time you’re struggling, don’t hesitate to be honest with God. He already knows every detail of your circumstances and feelings. so hiding what is really going on is impossible. The Lord has promised to **bless us with every spiritual blessing. We are ***beloved, treasured heirs with Christ, and He will always ****be on our side to help us through every trial and battle. Tell Him how you feel and ask for help… And don’t stop asking and seeking Him. You’re not crossing a line, you’re building your faith and a better, active relationship with Him.

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References:
Worship in Ancient Israel: An Essential Guide,” by Walter Brueggemann, Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2005.  ISBN: 0-687-34336-4. (Academically, theologically worded and not easy to read for the average person, but if you can get through the wording it is a massive blessing. I learned so much which reflected on my relationship with the Lord and encouraged me.)

*The fruit of the Spirit: Galatians 5:22-23
**Every spiritual blessing: Ephesians 1:3
***Beloved joint heirs: Romans 8:15-17
****By our side: Deuteronomy 31:8 and Hebrews 13:5

Re: Psalm 43:4: “Then I will go to the altar of God…” This may refer to David planning to go to the tabernacle to give a peace offering as thanks, as per Leviticus 7:11-15.

Moses’ honesty with God can be seen here: “Moses heard all the families standing in the doorways of their tents whining, and the LORD became extremely angry. Moses was also very aggravated. And Moses said to the LORD, “Why are you treating me, your servant, so harshly? Have mercy on me! What did I do to deserve the burden of all these people? Did I give birth to them? Did I bring them into the world? Why did you tell me to carry them in my arms like a mother carries a nursing baby? How can I carry them to the land you swore to give their ancestors? Where am I supposed to get meat for all these people? They keep whining to me, saying, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ I can’t carry all these people by myself! The load is far too heavy! If this is how you intend to treat me, just go ahead and kill me. Do me a favour and spare me this misery!” Numbers 11:10-15


Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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.

Praise and Worship: Keith Green Sings About Dealing With Sin ~ Psalm 51

youtubeoldtv
The second song is based on 1 Samuel 15, however, David’s Psalm covers the message that both of them give. I have loved Create in Me A Clean Heart for many years and it’s beautiful to know that now David and Keith are in Heaven singing for the Lord. One day I’d like to join them and do that, to.

Psalm 51:10-19
“A psalm of David, regarding the time Nathan the prophet came to him after David had committed adultery with BathSheba.
Create in me a clean heart, O God.
Renew a loyal spirit within me.
Do not banish me from your presence,
and don’t take your Holy Spiritd from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and make me willing to obey you.
Then I will teach your ways to rebels,
and they will return to you.
Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves;
then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness.
Unseal my lips, O Lord,
that my mouth may praise you.
You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one.
You do not want a burnt offering.
The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.
You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.
Look with favor on Zion and help her;
rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
Then you will be pleased with sacrifices offered in the right spirit—
with burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings.
Then bulls will again be sacrificed on your altar.”

I am aware that this form of video is pirating, even though the channel means to encourage and share with others; please take the time to purchase these tracks if you like them.

 

 

David’s Steleae: The Psalms as Public Memorials and Private Prayers

violin-and-psalm“I will tell of the marvellous things You have done.” Psalm 9:1b

“I will exalt You, Lord, because You have rescued me.” Psalm 30:1a

A stele is “an upright stone slab or pillar bearing an inscription or design and serving as a monument, marker, or the like.” [Source: Dictionary.com] They were widely used in the Near East millennia before David, and well after his time. It was standard practice for kings to have steles and statues of themselves made as positive propaganda to support their reign. However, David didn’t follow this practice. In line with the *ten commandments, he didn’t have himself pictured with a representation of YHWH behind him, neither did he carve his achievements in stone. Apart from the book of Samuel and 1 Chronicles, the only memorials we have to David are his Psalms, some of which could be likened to victory steles, and others which have an interesting function.

Roughly half of all the Psalms that are attributed to David were sent to the choir director and made public, and 50% of those Psalms were written when he was in great distress. We don’t know how the other Psalms were used, but it is possible that the ones which have not been specifically marked as “for the choir director” were in his personal collection, then organised into books after his death. His Psalms which are marked as prayers: 17, 86, and 142, were notably not sent to the choir director.

Some of the Psalms that were made public had national themes: Psalm 60 was written while David grappled with Israel’s failures in the battle in the Valley of Salt, and is noted as being useful for teaching; the wording of Psalm 67 is a mix of a prayer and a benediction; and Psalm 58 is an outspoken challenge to the people of Israel on justice [see the final chapter below for clarification]. David also sent Psalm 53 to the choir director, making a public statement of faith with “only fools deny God.”

Using my own classification of the Psalms (I get lost in the theological classifications, so I divided them further for my own use), these are the victory Psalms that David wanted sung before the Lord:

  • Psalm 9: I will tell of all the marvellous things You have done.
  • Psalm 18: When rescued from Saul and the enemies in that period of time.
  • Psalm 20: May the LORD answer all your prayers.
  • Psalm 21: How the king rejoices in Your strength, O LORD!
  • Psalm 30: Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.

The Psalms of joy and wonder, plus David’s statements of faith that were sent to the choir director include Psalms 8, 11, 19, 62, 65, 66, 67, 53 and 58.

One thing which occurred to me when looking at which Psalms were attributed to specific events and could be considered memorials, is that there are no Psalms specifically linked to David’s most notable victories such as killing Goliath, bringing the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem, or his battle achievements. He didn’t mention God’s special covenant with Him, or his plans to build the temple; (neither did David ask for it to be named after him.) This is a testament to David’s humility, despite the moral dips which occurred with Bathsheba and the census.

The stone tablet with the code written on it. This was placed in a public space so that all could read it.

The stone tablet with the code written on it. This was placed in a public space so that all could read it.

God is always the focus of David’s songs, which is another significant difference between him and any other ruler. He never claims honour or victory for himself. For an example, read the **Code of Hammurabi which has massive chunks at the beginning and end, glorifying and justifying the rule of Hammurabi. For example: “Hammurabi, the prince… making riches and increase, enriching Nippur and Dur-ilu beyond compare… who conquered the four quarters of the world, made great the name of Babylon…who enriched Ur; the humble, the reverent, who brings wealth…”

David’s work shows that he was transparent in how he talked about his life in public and that he wasn’t hung up on appearances. He freely admitted his faults and struggles and the glory for his successes always went to the Lord. Psalm 51, which speaks of his correction by Nathan over Bathsheba, and how sin affected him, was made public. Whether that was to address his sin because it was public knowledge, or whether it was to be used as a teaching aid to strengthen the faith of the people and encourage righteousness, or both, I honestly don’t know.

Psalm 3, which was about when he fled from Absalom, Psalm 34 where he escaped from Philistine territory feigning madness and Psalm 52, where he was betrayed by Doeg to Saul, weren’t marked for use by the choir director either. Not using Psalm 52 appears odd, as all the other betrayal Psalms were publicly sung. Perhaps it wasn’t copied or notated correctly, or perhaps David had some private reason for not sending it on? I wish I knew.

These are the Psalms which have a definite event associated with them and could be considered a form of victory stele.

  • 7 – concerning Cush of the tribe of Benjamin
  • 18 – rescued from all enemies and Saul [PUBLIC]
  • 30 – dedication of the temple / house [PUBLIC]
  • 54 – betrayed by Ziphites [PUBLIC]
  • 56 – seized at Gath [PUBLIC]
  • 57 – when fled from Saul and went to the cave [PUBLIC]
  • 59 – soldiers watching his house [PUBLIC]

The last point of interest is David’s request that two Psalms which relate to persecution by Saul, (57 and 59,) be sung to the tune “Do Not Destroy.” Knowing the old title attached to that melody would add a clear message to the Psalm, which would be noted by anyone knowing that piece of music. Other Psalmists also requested the same for their work.

“Do Not Destroy” is also the melody which was selected for Psalm 58: “Justice—do you rulers know the meaning of the word?” In Bible Hub’s interlinear Bible, “ruler” is elem, or congregation. [Strongs Number 482] It is a masculine word, which is culturally correct as the assembly of believers was all male in David’s time. Some Bibles say gods, some say sons of men. There is no correct consensus. It is a source of profound frustration to me that words such as this are so poorly translated in our Bibles, and a reminder to dig deeper to find the true meaning of the Word of God.
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Notes:

*“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” Exodus 20:4-6

**The Code of Hammurabi translated by L.W. King http://www.general-intelligence.com/library/hr.pdf  and the Louvre Museum’s page on it: http://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/law-code-hammurabi-king-babylon


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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.

Was David Saved? Old Testament Benefits of Salvation

fadedmanuscriptThis may seem like a stupid question, as since Jesus died for our sins, we are saved by Grace and David lived under the Laws God set down through Moses. However, God is unchanging and His plan of salvation was set before the beginning of the world. Why would a loving God give us a better deal than He gave David? Jesus completed, or fulfilled the Law, but He didn’t replace it, so where did David stand?

Despite how harsh Old Testament judgements look and the use of animal sacrifice, Scripture shows us that David has the same spiritual benefits that we do because he sought and maintained an active relationship with God which centred on prayer, praise, obedience, studying Scripture, fasting (and acts of charity as set out in the Torah).

“The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come, not the good things themselves. The sacrifices under that system were repeated again and again, year after year, but they were never able to provide perfect cleansing for those who came to worship. If they could have provided perfect cleansing, the sacrifices would have stopped, for the worshipers would have been purified once for all time, and their feelings of guilt would have disappeared.
But instead, those sacrifices actually reminded them of their sins year after year. For it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. That is why, when Christ came into the world, he said to God,
“You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings.
But you have given Me a body to offer.
You were not pleased with burnt offerings
or other offerings for sin.
Then I said, ‘Look, I have come to do your will, O God—
as is written about me in the Scriptures.’”
First, Christ said, “You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings or burnt offerings or other offerings for sin, nor were you pleased with them” (though they are required by the law of Moses). Then He said, “Look, I have come to do your will.” He cancels the first covenant in order to put the second into effect. For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time.” Hebrews 10:1-10

This shows me that God’s character really has never changed. Even if judgement used to be far harsher, His love and plan for mankind has always been there and the joy I have in my faith, was available to all who sought it. That’s a precious truth to discover.

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The Quick Overview:

1. FORGIVENESS
“For the honour of Your Name, O LORD,
forgive my many, many sins.” Psalm 25:11

“Finally, I confessed all my sins to You
and stopped trying to hide my guilt.
I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the LORD.”
And You forgave me! All my guilt is gone.” Psalm 32:5

“You take no delight in sacrifices or offerings. Now that You have made me listen, I finally understand—
You don’t require burnt offerings or sin offerings.
Then I said, “Look, I have come.
As is written about me in the Scriptures:
I take joy in doing Your will, my God,
for Your instructions are written on my heart.” Psalm 40:6-8

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2. DELIVERANCE
“Victory comes from You, O LORD.
May You bless Your people.” Psalm 3:8

“The LORD gives His people strength.
He is a safe fortress for His anointed king.” Psalm 28:8

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3. HEALING
Psalm 30:
3: “You brought me up from the grave, O LORD.
You kept me from falling into the pit of death…”
11: “You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.
You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy,”
12: “that I might sing praises to You and not be silent.
O LORD my God, I will give You thanks forever!”
20: “LORD my God, I cried to You for help,
and You restored my health.”

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4. ETERNAL LIFE
“For you will not leave my soul among the dead
or allow your holy one to rot in the grave.
You will show me the way of life,
granting me the joy of Your Presence
and the pleasures of living with You forever.”  Psalm 16:10-11

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A More Detailed Look:

1. Justified by Faith
New Testament Reference Scripture:
“Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.” Romans 5:1

David: “The LORD rewarded me for doing right;
He restored me because of my innocence.
For I have kept the ways of the LORD;
I have not turned from my God to follow evil.
I have followed all His regulations;
I have never abandoned His decrees.
I am blameless before God;
I have kept myself from sin.
The LORD rewarded me for doing right.
He has seen my innocence.”  Psalm 18:20-24

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stone-cross-14971862. Become Sons of God
New Testament Reference Scripture:
“But to all who believed Him and accepted Him, He gave the right to become children of God.” John 1:12

David: “I will be his father, and he will be My son.
If he sins, I will correct and discipline him with the rod, like any father would do.” 2 Samuel 7 14

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3. Forgiven and Saved from the Penalty of Sin
New Testament Reference Scripture:
“For God loved the world so much that He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

David: “Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight!” Psalm 32:1

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4. Eternal Life
New Testament Reference Scripture:
“And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life.” 1 John 5:11-12

David: “For you will not leave my soul among the dead
or allow your holy one to rot in the grave.
You will show me the way of life,
granting me the joy of Your Presence
and the pleasures of living with You forever.” Psalm 16:10-11

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5. Friends of God
New Testament Reference Scriptures:
“No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.“ John 15:5

David: “My heart has heard You say, “Come and talk with me.”
And my heart responds, “LORD, I am coming.” Psalm 27:8

“He led me to a place of safety;
He rescued me because He delights in me.” Psalm 18:19

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6. Indwelled and Led by the Holy Spirit
New Testament Reference Scripture:
“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.” Romans 8:14

David: “The LORD’s Spirit came over David and stayed with him from that day on.” 1 Samuel 16:13

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7. Have Peace with God
New Testament Reference Scripture:
“Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7

David: “You give great victories to Your king;
You show unfailing love to Your anointed,
to David and all his descendants forever.” Psalm 18:50

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8. Servants of God
New Testament Reference Scripture:
“But now you are free from the power of sin and have become slaves of God. Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life.” Romans 6:22

David was called “My Servant David,” by God in Jeremiah 33:21, Ezekiel 37:24, and 1 Kings 11:36.

 


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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.

The Deep Ancient Roots the Psalms Sprang From

tltnpmRegardless of what age or nationality you are, the culture around you will affect how you worship. Old Western hymns were set to popular tunes of the day so that people would relate to them, and edifying Christian hip hop and rap music is popular with Christian youth in our current time.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. Jesus communicated His message in a form which people understood and could relate to. It makes perfect sense. However, when studying the ancient history of the Near East (pre-Abraham), I was surprised at how much some of the cultic hymns sounded like David’s Psalms.

Compare these two:

“Mighty, majestic, and radiant,
You shine brilliantly in the evening,
You brighten the day at dawn,
You stand in the heavens like the sun and the moon,
Your wonders are known both above and below…”

“The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders;
where morning dawns, where evening fades,
you call forth songs of joy.”

Who wrote what? The first one is a Sumerian hymn about Inanna (Ishtar,) the pagan ‘Queen of Heaven;’ the second is part of David’s Psalm 65. Did that leave you with an awful feeling in the pit of your stomach? I was startled, then realised that this point of time is so far back, both David and the writer of the hymn had the same roots: they both originally came from the one God, YHWH. Psalms by the Sons of Korah and Ethan the Ezrahite (Psalm 89) have the same features. It’s simply a cultural way of song writing.

The key elements of worship that appear in most religions are instituted in the first few chapters of Genesis. God places Adam and Eve in his sanctuary as priests who serve him and commune with him. After they disobey him, God institutes the idea of substitutionary sacrifice and atonement, establishing a covenant with them. Each of these elements characterises the worship of all religions since they are part of the religious heritage of all children of Adam. As Rodríguez notes, “those religious expressions belong to the common human experience of God” (Rodríguez 2001, 47). Romans 1:19–20 testifies to this when it says that God has revealed himself to all people through “the things that have been made.”  [Source: Worldview Bias and the Origin of Hebrew Worship by Scott Aniol, source link below.]

There is a major difference between the way that David approaches his God and the way the worshippers of the pagan god, Inanna worshipped: David has confidence!

“Be merciful to me, O Lord; for I cry to You daily.
Give joy to the soul of Your servant; for to You, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
For You, Lord, are good and ready to forgive, and rich in mercy to all those who call on You.
Give ear, O Jehovah, to my prayer; and attend to the voice of my prayers.
In the day of my trouble I will call on You; for You will answer me.” Psalm 86:3-7

You don’t find that kind of confidence in hymns for the pagan gods. From the ones I read, some of them don’t even make any kind of sense, but David had two things in his favour: the indwelling Spirit of God which gave him a direct link to the one true God, and a righteous boldness. He knew that God was with him and that YHWH was his source of comfort, deliverance, healing, joy and salvation. David was welcome to “boldly approach the throne of grace,” long before those words appeared in our New Testament. [Ref. Hebrews 4:16 and Ephesians 3:12]

“The LORD passed in front of Moses, calling out,
“Yahweh! The LORD!
The God of compassion and mercy!
I am slow to anger
and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.
I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations.
I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin.
But I do not excuse the guilty.” Exodus 34:6-7a

Inanna had to be appeased, tip toed around. The pagan gods were the scapegoats that man made to explain the mysteries of why bad things happen and how the natural elements of the world functioned. They created jealous, angry gods with human frailties, who you bribed into happiness so nothing went wrong.

2016-12-11_15-55-07_01Looking at hymns which came from a different part of the Near East, Scott Aniol goes on to say: “When comparing the psalms of Israel with those of Ugarit people, important distinctions emerge as well. According to Walton, “the category of declarative praise is unique to Israel”… Biblical history and pagan myth have very different purposes, functions, and literary forms and therefore must not be interpreted in the same manner.”

The same applies to cultic observations about a flood and a baby sent down a river in a basket who was rescued by a princess and bought up in a royal court. The events were written about long after they happened, with the then current pagan interpretations added.

So if you ever come across strange similarities between paganism and the Bible, don’t take them as evidence that your faith isn’t based on a faithful, genuine God. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:1-5
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Notes:

https://answersingenesis.org/presuppositions/bias-and-origin-of-hebrew-worship/ This is a great article, please take the time to read it.

“Inanna was associated with the planet Venus, which at that time was regarded as two stars, the “morning star” and the “evening star. The discontinuous movements of Venus relate to both mythology as well as Inanna’s dual nature. Inanna is related like Venus to the principle of connectedness, but this has a dual nature and could seem unpredictable. Yet as both the goddess of love and war, with both masculine and feminine qualities, Inanna is poised to respond, and occasionally to respond with outbursts of temper. Mesopotamian literature takes this one step further, explaining Inanna’s physical movements in mythology as corresponding to the astronomical movements of Venus in the sky.” There are hymns to Inanna as her astral manifestation.”  [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inanna]


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Studying Ancient History to Understand the Bible

The Oriental Institute's Youtube Page

The Oriental Institute’s Youtube Page

As I have studied King David, questions have come up which can’t be answered by my Bible. For example, where did the first kings appear from and what were they like? Why wasn’t Egypt a problem in David’s life time? What kind of trade ran through Isra’el in the Old Testament and many, many more.

Not only has studying ancient history answered those questions, I have found that it has helped me to correctly understand and portray Isra’el and her neighbouring cultures. The influences I read Moses warning the people against, now have faces, a story, and details attached to them; and I can understand God’s point of view and the struggles the Hebrew people had, clearly. With this kind of knowledge, the Old Testament is far less confusing.

Articles that have directly come out of this research include: What You Need to Know About Isra’el in David’s TimeThe Poison of Old Testament Idol Worship and How It Compares to Occult Worship Today .

So keeping in mind the humbling fact that that dates are highly debatable and that new discoveries are still to be made, which will change timelines and our interpretation of these ancient cultures, may I recommend these two resources which are my staples.

berkThe Center for Middle Eastern Studies, from the University of California Berkeley, approaches history from a non-religious, non-political standpoint which is very helpful. Their Near East Studies lecture series on iTunes has pulled more pieces of the Old Testament puzzle together for me, than anywhere else. It stretches back from before Abraham and Noah, then goes into later history which is far more familiar, such as the Roman Empire. If you have ever wanted to know what studying archaeology is like, this is the course for you!

Web site: http://cmes.berkeley.edu/category/videos/
Youtube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL-XXv-cvA_iBIm79tkbWrFKg9rwMVDytI

orinst

The Oriental Institute, which is attached to the University of Chicago, has brilliant lectures which cover topics such as ancient economics, record keeping and “lost” civilisations, as well as the general history you would expect to discover. I believe they fund archaeological enterprises and the talks are professional, fascinating and well worth your time.

Web site: http://oi.uchicago.edu
Youtube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/JamesHenryBreasted/videos

podcast-logo

Podcasts

The Maritime History Podcast
This great series covers useful topics such as 001 Boating with the Ubaid People (earliest discovered ancestors of Israel); 003 Trade and Turmoil in Ancient Mesopotamia (Noah to Abraham’s time); 004 Mesopotamian Merchants; 005 Meanwhile, in Egypt (Moses); 020 The Sea Peoples Sail South (early Philistines); and 022 Rise of the Phoenicians (trading partners and palace builders of King David.)

The Hidden History of Business Podcast
Believe it or not, in Mesopotamia and many parts of the Near East (Israel’s area), beer was a staple food because it didn’t spoil. Discover how it’s so closely related to bread, the Egyptians called it bread too, the surprising birth of the tavern and more. Episode 9b: Beer in Mesopotamia and 29: Minicast Beer in Israel and Egypt.

Naked Archaeology has a radio-like mix of topics, many of which pertain to the Old Testament time period. I am still working my way through them, but am fascinated that horses were first domesticated for war purposes, not transport. See 18 March 2009 for that one.

itunesuI am still discovering Theology in the Raw and Theology Nerd Throwdown, as part of my formal studies on Old Testament Theology. There are dozens of Christian podcasts and specialists topics on any area you can think of. Tweet me and let me know what goodies you found. @octopusreinked

Don’t forget to try the iTunes University app for formal lectures from many Universities and professional people, which may also be a great help to you. I have found dozens of Bible Colleges through that app, plus Berkeley’s Near East Studies is on there too.
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