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.
29200701_mr3x3xrrr
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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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.

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How David Compares to Other Near Eastern Kings

Sumerian King List

Sumerian King List

God changes everything in people’s lives. He always has, He always will. Last year I began to dig back through ancient history to find out what the kings in David’s era and part of the world were like. I wanted to know where the corruption that comes with royalty stemmed from. The search took me back far further than I had anticipated and I was stunned to know so much of the culture was still relevant and active in David’s lifetime.

The roots of kingship go back to the first city states which sprung up in Mesopotamia, where people decided to group together and organise to make survival easier: and of course, someone grabbed power. We don’t know who the first “king” was. They could have been a reputed warrior, a respected priest or someone who was simply savvy enough to take the opportunity to be the guy in charge. You know the deal. It doesn’t matter how many thousands of years have gone past, (estimated to be six thousand by historians,) it’s still a man in a fancier hat with a better house, servants and loads more money than everyone else. Kingship has been synonymous with excess and abuses of power since the beginning not because people tend to be a little jealous, but because that is the way things really are.

When kings first came in society changed. The power stopped being in the hands of the people, or a democratic committee of people. Women started to be treated as lesser beings and the class system was “invented” where some had more and some had less, rather than everyone working towards survival. God gave His people a command from the beginning of time: “go forth and multiply.”[Ref. Genesis 9:7] We were never meant to be clustered together in unhealthy cities with a class and sexist divide which shoves God out of the picture. For the sake of an easier life, our ancestors gave that up and nothing has really changed. We are still suspicious of the number 13, we still exalt people into insane positions of wealth and power, and humanity leans away from the freedom that God wanted for us, creating social problems, mental illness and all manner of physical sickness.

By the time I got to David, three thousand years later, I was mortified to see the same system being maintained and concerned at the similarities between paganism and How Israel functioned. For example, the kings were always placed in power by their deity, the altars had horns, and the priests needs were catered for the same way. There were a lot of parallels where the base culture that had produced Abraham had stuck in people’s minds and had gone through very little modification; the gods were basically the same; no one had grown. The whole structure of society was essentially a corruption of what God had intended.

As I said above, God changes everything in people’s lives. He always has, He always will and He did that with David. Saul bought straight into the culturally accepted, corrupt mode of kingship, and David did follow that to a significant degree, but he was different. David had been bought up strong in the faith and he doggedly stayed on that path, despite being exiled from fellowship and access to Israel’s worship practices by Saul. [Ref. 1 Samuel 26:19-20] He followed the laws in the Torah which God had handed down through Moses, and this made him distinct from any other king. He was so distinct that it’s given historians a reason to doubt he ever existed, as he didn’t leave the usual marks of kingship behind for us to find.

The biggest thing a king did in the ancient Near East was build a temple. Now David did that, but not in the same way. Normally when a Near Eastern king came into power, they set up their own capital city regardless of what already existed (he did that); named it after them (he didn’t do that); then build yet another temple to their god to show what a devout, god-chosen leader they were. No temple existed in Israel until David decided that his living large while God dwelled in a tent was just not right. Why? Saul was not a man of religious fervour, to put it mildly. It is doubtful he would have weighed up the difference between his home and God’s and decided to put the situation right. God had asked Moses to build the tabernacle, which was a nice tent situation, so that would do. It takes a different heart to choose not to live in greater splendour than the One to whom you owe you life, your success and your future. David had that humble heart that cared about His creator.

David’s humility also kept him from following in some of the other time-worn customs of kings. Yes, he did accumulate wives like other kings, which was against the law and had consequences which he regretted deeply. He did grab the King of Rabbah’s elaborate crown for himself… but he did not sing his own praises from the palace roof. Yes, of course he would have succumbed to ego on occasion. When even your wives bow and scrape before you, the human brain is going to go places it should not venture, and you’ll have a tough time staying humble. But David was undeniably modest compared to a typical king. [Ref. Rabbah 2 Samuel 12:29-30]

Lion-men; orthostat relief from Herald's wall, Carchemish ; 850-750 BC; Late Hittite style under Aramaean influence. Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara, Turkey

Lion-men; orthostat relief from Herald’s wall, Carchemish ; 850-750 BC; Late Hittite style under Aramaean influence. Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara, Turkey

Other kings had elaborate stele (victory memorials), and/or commemorative orthostats (carved scenes on the walls) in their palace, telling everyone who visited how they had won wars, taken slaves and been the best of the best: a powerful man that you don’t mess with. David did none of this. Stele’s nearly always had their god carved into the picture in close proximity to the king to reinforce the idea that the king was chosen, blessed and victorious because of their god. It is the kind of idol imagery which is forbidden in the ten commandments and that may have been one reason why David didn’t do it. He recorded his life events through Psalms, some of which are like victory steles, others which are cries for help, but nothing else has been discovered. We have ancient Babylonian and Assyrian statues and orthostats which pre-date David, but nothing has been found of his as it appears, it just wasn’t his thing. Yes, it could have been destroyed when Jerusalem was sacked by Babylon; but there is no Biblical account of any such objects being made, even though we know which of his great-grandsons thought it would be fashionable to paint the palace walls red.

Read the Psalms: “I will tell of the marvellous things You have done.” Psalm 9:1b and “I will exalt You Lord, because You have rescued me.” Psalm 30 David never takes the glory for himself, he always gives it to God. It would be completely incongruent to his character to build memorials to himself for what God had done.

David was also humble in the empire department. When kings traditionally went on campaign each spring to expand their control, we find David staying at home in Jerusalem while Joab gets on with the security-related tasks. [Ref. 2 Samuel 11:1, Joab was dealing with the aftermath of 2 Samuel 10.] He dealt with the enemies of Israel, but he didn’t get ambitious beyond that. It was common for kings to start expanding their territory just because they could. David didn’t. It’s that simple. The Lord had said, “I gave you your master’s house and his wives and the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. And if that had not been enough, I would have given you much, much more.” 2 Samuel 12:8  It looks like David simply did not ask God for me. He was satisfied with a secure nation and the blessing he had. Psalm 34:14 …. says “seek peace and work to maintain it.” Taking this general attitude and his habit of not joining Joab on the battlefield unless it was absolutely necessary, it appears David was simply not a war-mongering conquerer.

He didn’t give himself a grandiose title or nickname either. King Lugal-zaggisi of Sumer claimed that he ruled the four quarters of the world, even though he was only the ruler of the neighbouring regions of Sumer and Akkad. Etana, King of Kish, called himself “the shepherd, who ascended to heaven and consolidated all the foreign countries.” En-me-barage-si, also of Kish, referred to himself as the one: “who made the land of Elam submit,” and Kubaba, the only female king, called herself: “the woman tavern-keeper, who made firm the foundations of Kish.” David once referred to himself as the “sweet singer of Israel,” but it was it.

I have often called David the anti-king because of his humility, but the glory doesn’t even go to him for achieving that. While it was his choice to be open to the leading and correction of the Holy Spirit, at the end of the day, it was God’s work in David which turned him into the awesome man he became. As many have said, David was the start of an era and the end of that era… and that era was planned and put into place by his God, YHWH, who did this not just for David, He did it for all of His people. God changes everything in people’s lives. He always has, He always will.


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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.

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).
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.

When Terrifying Psalms Suddenly Look Quite Tame

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.

Over the last six months I have been studying ancient history from a secular point of view, in order to understand the culture of Isra’el and the forces which shaped her idolatry. It’s been a fascinating time which I have enjoyed, but it has taken me to some pretty dark places!

To understand David and what social mindsets slid into the Psalms, I have looked at a number of pagan hymns, the epic of Gilgamesh and this week, the Code of the Babylonian King, Hammurabi. One thing sure stood out to me: if you thought Psalms such as Psalm 109 were pretty savage, you aint seen nothing yet! Trigger Warning: violent, gory content.

Here is a hit of Babylonian royal ego which will make you think about David’s roughest works in a completely different way. His slant is more towards divine justice than calling down divine revenge. I will leave it to you to mull over the contrast. I am still getting my head around it.

First, here is one of David’s Psalms of vengeance, Psalm 58:

For the choir director: A psalm of David, to be sung to the tune “Do Not Destroy!”
“Justice—do you rulers know the meaning of the word?
Do you judge the people fairly?
No! You plot injustice in your hearts.
You spread violence throughout the land.
These wicked people are born sinners;
even from birth they have lied and gone their own way.
They spit venom like deadly snakes;
they are like cobras that refuse to listen,
ignoring the tunes of the snake charmers,
no matter how skillfully they play.
Break off their fangs, O God!
Smash the jaws of these lions, O LORD!
May they disappear like water into thirsty ground.
Make their weapons useless in their hands.
May they be like snails that dissolve into slime,
like a stillborn child who will never see the sun.
God will sweep them away, both young and old,
faster than a pot heats over burning thorns.
The godly will rejoice when they see injustice avenged.
They will wash their feet in the blood of the wicked.
Then at last everyone will say,
“There truly is a reward for those who live for God;
surely there is a God who judges justly here on earth.”

Now for Hammerabi. I have slashed this down to 273 words. There are another 1604 words in the epilogue where Hammurabi takes the time to say how great he is. Plus there is a heap more self exultation in the prologue. The odd names are all referring to pagan gods. I have cut it into paragraphs to make it readable.

A stele picturing Hammurabi. It's also worth noting that David didn't go wild producing pictures of himself.

A stele picturing Hammurabi. It’s also worth noting that David didn’t go wild producing pictures of himself.

“May Zamama, the great warrior, the first-born son of E-Kur, who goeth at my right hand, shatter his weapons on the field of battle, turn day into night for him, and let his foe triumph over him.

May Ishtar, the goddess of fighting and war, who unfetters my weapons, my gracious protecting spirit, who loveth my dominion, curse his kingdom in her angry heart; in her great wrath, change his grace into evil, and shatter his weapons on the place of fighting and war. May she create disorder and sedition for him, strike down his warriors, that the earth may drink their blood, and throw down the piles of corpses of his warriors on the field; may she not grant him a life of mercy, deliver him into the hands of his enemies, and imprison him in the land of his enemies.

May Nergal, the might among the gods, whose contest is irresistible, who grants me victory, in his great might burn up his subjects like a slender reedstalk, cut off his limbs with his mighty weapons, and shatter him like an earthen image.

May Nin-tu, the sublime mistress of the lands, the fruitful mother, deny him a son, vouchsafe him no name, give him no successor among men.

May Nin-karak, the daughter of Anu, who adjudges grace to me, cause to come upon his members in E-kur high fever, severe wounds, that can not be healed, whose nature the physician does not understand, which he can not treat with dressing, which, like the bite of death, can not be removed, until they have sapped away his life.”

If you would like to read more, you can find the full, mind boggling legal code here. Some of it is very fair; some of it makes your head spin. They were hard times to be alive.


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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.

How to Control King-Sized Egos: The Examples of David and Moses

egosquashDespite his heroic feats, David is the opposite of a Hollywood action hero. He is more the anti-hero; the guy who doesn’t rely solely on his own power to be the victor, and walks away humble. If anything, the Lord was his stunt man, director, producer and all the credit went to Him.

David never made the mistake of many kings in that he didn’t turn arrogant or cocky for long. The simple truth is, God never allowed him to. Throughout his entire life, David went through life-threatening trial after trial after trial, and suffered in the face of poorly, if not completely undisguised opposition.

  • Saul wanting him dead out of jealousy, and because he realised David would be the next king. 1 Samuel 18:5-8
  • The guilt of the death of the priests of Nob being on his head, as he’d gone to them when on the run from Saul, then lied. 1 Samuel 22
  • Illness which hit him mid-life bought humiliation. 2 Samuel 21:15 (Probably diabetes.)
  • The challenge of others, such as his son, Absalom, sabotaging his authority and wanting his throne. 2 Samuel 15-18 and Psalms such as Psalm 38:12-15
  • Problems with Isra’el being weary of war and wanting a better deal economically. Psalm 4:6
  • Guilt over his sin with Bathsheba, the murder of Uriah and resulting death of his baby son. 2 Samuel 12
  • Conflicts between his tribe, Judah, and the other northern tribes, who felt he’d favoured Judah, and thus attempted to overthrow him. 2 Samuel 20
  • Gut wrenching mistakes such as the Census, which cost many lives. 2 Samuel 24

That is enough to crush many people and it is guaranteed to produce deep humility. You can win many battles and take many wives to prove your status, but when your life is under threat and you’re dependent on God for deliverance, it’s really hard to get a big head. David never dug himself out of danger. He relied on God, not his ability as a warrior, then he gave the full glory to God.

“I will praise You, LORD, with all my heart;
I will tell of all the marvellous things You have done.
I will be filled with joy because of You.
I will sing praises to Your Name, O Most High.
My enemies retreated;
they staggered and died when You appeared.” Psalm 9:1-3

David’s humility is also seen in repeated requests to have God judge him, in order that he would stay on the right path.
“How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart?
Cleanse me from these hidden faults.
Keep your servant from deliberate 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

Another point to consider is that kings are used to people obeying them. It is easy to become accustomed to bowing and obedience and make the mistake of treating God in the same way: “I ask for help, You give it when I want it.” It is possible that some of the “how long” times which David experienced, were God letting David know that He would not be at the beck and call of a king. God is sovereign and above the reign of mankind. Making David wait would reinforce the correct order and again, keep a royal ego under control.

Moses has a similar story. Despite the status he was given in order to lead Isra’el out of Egypt and into the Promised Land, he was very well grounded. Numbers 12:3 tells us: “Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.” Twice, God offered to wipe out Isra’el’s rebellious tribes, and give the covenant promise to Moses and his descendants. Twice Moses refused, to honour God’s reputation before the whole earth, and to save the nation he loved. [Ref. Exodus 32:9-10 and Numbers 14:11-12]

submissive-faithIn contrast to movies such as The Prince of Egypt, which portray his story, Moses life in Pharaoh’s court appears to me, not to have been easy. He knew he was a Hebrew and was so angered by the treatment of his people, he killed an Egyptian that was mistreating a Hebrew slave and had to flee. Pharaoh didn’t save his precious boy, Moses. He had nowhere to run for preferential treatment.

It is debatable as to whether Moses ever fit into the royal household, or whether he always felt like an outsider. Unless his speech impediment had a physical cause, that kind of insecurity and turmoil could have caused his stuttering; (which oddly, is never mentioned after the Israelites leave Egypt.) He was hesitant to approach Pharaoh to ask for the release of the Hebrew slaves, which also indicates that he knew he would not be treated like a long-lost adopted son. Tough lives develop character and few had it as abundantly as Moses did. Thank God both Moses and David did stay humble. Many millennia later, we are still benefitting from their achievements and example.

So next time life gets you down and appears to be falling apart, take heart. Maybe God is allowing your pain to keep you humble and gentle as well. Neither David or Moses were likely candidates to become the leader of a nation. You never know where the Lord will take you.

“My heart is confident in You, O God;
no wonder I can sing Your praises with all my heart!” Psalm 108:1


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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.

How King David Would Want To Be Remembered

There is a simple answer to this question – David would want his life to do one thing: point the way to God.

Unlike his son, Absalom, King David never built a monument to himself. [2 Samuel 18:18 despite 2 Samuel 14:27] He never asked that the temple be named after him, or for Solomon to have a plaque installed on the wall with his name on it. He did not leave behind golden, ostentatious palaces, as his son Solomon did [1 Kings 10:21]; neither did he build himself an impressive funerary monument as the Egyptian kings did. Instead, this is what we hear David saying in his old age.

“My life is an example to many,
because You have been my strength and protection.
That is why I can never stop praising You;
I declare Your glory all day long…

But I will keep on hoping for Your help;
I will praise You more and more.
I will tell everyone about Your righteousness.
All day long I will proclaim Your saving power,
though I am not skilled with words.
I will praise Your mighty deeds, O Sovereign LORD.
I will tell everyone that You alone are just.
O God, You have taught me from my earliest childhood,
and I constantly tell others about the wonderful things You do.
Now that I am old and grey,
do not abandon me, O God.

Let me proclaim Your power to this new generation,
Your mighty miracles to all who come after me.
Your righteousness, O God, reaches to the highest heavens.
You have done such wonderful things.
Who can compare with You, O God?

You have allowed me to suffer much hardship,
but You will restore me to life again
and lift me up from the depths of the earth.
You will restore me to even greater honour
and comfort me once again.
Then I will praise You with music on the harp,
because You are faithful to your promises, O my God.
I will sing praises to You with a lyre,
O Holy One of Israel.
I will shout for joy and sing Your praises,
for You have ransomed me.
I will tell about Your righteous deeds
all day long,
for everyone who tried to hurt me
has been shamed and humiliated.” Psalm 71:7-8, then 14-24

In his last words (below), David focusses not on his military prowess, or his leadership achievements, instead he states the blessing that the Lord has bestowed upon him.** This is typical of David. When he talked about his achievements, it was always alongside what God had done; and despite the extensive suffering and loss he had been through, there was no bitterness, complaint, or resentment present.

David’s Last Words
These are the last words of David:
David, the son of Jesse, speaks:
David, the man who was raised up so high,
David, the man anointed by the God of Jacob,
David, the sweet psalmist of Isra’el.

“The Spirit of the LORD speaks through me;
His words are upon my tongue.
The God of Israel spoke.
The Rock of Israel said to me:
‘The one who rules righteously,
who rules in the fear of God,
is like the light of morning at sunrise,
like a morning without clouds,
like the gleaming of the sun
on new grass after rain.’
“Is it not my family God has chosen?
Yes, He has made an everlasting covenant with me.
His agreement is arranged and guaranteed in every detail.
He will ensure my safety and success.
But the godless are like thorns to be thrown away,
for they tear the hand that touches them.
One must use iron tools to chop them down;
they will be totally consumed by fire.” 1 Samuel 23

In 2 Samuel 22, he gives a greater list of what has happened in his life, and note that the glory always goes back to God. For example:
The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my saviour;
my God is my rock, in whom I find protection.
He is my shield, the power that saves me,
and my place of safety.
He is my refuge, my Saviour,
the One who saves me from violence.
I called on the LORD, who is worthy of praise,
and He saved me from my enemies.”
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Notes: ** If it seems egotistical in some ways, remember that David lived in a shame/honour culture, where a king who has been shamed is discredited and thrown out of office by his people, so culturally, it is necessary to state how he is honourable and honoured. However, David wrote much more extolling the glory of the Lord. Please see my master list of verses which demonstrate David’s humility. https://www.facebook.com/notes/from-despair-to-deliverance/verses-which-demonstrate-davids-humility/1213522105331651


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The images used in this post are CC4.0 from Wikimedia Commons.

Yesterday’s Hero: Ancient Politics or, How to Keep a King Humble

This song, by John Paul Young*, reminds me of some of the challenges David faced:
“Take a look at me, I’m yesterday’s hero,
And yesterday’s hero is all that I’m gonna be if I don’t get together,
Make a new start and be somebody better,
All that I’ll be if I don’t get together now…
If you followed my story,
Then just be glad you ain’t in my shoes.”

In my Twitter feed today, Franklin Graham made this comment on the 2016 U.S.A. election: “Our nation is broken and the fix isn’t through any person or political party, but will only come through turning to God.”

yesterdays hero

Nothing has changed in three thousand years. The populace still blames their leaders for the nation’s problems, no matter how complex, and unless that leader can turn the situation around, (be that within their power or not,) the people want them out. Reason, fairness and faith have nothing to do with it.

David went through the same thing repeatedly, and it is recorded in the Psalms. “Many people say, “Who will show us better times?” Let your face smile on us, LORD.” Psalm 4:6

Israel was looking for stability, prosperity and salvation, but ironically and sinfully, God’s own people were looking for answers in man, not God. They put David into power because they thought he could solve their problems.

“Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said, “Behold, we are your bone and your flesh. “Previously, when Saul was king over us, you were the one who led Israel out and in. And the LORD said to you, ‘You will shepherd My people Israel, and you will be a ruler over Israel.’” So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron, and King David made a covenant with them before the LORD at Hebron; then they anointed David king over Israel.” 2 Samuel 5:1-3

However, when David didn’t solve the problems of the nation as they expected, or do things the way they wanted, he became yesterday’s hero and there were multiple attempts to oust him.

“I have heard the many rumours about me,
and I am surrounded by terror.
My enemies conspire against me,
plotting to take my life.
But I am trusting you, O LORD,
saying, “You are my God!” Psalm 31:13-14

We don’t know every reason why David faced opposition, but here are some of the most likely scenarios. Firstly, power challenges are simply the fate of any leader: someone else wants the power, fame and wealth you hold. In modern politics, we see parties wrangling to be elected to power through dirty deeds, arguments and rhetoric. In other countries, military coups take place, which happened to David via his son, Absalom, in 2 Samuel chapters 13-19.

Secondly, some of the tribe of Benjamin were never happy that the leadership of Isra’el was taken over by the tribe of Judah: God’s choice of man did not matter to them, and this is demonstrated in 2 Samuel 16 with Shimei, and again in chapter 20 with Sheba. There were also problems with David’s favouritism towards the closest tribes to him, Benjamin and Judah, which rumpled feathers all over Isra’el. (2 Samuel 19)

If that isn’t enough domestic trouble, the Psalms record attempts to bribe King David, and opposition to his godly behaviour. He didn’t fit the status quo, or the plans of the wicked, so they wanted him gone. (References below.)

To that, you need to add in the effect of stress, hopelessness and exhaustion on the people, that would have been caused by Isra’el’s national security problems. After David became King, there were are least another twenty years of war ahead for Isra’el. As strong a leader as he was, the process of winning would take time and a weary nation didn’t necessarily wish to wait. They wanted better lives, now and any perceived failure to deliver would have made David unpopular.

Long term insecurity with warring and raiding neighbours would have had the people living in terror and would also have had a detrimental economic impact. For example, in Saul’s time, the Philistines wouldn’t allow Israel to have blacksmiths. The nation was being held for ransom by forced dependence on their enemies for blacksmithing services. This would have affected agriculture and many aspects of how the people of Isra’el lived, not just weapons. I don’t know if this was still occurring in David’s time, but it does illustrate the problems Isra’el had and that David was up against. [Ref: 1 Samuel 13:19-22]

Whatever reason, David did not reign without facing as much trouble from his own people, as he faced from the surrounding warring nations, who wanted Isra’el’s territory. While much of Isra’el is now desert and desolate due to land clearing, over farming and war; three thousand years ago, Isra’el borders included a major western trade route which could potentially controlled for profit (like the ancient city of Petra.) It was a lush place, with high rainfall and lucrative natural resources. In short: a land of milk, where cattle could thrive and honey, where the land yielded abundantly. For an opposing nation, gain was also to be had by taking slaves. Isra’el was valuable and David’s enemies went to a great deal of trouble to get at him.

“How long will you people ruin my reputation?
How long will you make groundless accusations?
How long will you continue your lies?’ Psalm 4:2

“I come to you for protection, O LORD my God.
Save me from my persecutors—rescue me!
If you don’t, they will maul me like a lion,
tearing me to pieces with no one to rescue me.” Psalm 7:1-2

“My future is in your hands.
Rescue me from those who hunt me down relentlessly.” Psalm 31:15

“Malicious witnesses testify against me.
They accuse me of crimes I know nothing about.” Psalm 35:11

“Confuse them, Lord, and frustrate their plans,
for I see violence and conflict in the city.
Its walls are patrolled day and night against invaders,
but the real danger is wickedness within the city.
Everything is falling apart;
threats and cheating are rampant in the streets.
It is not an enemy who taunts me—
I could bear that.
It is not my foes who so arrogantly insult me—
I could have hidden from them.
Instead, it is you—my equal,
my companion and close friend.
What good fellowship we once enjoyed
as we walked together to the house of God.” Psalm 55:9-14

David also faced cruel opposition from his family and friends. “Even my own brothers pretend they don’t know me; they treat me like a stranger.” Psalm 69:8 “I am scorned by all my enemies and despised by my neighbours— even my friends are afraid to come near me.” Psalm 31:11 The threat of a takeover must have been so strong, those closest to David were scared of being on the wrong side, as they would have paid for that decision with their lives.

creationswap_painDavid had become yesterday’s hero. His victory over Goliath was old news. His glory days in Saul’s army were as good as forgotten. This breaks my heart for David, yet despite that, I can see how the political problems that David faced, greatly assisted in keeping his heart right with the Lord. Not having an easy reign kept him dependent on his God for deliverance, and stopped him from venturing too far down the easy track of excessive egotism. Had his head turned from faith to power, he would have become as lost as the wicked men of Isra’el.

Psalm 30 shows how David was swayed by his military and material success:
“When I was prosperous, I said,
“Nothing can stop me now!”
Your favour, O LORD, made me as secure as a mountain.
Then you turned away from me, and I was shattered.” Psalm 30:6-7

In many Psalms, we read David lamenting not receiving answers from the Lord when he desperately needed them the most. “O LORD, why do you stand so far away? Why do you hide when I am in trouble?” Psalm 10:1 (This is also seen in Psalms 22:19, Psalm 13, Psalm 35:17-22 and Psalm 6:2-3.)

If David had been placed in power by the Lord to deliver Isra’el from her enemies, why would the Lord play cat and mouse at the worst possible times? The answer is complex, but simple**. Kings are used to absolute power and having people respond to their summons. The Lord did not respond to every summons, no matter how humble, or desperate, as David had to learn that he served a far greater King and it was critical that he live his life in total submission to that Sovereign’s standards. “My suffering was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees.” Psalm 119:71

By not being allowed absolute success and on demand, priority access to the throne of God, David stayed spiritually whole, even when physically and mentally hurting. That kept him on track and also allowed the Lord to make Isra’el safe… and to be able to bless us with David’s legacy of the Psalms to build up and inspire us.

Can any of this apply to us? Yes. David’s experience reminds us that the suffering we face makes us grow, develop our character and respect God, so that we don’t become unrighteous, spoiled brats. As much as it hurts, or as confused as we are as to why God hasn’t fixed everything the way we thought He would, we shouldn’t be given everything too readily. For the Lord to smother us in too greater abundance, would be our ruin too. Like it or not, we need to suffer.

“The LORD looks down from heaven
and sees the whole human race.
From his throne he observes
all who live on the earth.
He made their hearts,
so he understands everything they do.
The best-equipped army cannot save a king,
nor is great strength enough to save a warrior.
Don’t count on your warhorse to give you victory—
for all its strength, it cannot save you.
But the LORD watches over those who fear him,
those who rely on his unfailing love.
He rescues them from death
and keeps them alive in times of famine.
We put our hope in the LORD.
He is our help and our shield.” Psalm 33:13-20 New Living Translation

* Source: Yesterday’s Hero, John Paul Young, 1975: watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bmfil4faFuw

** For more information on the complexity of answers which never seem to come, please read “How Long?” When Answers to Prayer Don’t Seem to Arrive
http://articles.faithwriters.com/reprint-article-details.php?article=33409

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OTHER RELATED RESOURCES ON THIS TOPIC:
– Did God Want a King for Israel, to learn more about how the people increasingly turned from God in this period. http://articles.faithwriters.com/reprint-article-details.php?article=32570
– The Anti-King: David and Humility
http://articles.faithwriters.com/reprint-article-details.php?article=33025
– Was King David a Megalomaniac?
http://articles.faithwriters.com/reprint-article-details.php?article=32067
– Does Absolute Power Corrupt Absolutely?
http://articles.faithwriters.com/reprint-article-details.php?article=32731


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.