The Anti-King: David and Humility

IMG_0066I first noticed how humble David’s attitude is when reading 2 Samuel 22, David’s song of praise. Repeatedly, God is attributed with victory, well over and above anything David claims for himself (of which I have found next to nothing). “The Lord is…” “He is…” He heard…” He opened…” “He shot…” “His lightning…”

David is almost an anti-king. His character is a complete contrast of that of any other monarch in history. He relies more on the Lord, than on his own power and influence; and the status and riches of the kingdom don’t sway him.

Psalm 52:5-8 regarding a great warrior Doeg the Edomite, who betrayed David to Saul.
“But God will strike you down once and for all.
He will pull you from your home
and uproot you from the land of the living. Interlude
The righteous will see it and be amazed.
They will laugh and say,
“Look what happens to mighty warriors
who do not trust in God.
They trust their wealth instead
and grow more and more bold in their wickedness.”
But I am like an olive tree, thriving in the house of God.
I will always trust in God’s unfailing love.”

Psalm 4:7 “You have given me greater joy than those who have abundant harvests of grain and new wine.”

This humility is part of the reason why in 2 Samuel 7:9b the Lord told David, “…I will make your name as famous as anyone who has ever lived on the earth!” It was a privilege that David could be trusted with.

Below are a handful of examples of David’s humility from the first twenty Psalms. They demonstrate three areas where humility plays a large role in his life.

1. David didn’t try and achieve the success of the kingdom himself.

– Psalm 3:8
“Victory comes from you, O LORD.
May you bless your people.”

– Psalm 4:6:
“Many people say, “Who will show us better times?”
Let your face smile on us, LORD.”

– Psalm 7:1
“I come to you for protection, O LORD my God.”

– Psalm 10:12
“Arise, O LORD!
Punish the wicked, O God!
Do not ignore the helpless!”

2. David always gave the glory to God for victories, despite his reputation in battle. [Refs 1 Samuel 18:6-7 and 2 Samuel 5:1-2]

– Psalm 9:1-3
“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 16:5-8
“LORD, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing.
You guard all that is mine.
The land you have given me is a pleasant land.
What a wonderful inheritance!”

– Psalm 18:1-3
“I love you, LORD;
you are my strength.
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.
I called on the LORD, who is worthy of praise,
and he saved me from my enemies.”

– Psalm 18:43-45
“You gave me victory over my accusers.
You appointed me ruler over nations;
people I don’t even know now serve me.
As soon as they hear of me, they submit;
foreign nations cringe before me.
They all lose their courage
and come trembling from their strongholds.”

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. As he diligently sought God’s judgement and was very rarely judged, he was able to declare his righteousness before the Lord. He often states his position when grappling with his (and Israel’s) need for deliverance. (e.g. Psalm 41:12 “You have preserved my life because I am innocent; you have brought me into your presence forever.” See also Psalm 139.)

– Psalm 19:12-14
“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 7:3-5
“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.”

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Being Still In The Lord – For Those Who Prefer Action

Folkert Gorter DSC_0631_1_900“God You can tell the waves ‘be still’
Tell the ocean roar to pass
Lord until it does
I’ll wait here…
And I will sing songs in the night
Praise in the storm – You’re God it in all
And I will stand – I’ll be still and know
Whatever may come, You’re God in it all” [*Source below.]

Stillness is not my natural habitat. I like to get things done. I prefer neat, timely answers and something that I can actually, physically do, to get to wherever I need to go. So the idea of being still before the Lord and waiting for His reply, healing, or deliverance is not a comfortable one for me. I am more like the prophet Jeremiah when he said, “My heart, my heart–I writhe in pain! My heart pounds within me! I cannot be still…” Jeremiah 4:19a

But Scripture clearly says: “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14 and in the sons of Korah’s words: “Be still and know that I am God!” Psalm 46:10a

Stillness is a spiritual trait we are encouraged to pursue. Being still, means you are not controlling God, or your circumstances; you are stopping and allowing God to be in control. That will always bring the most perfect results, but it is oh, so very, very hard to do.

God won many battles for Isra’el. There were times when the people had to take up arms and fight with the Lord’s active backing, but there were other times when they had to wait on God to do all the work. Nothing has changed. Being still with your focus remaining resolutely on the Lord, continues to be one of the most powerful weapons in our spiritual arsenal.

“I wait quietly before God,
for my victory comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress where I will never be shaken.” Psalm 62:1-2

David then emphasises again:

“Let all that I am wait quietly before God,
for my hope is in him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress where I will not be shaken.
My victory and honour come from God alone.
He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me.
O my people, trust in him at all times.
Pour out your heart to him,
for God is our refuge.” Psalm 62:5-8

This is an important point that David is trying to get across.

David was a man of action too. He was an excellent planner and an outstanding warrior. He’d learnt to wait for deliverance in his own life, and knew that deliverance does indeed eventually come. The frustrating, annoying, pivotal piece of the puzzle, that often seemed to be malfunctioning, was the timing of the help. Deliverance can never turn up fast enough! That doesn’t just apply to David, but to us as well. However, until the Lord has worked in the background to accomplish the best possible outcome, wait, we will. It’s the only way.

We have to trust God. He knows what He’s doing.

800px-Harpist_hands_img_4990-bThis is a song that David wrote for pilgrims who would be visiting the new temple in Jerusalem, once Solomon had built it. Again, he is emphasising the need for letting God be in control: not people. It puts things into perspective. God sees every aspect of every trial we face, whereas we only see one side. Leaving the decision making to Him is a wise move.

“LORD, my heart is not proud;
my eyes are not haughty.
I don’t concern myself with matters too great
or too awesome for me to grasp.
Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself,
like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother’s milk.
Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me.” Psalm 131:2-3

So if you feel that the Lord is telling you to be still, or if you need to be at peace in a long waiting period, here are practical suggestions on how to wait in stillness.

– Don’t retaliate verbally, or in kind, (whatever the offence was.)
– Don’t dive into any decision you don’t feel a peace about, especially if an answer is debt.
– Stop frequent panic praying. You’ll just stress yourself more, trying to force an answer.
– Go do something mindless, e.g. a household job. Sometimes answers come when you’re focussed on something else and not fretting.
– God will act in His time, not yours. Be prepared for a long wait. Things may need to click into place behind the scenes (spiritually, or in other’s lives,) and you can’t force or control that.
– Be prepared for a surprise, as often the answer God gives you doesn’t look like you thought it would; it will be better.
– Don’t try and bargain with God to get an answer. E.g. “If I donate to that cause, would you please?” Whether it’s money, devotion or work you’re willing to give, God is not a vending machine. You cannot put something in, then expect something out.
– Resort to praise when stressing out. Put on your worship music and sing, as David did.
– Don’t let anything convince you that a lack of an immediate answer means that God hasn’t heard you, isn’t acting on your behalf or doesn’t love you.
– In the meantime, list what you are grateful for and go do something small to bless someone else. It will take the focus off you.

Remember that it’s alright to get upset when waiting for an answer. The Word of God encourages us to show God our emotions, and you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t feel scared, hurt or worried. [Ref. Lamentations 2:19 and 1 Peter 5:7] It can be frustrating; David suffered the same way. Just let stress lead you back to dependence on God, not into taking matters into your own hands and blaming the Lord.

*Lyric source: “Songs in the Night” by Matt Redman, off his album, Unbroken Praise
Words and Music by Jason Ingram, Jonas Myrin, Matt Redman © 2015


Not even a human warrior could care for Isra’el as the Lord did. This is a quick list of the battles the Lord won / engineered for Isra’el. Who else compares to this?

  • Crossing the Red Sea – Exodus 14
  • Victory over the Amalekites – Exodus 17:8-16
  • Promise to fight for the people – Exodus 23:27-31 and Deuteronomy 7:7-8
  • Jordan River dry crossing – Joshua 3:15-16
  • Fall of Jericho – Joshua 6:20-21
  • Ai – Joshua 8
  • Amonites – Joshua 10:11
  • North captured for Isra’el – Joshua 11:16-20, especially verse 23
  • South captured for Isra’el – Joshua 10:40-42
  • Deborah and Barak – Judges 4:14-15
  • Gideon – Judges 7
  • Samson – Judges 16, especially verse 30
  • Ark of the Covenant against the Philistines – 1 Samuel 7
  • Jonathan against the Philistines – 1 Samuel 14
  • David and Eleazar son of Dodai – 2 Samuel 23
  • David and Shammah son of Agee – 2 Samuel 23

Battles Won for Judah

  • God defeated the army of Jeroboam as Abijah and his army trusted God. 2 Chronicles 13
  • God saves King Jehoshaphat in battle – 2 Chronicles 18
  • Battle with Ammon, Moab, and some of the Meunites – 2 Chronicles 20
  • God helped Uzziah in his wars against the Philistines – 2 Chronicles 26
  • Rescue of Judah under the leadership of the righteous King Hezekiah – 2 Kings 19


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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:

** 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


– Did God Want a King for Israel, to learn more about how the people increasingly turned from God in this period.
– The Anti-King: David and Humility
– Was King David a Megalomaniac?
– Does Absolute Power Corrupt Absolutely?

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