Beyond the Sparrow: The Depth of God’s Compassion

In verse 5 of Matthew 10, “Jesus sent out the twelve apostles
with these instructions…

But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.”
Matthew 10:29b-31

I am a frequent viewer of Safari Live on Youtube which is pure educational, conservation-based safari drives in Kenya and South Africa. – It has sad parts, but everywhere I look, I can see how the Lord has built many defences into animal biology so that animals can take care of themselves, even amidst savage competition for food. I can see His loving, providing Hand everywhere.

Screen shot of Silver Clusterleaf

Screen shot of Silver Cluster Leaf under a microscope, from Safari Live Youtube Channel.

It goes way deeper than the animals too; for example: in Africa they have a tree called a Silver Cluster Leaf, and all the leaves are covered with fine hairs. They way the leaves taste puts off a lot of insects that would like to chow down on the plant – so even the trees have defences!

The function of the hairs is to stop the leaves from losing moisture. The thought and detail The Lord has put into designing this gorgeous world is so beautiful. I see love everywhere. God cares for all the plants and animals just as He cares for us, because He adores all of His creation.

This new revelation has profoundly impacted me a few times over the last year, and has expanded my view of the depth and detail in God’s passion for His creation.  We frequently quote the Scripture above and sing, “His Eye is on the sparrow and His Hand it comforts me…,” but less often do we stop to mediate on how much love He has put into the design and care of these creatures: all creatures, all plants, even down to mosquitos and leeches.

God… loves… leeches…

Well, that proves beyond doubt that He loves the unlovable. My new view of God’s devotion and protection has been a valuable, faith-strengthening revelation for me. It is helpful to see that everything natural we are surrounded by is so full of His love and care, and nothing goes defenceless, even in the harshest environment. It’s a message of hope for us all.


kdpcpyrght

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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. While some images are made by me, Creative Commons or Public Domain, many 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.If you need to check the origin of an image, please use the free service at Tineye.com

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

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

The psalm in question is Psalm 109.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


kdpcpyrght

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

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

King David’s Approach to Violence and What We Need to Learn from Him

The brochure and my pendant.

In my jewellery box is an Irish warrior’s shield pendant. Sometimes I wonder what King David would have to say about me owning one. Part of me feels a little foolish, in that I am not a warrior, so what am I doing with such a thing? I haven’t earned my stripes in battle, but have certainly overcome my share of obstacles… That must be acceptable, but my concern goes deeper than that.

What am I, as a Christian, doing valuing a symbol of violence? Unlike His great-grandfather, David, Jesus was a man of total peace. He never hit anyone, never killed anyone in Isra’el’s defence. He was like Solomon: a man of peace who built the new temple of God. As I live within the New Testament covenant of grace, I am duty bound to be a person of peace, turning the other cheek. The only sword I am supposed to hold is the sword of the Word of God. I agree, but images of swords and shields make me feel safe.

Today reinforced how much I am not alone in this. My husband and I went to the Queensland Museum’s “Medieval Power: Symbols and Splendour” exhibition, which held an intriguing collection of objects from the British Museum. The exhibit had pottery, religious objects, marvellous jewellery, seals, the most stunning drawings and scenes carved into ivory with the most exquisite craftsmanship… and there were knights. There were knights everywhere; they dominated.

Knights are romantic figures. Cosplayers want to be them, we play video games to become them and in Medieval times, Kings and noblemen who had never seen battle, had their portraits painted wearing a knight’s armour, just to prove how powerful and successful they were. Knights were rich men. One piece was a badge that would be attached to a horse’s bridle, and the explanation told us that a war horse cost four hundred times the salary of a common man: that is that man’s yearly salary. That’s an obscene amount of money, but regardless, people wanted to be a knight! We’re frequently drawn to the hero who vanquishes enemies and wins. Why? Because feeling powerful makes us all feel safe; it’s not just me who wants that shield.

Image by Saffron Blaze, Wikimedia Commons

Image by Saffron Blaze, Wikimedia Commons

The biggest take home message I got from the exhibition was our fascination with violence, which is startlingly as alive now, as it ever was. We no longer have to worry about our houses being raided, in the same way people were forced to in times past. We have police, locks, alarm systems and a sense of security undreamed of in that time; yet still we are drawn to violence. The games we play are Grand Theft Auto, World of Warcraft, Call of Duty Black Ops 3. We watch the Karate Kid movies, Mission Impossible, Navy Seals and many, many crime and punishment style television programs, with violent content. Mankind is drawn towards harming others in many ways.

Here in March 2016, we want world peace, but in November 2015, Activision, who makes Call of Duty, earned $1.04 billion in three months from game sales. For people who don’t want war, what is going on? The answer is simple: it’s sin in action. Our carnal nature takes us where we shouldn’t go and we fill our time with destructive entertainment.

You’d never expect to see Jesus playing these games, but what about David? Would he have played them, being the warrior he was? I don’t believe so.

I do have a basis for that belief. While his not going to war is criticised by theologians in regards to his sin with Bathsheba, when I studied David’s military habits, it was his custom to not run into every battle. [Ref: 2 Samuel 11:1] In this incident with the Ammonites, the head of the army, Joab, took command of the first part, then in verses 10:6,7 when the Ammonites called in more reinforcements, David left for battle with more of his men. David also stays back in Psalm 60 and in 2 Samuel 2:12-17.

Now we don’t know why he did that, but what is crystal clear is his choice not to be obsessed with pursuing violence and the fame that military victory can bring. My article, Yesterday’s Hero, talks about the persecution David underwent as King, when his early victories over Goliath and in Saul’s army were pretty much forgotten. This could have fuelled him to get into the action and concrete his image as an indispensable asset to the nation, but it didn’t. David fought for the safety of Isra’el and in line with the standards in the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament) and that appears to be it. For whatever reason he chose to not become a career soldier-King, he still made that choice. This decision has been highlighted by Joab’s actions. If someone was a threat, Joab killed them without a hint of regret. Joab spent months on the battlefields killing men and his unrighteous love of the sword and strife was a thorn in David’s side. [Ref: 2 Samuel 3:1-30]

We know that David was a kind-hearted man, who looked to the Lord for protection and ruled with wisdom. “So David reigned over all Israel; and David administered justice and righteousness for all his people.” 2 Samuel 8:15 His vision of the world was broader than any sword, it was based on spiritual principles and his love of God, and that made him a far greater success than any military prowess he had. “For David had done what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight and had obeyed the Lord’s commands throughout his life, except in the affair concerning Uriah the Hittite.” 1 Kings 15:5 and “After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after My Own Heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’ “ Acts 13:22

There’s the key: knowing God’s heart. That heart is One that protects when necessary, but doesn’t honour or need the adrenaline rush of violence to thrive. God’s heart is the One which chooses a change in character; it’s the One which heals and delivers and it’s the One David looked to for protection. Read Psalm 11; it starts: “I trust in the LORD for protection. So why do you say to me, “Fly like a bird to the mountains for safety!” Then goes on to say, “The LORD examines both the righteous and the wicked. He hates those who love violence.” David knew where the boundaries were and he stopped before he reached them.

It’s no new revelation that we should reject the things of this world, and that includes any participation in violent entertainment in any form; but when you look at that same value from a successful warrior’s point of view, that message hits home so much harder. We need to copy David’s example and put our imaginary swords away.

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OTHER RELATED RESOURCES ON THIS TOPIC:
– Yesterday’s Hero: Ancient Politics or, How to Keep a King Humble
http://articles.faithwriters.com/reprint-article-details.php?article=33449
– How to Kill Giants: Searching for the Deep Secrets Behind King David’s Success
http://articles.faithwriters.com/reprint-article-details.php?article=33547
– Good King or Nasty Sinner? How Negativity Bias Affects How We Interpret the Life of King David
http://articles.faithwriters.com/reprint-article-details.php?article=33049


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.

David, The Lonely Shepherd: Myth or Reality?

lonely shepherdThe life of a shepherd can be portrayed as a romanticised, low demand, idyllic one. I didn’t realise how much, until someone left this comment on an article I’d put on the King David Project’s Facebook page: “…alone as a shepherd spending a lot of time with the Lord in isolation.”

Without thinking too deeply, I questioned that view: “Actually, it is not known how much of that time was alone. It would be ridiculous to leave a young teenager alone in charge of a valuable herd, so it’s possible that his brothers, or hired men, were with him.” The commenter agreed on the basis that in Luke, the angels visited groups of shepherds to announce Jesus’ birth. They weren’t alone. That verse was where I’d sourced my response from too.

The more I thought about it, the more I realised that to put a young teenager alone in a dangerous place with an incredibly valuable flock, in any era, was just nuts! Jesus talked about robbers who took sheep. David battled a lion and bear to protect his flock, and when he met Abigail, he, as an armed man with a band of other armed men, were working protecting Nabal’s flocks in the wilderness of Maon. [Ref: 1 Samuel 25]

I started to research whether or not isolated shepherding was normal in David’s time, to see if this was another misunderstanding of David’s story, which needed to be addressed. *’Manners and Customs of Bible Lands’ was very helpful. “The youngest boy in the family becomes shepherd of the sheep… As the older son grows up he transfers his energies from sheep raising to helping the father with sowing, ploughing, and harvesting the crops, and passes on the shepherd’s task to the next younger boy. And so the job is passed from older to younger until the youngest of all becomes the family shepherd.” What is missing is the age at which the youngest son took that job.

The volume of shepherd imagery in the Bible is a clue as to the importance of shepherding to everyone. Jesus repeatedly uses sheep analogies, as the value of sheep was still critical to the economy and welfare of Isra’el in His time. Sheep were both a potential source of income and a means of meeting the most basic needs, such as providing wool for clothes, sheepskin for coats, meat for feasts, special occasions and sacrifices; plus milk to make into cheese, and rams horns for carrying liquid, or to be used as a shofar.

The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia (1915 – 1988) points out that that to slaughter a sheep to feed a guest was “generous hospitality” and use of a sheep as a sacrifice was very expensive. It also goes on to say, “That a shepherd might not return alive from his shepherding was well understood. (Genesis 37:33) Shepherding was serious, demanding and strenuous work. Nevertheless, the true or faithful shepherd was thought to have a disposition that was altogether admirable: thoughtful, tender, gentle, strong, resourceful in times of danger…”

This confirms how dangerous the position was and again I ask, would you entrust your precious flock to one person?

In John 10:13, we learn that people were hired to assist in flock care. Back to * ‘Bible Customs…’: “When the flock is small, the shepherd handles his sheep without any help but if the flock becomes too large, then it becomes necessary for him to hire someone to help him with the sheep. One man can usually handle from fifty to one hundred sheep, but when he has more than one hundred, he usually seeks a helper.”

In 1 Samuel 17, it says, “One day Jesse said to David, “Take this basket of roasted grain and these ten loaves of bread, and carry them quickly to your brothers.” then in verse 20 it says, “So David left the sheep with another shepherd and set out early the next morning with the gifts, as Jesse had directed him.” So who was this other shepherd? Did this mean David wasn’t alone?

The sheep could have been watched by another shepherd who had their own flock in the same vicinity. They may, or may not have been family. [Example: Genesis 29:1-3] For safety, and probably company, shepherds intermingled and associated with each other, especially at night. It sounds like the lonely shepherd myth is busted, doesn’t it? Actually, I don’t know. I have no idea how wealthy Jesse was, or the flock size, or what really went on.

There is one indicator of the possible number of sheep in 1 Samuel 17: 28. “But when David’s oldest brother, Eliab, heard David talking to the men (asking about Goliath on the battlefield), he was angry. “What are you doing around here anyway?” he demanded. “What about those few sheep you’re supposed to be taking care of? I know about your pride and deceit. You just want to see the battle!”

Ps 23That Scripture verse could be a clue as to the flock size, but it also sounds like Eliab may have been indulging in sibling rivalry and exaggeration. “What have I done now?” David replied. “I was only asking a question!” Consider this: David’s brothers know that he’s been anointed by Samuel to be King of Isra’el, and was chosen over them. How would you expect older brothers to react to that? It’s highly likely that they assailed David with their ruffled feathers, carrying out one of the Devil’s favourite assaults: making us question God’s will and our worth. “It can never happen; you’re too young, you’re not worthy. Who do you think you are?” Doesn’t he do that to all of us? Thus, I place no faith in the accuracy of Eliab’s statement.

* ‘Bible Customs…’ gives us one last helpful clue as to whether or not this time shaped David’s spiritual life. “The shepherd is so constantly with his sheep that sometimes his life with them becomes monotonous.” Even if David was rarely lonely, monotony could certainly have lead him to spending time with the Lord and it leaves time for David to hone his musical craft.

The lesson I learnt from trying to squash a myth was this: we need to study the Word carefully to do it justice. So much information has not been written down, or has been lost in time, that getting to the roots of people’s motivation and experiences becomes impossible. However, if we take the time to study the Word in detail, (not just rely on commentaries, or our memories of a story,) we can come up with helpful new revelations. This study was not a wild goose chase for me. I learned more about what Jesus was trying to get across to us, and I understood the foundational training that built David so much better. It was an investigation well worth the time.

REFERENCES:
– * Manners and Customs of Bible Lands by Fred H. Wight, Copyright 1953 Read it here: http://www.baptistbiblebelievers.com/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=qDQAYzDf0WM%3D
– The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Copyright 1915 – 1988, William B Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Volume 4, Page 463-4 “sheep / shepherd


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.