The Deep Ancient Roots the Psalms Sprang From

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

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

Compare these two:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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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.

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World Poetry Day: David’s Acrostic Psalms

poetryheaderTo celebrate World Poetry Day, we’re looking at David’s acrostic Psalms. David used various traditional poetry forms and techniques, and his acrostic Psalms are Psalm 9, 10, 25, 34, 37 and 119. (Psalm 119 is Davidic in style, and it is frequently attributed to him.)

“An acrostic poem in which the initial letters spell out the alphabet is called an “abecedarius.” Interestingly, there are several abecedarian poems in the Bible (based on the Hebrew alphabet). Examples can be found in Psalm 119 and Lamentations. The word “acrostic” comes from the Greek words “akros” (outermost) and “stichos” (line of verse).”  They can also be written so the first letter spells out a word which the poem is themed around. [Source]

Acrostic poem.org has a generator, so I put in ‘David’ and this is what came out and it’s not bad, though I’d change the last D to something less clichéd.

D is for Daring, succeeding in things others fear to try.
A is for Articulate, the gift of expression.
V is for Visionary, a dreamer.
I is for Impressive, an outstanding talent.
D is for Decent, a jolly good fellow.

The Jubilee Bible labels some of the acrostic Psalms with Hebrew alphabet character to more clearly display how they were written.

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Psalm 34

Psa 34:1  A Psalm of David, when he changed his behaviour before Abimelech; who drove him away, and he departed.

א I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
Psa 34:2  ב My soul shall glory in the LORD; the meek shall hear of this, and be glad.
Psa 34:3  ג O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together.
Psa 34:4  ד I sought the LORD, and he heard me and delivered me from all my fears.
Psa 34:5  ה They looked unto him and were lightened, and their faces were not ashamed.
Psa 34:6  ו This poor man cried out, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles.
Psa 34:7  ז The angel of the LORD encamps round about those that fear him and delivers them.
Psa 34:8  ח O taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man that shall trust in him.
Psa 34:9  ט O fear the LORD, ye his saints; for those that fear him lack nothing.
Psa 34:10  י The young lions do lack and suffer hunger, but those that seek the LORD shall not lack any good thing.
Psa 34:11  כ Come, ye children, hearken unto me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
Psa 34:12  ל Who is the man that desires life and loves many days that he may see good?
Psa 34:13  מ Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile.
Psa 34:14  נ Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.
Psa 34:15  ס The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry.
Psa 34:16  ע The anger of the LORD is against those that do evil to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.
Psa 34:17  פ The righteous cried out, and the LORD heard and delivered them out of all their troubles.
Psa 34:18  צ The LORD is near unto those that are of a broken heart and saves such as are of a contrite spirit.
Psa 34:19  ק Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD shall deliver him out of them all,
Psa 34:20  ר keeping all his bones; not one of them shall be broken.
Psa 34:21  ש Evil shall slay the wicked; and those that hate the righteous shall be declared guilty.
Psa 34:22  ת The LORD ransoms the soul of his slaves, and none of those that trust in him shall be declared guilty.
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Psalm 25

Psa 25:1  A Psalm of David. א Unto thee, O LORD, do I lift up my soul.
Psa 25:2  ב O my God, I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed, let not my enemies triumph over me.
Psa 25:3  ג Yea, none that wait on thee shall be ashamed; those which rebel without cause shall be ashamed.
Psa 25:4  ד Show me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths.
Psa 25:5  ה Cause me to walk in thy truth and teach me: for thou art the God of my saving health; I have waited for thee all the day.
Psa 25:6  ו Remember, O LORD, thy compassion and thy mercies, for they have been ever of old.
Psa 25:7  ז Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my rebellions; according to thy mercy remember me for thy goodness’ sake, O LORD.
Psa 25:8  ח Good and upright is the LORD: therefore he will teach sinners in the way.
Psa 25:9  ט He will cause the humble to pass through the judgment, and the meek he will teach his way.
Psa 25:10  י All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies.
Psa 25:11  כ For thy name’s sake, O LORD, pardon my iniquity; for it is great.
Psa 25:12  ל Who is the man that fears the LORD? Him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose.
Psa 25:13  מ His soul shall rest in that which is good; and his seed shall inherit the earth.
Psa 25:14  נ The secret of the LORD is for those that fear him, and he will show them his covenant.
Psa 25:15  ס Mine eyes are ever toward the LORD, for he shall pluck my feet out of the net.
Psa 25:16  ע Turn thee unto me and have mercy upon me, for I am desolate and afflicted.
Psa 25:17  צ The troubles of my heart are enlarged; O bring thou me out of my distresses.
Psa 25:18   ק Look upon my affliction and my pain and forgive all my sins.
Psa 25:19  ר Consider my enemies, for they are multiplied; and they hate me with cruel hatred.
Psa 25:20  ש O keep my soul and deliver me; let me not be ashamed, for I put my trust in thee.
Psa 25:21  ת Integrity and uprightness shall preserve me, for I have waited for thee.
Psa 25:22  פ Ransom Israel, O God, out of all his troubles.


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

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

How We React to God in the Hard Times

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Matt Jacoby, from the group the Sons of Korah, has recorded this great sermon on Lament in Psalms. It challenges how we react to the Lord when life becomes rugged. Do we lower our expectations of what God can do for us so we don’t become disappointed? Or do we turn up the heat, as David did; knowing God can fix any problem and not backing down until He does.

I loved the message of this video and hope you do too.

Boldly Approaching God: The Example of David

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

What Was King David Like?

canstockphoto14506465In a world of social media, we get to know high profile people in considerable detail. I am sure you can Google your favourite actor’s favourite colour, place of residence, what jokes they liked, find a few family photos and things of that nature, at the very least. Even though this information is often distorted by the media, it does give you an idea of what their personality is like. Interviews build on that information, and the degree to which you can relate to that person is significantly increased.

Just reading David’s story, or hearing about him in books and sermons, can make him feel less like a person and more like a legend; a larger than life character who is very difficult to understand and grasp. The passage of time is not obvious when you read through the books named after Samuel. You don’t get the sense of someone who is like any of us: growing, developing and changing as he ages and life events have an impact on him.

However, using common sense, relying on your own experience of the world and pulling together Biblical clues, we can get a sense of what David was like.

1 Samuel has some clues: “Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite who is a skilful musician, a mighty man of valour, a warrior, one prudent in speech, and a handsome man; and the LORD is with him.” [1 Samuel 16:18]

David was also very popular. In later events in his life, you can see where he would have had to employ the skills of a consummate diplomat, and he did that successfully. He was not stuffy or aloof at any stage, in the manner which we see modern royalty act and he found favour with the people from an early age. “So David went out wherever Saul sent him, and prospered; and Saul set him over the men of war. And it was pleasing in the sight of all the people and also in the sight of Saul’s servants.” [1 Samuel 18:5] All throughout his story we see his willingness to listen to others without any air of superiority or excessive formality. [2 Samuel  15:19-23 and 18:1-4]

He goes on to lead strong bands of men from an early age, which cannot be accomplished by anyone who is not a strong, fair leader with the ability to motivate, encourage and lead well. You don’t push warriors around. in 1 Samuel 27 he stops his men from killing Saul, their enemy. He had to be respected, able to think fast and a more than competent negotiator, to stop warriors who were living in hiding from killing their main enemy.

Had he been too heavy handed and self-centred, David’s followers would have abandoned him. Instead they followed him into enemy territory and took huge risks to serve him. In 1 Samuel 23, he liberates Keilah from the Philistines as they needed help, even though that should have been Saul’s job.

David’s heart was often bound to people. When Saul began to hunt him down, David got his parents to safety in a neighbouring country. He wasn’t simply worried about his own skin. [1 Samuel 22:3-4] The story of his friendship with Jonathan, Saul’s heir is famous and he is faithful to the vow he makes to Jonathan in how he treats Mephibosheth. [2 Samuel 9]

Does he sound like someone you’d like to get to know? From reading 1 and 2 Samuel, other traits you will pick up include fairness, humility, generosity, empathy, kindness and justice. Only with BathSheba and the Census did he ever misuse his position of power. “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]

Please understand that while I am listing his positive character traits here, like us all, he has his sinful side which included a nasty temper, which went hand in hand with his passionate nature. David was guilty of lust, murder, being an ineffective parent with his earlier children, plus pride and disobedience (read about the Census disaster in 2 Samuel 24 and cross reference that to Deuteronomy 8:6-20 to see where he went wrong.) However, his redeeming trait was a willingness to be corrected and his grief over his sin. His heart was one hundred percent devoted to God, and that is what allowed him to achieve as much as he did.

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The David in the Psalms

4006076_sIn researching David’s life, I found the Psalms were commonly referred to as being almost bipolar in nature. There are huge swings between the joys and griefs of his life and this has led some commentators to question David’s mental health. Was the King bipolar?

Most probably not. I have qualifications in the mental health field and I also teach memoir writing and creativity. I spend a lot of time with writers and creative people and David fits in with the crowd as being normal.

Before the advent of social media where the crazy, small detail of every day life was shared, most of what you heard from writers, (whether they were song writers, poets or memoirists,) was pretty typical of what David produced: they wrote about the highs and lows of life. Many of us still do. Why? Because the every day mundane is totally boring, not worth noting and you know what? We’re busy. So was David.

David spent forty years on the thrones of Judah and Isra’el. He was head of a large family, King over a growing, massive geographical area (think about the transport and communication problems), was devoted to his faith (the practices within Judaism are time consuming) and in addition, he was also cramming in everything else that the average person does in that day. There would not have been much time to write, let alone, cover every detail of every facet of his life.

I am blessed that he managed to get the most important Psalms recorded. David’s experience with the Lord in many ways reflects mine and I feel less alone with David’s work around to comfort and encourage me. That is why I am so fond of him.

Other aspects of the Psalms which I found fascinating, were that he wrote some as acrostics. These are Psalms where each new stanza starts with the next letter in the Hebrew alphabet. As a writer I can tell you first hand, that is a lot of work! These are Psalms 9 10, 25, 34, 37 and 119. David comes across as a highly intelligent man with an interest in nature and history. That also comes through in his work.

I have also noticed that as David aged, his writing style changed. “Adonai is my shepherd,” gives way to Psalms with historical content and the songs of ascent, which were written for pilgrims to sing, as they visited the planned temple which Solomon would build in Jerusalem. My work has changed over the years too, so again, I can relate to David.

The Psalms also act as a personal diary of David’s life. As he poured his heart out to his God, we can see how he felt. Many times when I have struggled bewteen the image of a powerful king and a devoted servant of the Lord, the Holy Spirit has prompted me to go back and read the Psalms as they are where David’s heart is truly shown. I see some boasting among his humility and honesty; I see great faith, I see struggles and I see raw grief. In that beautiful gift he has left us, I see a vibrant, motivated, intelligent man of integrity (though it definitely wavers at times as he goes off track); I really like him.

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David the Ruler

IMG_0585Archaeologists have found tablets in the area where Moab was, which pretty much describe King David as a hated enemy. Even some Biblical scholars consider him to be a megalomaniac who slew nations, took territory and stopped at nothing to make Isra’el a powerful force to be reckoned with. Yes, he did those things, but in many instances those actions were in obedience to the instructions left by Moses in Deuteronomy 7. Also if you look at the diagnostic criteria for megalomania, and compare David to known leaders with that problem, David’s actions and behaviour doesn’t even begin to comply with them.

Enemy nations were a threat to God’s chosen people, Isra’el for two reasons:
1. There was always a danger of being taken as slaves again.
2. The influence of surrounding pagan nations, easily pulled Isra’el away from the one true God and who worshipped their gods using ritual prostitution, child sacrifice, self-mutilation and other atrocities. That influence had to be stopped for everyone’s safety. Religious tolerance would be grossly inappropriate.

So David dealt with them to stop the danger to the nation of Isra’el.

In this day and age, it is only acceptable, under the United Nations, to go to war if the country you are fighting has already assaulted you. King David’s behaviour now would be considered excessively aggressive, intolerant and reprehensible. He wouldn’t be allowed to get away with it. However, remember this was three thousand years ago. He was under the Law, not grace won by his great grandson, Jesus Christ. It was a totally different world, which I would hate to step back into. It would be alien to me and very hard to cope with.

While by our standards he could be considered a tyrant, by the Biblical standards of the time he did the right thing. He made the nation of Isra’el safe from foreign rule and foreign gods and he fulfilled his obligations as a king, to the letter. “So David reigned over all Israel; and David administered justice and righteousness for all his people.” [2 Samuel 8:15]

From Acts 13: “He raised up David to be their king, concerning whom He also testified and said, ‘I HAVE FOUND DAVID the son of Jesse, A MAN AFTER MY HEART, who will do all My will.’ “ 1 Kings 11:34 “‘But I will not take the entire kingdom from Solomon at this time. For the sake of my servant David, the one whom I chose and who obeyed my commands and decrees…” That is the final word of the Lord of all. Biblically, David’s name is cleared of wrong doing.

In terms of mental health, if you compare King David to known megalomaniacs such as Joseph Stalin, Colonel Muammar Gadalfi, Idi Amin Dada and Adolf Hitler, his behaviour is actually a stark contrast to them. The accounts of David in the Bible show a humble man, with compassion for people, a solid adherence to Biblical laws, fair actions and a healthy respect for human life and suffering. These are not the actions of a megalomaniac.

Technically, megalomania is Narcissistic Personality Disorder and is characterised by extreme excesses in the areas of violence, controlling behaviours, flouting wealth, extolling accomplishments to an irrational level and being an unstoppable negative force in every way possible.

David made the kingdom of Isra’el safe, then the wars stopped. He did not try to conquer Assyria, Philistia or Egypt. He did not bestow multiple titles upon himself, indulge in building monuments to himself, he only had one palace, neither did he torture his fellow citizens, or threaten them into compliant behaviour in any way. David even hated bribes,

David does not display the traits known to be associated with megalomania. When he was in trouble, he didn’t quell the problem with violence, anger or humiliation, he sought the Lord for deliverance.

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Psychological Resources of Megalomania / Narcissistic Personality Disorder
– DSM-IV and DSM-5 Criteria for the Personality Disorders http://www.psi.uba.ar/academica/carrerasdegrado/psicologia/sitios_catedras/practicas_profesionales/820_clinica_tr_personalidad_psicosis/material/dsm.pdf
– Narcissistic Personality Disorder In-Depth | Psych Central http://psychcentral.com/lib/narcissistic-personality-disorder-in-depth//
– Narcissistic Personality Disorder Symptoms | Psych Central http://psychcentral.com/disorders/narcissistic-personality-disorder-symptoms/
– Mental Health.com Narcissistic Personality Disorder http://www.mentalhealth.com/home/dx/narcissisticpersonality.html


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How the Psalms Teach Us the Torah

Psalms and TorahThere are two occasions in David’s life where scholars have been very vocal about David not knowing the Torah, otherwise known as the Laws of Moses or the Pentateuch. Those laws are found in the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.

Depending on how you count them, which like many other things, is controversial, there are roughly 613 laws in those books. Important themes are repeated for emphasis and they are detailed. Reading them gives me a great admiration for Moses, who was a very hard working man! Deuteronomy 31:9 states that on God’s orders, “So Moses wrote this entire body of instruction in a book and gave it to the priests who carried the Ark of God’s Covenant, and to the elders of Isra’el.” They were to be read every seven years to remind the people of them and to inform new generations, of what the Lord wanted Isra’el to do. Obedience would dictate whether the people lived or died. (Deuteronomy 30:11-20)

The first place where David receives criticism for being ignorant of the Torah is in 2 Samuel 6. When David first attempts to move the Ark into Jerusalem, there is a disaster. They move it on an ox cart, and when an oxen stumbles, a man named Uzzah was killed for touching it. 1 Chronicles 13:1 tells us that “David consulted with all his officials, including the generals and captains of his army.” But David had made a tragic mistake by not consulting the Lord first. As King, he did it his way. After the tragedy, in 1 Chronicles 15:13 David says, “Because you Levites did not carry the Ark the first time, the anger of the LORD our God burst out against us. We failed to ask God how to move it properly.”

The most important parts of the tabernacle were designed to be carried on poles on the shoulders of the priests, elevated above men; however, I spent a long time searching for instructions on exactly how they were to be moved and couldn’t find a clear answer. (It’s in Numbers 7:9) The tabernacle had to be moved every time the Lord sent the infant nation of Israel on another part of their journey, so it was moved many times. I was looking for instructions on how to pack it up and shift it with the people, but all I could find was how to make it, maintain it, use it and how Moses installed it. (Exodus 25 to 31) So was this what happened with David too?

Unfortunately, it appears that David’s biggest mistake was in working with people other than the Lord. We don’t definitively know how well he knew Torah, and whether or not this mistake came about due to disrespecting God’s specific wishes in how His Presence was to be moved, or because David didn’t take the time to consult the Torah, remains a matter of debate as the complete facts aren’t available. I do wonder if his officials, includes the priests? Surely they would have known how to move the Ark?

The other instance in which David did not do his homework is when he took a Census of the people in 2 Samuel 24. He did not do it the right way, or for the right reasons; so it is unlikely he would have done his homework anyway.

So do these two incidents mean that David did not study Torah, as he was instructed to do in Deuteronomy 17:18-20? I am going to argue that it is unlikely, as if you read the Torah and then immediately begin reading the Psalms, you will hear the principles and commands of the Torah right throughout the Psalms. Plus 1 Kings 11:33b and verse 38 states that David did obey the law of Moses and all God’s commands.

1283995044We know that David grew up in a Godly family and in Psalms 116 and 86, David speaks about his mother as a faithful servant of the Lord. He would have been taught Torah from a young age.
“Truly I am your servant, Lord;
I serve you just as my mother did;
you have freed me from my chains.”   (Psalm 116:16)

Take Psalm 3 as an example:
“Lord, how many are my foes!
How many rise up against me!
Many are saying of me,
“God will not deliver him.”
But you, Lord, are a shield around me,
my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
I call out to the Lord,
and he answers me from his holy mountain.
I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.
I will not fear though tens of thousands
assail me on every side.
Arise, Lord!
Deliver me, my God!
Strike all my enemies on the jaw;
break the teeth of the wicked.
From the Lord comes deliverance.
May your blessing be on your people.”

Verses 5 and 6 relates to Leviticus 26:6, blessings for obedience. Verse 8 relates to Leviticus 26:7-8. Psalm 9 reflects Deuteronomy 28, and even Psalm 5:6 which speaks of lies, is covered in Torah under Exodus 19:5-6.

Some of David’s harshest words about his enemies are backed up in God’s promises in the Torah and the more I read the Psalms, the more I see those five books of the law as the blueprint for how David acted throughout his life. (Yes, he did abandon it when in sin, as do all of us.)

I’ll finish this with Psalm 5:11 which is so very central to the heart of David and which also corresponds to the teaching in Deuteronomy 33:27:
“But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
let them sing joyful praises forever.
Spread your protection over them,
that all who love your name may be filled with joy.”


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

The David in the Psalms

Psalm68v26In researching David’s life, I found the Psalms were commonly referred to as being almost bipolar in nature. There are huge swings between the joys and griefs of his life and this has led some commentators to question David’s mental health. Was the King bipolar?

Most probably not. I have qualifications in the mental health field and I also teach memoir writing and creativity. I spend a lot of time with writers and creative people and David fits in with the crowd as being normal.

Before the advent of social media where the crazy, small detail of every day life was shared, most of what you heard from writers, (whether they were song writers, poets or memoirists,) was pretty typical of what David produced: they wrote about the highs and lows of life. Many of us still do. Why? Because the every day mundane is totally boring, not worth noting and you know what? We’re busy. So was David.

David spent forty years on the thrones of Judah and Isra’el. He was head of a large family, King over a growing, massive geographical area (think about the transport and communication problems), was devoted to his faith (the practices within Judaism are time consuming) and in addition, he was also cramming in everything else that the average person does in that day. There would not have been much time to write, let alone, cover every detail of every facet of his life.

I am blessed that he managed to get the most important Psalms recorded. David’s experience with the Lord in many ways reflects mine and I feel less alone with David’s work around to comfort and encourage me. That is why I am so fond of him.

Other aspects of the Psalms which I found fascinating, were that he wrote some as acrostics. These are Psalms where each new stanza starts with the next letter in the Hebrew alphabet. As a writer I can tell you first hand, that is a lot of work! These are Psalms 9 10, 25, 34, 37 and 119. David comes across as a highly intelligent man with an interest in nature and history. That also comes through in his work.

I have also noticed that as David aged, his writing style changed. “Adonai is my shepherd,” gives way to Psalms with historical content and the songs of ascent, which were written for pilgrims to sing, as they visited the planned temple which Solomon would build in Jerusalem. My work has changed over the years too, so again, I can relate to David.

The Psalms also act as a personal diary of David’s life. As he poured his heart out to his God, we can see how he felt. Many times when I have struggled bewteen the image of a powerful king and a devoted servant of the Lord, the Holy Spirit has prompted me to go back and read the Psalms as they are where David’s heart is truly shown. I see some boasting among his humility and honesty; I see great faith, I see struggles and I see raw grief. In that beautiful gift he has left us, I see a vibrant, motivated, intelligent man of integrity (though it definitely wavers at times as he goes off track); I really like him.

Cate


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.