How to be “Led in God’s Righteousness:” Spiritual Maturity

Lead me in Your righteousness because of my foes.” I was reading Charles Swindoll’s “Living the Psalms,” when that sentence bought me to a dead halt. I don’t know about you, but I don’t talk like that. I’d say, “Lord guide me;” or “please strengthen me so I don’t become want revenge;” but I’d never think to ask straight up for righteousness.

Righteousness was a good choice. David got straight to the heart of everything he needed by using that word. It’s another example of the exemplary spiritual maturity that he showed from a surprisingly young age. I am well over double the age David was when he dealt with Saul’s attacks in a wise way, and I can’t hold a candle to his example. I would be trying to fight my way out of that situation, rather than maintaining my innocence to stay clean before the Lord. It takes more self-control to do that, than I possess.

Spiritual maturity is hard to quantify: it’s not static. It is not something that is gained which stays at a minimum fixed level; rather it’s a process of becoming holy, balanced and responsible. It affects the totality of how you react, think and feel and you can lose it all, or parts of it. When David sinned with Bathsheba and killed Uriah for convenience, he ignored the moral part of his maturity for a time, even though he was still mature in other areas. That incident is a reminder that we all have to work hard to keep our heads on straight. We never arrive with no danger of backsliding.

Spiritual maturity (and growth) are not accumulatively achieved as a result of ageing. It comes through surviving tough life experiences and hard work. A working definition of spiritual maturity covers an extensive number of areas and behaviours in life, and I see many of them in David. (This definition list is by no means exhaustive.)

– Uncompromising obedience to the Lord;

– God alone becomes your primary resource of strength, wisdom and guidance;

– you act and serve other people in love, not out of obligation, or seeking reward;

– you bring peace rather than create strife or problems, and settle disputes wisely;

– your pride is well on the way to dead; plus you don’t focus on your achievements publicly;

– you respond to your failures and sins with repentance and a desire to please God, picking yourself up off the floor, determined to do better (teachable and humble);

– you desire God’s correction and are willing to make adjustments to your thinking and behaviour;

– regardless of what hits you in life, you push forwards with hope, praising God;

– your attitude and faith are a catalyst which strengthens other people’s faith;

– you don’t treat God as a needs-delivering vending machine, but instead respond to Him with joy, trust and the positive expectation that He is there for you, whether you can feel that or not;

– you build your relationship with the Lord daily, without prompting, or because you’re desperate;

– you have tamed your tongue and are not caught up in appearances;

– you do not act out of vengeance or judgement, but with the fruit of the Spirit;

– you give all credit to God, or other people as appropriate, never yourself;

– you care for the elderly, sick and disadvantaged in the community without doing so because you feel motivated by guilt or duty;

– you’re kind, generous, loyal and dependable;

– you can be trusted to be moderate in dangerous areas, such as in the use of power, alcohol and sex…

… or to put it very succinctly, you have learned that God is in charge, where you stand in Him and you continuously lose your selfishness in order to follow and obey Him.

The rewards of seeking spiritual maturity are greater joy, peace, hope and stability. You cope with the ups and downs of life better, find more fulfilment in the path the Lord is leading you down and have an enriching, dynamic relationship with Him, which will pull you through any havoc that life can throw at you. That makes the process of slowly killing off your selfishness to become mature worth it. It is a long learning curve which is never easy, but the benefits make every moment of sacrifice undeniably worthwhile.


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.

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When Terrifying Psalms Suddenly Look Quite Tame

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.

By Heart or By Sword? Dealing with Spiritual Enemies

8986723_sThe first time I would have come across David’s story, would have been as a child learning about David and Goliath. From then on, I always saw David as the perfect warrior: always ready to fight; and as necessary, he would kill. Then as I started this project and began to study him properly, I got quite a shock. David didn’t always kill. He knew when to act and when not to act and he based those decisions on Biblical laws and sought the Lord for guidance.

I am not the only one who considered that kind of attitude to be uncharacteristic for a warrior. His General and nephew, Joab, lived by the sword, which led to him being demoted by David and having his family cursed for killing outside of the battlefield. [Ref: 2 Samuel 3:1-30] “So may the Lord replay these evil men for their evil deeds.” [v 39b]

Several times, Joab wanted to assassinate a direct threat to David’s life and kingship. Each time, David said no, for righteous reasons, even though his refusal flew in the face of military common sense. (In saying that, the time his son Absalom attempted to overthrow his father may be the exception. What father could readily assassinate his child; especially considering the guilt he felt towards Absalom?)

During each of these threats, David looked to the Lord for protection. Then what happened? The General Joab, who could only see one way forward, that of the sword, killed when he shouldn’t have. Each time David was furious and bereaved. It illustrates the battle between faith and flesh, peace and violence. David wasn’t just a warrior; he was a man of worship and he appeared to hate losing any lives unnecessarily. [Ref: 2 Samuel 3:32-35 and 4:1-12]

David’s attitude when threatened, is outlined in his own words below from Psalm 11.
“I trust in the LORD for protection.
So why do you say to me,
“Fly like a bird to the mountains for safety!
The wicked are stringing their bows
and fitting their arrows on the bowstrings.
They shoot from the shadows
at those whose hearts are right.
The foundations of law and order have collapsed.
What can the righteous do?”
But the LORD is in his holy Temple;
the LORD still rules from heaven.
He watches everyone closely,
examining every person on earth.
The LORD examines both the righteous and the wicked.
He hates those who love violence.
He will rain down blazing coals and burning sulphur on the wicked,
punishing them with scorching winds.
For the righteous LORD loves justice.
The virtuous will see his face.”

When I think about this aspect of David’s life, I stop and consider our modern attitude to spiritual warfare. There are those of us who believe that demons are behind every form of trouble in the world and who instantaneously pull out the Word to attack and defend themselves; then those who wait of the Lord to determine what course of action He wants them to take and then act in peace and obedience and find the Lord’s deliverance, rather than the stress of worrying about what malice lurks in every corner.

The Word of God, through David’ story, makes the action that we should take clear. We should not harm other people, we shouldn’t jump to battle without seeking the Lord and the basis of deliverance is always trust. There are times when the Lord may have us take a warfare approach to the enemy, but to advance towards enemy lines without stopping and seeking his Will first will always be a mistake.

Don’t become a Joab. Don’t be seen as uncontrollable and bring more trouble upon yourself and your family. Trust in the Lord for protection and you will be safe.


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.

How the Old Testament and New Testament Collide in David’s Life: #PeaceDay

imageIf there is any place within the Bible where the principles of the Old Testament (law) and New Testament (life in the Spirit) dovetail, it’s in the life of King David. Regardless of his powers as the King of Isra’el, David lived much of his life in submission to God and guided by His Spirit. As a result, he was able to partially transcend the limits of the law, and live a life of spiritual wisdom which was a millennia out of the reach of others.

The laws handed down through Moses allowed punishment and retribution for sin. They functioned as scales of justice: if someone did wrong, they were paid back equally. While David often delivered punishment in alignment with the law, he was also able to “let the Spirit renew [his] thoughts and attitudes and put on [a] new nature, created to be like God – truly righteous and holy.” [Ref. Ephesians 4:23-24]

Until I began to study David, I presumed that such an esteemed warrior would rectify issues with any enemy by violence. I was wrong. David never engaged in needless violence which was outside the boundaries of the law (despite temptation to do otherwise as a young man in 1 Samuel 25), and in Psalm 37, David surprised me by saying this:
“Be still in the presence of the LORD,
and wait patiently for him to act.
Don’t worry about evil people who prosper
or fret about their wicked schemes.
Stop being angry!
Turn from your rage!
Do not lose your temper—
it only leads to harm.
For the wicked will be destroyed,
but those who trust in the LORD will possess the land.” Psalm 37:7-9

Even in our time, this is what we would consider an enlightened attitude. For the Old Testament, particularly when people wanted him dead, it’s exceptional and an undeniable mark of the presence of the Holy Spirit.

While the Psalms are not in chronological order, Psalm 35 refers to attempts to usurp his Divinely ordained rule, which is a challenge which repeatedly threatened and worried King David, even into his old age. [Read Psalm 71 for more.]
Psalm 35:7: “I did them no wrong, but they laid a trap for me.
I did them no wrong, but they dug a pit to catch me.”
and verse 11: “Malicious witnesses testify against me.
They accuse me of crimes I know nothing about.”

David, being David, took these problems to the Lord, as other parts of Psalm 35 show.
“O LORD, oppose those who oppose me.
Fight those who fight against me.
Put on your armour, and take up your shield.
Prepare for battle, and come to my aid.
Lift up your spear and javelin
against those who pursue me.
Let me hear you say,
“I will give you victory!”
Bring shame and disgrace on those trying to kill me;
turn them back and humiliate those who want to harm me.
Blow them away like chaff in the wind—
a wind sent by the angel of the LORD.
Make their path dark and slippery,
with the angel of the LORD pursuing them.
I did them no wrong, but they laid a trap for me.
I did them no wrong, but they dug a pit to catch me.
So let sudden ruin come upon them!
Let them be caught in the trap they set for me!
Let them be destroyed in the pit they dug for me.
Then I will rejoice in the LORD.
I will be glad because he rescues me.” Psalm 35:1-9 NLT

Hold on, didn’t I just say that David had adopted a nature that was beyond the limitations of law-based thinking? If I return to the book of Ephesians, verse 5:8b encourages us to “live as people of the light.” We are to live with love, speaking pleasantly and being thankful to to God, and we are to “carefully determine what pleases the Lord.” [Ref. Ephesians 5:10] Requesting that our enemies be shamed and disgraced sounds nothing like that!

imageListen to Psalm 37:3-9 and you will find the Spirit-led part of David, which later took over.
“Trust in the LORD and do good.
Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.
Take delight in the LORD,
and he will give you your heart’s desires.
Commit everything you do to the LORD.
Trust him, and he will help you.
He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn,
and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.
Be still in the presence of the LORD,
and wait patiently for him to act.
Don’t worry about evil people who prosper
or fret about their wicked schemes.
Stop being angry!
Turn from your rage!
Do not lose your temper—
it only leads to harm.
For the wicked will be destroyed,
but those who trust in the LORD will possess the land.”

That sounds more like, “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” [Ref. Ephesians 4:26] So why does David undulate between Old Testament thinking and being led by the Holy Spirit? The answer is in Psalm 37:25.
“Once I was young, and now I am old.
Yet I have never seen the godly abandoned
or their children begging for bread.”

With age comes experience. That creates wisdom and a desire to live in peace. That would account for part of David’s change in attitude, but there is a second dynamic at work here. David died aged seventy. He’d been blessed with the Presence of the Holy Spirit since he was a teenager, and as the years unfolded, David had spent a great deal of time seeking the Lord, and learning from the Holy Spirit. The Lord’s Heart had been able to sink in and radically modify his behaviour.

I have a great affection for the older David; the ageing father who was concerned about the young Solomon’s ability to rule the nation, who was passionate about teaching the next generation of Hebrews about the Lord, poured his time into preparing for the temple which was to house the Ark of the Covenant and the Presence of God, and who died with an incredible grace, which made the law look inadequate and incomplete. As we observe the United Nations Day of Peace this year, may we also adopt the same attitude that the Holy Spirit developed within David:
“Turn away from evil and do good.
Search for peace, and work to maintain it.” Psalm 34:14


Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. This post does not represent my agreement or disagreement with any action of the United Nations, it simply marks the day, regardless of what year you read the post on (despite the 2016 theme being a mismatch.)

Please note that the graphics used in this post belong to the United Nations and have been made available to the public to promote the day. http://internationaldayofpeace.org and http://www.un.org/peaceday/