Judgement Versus Discernment: Reading the Bible Righteously

judging bathshebaIt is very rare that I ever hear a good word spoken about BathSheba, except by some Rabbis, who declare David and BathSheba’s association as the greatest love story in the Bible. That may be because King Solomon came from their union.

When pressed to answer what I think about her, the only response I have is, “I don’t know the lady. I have no idea what she was like, so I really don’t think it’s my place to judge her. She is someone’s wife and someone’s mother: so she was loved.” I honestly cannot say more than that. I try and relate to her as a fellow human, rather than a good or bad person.

David and BathSheba is the story of what happens when things get way out of hand… when you can no longer control the circumstances, then fall into shame and block out the need to repent. Both David and BathSheba could have lost their lives over their adultery. It’s a serious matter, but while I can learn a great deal from their mistakes, there is still no need for me to slide into any judgement of what they did. That’s only the Lord’s job. [See footnote about rape.]

There is a tendency to condemn and vilify those whose stories grace the pages of our Bibles. We have blurred the line between discerning a lesson and personal criticism, based on our own opinions. Jacob is another example of someone who is pulled to pieces. He is a controversial figure and we tend to remember the bad. We remember that Samson was strong… but weak when it came to women. Rahab is a heroine, despite that she was a prostitute, because she helped God’s chosen people. We look at small snapshots of long, complex lives, then we make a decision on whether that person was predominantly good or bad. As most of us fall prey to negativity biases, often the decision is damning.

Yet the Bible clearly labels Jacob and Samson as righteous and servants of the Lord. So why are we sticking the knife into their backs?

Another sobering question I was confronted by, when I was writing my Christian novels, was if I speak badly of these people or misrepresent them, when I get to heaven and actually meet them face to face, then what am I going to say? How am I going to feel when they stand there clean and forgiven, and I’ve previously assaulted them?

That issue made me think long and hard. If I behave in an insensitive and inhumane way towards BathSheba, what will I say to my beloved David when I see him, and hear how much he did love his wife; or that he wishes people had been willing to consider that perhaps the situation was much more complex and from this a brief account, we haven’t understood it?

What if I went up to him and said, “Absalom was such a rat! I don’t know how you put up with that kid, he must have driven you nuts!” Then I could be confronted with a father’s sadness over a lost son.

That would hurt. I never want to be in that situation.

img_1682Maybe we all need to reconsider the way we teach the Scriptures and talk about ‘dead’ people? As they are names on pages, we feel no connection to, or responsibility towards them. That is the exact same psychological phenomenon that drives bullying and trolls on the internet. We can’t see the faces of the real people, so what we do just doesn’t matter. Yet it does. The Bible says, don’t judge. It doesn’t make any distinction on whether or not that responsibility stops with someone’s death. Orthodox Jews call people who have died, “… of blessed memory.” The person, regardless of whether they are family or not, are treated with respect. That is excellent role modelling.

People who died in right relationship with the Lord are not with us, but it doesn’t mean they have been deleted from existence. It doesn’t mean we will never squirm when we realise how badly we treated them. It doesn’t mean the Lord won’t rebuke us for our unrighteousness, for wielding swords of justice which are only, rightfully His.

So I have striven to err on the side of mercy and fairness when studying and writing about David, and that is, at times, quite a challenge. I have no respect for Saul, Joab or Absalom, but I do not want to stand before the Lord and have to explain why I acted with such harshness when the Father has been so merciful and tender with me. So I try and state the facts about them without including my personal opinion, name calling, or other derogatory low blows.

I have found, that another benefit has sprung up from me being more aware of how I treat David and his family. Amending my attitude has led to a greater awareness of how I judge and speak about the people in my immediate, real life, vicinity. That involves my family, my problematic neighbours and the people I meet in every day life, some of who annoy me.

Learning not to judge is a life skill that is necessary. Scripture tells us directly not to do it. We know we should act with the fruit of the Spirit, we know the standards. Even if we see others pulling apart people, we must resist the impulse to do the same. Judging others in teaching been done through many generations, and it will take some serious work to change our habits. However, for the sake of our character, it’s worth doing.
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Footnotes:
a) Scriptures on Judging: Luke 6:37Matthew 7:2Hebrews 10:30
b) Did David Rape BathSheba?
No, he didn’t. Why? Well, the Bible calls rape, rape and that is not what we see here. It is more likely that as he was a king, she was flattered or awed by him and he may have offered her an incentive such as wealth, land, a promotion for her husband: anything that would enable him to fulfil his desire. Who wouldn’t want to be more popular with the King and attain a higher position in life? Many people would take an opportunity like that and she may have seen it as an honour. [Ref. 2 Samuel 11-12]

Why do I think that?
1. As I said above, the Bible calls rape, rape. It pulls no punches about where David went wrong, so why would it here?
2. When David and BathSheba’s first child dies, David is able to comfort her. There is no indication of a fractured relationship, such as the one he had with Michal. A raped woman would be traumatised. David and BathSheba went on to have four other sons together and she became Queen, which we know as the succession of all her sons is listed.
3. David is such an overtly honest person, he would have confessed it in the Psalms.
4. David was so guilt-ridden over what he had done, had he raped her, it is possible he would have arranged for her to live, well cared for and safe somewhere.
5. It did not appear to be within David’s nature to be so violent outside of war. One example is the number of times the head of his army, Joab, wanted to assassinate a direct threat to his life and kingship. Each time, David said no, even though his refusal flew in the face of common sense. Violence was not his first choice. He looked to the Lord for deliverance. [Ref. 2 Samuel 2 Samuel 15-18]


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

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

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How 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.


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

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

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.


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

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

Luke Skywalker and King David: The Secret of Winning Wars Against Evil

48113929_sI have been a Star Wars fan since the first movie came out in 1977. I recently bought The Force Awakens, and as nostalgia kicked in, I started to see similarities between Luke Skywalker and the young man, David. Both of their lives were taken up the battle of good against evil and looking deeper into the Star Wars culture, I found more parallels than are immediately obvious.

It’s simply not enough to be able to pick up a sword and fight a war. Conquering darkness occurs on so many levels and many of them live beneath the surface in emotions, memories and thoughts. Any winning fight is fuelled by positive emotions and empowered by higher spiritual beliefs.

Both Luke and David came from menial jobs in backwater towns, which had a poor reputation. While David had a more mature attitude and had been taught about his God since early childhood, both men were quickly propelled into positions of power, with the outcome affecting millions of people. In reading Wookipedia.com, I found this quote which places Luke and David on very similar footing.

“It has been said that anyone who knows the ways of the Force can set her, or himself up as a King on any world where only she or he knows the ways of the Force. Any Jedi could do this. But the Jedi, fools that they are, adhere to a religion in which the Force is used only in the service of others.”   Palpatine, in “The Weakness of Inferiors”

If you chose to, you could liken Goliath and the Philistine armies, to Darth Vader and the Empire; however, the similarity I saw between Luke and David was on a personal level. We see a lot of Star Wars’ plot focussing on Luke battling with his impatience, his anger, his fear, and his mixed feelings about his father. When you examine how he reacts to situations which arise and challenge his leadership, David battles the same anger and fear issues as Luke. [David’s journey is recorded in1 and 2 Samuel, 1 Chronicles, 1 Kings and the Psalms]

David’s anger is a character trait which is shown while he is on the run from Saul. He and his men have been providing security for a man named Nabal, and when the rich, arrogant Nabal makes no effort to pay them, David is ready to run him through with his sword. However, like Luke, he does listen, then heed the wise counsel given by Abigail. Both Luke and David show a willingness to learn in their youth, which is what will ultimately keep them on the right side of evil. [Ref. 1 Samuel 25]

Israel_Enters_the_Promised_LandThere are several other instances where David loses his temper. One occurred when the Ark of the Covenant is being bought into Jerusalem, and the cart it is being carried on slips. An innocent man is killed because he touched the Ark and David explodes. “David was angry because the Lord’s anger had burst out against Uzzah. He named that place Perez-uzzah (“which means to burst out against Uzzah”), as it is still called today. David was now afraid of the Lord…” 2 Samuel 6:8-9a (See footnote on the Ark.)

Patience and calm were pivotal traits that Luke and David had to learn. Without them, both men would have too much potential to do great harm. David did learn the lesson and encouraged others to learn it too.
“Stop being angry!
Turn from your rage!
Do not lose your temper:
it only leads to harm.”
Psalm 37:8

Whether you win or lose a battle depends very much on how you do things, both internally and externally. If you have a short fuse, the overflow of emotion will cloud your choices, as if did for Luke when he knew that Han and Leia were in danger on Bespin. If you rush in, like Luke, you lose the battle and you can lose more than that… like a hand.

Anger also directly affects men on the battle field. Fencers (sports), tell us that sword fights are nothing like the Hollywood portrayal of them. A real Jedi versus Sith, or Israelite versus Philistine fight would be over in seconds and who would win? The combatant who kept calm. The second a combatant loses their temper and allows emotion to take over, they stop effectively processing what is happening, and become easy to defeat. There is no glamour and glory in war. A man may be able to earn himself a reputation as a skilled warrior, but it’s an ugly business. Attacking out of fear and hate only make it more putrid, as the loss of a soul to the wrong source of power is the greatest loss any battle can generate.

Fear is the other emotional battle which both men had to strive to conquer. Fear is a natural, protective emotion which is not inherently bad. We need fear to make us question the wisdom of our actions and protect us from danger. The problems set in when, as occurred with Saul, fear makes us paranoid and we take unnecessary risks, become bitter and go to insane lengths to make ourselves safe.

In the first three Star Wars movies we see Luke battle with fear as he learns to be a Jedi. At the end of the seventh movie, as Rey begins to beg Luke for help, his fearful reluctance is obvious. You can never completely conquer fear, and if you were to do so, you would do yourself, and others, great harm.

David is plotted against many times during his life, you often see him write about fear in the Psalms.
“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!”
My future is in your hands.
Rescue me from those who hunt me down relentlessly.”
Psalm 31:13-15

There is nothing weak or unmanly in admitting fear. What matters in the end is how he chose to deal with it. David turned to the Lord for assistance and deliverance.

You could take the good versus evil fight further with David, and consider how his lust over Bathsheba took him to a dark place where evil gained control. If Luke Skywalker’s life is ever shown in more detail, he’s bound to have faced a similar challenge too.

David’s life story is about what happens when God gets hold of an ordinary life. Luke’s story is centred on the heroism of just one man. None of us can ever be Luke Skywalker, and while he is an interesting character, he has nothing but a fictional philosophy to offer us which will be forgotten long after David is still remembered; but we can all follow in the footsteps of David, and be spiritually victorious by developing a relationship with God that will change ourselves and other people. David’s success is accessible to all of us. Learning about his life points us directly to the Lord, the One who can truly help us overcome all our fears and win all our battles.

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Wookiepedia References:

Further Reading:

Footnote on the Ark of the Covenant:
Trying to find the correct manner in which to transport the Ark is not an easy task. It’s not that David didn’t do his homework. I have tried to find the same information and went around in circles for hours, as every other procedure for caring for the Ark was spelled out except that one! [Ref: Exodus chapters 25-31 and then chapters 35-40]


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 of the photos in this post 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.

Jonathan: Valiant Role Model of Faith

David_and_JonathanIf you’ve heard a sermon on friendship, then undoubtably you’ve either learned about Ruth and Naomi, or David and Jonathan. Jonathan is a beautiful example of a true friend who doesn’t allow age difference, social status, wealth, tribal ties or a high risk of violent parental disapproval, hold him back from loving and supporting David without reserve.
It is easy to treat Jonathan as a satellite of David, but he is an valiant man and amazing spiritual role model in his own right. He is smarter than his father, King Saul, and is a self-determining man of action, who gets tough jobs done using his own initiative. I have a special place in my heart for Jonathan, because of his bravery and his outstanding faith.

1. A Lifestyle of Faith
Jonathan was not only a highly accomplished warrior, but also a man of strong faith and courage from before David’s time. He may very well have been one of David’s strongest role models. He obviously knew the Word of God (Torah) and his belief in God was far greater than anything that his father, Saul, possessed or was willing to develop.

“To reach the Philistine outpost, Jonathan had to go down between two rocky cliffs… “Let’s go across to the outpost of those pagans,” Jonathan said to his armour bearer. “Perhaps the LORD will help us, for nothing can hinder the LORD. He can win a battle whether He has many warriors or only a few!” 1 Samuel 14:4-6

Jonathan doesn’t have a quiet, personal faith either. He not only demonstrates his belief, but he uses it to build David up. He fully intends to serve the Lord alongside David, and his faith in God’s provision in David’s life never wavers.

In 1 Samuel 23:16-18 David is desperately seeking sanctuary from Saul’s zealous plans to have him dead: “One day near Horesh, David received the news that Saul was on the way to Ziph to search for him and kill him. Jonathan went to find David and encouraged him to stay strong in his faith in God. “Don’t be afraid,” Jonathan reassured him. “My father will never find you! You are going to be the king of Israel, and I will be next to you, as my father, Saul, is well aware.” So the two of them renewed their solemn pact before the LORD. Then Jonathan returned home, while David stayed at Horesh.”

This is the kind of support we need to give to each other. In times of pain, fear and stress, it’s an invaluable gift and David must have been comforted by those words of assurance in the hard years to come. It is little wonder he grieved so heavily when Jonathan died. Close friends who lift you up are more valuable than all of a king’s wealth. Having a backbone of support from someone within the royal family, who was convinced of David’s future and fully supportive of it, (despite the sacrifice he’d personally have to make), must have played a strong part of David becoming the man of God he became. Jonathan would have given me great courage.

2. An Attitude of Submission and Obedience to God
As Crown Prince (heir to King Saul’s throne), Jonathan’s selflessness is particularly outstanding. He recognises that David is God’s choice for the King of Isra’el, and he is bravely willing to give David that place without hesitation, regardless of the rift it created between him and his father, Saul. His disobedience was no small thing. Saul had tried to kill Jonathan in the past for disobeying an oath he knew nothing about, so you can image how the following act of rebellion went over. [Ref. 1 Samuel 14]

“Saul boiled with rage at Jonathan. “You stupid son of a *perverse and rebellious woman!” he swore at him. “Do you think I don’t know that you want him to be king in your place, shaming yourself and your mother? As long as that son of Jesse is alive, you’ll never be king. Now go and get him so I can kill him!” 1 Samuel 20:30-31 Jonathan stuck up for his friend and God’s choice of King, no matter what.

It’s remarkable to me, that Jonathan made a clear decision about the quality of David’s character so early. He was a man who looked at life through discerning eyes of faith and ran on God’s priorities. There is no equivalent in history to match Jonathan’s willing submission to the Lord’s choice of king, especially as princes have a well-earned reputation for wealth and power seeking, spoiled behaviour. I studied historical abdications and no other royal has ever matched Jonathan’s determined heart. Kings stepped down because of illness, revolts against their reign, or because they were forced out. Nowhere was I able to find a reference to a king giving up his throne to someone who was not their son. Jonathan knew there was something special about David, from the moment he saw Goliath defeated.

“After David had finished talking with Saul, he met Jonathan, the king’s son. There was an immediate bond between them, for Jonathan loved David. From that day on Saul kept David with him and wouldn’t let him return home. And Jonathan made a solemn pact with David, because he loved him as he loved himself. Jonathan sealed the pact by taking off his robe and giving it to David, together with his tunic, sword, bow, and belt.” 1 Samuel 18:1-4 (Exchange of clothing was a part of sealing a pact, please don’t read anything else into it.)

We see little of it described, but Jonathan’s relationship with the Lord was one of depth, which enabled him to be the kind of friend that each of us needs in our corner. It is only by knowing the ways of God and communing with Him, that any of us achieve this kind of character. Jonathan’s actions are something that only the presence of the Lord in someone’s heart can achieve.

3. A Friend Who Inspires You to be the Best Version of Yourself
In a time when male friendship seems to be too often characterised by drinking together, pranks, competition, reckless behaviour and dirty jokes, the manner in which David and Jonathan interact is quite a contrast, and speaks volumes about the Godly character of both men.

“Then David bowed three times to Jonathan with his face to the ground. Both of them were in tears as they embraced each other and said good-bye, especially David. At last Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, for we have sworn loyalty to each other in the LORD’s name. The LORD is the witness of a bond between us and our children forever.” Then David left, and Jonathan returned to the town.” 1 Samuel 20:41-42

True friends inspire us to be the best version of ourselves that we can be, and Jonathan had that affect on David. For someone you love and respect, you will go the extra mile to ensure you’ve done the right thing by them. David did this to fulfil his promise to Jonathan which was made in 1 Samuel 20:13b when Saul was trying to kill David.

“Jonathan said, “May the LORD be with you as He used to be with my father. And may you treat me with the faithful love of the LORD as long as I live. But if I die, treat my family with this faithful love, even when the LORD destroys all your enemies from the face of the earth.” So Jonathan made a solemn pact with David, saying, “May the LORD destroy all your enemies!” And Jonathan made David reaffirm his vow of friendship again, for Jonathan loved David as he loved himself.” It hasn’t escaped me that Jonathan’s words included his father, Saul. Again, I wonder what Saul put Jonathan through as a father, and what, if any, respect and faith Jonathan had left in him.

2 Samuel 9:1-11 speaks of the fulfilment of that vow. “One day David asked, “Is anyone in Saul’s family still alive—anyone to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake? … His name was Mephibosheth; he was Jonathan’s son and Saul’s grandson. When he came to David, he bowed low to the ground in deep respect. David said, “Greetings, Mephibosheth.” Mephibosheth replied, “I am your servant.” “Don’t be afraid!” David said. “I intend to show kindness to you because of my promise to your father, Jonathan. I will give you all the property that once belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will eat here with me at the king’s table!” … And from that time on, Mephibosheth ate regularly at David’s table, like one of the king’s own sons.”

Even in 2 Samuel 19:24-30 when I am not entirely sure of Mephibosheth’s true loyalty to David, (David had to flee Jerusalem to save it from Absalom), David does not let the pact down. “Now Mephibosheth, Saul’s grandson, came down from Jerusalem to meet the king. He had not cared for his feet, trimmed his beard, or washed his clothes since the day the king left Jerusalem. “Why didn’t you come with me, Mephibosheth?” the king asked him. Mephibosheth replied, “My lord the king, my servant Ziba deceived me. I told him, ‘Saddle my donkey so I can go with the king.’ For as you know I am crippled. Ziba has slandered me by saying that I refused to come. But I know that my lord the king is like an angel of God, so do what you think is best. All my relatives and I could expect only death from you, my lord, but instead you have honoured me by allowing me to eat at your own table! What more can I ask?” “You’ve said enough,” David replied. “I’ve decided that you and Ziba will divide your land equally between you.” “Give him all of it,” Mephibosheth said. “I am content just to have you safely back again, my lord the king!”

4. A Note on the Depth of the Friendship
“Oh, how the mighty heroes have fallen in battle!
Jonathan lies dead on the hills.
How I weep for you, my brother Jonathan!
Oh, how much I loved you!
And your love for me was deep,
deeper than the love of women!”

A question I see debated is whether or not David was bisexual or homosexual. Despite many opinions to the contrary, I am going to say, no. Why? Because of his cultural manner of communication and because both men are of outstanding God-fearing character. Thirdly, homosexual acts (not people) are openly stated as being an abomination in the Bible. God could not have allowed someone undertaking those acts to lead a nation, as the spiritual head of the nation, which the Jewish kings were. In addition, every one of David’s sins came with a penalty which involved life being lost. He did not get to build the temple, due to his earlier violent behaviour in life (no lives were lost here, this is the only exception). He was confronted and punished for his sin with BathSheba and their son died and he was confronted and punished for the census he never should have ordered and thousands of people died as a result. King-sized sins had king-sized repercussions which were harsh.

Homosexual acts incurred the death sentence, which he narrowly escaped because of BathSheba. Had David had an affair with Jonathan, he would have been severely dealt with, if not, dethroned and killed. The Davidic Covenant which led to the Messiah coming from his line could not have been established from David, under such circumstances. This is spiritual common sense. A covenant is a serious matter, especially one of such magnitude and the Lord would not have been able to slacken his discipline of David and compromise the law.

What I see here is David being too honest for our western ears. It is well worth noting the figurative and poetic language that David used in the Psalms was traditional to his culture and when reading verses such as these, Western society easily misinterprets the meaning based on our current norms. This part of the Song of the Bow sounds as though David is describing his relationship with Jonathan in a way which  indicates sexual intimacy. This is a cultural misunderstanding.

In **Manners and Customs of Bible Lands by Fred H. Wight, Fred points out that “The Oriental frequently makes statements that to the Westerner sound like uncalled-for exaggeration…. (we) must remember the fondness of the Oriental for the hyperbole.” and “The Oriental considers it to be perfectly proper to talk about anything that is natural in the presence of men, women, and children. And this is done in refined circles. A respectable woman (or man) from the Holy Land cannot understand why some critics of the Bible have condemned the Scriptural mention of certain matters deemed wrong for Westerners to talk about.”  *** I have written before about how David never held back from expressing his emotions, which is in line with his culture. In his time, a friendship between men could be expressed with as much affection without raising eyebrows.

The Bible always calls out homosexual acts as wrong. Had David been in a physical relationship with Jonathan, by the precedents already set in David’s story, he would have been called out for it by a prophet and punished. God never let David’s most severe sins go unpunished.

As for the wording, “…your love to me was more wonderful than the love of women.” Like any husband, David would have felt let down and harassed at times, by the complications of his relationships with his wives; and like many men, he would have felt a strong bond with other men who tend to be less demanding and complicated. How many men do you know who go to a friend’s place to watch sport when the heat is on with the Mrs? Men, especially on the battlefield, bond very deeply. They rely on each other for survival and that can build connections which are equally as strong as those of husband and wife, if not more so. If you doubt this, research why veterans miss war and watch this video by Sebastian Junger on TED Talks. It is exceptionally helpful. https://www.ted.com/talks/sebastian_junger_why_veterans_miss_war?language=en Romans 5:7 says “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.” In combat, men shield their comrades in this way. Don’t underestimate that bond’s power.

David was very normal for the type of life he lived. Close friends are more valuable than all of a king’s wealth and Jonathan was one of them.

To learn more about the consequences of David’s sexual sins and his time on the battlefield, please read this article: Was David Bisexual? It will also explain this issue further. http://articles.faithwriters.com/reprint-article-details.php?article=32246

 

REFERENCES:

*This text is taken from the New Living Translation, but this wording is from the Hebrew translation of this passage.
**Manners and Customs of Bible Lands by Fred H. Wight, Copyright 1953 Read it here: http://www.baptistbiblebelievers.com/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=qDQAYzDf0WM%3D
*** When You Just Lose It – Masculinity and Keeping it Real
http://articles.faithwriters.com/reprint-article-details.php?article=33034

FURTHER READING
– The Trouble With Saul: Mental Illness or Tormented by Fear?
http://articles.faithwriters.com/reprint-article-details.php?article=32943
– This is What Emotional Exhaustion Looks Like: Running Away from Problems and the Consequences http://articles.faithwriters.com/reprint-article-details.php?article=32875
– How Gentle Kings Become Killers: David as a Warrior and Psalmist
http://articles.faithwriters.com/reprint-article-details.php?article=32773
– Does Absolute Power Corrupt Absolutely?
http://articles.faithwriters.com/reprint-article-details.php?article=32731


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

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

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

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

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

yesterdays hero

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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