Figures in the Life of David

Major Characters (these appear at various points in David’s life.)

  • Samuel (God has heard) – judge of the people and prophet of God, anoints Saul as king but later announces that the kingdom will be taken from Saul and given to someone worthy. Anoints David as the new king and helps to protect him from Saul.
  • Saul (asked/prayed for) – King of Israel who is eventually rejected by God for disobedience. Fears and resents David, and pursues him so as to kill him. Dies in battle with his sons.
  • Jonathan (the Lord has given) – son of Saul who is loyal to David because of their great friendship.
  • David (beloved) – son of Jesse who is a shepherd and musician. Becomes king of Judah, and then of all of Israel.
  • Michal (brook?) – daughter of Saul who professes her love for David. Later given to another man, then taken back again by David.
  • Ahimelech the priest and his son Abiathar (brother of the king; my father is great) – Ahimelech helps David as he is fleeing from Saul, and is thus executed along with his family. Abiathar escapes and becomes a priest for David.
  • Abner (my father is light) – commander of Saul’s armies, killed by Joab even though he changes sides after Saul’s death to serve David
  • Joab (the LORD is my father) – son of Zuriah and commander of David’s armies.
  • Abishai and Azahel – (gift of the father?; made by God) brothers of Joab, sons or Zeruiah. Azahel is killed in battle, but Abishai remains a key military figure throughout the life of David.
  • Achish (anger?) – Philistine lord in Gath. David feigns madness to escape being take captive by him, but later returns and pledges his loyalty. Achish trusts David completely but the other Philistine lords do not.
  • Ish-Bosheth (man of shame) – (grand)son of Saul who is made king by Abner when Saul dies. Killed shortly after by two of his commanders, who were executed by David as a result.
  • Mephibosheth (dispeller of shame) – son of Jonathan son of Saul. Crippled man who is shown great kindness by David.
  • Ziba (station?) – servant of Mephibosheth who takes care of his estate, but later betrays Mephibosheth and ends up with half of his wealth.
  • Nathan (he gave) – prophet of God who gives David some of the best and some of the worst news he ever receives.
  • Bathsheba (daughter of the oath) – wife of Uriah who David covets and takes for his own, after he has Uriah killed, he marries her.
  • Uriah the Hittite (the LORD is my light) – mighty man of David who is killed in order to cover up David’s adultery with his wife.
  • Solomon/Jedidiah (peace/beloved of the LORD) – son of David by Bathsheba, who becomes a great and prosperous king after David dies.
  • Absalom (my father is peace) – Son of David who kills Amnon for raping his sister Tamar. Sent into exile but later allowed to return, he rebels against David and is temporarily successful at taking Israel from David.
  • Tamar (palm tree) – daughter of David and sister of Absalom who is raped by Amnon.
  • Amnon (faithful) – son of David who rapes Tamar and is killed in revenge by Absalom.
  • Ahithophel the Gilonite (brother of foolishness) – David’s advisor, who serves Absalom during the rebellion.
  • Cherethites and Pelethites – 600 men who leave Gath of the Philistines to follow David for the rest of his days.
  • Ittai the Gittite (with me) – foreigner who pledges loyalty to David and becomes a friend and a leader of his armies.
  • Zadok and Abiathar (righteous; my father is great) – priests for David who remain faithful to him when Absalom rebels.
  • Ahimaaz and Jonathan (brother of the council?; the LORD has given) – sons of Zadok and Abiathar who serve as secret messengers to alert David of Absalom’s plans.
  • Hushai the Archite (enjoyment?) – David’s friend and counselor who foils the advice of Ahithophel during Absalom’s rebellion.
  • Gad (fortune, luck) – a prophet of God who helps David flee from Saul, and later gives him bad news concerning the census he carried out.

Minor Characters (these are often extremely important, but  are not recorded to have played a significant role in multiple different events throughout David’s life.)

  • Jesse (gift?) – father of David.
  • Goliath (uncover, unveil?) – giant Philistine who is slain by David with the help of the LORD.
  • Abinadab, Malchi-shua (father of a vow; my king saves) – sons of Saul, brothers of Jonathan. They all die in battle together.
  • Nabal (fool, senseless, failure) – worthless fellow who refuses to provide for David’s men despite the protection they provide his flocks.
  • Abigail (my father is joy) – wife of Nabal who wisely averts disaster and becomes David’s wife when Nabal dies.
  • Doeg the Edomite (careful, fearful, uneasy) – servant of Saul who kills Ahimelech and the other prophets for helping David to flee.
  • Medium at En-Dor – a woman who can communicate with spirits, who helps Saul to call up Samuel.
  • Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abinadab (strength; brother) – they help to transport the ark to Jerusalem, but when Uzzah reaches out to steady the ark he is struck dead.
  • ObedEdom (servent of Edom) – the ark is temporarily stored at the house of Obed-Edom and his whole household is blessed.
  • Hanun, son of Nahash king of Ammonites (gracious, merciful, favored) – becomes king after his father; needlessly provokes David to war and it does not go well for him.
  • David’s unnamed child – dies because of David’s sin with Bathsheba.
  • Jonadab (God gives liberally/impels) – David’s nephew. A “shrewd” man who convinces Amnon to rape Tamar.
  • Wise woman of Tekoa – put up by Joab to convince David to allow Absalom to come back from exile. She succeeds.
  • Woman at En-Rogel – hides Ahimaaz and Jonathan and thus helps David escape Absalom.
  • Shimei, son of Gera (hear, listen, obey) – curses David when he flees from Absalom. David promises not to seek retribution, so Solomon executes him after coming into power.
  • Chimham (longing?) – returns to Israel in place of his master, Barzillai.
  • Amasa (burden?) – serves as a commander for David after the rebellion by Absalom, but is slothful and risks David’s position, and is thus killed by Joab
  • Sheba, son of Bichri (oath) – challenger to David’s throne who seeks refuge in Abel.
  • Wise woman at Abel – avoids the destruction of Abel by throwing the head of Sheba son of Bichri down to Joab.
  • Gibeonites – Have seven of Saul’s descendants hanged as retribution of Saul’s violation of their covenant with Israel.
  • Rizpah the daughter of Aiah (coal, hot stone) – mourns for the descendants of Saul and watches after their remains.
  • Barzillai the Gileadite (man of iron) – friend of David who helps him when he flees from Absalom.
  • Araunah the Jebusite (ark, song, strong?) – owns the threshing floor where David sacrifices to the LORD after the pestilence sent by God.
  • Abishag the Shunammite (my father wanders) – beautiful young woman who attends to David in his old age. A point of contention between David’s sons Solomon and Adonijah.
  • Benaiah the son of Jehoiada (son of the LORD) – one of David’s mighty men, who helps him ensure that Solomon succeeds him as king.
  • Adonijah the son of Haggith – (the LORD is master) seeks to become king in place of Solomon when David is old, but fails and is put to death by Solomon shortly after.
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Life of David – overview with Psalms

This table is intended to serve as an overview of the life of David in 1 and 2 Samuel and the psalms that he wrote which speak to events in his life.

“Psalms direct” refers to psalms that are directly attributed to particular events in David’s life in their headings.
“Psalms apparent” refers to psalms that I believe strongly correlate with particular events or the themes within them.
“Psalms additional” are other psalms of David that speak on similar themes.

It should be noted that there is some amount of subjectivity regarding what events certain undesignated psalms most directly relate to, and also that the historical dates given are not universally agreed upon.  I included them just as a rough guide of the passage of time throughout the account of his life.

Week

Scripture

Probable Date Event Psalms direct Psalms apparent Psalms additional Occasion of Psalm
1 1 Sam. 16 1024 BC Samuel Anoints David at Bethlehem   23, 19 8 David as a shepherd
1 1 Sam. 17 1024 BC David Kills Goliath   36 9 On the victory over Goliath
2 1 Sam. 18 1015 BC Jonathan’s Friendship with David   11   When David was advised to flee Saul
2 1 Sam. 19 1014 BC David Protected from Saul 59     On Saul surrounding the house of David
2 1 Sam. 20 1013 BC David and Jonathan’s Covenant        
3 1 Sam. 21 1012 BC David at Nob and Gath 56; 34     David with Philistines at Gath; On David’s leaving the city of Gath
3 1 Sam. 22 1011 BC Saul Slays the Priests of Nob 142;52   17, 35, 64, 109, 140 David in the cave at Adullam; On the murder of the priests by Doeg and the following persecution
3 1 Sam. 23 1011 BC David Flees Saul 54 31   Betrayal by Ziphites; Persecution by Saul
4 1 Sam. 24 1011 BC David Spares Saul’s Life 57;63   58 On David’s refusal to kill Saul in the cave; prayer of David in wilderness of Engedi
4 1 Sam. 25 1011 BC Samuel Dies; Nabal and Abigail        
4 1 Sam. 26 1011 BC David Spares Saul a Second Time        
5 1 Sam. 27 1010 BC David Flees to the Philistines   141   Prayer of David when driven from Judea
5 1 Sam. 28 1010 BC Saul and the Witch of Endor        
6 1 Sam. 29 1010 BC Achish Sends David Away        
6 1 Sam. 30 1010 BC David Destroys the Amalekites   22   David is in distress, but trusts God
7 1 Sam. 31 1010 BC Saul and His Sons Killed        
7 2 Sam. 1 1010 BC David Mourns for Saul and Jonathan Song of the Bow (in the text)      
8 2 Sam. 2 1010 BC David Made King over Judah; Civil War Between Abner and Joab   101   David will strive to be a good king
8 2 Sam. 3 1006 BC House of David Strengthened; Joab murders Abner        
8 2 Sam. 4 1004 BC The Murder of Ish-bosheth        
8 2 Sam. 5 1003 BC David Reigns over All Israel   40 139 Prayer of David when made king over all Israel
9 2 Sam. 6 1000 BC The Ark is Brought to Jerusalem 30, 1 Chronicles 16 68   On the return of the ark to Jerusalem
9 2 Sam. 7 1000 BC David Plans a Temple   2, 110 16, 61 On the delivery of the promise by Nathan to David
10 2 Sam. 8 998 BC David Defeats the Philistines 60 133 108 On the conquest of Edom; Israel united
10 2 Sam. 9 995 BC David and Mephibosheth        
10 2 Sam. 10 995 BC David Defeats Ammon and Aram   20 21 On the war with the Ammonites and their allies
11 2 Sam. 11 993 BC David and Bathsheba   32 33 On the pardon of David’s adultery
11 2 Sam. 12 991 BC Nathan Rebukes David; Solomon is born 51 38   Confession of David after his adultery
12 2 Sam. 13 990 BC Amnon and Tamar; Amnom Killed by Absalom        
12 2 Sam. 14 988 BC The Widow of Tekoa; Absalom Recalled   103    
13 2 Sam. 15 976 BC Absalom’s Conspiracy; David Flees Jerusalem 3 70 4, 5 On Absalom’s rebellion and David’s flight from Absalom
13 2 Sam. 16 972 BC David and Ziba, Shimei   131 7 On the reproaches of Shimei
13 2 Sam. 17 972 BC Hushai’s Warning Saves David   41, 55   Treachery of Ahithophel
14 2 Sam. 18 972 BC Absalom Slain by Joab   143   During the war with Absalom
14 2 Sam. 19 972 BC Joab Comforts David        
15 2 Sam. 20 972 BC Sheba Rebels Against David   37   Sheba’s rebellion foiled
15 2 Sam. 21 970 BC The Gibeonites Avenged        
16 – Wed 2 Sam. 22 970 BC David’s Song of Deliverance 18 (in text)     On the conclusion of David’s wars
16 – Wed 2 Sam. 23 970 BC David’s Last Song last song (in text)      
16 2 Sam. 24 970 BC David Counts the Fighting Men        
16 1 Kings 1 970 BC David’s Last Days   145   David, when old, reviewing his past life
16 1 kings 2 970 BC David dies, Solomon Cleans House      

Scriptures and Thoughts on Grief

What instances of grief are recorded in scripture and what can we learn from them?

(John 11:21-38)
Martha then said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. 22“Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” 23Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, 26and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.”
28When she had said this, she went away and called Mary her sister, saying secretly, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29And when she heard it, she got up quickly and was coming to Him.
30Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha met Him. 31Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and consoling her, when they saw that Mary got up quickly and went out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32Therefore, when Mary came where Jesus was, she saw Him, and fell at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled, 34and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” 35Jesus wept. 36So the Jews were saying, “See how He loved him!” 37But some of them said, “Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind man, have kept this man also from dying?”
38So Jesus, again being deeply moved within, came to the tomb. Now it was a cave, and a stone was lying against it.

“deeply moved in spirit” – I snort (with the notion of coercion springing out of displeasure, anger, indignation, antagonism), express indignant displeasure with some one; I charge sternly.

“and was troubled” – literally “and troubled himself” – I disturb, agitate, stir up, trouble.

(1 Samuel 22:18-22)
Then the king said to Doeg, “You turn around and attack the priests.” And Doeg the Edomite turned around and attacked the priests, and he killed that day eighty-five men who wore the linen ephod. 19And he struck Nob the city of the priests with the edge of the sword, both men and women, children and infants; also oxen, donkeys, and sheep he struck with the edge of the sword.
20But one son of Ahimelech the son of Ahitub, named Abiathar, escaped and fled after David. 21Abiathar told David that Saul had killed the priests of the LORD. 22Then David said to Abiathar, “I knew on that day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, that he would surely tell Saul. I have brought about the death of every person in your father’s household.

(2 Samuel 12:19-23)
But when David saw that his servants were whispering together, David perceived that the child was dead; so David said to his servants, “Is the child dead?” And they said, “He is dead.” 20So David arose from the ground, washed, anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he came into the house of the LORD and worshiped. Then he came to his own house, and when he requested, they set food before him and he ate. 21Then his servants said to him, “What is this thing that you have done? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept; but when the child died, you arose and ate food.” 22He said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who knows, the LORD may be gracious to me, that the child may live.’ 23“But now he has died; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”

(2 Samuel 18:31-33) And behold, the Cushite came, and the Cushite said, “Good news for my lord the king! For the Lord has delivered you this day from the hand of all who rose up against you.” 32 The king said to the Cushite, “Is it well with the young man Absalom?” And the Cushite answered, “May the enemies of my lord the king and all who rise up against you for evil be like that young man.” 33  And the king was deeply moved and went up to the chamber over the gate and wept. And as he went, he said, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!”

(2 Samuel 1: 11-12, 17-27) 11 Then David took hold of his clothes and tore them, and so did all the men who were with him. 12 And they mourned and wept and fasted until evening for Saul and for Jonathan his son and for the people of the Lord and for the house of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword…
17 And David lamented with this lamentation over Saul and Jonathan his son, 18 and he said it should be taught to the people of Judah; behold, it is written in the Book of Jashar.He said:
19 “Your glory, O Israel, is slain on your high places!
How the mighty have fallen!
20 Tell it not in Gath,
publish it not in the streets of Ashkelon,
lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice,
lest the daughters of the uncircumcised exult.
21 “You mountains of Gilboa,
let there be no dew or rain upon you,
nor fields of offerings!
For there the shield of the mighty was defiled,
the shield of Saul, not anointed with oil.
22 “From the blood of the slain,
from the fat of the mighty,
the bow of Jonathan turned not back,
and the sword of Saul returned not empty.
23 “Saul and Jonathan, beloved and lovely!
In life and in death they were not divided;
they were swifter than eagles;
they were stronger than lions.
24 “You daughters of Israel, weep over Saul,
who clothed you luxuriously in scarlet,
who put ornaments of gold on your apparel.
25 “How the mighty have fallen
in the midst of the battle!
“Jonathan lies slain on your high places.
26     I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan;
very pleasant have you been to me;
your love to me was extraordinary,
surpassing the love of women.
27 “How the mighty have fallen,
and the weapons of war perished!”

(2 Samuel 3:31-39)
31Then David said to Joab and to all the people who were with him, “Tear your clothes and gird on sackcloth and lament before Abner.” And King David walked behind the bier. 32Thus they buried Abner in Hebron; and the king lifted up his voice and wept at the grave of Abner, and all the people wept.
33The king chanted a lament for Abner and said,
“Should Abner die as a fool dies?
34“Your hands were not bound, nor your feet put in fetters;
As one falls before the wicked, you have fallen.”
And all the people wept again over him.
35Then all the people came to persuade David to eat bread while it was still day; but David vowed, saying, “May God do so to me, and more also, if I taste bread or anything else before the sun goes down.” 36Now all the people took note of it, and it pleased them, just as everything the king did pleased all the people. 37So all the people and all Israel understood that day that it had not been the will of the king to put Abner the son of Ner to death. 38Then the king said to his servants, “Do you not know that a prince and a great man has fallen this day in Israel? 39“I am weak today, though anointed king; and these men the sons of Zeruiah are too difficult for me. May the LORD repay the evildoer according to his evil.”

Does grief apply to more than just the loss of a loved one?

(Luke 22:56-62)
Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” 57 But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” 58 And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” 59 And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” 60 But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” 62 And he went out and wept bitterly.

(John 21:17)
He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.

(Romans 8:18-23) 18For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. 20For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.

What does God’s word have to say to those who are grieving?

(Matthew 5:4) “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

(Psalm 34:18) The LORD is near to the brokenhearted
And saves those who are crushed in spirit.

(Exodus 34:6) Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth;

(John 11:35) Jesus wept.

 (Revelation 21:3-5)
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

(1 Thessalonians 4:13-14, 18) 1
3
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. 14For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus…18Therefore comfort one another with these words.”

(Isaiah 43:1-3)
But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

(Psalm 46:1-3)
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Selah.

How would scripture teach us to comfort or interact with those who are grieving?

 (2 Corinthians 1:3-4) Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

(Job 16:1-5)
1Then Job answered,
2“I have heard many such things;
Sorry comforters are you all.
3“Is there no limit to windy words?
Or what plagues you that you answer?
4“I too could speak like you,
If I were in your place.
I could compose words against you
And shake my head at you.
5“I could strengthen you with my mouth,
And the solace of my lips could lessen your pain.

What scriptures have comforted you in times of grief?

Life is Not Fair

My fifth grade teacher used to tell us all that time, “the only person who gets to decide your future is YOU,” and “YOU are the one who determines whether or not you are happy and successful in life.”

Even at that age, something just did not seem exactly right about what she was saying. I knew enough about my own life and the lives of those around me to know that life is not at all fair, and a lot of the things that can hurt us deeply may not be under our control.

The Bible acknowledges this, too. Was it fair, when in 2 Samuel 11, Uriah’s death was secretly orchestrated by King David, who had his eye on Uriah’s wife? What about in Genesis 37-40 when Joseph was thrown into a pit, or sold into slavery, or framed for rape, or forgotten about to waste away in prison? What about in Joshua 7 when thirty-six men lost there lives at Ai because of a sin that Achan had committed in the previous battle at Jericho?

Yet in the midst of all of the unfairness, the Bible offers hope, and not despair.

Romans 12:19 quotes Deuteronomy 32:35 in reminding us that God is aware of everything that goes on, and He will settle all accounts in the end, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

Exodus 22:21-23 reminds us that he sees and cares about mistreatment, “You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall not afflict any widow or orphan. If you afflict him at all, and if he does cry out to Me, I will surely hear his cry.”

Psalm 68:5-6 assures us that he cares for the downtrodden: “A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows, Is God in His holy habitation. God makes a home for the lonely; He leads out the prisoners into prosperity, Only the rebellious dwell in a parched land.”

Not only does the Bible assure us that God sees that which is unfair in our world; it also reminds us to stop using our misfortune as an excuse, but rather to get back up and take responsibility for those things that we are able to control.

In Joshua 7:7-9, Joshua was in great despair because all of Israel was suffering and he did not know why. “Alas, O Lord God, why did You ever bring this people over the Jordan, only to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? If only we had been willing to dwell beyond the Jordan! O Lord, what can I say since Israel has turned their back before their enemies? For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it, and they will surround us and cut off our name from the earth. And what will You do for Your great name?”

God’s response was powerful: “Rise up! Why is it that you have fallen on your face?” He then gave Joshua specific instructions on how to take charge and be proactive about the situation, rather than whining.

Maybe that was what my teacher was trying to tell us. No, life is not at all fair. No, we cannot control what other people do. Just as people mistreated Jesus, they will mistreat us. But we can still take responsibility for our own actions, and we can go out in the strength of the LORD to do good in His name.

 

Love Poems to God

King David of Israel is seen as a hero of faith by many Jews and Christians. What he achieved in his lifetime is impressive, and Acts 13:22 records that God Himself called David “a man after My own heart.” But David probably seemed a little odd to some of the people around him.

On one hand, David was as tough as you could imagine. He commanded large groups of fighting men with effective leadership. His valiant successes in battle led the young ladies to brag that “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.”

On the other hand, David’s psalms reveal that he could be very emotional, very submissive, very meek, and humble. He made no secret that he wept bitterly many nights. He made no secret that his refuge was in God and not in his own strength. And he certainly made no secret that he loved God’s word with all of his heart.

It is a rare occurrence to find such an individual: extremely successful by worldly standards, yet totally submitted to God.

There is also the fact that David was “ruddy, with beautiful eyes and a handsome appearance” according to 1 Samuel 16. He had a good reputation. He was a talented poet and musician. He prospered in whatever he did. There was surely no shortage of eligible bachelorettes for David to give his heart and soul to.

And yet, it was to God and His word that David wrote his love poems. It was God, more than anything or anyone else that he panted for as a dear pants for water. It was God who he stayed awake thinking about and talking to in the watches of the night.

David truly loved God. Not as a last resort when wealth, fame, success, sex, and romance had failed him. Rather, even in the midst of those things God remained his focus and his aim.

This kind of behavior makes the world ask “why?!” Why does someone who has such attractive alternatives still give their heart to God? The obvious answer is because God is in fact more attractive than any possible alternative. “Your loving-kindness is better than life.” David says in Psalm 63.

And when we live like David, whether that means being satisfied with God in the absence of all else, or being focused on Him in the midst of all else, we demonstrate to the world in an “incredible” but noticeably genuine fashion that God really is sweeter than all else.

Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?

In Mark 15, it is recorded that Jesus cried out from the cross “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This was the same thing that David cried in the 22nd psalm:

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.”

The people around Jesus had no idea what He was talking about. They were ignorant of the Psalm and ignorant of Jesus’ true identity and the true depth and meaning of His suffering. “Behold, he is calling Elijah,” they concluded, “let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.”

At the moment of Jesus’ greatest loneliness, he was surrounded by clueless sinners who speculated about Elijah and wagged their heads as He gave Himself up on behalf of their eternal souls.

David continued in his psalm:
“I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;
He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!’”

And later,
“I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast;
my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.”

Then the Psalm takes an unexpected turn.

“You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted,
and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him.”

What happened in David’s heart that made him trust in God even when no one understood him and God Himself seemed far away? Did God speak to Him with an audible voice? Did God touch his heart in a reassuring way? Did David find somewhere deep in his heart the assurance that he could trust the LORD no matter what? Did David come back and write this part of the psalm after things got better?

I don’t know. But I pray that you and I can have a psalm like David’s.

I believe that Jesus was referencing all of Psalm 22 when He quoted that one line from the cross. At that moment, He may have felt only the first verse, but He testified to the truth of the whole. That is the hope that we cling to in our darkest and loneliest times.

 

A Story About a Sheep

When Nathan came to David as recorded in 2 Samuel 12, he came to a man guilty of lust, adultery, reckless endangerment, and murder. And yet David seemed totally oblivious to any of this. For your convenience, here is an overview of David’s recent actions, for which he showed no sign of guilt:

  • David stayed home when he should have been out protecting his people (2 Samuel 11:1).
  • He saw a woman bathing, and decided to sleep with here even after being informed that she was his friend’s wife. (3-4).
  • When she became pregnant, David tried to cover it up, but it did not work because of his friend’s own sense of duty and honor (5-13).
  • Ultimately David staged his friend’s death, sending the plan of action in his friend’s own hands. (14-17)
  • David put countless others in mortal danger in the process, all the while making it look like an accident (18-25).
  • David then saw fit to take this woman to be his wife (26-27).

The incredible thing about David’s state of mind after all of this, is that a made up story about one man butchering another man’s sheep enraged him enough to pronounce: “As the Lord lives, surely the man who has done this deserves to die (2 Samuel 12:5).”

Adultery and murder were one thing, but the idea that a poor man’s beloved sheep might be butchered and eaten by his neighbor was simply too much to bear. In this way, I believe our society is a lot like David was in 2 Samuel 12.

Every day we legally put an end to thousands of precious human lives in their mother’s wombs, and millions of people see no problem with this. On the other hand, a U.S. felony conviction for “possession, sale, purchase, barter, offer to sell, purchase or barter, transport, export or import, of any bald or golden eagle, alive or dead, including any part, nest, or egg,” will result in a fine of up to $250,000 or two years in prison.

The law protects an eagle’s egg, but not an unborn child. What rationale could possibly justify this discrepancy?

Someone might suggest that it is important to protect the eagle because it is endangered, while humans are not. This is to suggest that the worth of a human life is inversely proportional to how many humans are currently alive. Surely human worth and dignity are not determined by “how many of us there are.”

Or maybe the eagle is important to the ongoing health of our ecosystem, while another human is not. This is to suggest that a human’s worth is based on their utilitarian value. Have we really come to believe that if a human is not really necessary to the preservation of our own comfort, then they no longer have any worth? Do we really want to live in a world where people only dignify each others’ existence to the degree that they find it personally useful?

Of course, eagles are only one example among thousands that reflect our cultural understanding of the worth and dignity of animals. Just as abortion is only one way among many that we undermine the much greater worth and dignity invested in human beings. What an incredible state we find ourselves in when we are willing to treat human lives in a way that evokes our outrage when applied to animals.

Yes, it is natural to feel affection for cute, fury creatures. And yes, it is right to go to great lengths to preserve the pristine dignity and beauty of God’s natural creation. But do not neglect your fellow man, woman, or child, born or unborn, “useful” or “not useful,” in the process. He or she was made in the image of God.

For the record, the story about the sheep brought David to his senses. Will we come to ours?

Ewe Lamb

Christians and Time Management

Americans as a whole devote considerable amounts of time to leisure activities.

  • We will happily devote a couple of hours to watching an interesting movie.
  • We will sit through an entire NFL game on television, which averages 3 hours 12 minutes of airtime, with over 100 commercials and only 11 minutes of actual play.
  • NASCAR races take 3-5 hours.
  • Some prefer to run, walk, jog, bike, kayak, etc. regularly for extended periods of time.

There is nothing inherently wrong with watching a movie, a game, a race, or going for a run. In fact, having times of rest, relaxation, and refreshment is vital for our mental and physical health. But it may be beneficial to consider our use of time on such activities in comparison to our devotion to spiritual disciplines.

  • In Luke 6:12, Jesus spent all night in prayer.
  • In Mark 14:32-42, at the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus expressed concern that His closest friends could not devote even one hour to watching and praying for Him without falling asleep.
  • In Luke 6, the apostles sought out willing servants to help with the churches work, so that they could devote more time to the Word and prayer.
  • David often remarked in the Psalms that he meditated on God’s Word day and night. He often lay on his bed during the watches of the night, treasuring God’s commands.

Of course, praying long prayers or devoting countless hours to study is not some formulaic way to earn God’s favor. We should not “babble on” in lengthy prayers in he hope that we will “be heard for our many words” as those who are mentioned in Matthew 6:7.

But it might surprise us how little time we actually devote to the Lord, if we were to time it. Why not give it a try? Perhaps see how it feels to spend half an hour in prayer a few nights this week.

The goal is not to achieve a higher spiritual status by enduring monotonous disciplines. This is simply a reminder for us all that our use of time can be an indicator of our hearts deepest desires.

God Acknowledges Our Suffering

To be human means to be capable of suffering.

Those who have experienced chronic pain, clinical depression, or serious illnesses of any sort are all too familiar with this fact. In many cases, the sufferer is surrounded by individuals who are not so familiar with suffering and whose best advice seems just about useless if not upsetting.

The scriptures don’t offer magical incantations or curt advice. The Bible does, however, acknowledge the situation. If you’re like me, you appreciate it when your sacrifices or difficulties are at least acknowledged rather than undermined or ignored.

God acknowledges that people suffer bitterly.

Elijah prayed earnestly to God that he might die right then and there. (1st Kings 19:3-5)

David drenched his pillow with tears as he cried at night. (Psalm 6:6-7)

Job spends the entire 26 verses of Job chapter 3 cursing the day he was born. He asks:

“Why did I not perish at birth,
and die as I came from the womb?
Why were there knees to receive me
and breasts that I might be nursed?
For now I would be lying down in peace;
I would be asleep and at rest.”

God could have left these accounts out of His word if He had wanted to ignore the reality of our pain.

God’s word also acknowledges that cheap advice is frustrating and doesn’t work. The book of Job contains almost 30 chapters of Job’s friends providing useless and accusatory suggestions instead of gently supporting him. At the end of the book, Job’s friends are asking him to pray for them because of their foolishness.

Paul, whose suffering included numerous severe beatings, lashings, shipwrecks, imprisonments, and physical ailments (2 Corinthians 11:23-29, Galatians 4:13) did not offer any cute little pieces of advice, but he did give us some hope to hold onto:

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10)

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Corinthians 8:18)

Crown of Thorns