In the 2nd part of our Kingdom Finance series, we look at the example of David as we look at how we can be generous – 26 September 2021
As a spin-off of our Bear Much Fruit series, we’re looking at characters in the Bible who did bear good fruit for God. In this part, Greg Matarrelli looks at David.
11 December 2016 at Bedfordview AM.
The composition of the Psalms may be the most loved book of the entire Bible. New Testament writers certainly loved the composition of these emotionally and intellectually stimulating canticles. In this study we look at the Psalms that relate to the life of David from Psalm 1 – 72.
This course is periodically taught at our Equipping Courses (evenings or mornings).
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There is only one book called ‘Samuel’ in the Hebrew scriptures. The book was divided into two around the second century (in the first Greek translation). Samuel probably penned these books, with additions from the prophets Gad and Nathan.
The first book comprises a period of about a hundred years and nearly coincides with the life of Samuel. It contains the history of Eli (1-4); the history of Samuel (5-12); the history of Saul, and of David in exile (13-31).
The second book comprises a period of perhaps fifty years. It contains a history of the reign of David over Judah (1-4) and over all Israel (5-24), mainly in its political aspects. The last four chapters of 2 Samuel are a sort of appendix recording various events, but not in a chronological order.
These books do not contain complete histories. Their aim is to present a history of God’s people and God’s kingdom in its gradual development rather than the reigns of successive rulers. Samuel is essential reading for anyone who wishes to understand God themselves, and the world better. You could read Samuel many times and every time see something you never saw before.
You can see the rich personal messages in the lives of the characters. We will see ourselves there. The stories display the strengths and weaknesses of its characters honestly and plainly. Or you could read Samuel with history in mind. David appears as a king who mirrors the forever-king Jesus.
Jewish ideas of a Messiah come in part from Samuel. Israel comes to experience the rule and peace of God that it longed for. God’s underlying justice and mercy are golden threads in the books (as with almost every book of the Bible). Continue to place yourself in the story as you read. Smell, feel and taste the situations and emotions. Learn about the way our great God is so committed to his people.
Here are some questions that have often come up with regards to these two books:
An evil spirit from the Lord?
Judges 9:23; 2 Samuel 12:11; 1 Samuel 18:10
Obviously, if God is good then it seems very odd that he sends an ‘evil spirit’ to anyone. The question will rise: God can be evil?
To find an answer to this we have to first categorically state that God is not evil – he detests and can not and never will be tempted by evil. Whatever meaning we ascribe to these verses cannot bring us to the conclusion that God is evil, that would be very wrong.
Can God use evil though? Yes. This is what these verses are teaching. God can use evil for his own purposes. But if and when he does this the outcome is for good and justice is always upheld. God can not and does not contradict his character. The responsibility for the evil done is completely on the shoulders of the doer (spirit or person). Thus we could say that “an evil spirit from the Lord” is saying the same as, “God allowed an evil spirit to do as it pleased” or “God let evil fulfil his good purposes”. God employs this more often than is at first obvious in Scripture. The greatest example of God allowing evil is the murdering of Jesus to save the world. You could say, “God allowed an evil spirit to use Judas to orchestrate the killing of Jesus.”
The conclusion is that God can and does use evil to bring about his purposes in the world. He is good and right in all he does and the evil done is always the person or spirit’s own idea and God turns it all for good.
The medium calls up Samuel?
1 Samuel 28: 3-25 relays the account of Saul, Samuel and a medium. You may need to refresh your memory of the story before reading further. It brings with it many questions. Is this normal? Does this still happen? What does this mean about the dead?
The account doesn’t answer all of these questions directly. The difficulty with the Old Testament is that it often leaves out what we would consider to be very important info today – quite regularly! But it was written in a specific time and place.
It would seem that this was something totally out of the ordinary. The medium is shocked and scared when Samuel himself appears – not a vision or appearance but the man Samuel (28:15). Why would she be shocked if this was normal? Well, because it wasn’t! Not even she expected this! Whatever she did expect we cannot know, but the account is peppered with clues that this is not normal and God decides when such a thing happens. He seemed to have decided to do it to rebuke Saul. As far as we know it has never happened again. Therefore we can’t say this passage is teaching any principle about mediums, calling up people from the dead and the like. It was a very unique situation.
In my last post in this series I asked what it was exactly about David that was ‘after’ or ‘according to’ God’s heart. In answering this question we obviously need to look at both God and David and look for some similarities in their character. I believe a clue to at least a portion of the question is tucked away in the use of this phrase elsewhere in the Old Testament.
In the first 11 verses of Jeremiah 3, Israel and Judah are accused of spiritual adultery and prostituting themselves to other gods… then God calls and commissions Jeremiah:
“Go, and proclaim these words toward the north, and say:
“Return, faithless Israel…
I will take you, one from a city and two from a family,
and I will bring you to Zion.
And I will give you shepherds after my own heart,
who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.”
– Jeremiah 3:12-15 ESV.
There is actually quite a lot more in the Old Testament that talks about God as a Shepherd of His people – the most famous probably being Psalm 23.
Over in the New Testament Jesus calls himself “The Good Shepherd” and dedicates a good chunk of John 10 to this teaching about himself. Jesus uses more shepherding language as he approaches Jerusalem in Luke 13:34 saying, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!”
Now, when we look at David, we know he was a shepherd as a young boy but there’s actually a lot more to it than just that. When it comes to the Bible’s teaching on worship and David’s leadership a commonly used portion of scripture is this one from Psalm 78:
“He chose David his servant
and took him from the sheepfolds;
from following the nursing ewes he brought him
to shepherd Jacob his people,
Israel his inheritance.
With upright heart he shepherded them
and guided them with his skilful hand.”
– Psalm 78:70-72 ESV
I’ve often heard and, in turn, used this portion of scripture to introduce the concept of two aspects to leadership and service in a local church: the heart and the hands of service. These are important concepts for us to understand (and we’ll come back to these in a later post) but we often get caught up on those points and miss out on something that is actually the main key to this scripture. I believe that this key is also vital to understanding the Biblical heart of “leading worship” and, in fact, to the heart of any kind of leadership and service in the church.
David is saying that from when he was a young boy right through to being the king of Israel his job description didn’t change, just who he was looking after. He went from shepherding sheep to shepherding people.
We always teach about the importance of an upright or integrous heart and skilful hands in service but miss the actual point of this verse. The integrity and skill are the ‘hows’. The ‘what’ of the scripture is shepherding!
So what makes David a man after God’s heart? I don’t believe scripture honours David with this acclaim because he was a great leader or because he was a very talented writer, poet and musician. I don’t even think it was because he had some amazing measure of desire for God. I’d like to argue that it is for this reason: from the hills and sheep pens of his childhood right through to the height of David’s illustrious political career, at heart he was a shepherd. And God likes that because that what He has in His own heart.
It’s nearly seven months later and here finally is the long overdue second part of my “Why Lead Worship?” series of posts (read part one here).
As a brief aside, my previous post was followed by some good discussion around the use of the phrase “leading worship”. I’ll continue to use the phrase for now but with this caveat: For various reasons, it’s actually not my favourite common use phrase for what musicians do while serving the church in the area of the musical expression of worship. I would actually like to cover this point properly at some point – but that will be in a different post.
Getting back on-topic, I think it’s fairly obvious that I was referring to David at the end of my previous post. David is a good character to look at with this topic for a couple of reasons, one of which is simply because there’s just so much to see in scripture about this guy. We can learn a lot about and from him in 1 and 2 Samuel, Chronicles and in other parts of the Bible.
Not only can we see his heart as displayed through the story of his life, we can also see it in great detail in the things that he wrote. The Psalms are a big collection of songs and poems that essentially made up Israel’s “worship song file” and David wrote many of them.
What’s also interesting is how scripture doesn’t rose-tint the story of David’s life and yet speaks very highly of him. The Biblical narrative shows a man who was a polygamist, adulterer and ultimately a scheming murderer who ruled over a nation and yet left his own family in a complete mess. Yet despite all this, David is used by the Apostles and New Testament writers Peter, in Acts 2, and Paul, in Acts 13, as a prophetic picture or type of Jesus Christ Himself. The Messiah is often referred to in the Old Testament prophetic books and in the gospels as “the Son of David”.
And then there’s this big one, especially within the scope of this series of posts: In his Acts 13 sermon, Paul talks about David as a person whom God calls “a man after my heart” (v22).
Until fairly recently I had always interpreted this phrase to mean a person who is in pursuit of God’s heart – a worshiper. While this kind of statement may be true of David, it isn’t what this text is actually saying. The word translated “after” is the Greek word kata which means “according to” and not “in pursuit of”. So, it uses “after” as in, “a son takes after his father” and not, “grown men chasing after a ball.” I had always understood the phrase incorrectly as “David… a man who pursues God’s heart” whereas the correct understanding would actually be, “David… a man who has the same characteristics or qualities as God’s heart.”
Coming to understand this, I have to say that this must be one of scripture’s highest commendations of any man – God saying that this man, David, had some of the same characteristics as Himself. As far as I know, David is the only person in the Bible that God directly describes this way. Surely this is something we would love be true about us and so it is this statement that we must investigate further.
Why does scripture make such high commendations of a person who’s life story would make a serious R-rated movie? You could argue that there must be better characters in the Bible to choose for this honour.
This contrast beautifully illustrates the triumph of God’s grace over sinful human messiness in the achievement of His sovereign will. But even with this in mind, we still have to ask what it was that David had or did that caused God to call him a man after His heart in both the Old (through Samuel in 1 Sam 13:14) and New Testaments (through Paul in Acts 13)?
To answer this we have to examine what it was about David that was after or “according to” God’s heart. More on that in part 3 which hopefully won’t take another seven months to post.
In the meantime, what are your thoughts? What kind of similarities between David and the heart of God can you see?