Who Was David?
Many of the psalms were written by David. But who exactly was David and what is his significance? Can his struggles, his joy, his questions, his longing for God compare with ours? This will require a bit of Biblical history review. These are very interesting and detailed stories, so I recommend that you read them for yourself. In the meantime, here is the “Cliff Notes” version.
God’s Call and Promise: Genesis 11-35
David was born in roughly 1,000 B.C., but his story and his relationship with God started over a thousand years earlier with another man, one of his forefathers, in the city of Ur of the Chaldees (located in modern day Iraq).
Remember the Flood, Noah and his sons? By the time we pick up this story, the descendants of Noah had spread out, multiplied and populated the earth; and—like the generations before Noah’s time—they had abandoned the God who created them.
Yet God had not abandoned humanity. He called one man, Abram, and told him that if he would leave his country and go to a land God would show him, He would make of Abram a great nation, give him that land and through him all the world would be blessed. In faith Abram—later called Abraham—obeyed God. Abraham had a son, Isaac, to whom the promise was given and he in turn had a son, Jacob, to whom the promise was given.
From Family to Nation: Genesis 46—Exodus 18
Jacob, whose name God changed to Israel, had 12 sons. When Jacob was an old man he, his sons and their families (70 people in all) went into Egypt to escape starvation during a great famine. One of the sons, Joseph, was already there and in great power. He was second only to the Pharaoh and because of this Jacob’s family was well cared for.
However, as generations passed, the children of Israel grew in number. A new pharaoh came into power and was fearful of this great number of people living within the borders of his land. To protect himself and his country he placed the Israelites in bondage, where they remained for nearly 400 years.
God remained faithful to His promises, and in His time raised up a man named Moses. With great and mighty miracles God delivered the Israelites from the Egyptians and led them to the land He had promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
The Covenant: Exodus 19—1 Samuel 7
Prior to entering the Promised Land, the general area of Israel today, God made a covenant with the Israelites. At Mount Sinai they agreed to serve the Lord and obey His commands. He gave them His Law and promised to bless them as long as they served Him. But even as God gave them His glorious Law they were rebelling against Him and worshipping other gods. And so began the cycle of God’s blessing, Israel’s rebellion, God’s disciplining, their repentance, and God’s deliverance and blessing again.
The Israelites were told to drive the heathen nations from the land. They were to make no covenants with them, but they disobeyed and were led into idolatry by them.
The Kingdom: 1 Samuel 8—2 Chronicles 36
Israel had the perfect government with the Lord Himself as King, and the Law of the Lord as the law of the land, yet they weren’t satisfied. They wanted to be like the nations round about them. They wanted a man as their king. God granted their desire.
Saul, their first king, didn’t fully obey the Lord, so God gave the kingdom to David [our psalmist], a shepherd who loved the Lord. God promised David that one of his descendants would have a kingdom without end. He was referring to Jesus Christ, the coming Savior, who would pay the price for the sins of the world and redeem mankind.
How can the life experience of the great King David compare with ours? Although a key figure in the Bible and known as a mighty man of God, David was a human, just like us and experienced those emotions common to mankind.
During his youth David was no one special; a shepherd, caring for his father’s sheep. As the youngest of the eight sons of Jesse of Bethlehem, his brothers looked down on him and mocked him (see 1 Samuel 17:28). Although David was anointed by Samuel to be the next king after God rejected Saul (see 1 Samuel 16:13), this was done secretly—no one but his family knew of it.
Because of David’s skill with the harp, King Saul frequently requested that David play for him to relieve his tormented mind. Then, while still a teenager, David—by faith—single-handedly fought with a giant of a man, Goliath of Gath, and spearheaded a great victory for the Israelites over the Philistines. This brought David into the limelight. Saul gave him a high rank in the army, and David was successful in every assignment.
Because of the adulation of the people of Israel for David, Saul became jealous of him and attempted to kill him several times. Although God had promised him the kingdom, David had to flee for his life. Men from various parts of Israel eventually joined him, but for many years David and his men lived “on the run” from Saul. He was misunderstood. He was lied about. He had to wait for years for the fulfillment of God’s promise to him. He made huge mistakes. He had marital problems. He fell into great sin and received great grace and forgiveness. He eventually reigned over a great kingdom but couldn’t rule over his own family—even his own son tried to kill him.
Yet, in spite of it all God said of him, “I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart” (Acts 13:22). David experienced the joys and sorrows of this life and discovered that knowing the Lord was what truly mattered. To the Lord he said, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:25-26).
The three Psalms covered in this study were written at various times in David’s life, and each expresses the cry of David’s heart. Psalm 23, known as the Shepherd’s Psalm, ministers to our deepest spiritual needs. Psalm 34 is written for those who are riddled with fear and are facing seemingly insurmountable difficulties. And Psalm 139 addresses what some might perceive as our insignificance. Throughout all three we revel with David in God’s magnificence and the awesome revelation that God truly loves and cares for us as individuals.
photo credit: http://is.gd/JyS7my