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Past Kings and Their Lessons for Us - David

By Lyndon Jackson

David was not a tall man, and in Halley's Handbook to the Bible it refers to him as a man "...short of stature, ruddy, of beautiful countenance, handsome, of immense physical strength, of great personal attractiveness, a man of war, prudent in speech, very brave, very musical and very religious." Some of these are backed up and found in 1st Samuel 16:18 "Then answered one of the young men, and said, Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, that is skilful in playing, and a mighty man of valour, and a man of war, and prudent in speech, and a comely person; and Yahweh is with him."

The story of David becoming king begins a long way back when Saul was still reigning as king over Israel and David was still a young lad in 1st Samuel chapter 16 It was also at this time when Samuel was called by God to go and anoint a new king to rule over Israel because Saul had done evil in the sight of the Lord.

This 'anointing' had to be done in secret behind Saul's back; otherwise the life of David could have been in danger. We read of this in 1st Samuel 16:1-4 where it says... "And Yahweh said unto Samuel, How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from being king over Israel?" it goes on to say "...fill thy horn with oil, and go: I will send thee to Jesse the Beth-lehemite; for I have provided me a king among his sons. And Samuel said, how can I go? If Saul hear it, he will kill me. And Yahweh said, Take a heifer with thee, and say, I am come to sacrifice to Yahweh. And call Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show thee what thou shalt do: and thou shalt anoint unto me him whom I name unto thee. And Samuel did that which Yahweh spake, and came to Bethlehem. And the elders of the city came to meet him trembling..." We read here that although Samuel wholeheartedly trusted in the God, he was still scared of the task set before him and feared for his very life! Yet this did not stop him carrying out what God asked of him. All to often we read something from the Bible or books of study and never really grasp the true extent of what it actually says and the time involved, for example, we just read that Samuel feared for his life when God asked him to go to Bethlehem and anoint the future king, right under the nose of the current King Saul, who would not have hesitated in killing him, but did any of us actually take into account the hours of anguish, fear and agonising thoughts that would have gone through his mind as he walked along that road towards Bethlehem? I know myself that this would have made me think twice. And this would have been the same fear that Peter felt in Matt 26:69-75 when he was following the Lord through the final hours of his life and denied him three times fearing for his own life.

David's first foot in the door to Saul's 'king-ship' came about from his fame as a musician. This musical talent he possessed bought him to the notice of King Saul, who did not know at the time that he had been anointed as his successor "And Saul said unto his servants, Provide me now a man that can play well, and bring him to me. Then answered one of the young men, and said, Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Beth-lehemite, that is skilful in playing" (1st Samuel 16:17 ...It was from here that David became Saul's armour-bearer and threw David into association with the King and his Counsellors for the first time. In chapter 17 we see that David's residence at the Kings Court was only temporary and that he soon returned to Bethlehem to be with his family, and as the years passed by the boy David had changed so much that king Saul barely recognised him "And when Saul saw David go forth against the Philistine, he said unto Abner, the captain of the host, Abner, whose son is this youth? And Abner said, as thy soul liveth, 0 king, I cannot tell. And the King said, Inquire thou whose son the stripling is. And as David returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, Abner took him, and brought him before Saul with the head of the Philistine in his hand. And Saul said to him, "whose son art thou, young man"? And David answered, I am the son of thy servant Jesse the Beth-lehemite."

[1st Samuel 17:55-58]
It is from this point that we lead into the story of David and Goliath. Socoh, where Goliath was encamped, was about 15 miles west of Bethlehem. Goliath himself was about 9 feet tall, his armour weighed about 150 pounds, (approximately 65 kilograms, which was probably about the weight of David at the time) and the weight of his spear-head about 20 pounds. (which is about 8 kg's) so when David's offer, armed with only a staff and a sling, to take on Goliath, was an act of unheard of bravery and amazing trust in God. His victory thrilled the nation. He became at once the King's son-in-law, commander of armies and the nation's popular hero. Chapters 18,19,20 it talks of Saul's increasing jealousy towards David. David's popularity turned Saul against him and Saul subsequently tried to kill David but he fled, and for years became a fugitive in the mountains.

Jonathan's friendship for David is found in chapter 20 Jonathan was heir to the throne. His brilliant victory over the Philistines in chapter 14 and his nobility of character were good evidence that he would have made and become a worthy king. But he had learned that God had ordained David to be King, and his graceful effacement of himself from the succession, and his unselfish devotion to his rival, form one of the noblest stories of friendship in history. Chapters 21 to 27

David a Fugitive from Saul escaped to the Philistines, feigning insanity. Sensing danger he fled to the Cave of Adullam in west Judah; then to Moab then back to south Judah, in Keilah, Ziph and Maon. During his time fleeing from King Saul who was still hot after him David had accumulated approximately 600 followers, but David with God on his side, always escaped. It was in this period that he composed many of the Psalms.

At Engedi, Saul became trapped and David had every opportunity to kill him. But David, refusing to come to the throne by blood, spared Saul's life. And again, at Ziph, Saul acknowledged being a "fool" but this never stopped him from continuing to be one. At Maon David met a woman by the name of Abigail, a wealthy, tactful and gracious woman who became David's wife. David finally found refuge among the Philistines again, and continued to dwell there until the death of Saul. 1st Samuel Chapters 28, 29, 30 and 31

The Death of Saul
The Philistines invaded the land, and encamped at Mt. Gilboa. One of the Philistine princes had wanted David and his men to go along with them. But the other princes did not trust David. So, David remained behind, and with his 600 men, guarded the South against the Amalekites. It was through these battles, Saul was slain. He had reigned 40 years (Acts 3:21). 

Archaeological Note: Saul's Armour (31: 10). 
It is here stated that Saul's "armour was put in the house of Ashtaroth" in Bethshan, and in 1st Chronicles 10:10 it is said that his head was "fastened in the house of Dagon." Bethshan (Beisan) is just east of Mt. Gilboa, at the junction of the Jezreel and Jordan valleys. The University Museum of Pennsylvania (1921-30), uncovered, in Bethshan, the ruins of a temple of Astaroth, and also a temple of Dagon, the very same buildings in which Saul's armour and head were fastened. At least it is proof that there were such temples in Bethshan in Saul's day.

2nd Samuel - The Reign of David - David the Head of an Eternal Dynasty of Kings Chapters 1 to 6
These chapters talk of David's Grief over the Death of Saul. And although Saul tried many times and for many years to kill David, David still forgave him and loved him enough to grieve over his death. I wonder how many of us would cry over the death of somebody who had tried to kill us numerous times and made us live in fear of our lives for many years.

These chapters also tell us of the time when David was made King over Judah and how in the early years of his reign how he fought with Ishbosheth, Saul's son, for seven years. In chapter 5 and vs. 3 David was finally made King over all of Israel, where it says they anointed him and it was also then that he made Jerusalem the capital of Israel.

Chapter 7. God Promises David an Eternal Throne
The Old Testament is the story of God's dealing with the Hebrew Nation for the purpose of one day Blessing All Nations. As the story unfolds, it is explained that the way the Hebrew Nation would Bless All Nations would be through the Family of David. As the story further unfolds, it is further explained that the way the Family of David would bless the world would be through ONE GREAT KING who would one day be born in the Family, who would himself personally LIVE FOREVER, and establish a KINGDOM of ENDLESS DURATION.

Here, in this 7th chapter of 2nd Samuel begins the long line of promises that DAVID'S FAMILY should reign FOREVER over God's people; that is, there should come from David an Eternal Family Line of Kings, culminating in ONE ETERNAL KING. Here are some of these promises:

  • "Thy throne shall be established forever" (2nd Samuel 7:16). 
  • "If thy children take heed to their way, to walk before me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul, there shall not fail thee a man on the throne of Israel" (1st Kings 2-4). 
  • "A son shall be born to thee ... His name shall be Solomon I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever" (1st Chronicles 22:8, 9, 10). 
  • "If thou wilt walk before me, as David thy father walked... then I will establish the throne of thy kingdom, according as I have covenanted with David thy father, saying, There shall not fail thee a man to be ruler in Israel." (2nd Chronicles 7:17, 18). 
  • "I have made a covenant with My Chosen. I have sworn unto David My Servant, Thy Seed will I Establish Forever, and build up Thy Throne unto all generations ... I will make Him, my first-born, higher than the kings of the earth... And my covenant shall stand fast with Him. His Seed will I make to endure forever, and His Throne as the days of Heaven... My Covenant; I will not break, nor alter the thing that has gone out from My lips. Once I have sworn by My Holiness, I will not lie to David His Throne shall be Established Forever." (Psalm 89:3, 4, 27-29,34-37
  • "The Lord hath sworn in truth unto David: he will not turn from it: Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne" (Psalm 132:11). 
  • "In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen that they may possess ... all the nations, which are called by name, saith the Lord" (Amos 9:11, 12). 
  • "Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulders: and his name shall be called wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no END, upon the throne of David" (Isaiah 9:6, 7). 
  • "There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots... which shall stand for an ensign of the people, and to him shall the nations seek" (Isaiah 11:1, 10). 
  • "Thou, Bethlehem (city of David)... out of thee shall come forth unto me who is to be ruler in Israel; whose going forth are of old, from everlasting ... He shall be great unto the ends of the earth" (Micah 5:2, 4). 
  • "O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the Lord ... Behold, thedays come, saith the Lord, that I will raise up unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign ... and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS" (Jeremiah 22:29; 23:5, 6). 
  • "If ye can break my covenant of the day, and my covenant of night, so that there should not be day and night in their season, then may also my covenant be broken with David" (Jeremiah 33:20, 21). 
  • "I will bring forth my servant the Branch... And I will remove the iniquity of the land in one day" (Zechariah 3:8, 9). 
  • "The man whose name is The BRANCH ... he shall build the temple of the Lord, and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne ... and his dominion shall be from sea to sea and from the river to the ends of the earth" (Zechahah 6:12, 13
  • "In that day... the house of David shall be as God... In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David for sin and for uncleanness" (Zechariah 12:8; 13: 1). 
Thus, the promise of an Eternal King, to arise in David's Family, was repeated over and over: to David himself, to Solomon, and again in the Psalms, and by the prophets Amos, Isaiah, Micah, Jeremiah and Zechariah, over a period of some 500 years. By and by, in the fulness of time, the angel Gabriel was sent to Nazareth, to Mary, who was of the family of David, and he said: "Fear not, Mary; for thou hast found favor with God. And behold, thou shalt conceive, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest and the Lord God shall give unto him the THRONE of his father DAVID; And he shall reign over the house of Jacob FOREVER; and of His Kingdom there shall be NO END"
[Luke 1:30-33]
In THIS CHILD the Davidic promises found their fulfilment.

Chapters 8, 9, 10 David's Victories
After Saul's death David had been made king over Judah. 7 years later he was made king over all Israel. He was 30 when he became king. He reigned over Judah 7¼ years, and over all Israel 33 years; 40 years in all (5:3-5).  He died at age 70.

Soon after becoming king over all Israel, David made Jerusalem his capital. Situated in an impregnable position, and with the tradition of Melchizedek, priest of God Most High, David thought it best suited to be the nation's capital. So, he took it, brought in the Ark of God, and planned the Temple (chapters 5, 6, 7). 

David was very successful in his wars. He completely subdued the Philistines, Moabites, Syrians, Edomites, Ammonites, Amalekites, and all neighbouring nations. "The Lord gave victory to David whither-soever he went" (8:6).  David took an insignificant nation, and, within a few years, built it into a mighty kingdom.

In the southwest the Egyptian world empire had declined. Over in the east the Assyrian and Babylonian world empires had not yet arisen. And here, under David, the Kingdom of Israel, almost overnight, became, not a world empire, but perhaps the most powerful single kingdom on earth at the time.

Chapters 11, 12 David and Bathsheba
This was possibly the blackest spot in David's life, marked by adultery and virtual murder to cover the adultery. His remorse made him a broken man and God forgave him, but in forgiving him pronounced the fearful sentence, "The sword shall never depart from thy house" (12: 10) and it never did. David reaped exactly what he had sown, and more of it, a long hard and bitter harvest.
  • His daughter Tamar was raped by her brother Amnon, who in turn was murdered by their brother
  • Absalom led a rebellion against his father David, and was killed in the struggle.
  • David's wives were violated in public, as he had secretly violated the wife of Uriah.
Thus, David's glorious reign was clouded with unceasing troubles.Yet this was the "man after God's own heart" (1 Samuel 13:14Acts 13:22).  David's reaction showed him to be just that. Some of the Psalms, as 32 and 51 were born of this bitter experience.

Chapters 13 to 21. David's Troubles
Absalom probably knew that Solomon was selected to be David's successor as king. Hence this effort to steal the throne from his father David. Judging by the space given to the account of it, it must have been one of the most troublesome things in David's reign.It involved defection of some of David's advisers, and utterly broke his heart. But Absalom was finally killed and David restored to his throne. Then followed Sheba's Rebellion (chapter 20).  Absalom's attempted uprise probably weakened David's hold on the people. So Sheba tried his hand at it too, but soon was crushed. Then the Philistines grew bold again (chapter 21 and again David was victorious.

Chapter 22. David's Song of Praise
Here, as in many Psalms, David exhibits his unfailing Trust in and his unbounded gratitude to God for His constant care.

Chapter 23. David's Last Words
That is, his last Psalm. It shows what David's mind was on at the end of his glorious but troubled life: the Justice of his reign as king; creation of the Psalms; his devotion to God's word; God's covenant with him of an Eternal Dynasty.

Lessons for us, taken from the life of king David...
All in all, David was a grand character and a man after Gods own heart, just as we all should be too. He did some things that were very wrong, such as in chapters 11 and 12 when we read of him committing adultery then murder, but for an oriental king, he was a most remarkable man. He was, heart and soul, devoted to God and the ways of God. He always desired to put God first, even when in fear of his own life, such as when Saul was pursuing him in the effort to kill him.

This here was a reflection of David's true love for God. Do we always put God first and foremost in our hearts when we are constantly surrounded and pulled from the strings of temptation in this world? which we could liken it unto Saul in pursuit to kill us. Do we put the fear of our very lives behind us to let the light of God shine through in our lives as David did? In a world of Idolatry, and in a nation that was continually failing away into Idolatry, David stood like a rock for God. He continually prayed to God for guidance in decisions he had to make and praised him for all blessings and victories he received. This too should be how we too live our lives. Constantly asking God for guidance in this present dark and evil world. Asking him to shine a light on our footsteps. We should always acknowledge God in our lives, through our successes and our failings. How easy it is to look to God in times of distress, but when things are going well how easy it is to forget, every now and then, who made all things possible. In every circumstance of life he went directly to God, in prayer, in thanks or in praise.

His two great accomplishments were: the Kingdom he established in Israel and the Psalms he wrote at the various points throughout his life. Let us too establish a kingdom of God in our own hearts. A kingdom that cannot be broken down from the constant desires and sin of this world which is for ever trying to pull as from the things of God. And let us also write and study on the things of the lord as David did with the Psalms. Let us use them for instruction, for uplifting us and for constant guidance as to what we should be achieving in. To David, Yahweh was a reality who was ever present to hear and watch over him, let us make him a reality in our lives so we can know and obey him also.