FFF 10:4 (April 1964)
David—the God-Conformed Life
In considering the richly gifted son of Jesse, we see him as shepherd, poet, minstrel, soldier, exile and king. The history of David begins in 1 Samuel and ends in 1 Kings, and is characterized by some very bitter and trying experiences before he reached the place of exaltation. Self-control is one of David’s chief traits. Such discipline of self is imperative in the cultivation of Christian character. In the story of David’s life, from his education to his exaltation, how greatly he exercised self-control in the face of envy, hatred, revenge, degradation from the higher stations of life to the lowest! He came through these hard tests beautifully, in all but one instance. Of that one failure it is written that he repented bitterly. The great shepherd monarch of Israel was a great soldier, and the great sinner became a great saint. He was disciplined of God in order that he might be the prepared vessel as God’s King to shepherd His people Israel. How necessary it is to be disciplined if grace confers on us some favoured and high office! The record of David’s life is preserved for our instruction and profit.
David’s thorough Schooling
David’s life may be summed up in the number of hard schools he passed through. The school of nature was David’s early companion and teacher. Bethlehem, nestling close to Jerusalem, was his home. The rugged, wild, strong, gaunt moorlands of Judea were his familiar haunts as he watched the flocks. In the midst of such natural beauty and pastoral picturesqueness, the ‘man after His (God’s) own heart’ was taught by the schoolmaster of his youth that which coloured all his later life. Here he became such a skilled musician that his fame reached the royal palace and he was called to perform on the harp at court. As an athlete, he disciplined himself to sling a stone with unerring aim and accuracy. By experience in the “school of the lion and the bear,” he was taught the lessons of fearlessness and faith in God. He learned what it was to exercise self-control as a shepherd with the sheep in the hills of solitude, and came forth disciplined for the God-appointed duty as sovereign of a nation.
In the school of the royal court he learned the nobility of love and the scourge of envy. After his great triumph over Goliath of Gath, instead of honour came hatred; instead of esteem it brought envy in the heart of King Saul. During his stay in the royal palace, David constantly experienced the pressure of the thorn of jealousy. What were his inward thoughts when the javelin was cast at him with hellish hate, with the intent to pin him to the wall? How keen the pain when the renewed soul finds service done for Christ is unsung and unappreciated! To be hated and yet to refuse to hate is godlike and is the product of the life that is divine.
The School of Rejection
As a fugitive from King Saul’s hatred, David became an alien from the court and an outlaw from society. Now he is to be disciplined in the sorrows of rejection. Though he feared not the lion or the bear or the giant of the Philistines, the enmity of Saul took hold of his heart-strings and forced him to flee as a partridge on the mountains. Yet, in the day of rejection he allowed no root of bitterness to spring up in the garden of his soul. In patience he waited on the Lord. During this time he could have taken the life of his foe, yet love won the victory, and grace saved King Saul. Such is ever the act of the soul instructed in the ways of God. David sees in all his sorrows the hand of God, and their breathings are enshrined in the Book of Psalms. “I will praise Thee for ever, because Thou hest done it.”
The School of Prosperity and Authority
J. B. Stoney in his Discipline in the School of God has this to say about David: ‘We have now reached the completion of the third course or circle of David’s eventful life, and the close of that wonderful process of preparation which was necessary to qualify him for that high and glorious position for which he was so early destined and anointed; and we enter on another chapter in his history. The period of his rejection is over, and the new and glorious position which he is to occupy is being prepared for him. That course of education which belonged to him as a fugitive and a sufferer, though rightful heir to the throne, closed at Ziklag, the scene to him of bitter sorrow and retribution, but of wondrous deliverance and restoration; and it is there, after having returned from the slaughter of the Amalekites, and having sent presents of the spoil of the “enemies of the Lord” to all places where he and his men were wont to resort, that the momentous tidings of the death of him whose throne he was to fill reaches him.”
After an interval of twenty-one years, disciplined David attained his appointed place. Slow and sacrificial had been the steps by which he climbed to the peak, and deep the exercise of his soul. For seven years he waited in the ‘school of delayed fulfilment of promise,’ but at last his patience and self-control were rewarded. The tide of prosperity sweeps in upon David and he is blessed in all things spiritual and temporal. He established his headquarters at Jerusalem, the capital of the nation. The Ark was restored to Jerusalem, and David in his zeal for God desired to build a temple of worship, but was bidden to defer it (2 Samuel 7).
The School of Chastening
During the time of his success, David sinned in his treatment of Bathsheba and Uriah. His sin was not glossed over, as it might have been in the account of his career. The Epistle to the Romans brings out the truth that, though the standing of David was not changed before God, nevertheless, this did not prevent the smiting of God. Thus, in the life of the believer, though we are declared righteous, God does not withold His discipline. In the case of David his guilt is at last dragged out into the light, and in deep contrition of heart he pours out his confession as found in Psalm 51. For twelve months the shepherd king secreted his sin, sealed his lips, and refused to confess. Psalm 32 tells how he felt. His bones waxed old through his roaring all the day long. Day and night God’s hand was heavy upon him. On account of this sin, David was disciplined in the awful anguish it produced in his soul, and the subsequent attitude of his family, and the multiplied troubles that came upon him.