[written on 1514]
2 Kings 19:32 Therefore thus saith the Lord concerning the king of Assyria, He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shield, nor cast a bank against it.
33 By the way that he came, by the same shall he return, and shall not come into this city, saith the Lord.
34 For I will defend this city, to save it, for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake.
The thing that moved me so profoundly about that last line was the fact that this was spoken to Hezekiah, king of Judah, 300 years after David’s death. What was it about this one man David that would cause the almighty creator of the universe to honor him as such that hundreds of years later He continually mentioned him by name and continued to bless his descendants on his behalf? How was David different than everyone else in Judah’s history? David was by no means faultless, having committed adultery with Bathsheba and then killing her husband to cover it up. And even later in his life–a life filled with polygamy and violence (the latter keeping God from allowing him to build a temple for Him)–David’s arrogance caused 70,000 Israelites to be slain. Yet throughout the books of the Kings God refers over and over to David as His servant, a man after His own heart, and “perfect in heart.” What was it about David that was so great that it overshadowed all the evil he had done and then put him on a pedestal for everyone to model after?
It all goes back to why David became king in the first place. Unlike all the kings after him, he was not from the royal line–becoming a king simply because he was born into it. There was no royal line yet.
1 Samuel 13:13 And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the Lord thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the Lord have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever.
14 But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the Lord hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the Lord commanded thee.
Saul was a tall, handsome, respectable man and fit the image of “The King of Israel” more than anyone else, but his heart wasn’t perfect. Now God looked throughout all of Israel to find one whose heart was perfect, though he might not fit the image of “The King of Israel”.
So God sent His prophet Samuel to “Jesse the Bethlehemite: for I have provided me a king among his sons.”
1 Samuel 16:6 And it came to pass, when they were come, that he looked on Eliab, and said, Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him.
7 But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.
It turned out that of everyone in Israel the LORD could have chosen, He single-handedly selected the youngest and least likely of Jesse’s sons to be king. Instead of a tall, noble, robust man like Saul He chose a young, humble boy who was merely in charge of looking after his father’s sheep while his older brothers prepared for war.
Here was a young boy, alone with his sheep each day, amazed by the majesty of God in nature, and singing and playing songs to praise God. Through the years he came to know and love God intimately, and was unashamed of his love for God, singing it at the top of his lungs for all to hear. It was in those fields that God established his faith, delivering him from the wild beasts that preyed on his sheep, showing him who his shepherd was. Of everyone in Israel, the LORD had a special, intimate relationship with this boy, and He knew this was one who had the makings of the perfect king. A king who would be unashamed of his love for God, dancing for Him in the streets for all to see, yet worshiping alone in the house of the LORD. A king who loved reading and meditating and proclaiming the word of the LORD — not just the exciting stories in the Bible, but also its rules and decrees (he actually sang songs about the Law and how wonderful God’s decrees were!). A king who would trust in God for protection and success, not in armies to kill giants. A king who would follow the Law of the LORD with all of his heart, not even willing to defend himself against his enemy, Saul, because God had anointed Saul as king. And so the LORD gave all the kingdom of Israel to the shepherd boy David overnight through Samuel’s anointing.
Oh that I could live a life like David, and make such a mark on God’s heart that hundreds of years later God would still refer to me by name and bless people for my sake, even though I’m dead!
I think about 1 Kings 18:20 So Ahab sent unto all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together unto mount Carmel.
21 And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.
22 Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the Lord; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men.
In all of Israel there was only 1 prophet of the LORD? And of all Israel gathered there, not one person would say they followed the LORD?! It’s sobering to realize that based on the way I sometimes dance around the subject of God in public, I myself would probably fare no better than the Israelites here if put to an intimidating test like this. And I can’t help but wonder if when 2 Chronicles 16:9 says, “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him,” if the LORD’s eyes would stop on me, and say, “Now, here’s a man after my own heart.” When the standard of men like that is set to Elijah and David, I know I don’t make the cut, and that grieves me.
What changes do we need to make in our lives to be men and women whom the eyes of the LORD will not pass over? What is stopping us from living reckless, kamikaze lives of faith like David–going up against a giant with only a slingshot and boasting about it to him?
And what would happen if we did risk everything by trusting in God completely (risking our reputations, our personal desires, our control)? Something like this:
After a series of evil and mediocre kings in Judah, all of the sudden came along 25 year old Hezekiah, of whom 2 Kings 18 says, “And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that David his father did.” What a stir would that cause (actually living like David did) in a country where immorality and “tolerance” had become the norm of society? Imagine a president showing up all of the sudden and reforming all of our laws to be more strict morally, and less tolerant of religions besides our country’s founders’ religion, and outlawing everything that goes against the original intentions of our Forefathers and the Constitution? That would take some serious guts. Hezekiah did what he believed God wanted him to do regardless of what everyone else thought; he was unflinchingly courageous in his faith and love of God. So what became of a man that lived like that?
2 Chronicles 30: 26 So there was great joy in Jerusalem: for since the time of Solomon the son of David king of Israel there was not the like in Jerusalem.
2 Chronicles 32: 29 Moreover [the LORD] provided him cities, and possessions of flocks and herds in abundance: for God had given him substance very much.
30 And Hezekiah prospered in all his works.
And when the king of Assyria came to conquer Judah, Hezekiah never even had to lift a sword, though indeed the battle was very real, but the Lord Himself fought for Hezekiah (as referenced in the scripture at the beginning of this post). Oh that I could be a Hezekiah who when presented with the worst letter imaginable (a letter from the Hitler of the day saying he’s coming for you next!), takes the bad news and, before doing anything else or consulting anyone, brings it into the house of The LORD to lay it before Him and ask for His help. Outrageous faith and devotion to God is accompanied by outrageous blessings of God. Whereas in the past God would bless the kings in battle by allowing them to defeat their enemies through their own swords, for Hezekiah God sent out an angel to destroy the Assyrian army, while he and everyone stayed safely inside Judah [See 2 Chronicles 20 for a similar story with righteous king Jehoshaphat]. And even on his death bed, when he cried out to God to remember how he had served Him wholeheartedly, God heard his prayer and gave him 15 extra years of life. Oh that we would live likewise and give God a reason to do amazing supernatural things!
So how can I become like that shepherd boy that God blessed so much? I believe that years before Samuel anointed David as king, David’s heart was open and surrendered to God, and so through the years God gave David more opportunities for his love and trust to grow. Until finally David was “perfect in heart” and then, being ready, God raised him up to do amazing things he would have never guessed. David didn’t love God so that he could one day be king, he loved God because God is more worthy of our love than anything else, and he would have been content to live the rest of his life in those fields with God, his treasure, the most important thing in life. What more of a blessing could David have been given than a life in the wilderness, with great amounts of time to spend with his loving God? Certainly not armies and kingdoms and women and riches.
I have to love the LORD my God with all my heart and mind and strength. Of course that can only be done perfectly through the provision of God, orchestrating my nature and nurture, so I have to ask for the provision of God — for God to open my heart and mind that I can love Him as David did. But it’s really not as intimidating as it sounds; it’s actually so simple. God’s not asking us to drain our energy and finances in service to Him, or even to make the biggest impact possible. God’s just asking us to love Him right now, as much as possible, as best as we know how. That’s it. Then, to keep loving Him as much as possible in the next moment and the next. As long as it is right now. And in that love, God will show His love for us more clearly and give us experiences to grow our relationship and trust until we love Him intimately and publicly without embarrassment, and trust Him unrealistically. And when our hearts get to the point of being perfect God will zap us wherever He wants us to be, even if it makes as much worldly sense as a shepherd boy being anointed as king overnight.
So for me personally, am I willing to give up everything that makes sense to simply love God with all my heart? Am I willing to give up my ministry and my giftings and callings and all the ways I think I can make the biggest impact with my life to be seen as a fool for God? Or am I hiding behind my so-called ministry, so I have an excuse not to do something embarrassing? Am I really willing to dance before the LORD with all my might in public and worship Him intimately in the lonely wilderness? Willing to do embarrassing, corny, cliche things like talk about how much I love Him around people that don’t even believe in God? Maybe God won’t call you to do that, but would you be willing to if He wanted you to? If for no other reason than He just felt like asking you to do it, and He is worthy of it? I’ll do it. Whatever You want. Not because it makes sense, but because I love You and care about You. Here am I, Your servant, Your instrument; send me. I know that whatever You want me to do, You will enable me to do it.
Why don’t we believe that if we love and trust God with all our heart that everything will be alright, and indeed better than just alright? What’s the worst that can happen? We experience pain. And then it’s over. Are you okay with something bad happening to you?
And while you should never even entertain this thought, just for a moment let’s entertain it: What would actually happen to you if you took a risk and trusted God despite the circumstances? What if you choose to trust God despite the circumstances and he doesn’t come through like you want? Well, really, what’s so bad about that? What if you go down in history as the person whose life fell apart and he died, but he trusted God until the very end? Isn’t it true that we will never see all the things God is doing before we die? Why not trust God regardless of how things turn out, if for nothing more than being obedient to God who has commanded us to trust in Him?
Daniel 3:16-18: “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, …Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.”
As Oswald Chambers put it:
“Our Lord has a right to expect that those who claim to be his should have an understanding confidence in him. But too often our trust is in God up to a certain point; then we go back to the panic prayers of those who do not know God. We get to our wits’ end, showing that we have not the slightest confidence in him and his government of the world. He seems to be asleep, and we see nothing but breakers ahead. ‘O you of little faith!’ What a pang must have shot through the disciples. And what a pang will go through us when we suddenly realize that we might have produced downright joy in the heart of Jesus by remaining absolutely confident in Him, no matter what was ahead.”
And as the LORD Himself put it in Joshua 1:9 Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.
God is pleased so much by our ACT of faith, our CHOICE to obey Him by believing, regardless of the circumstances, regardless if they measure up to the world’s standard of being realistic. The supernatural by definition isn’t natural, therefore it’s unrealistic, thus God is unrealistic. And hallelujah that He is unrealistic!!! Because that means He does unrealistic things like coming through for us in our times of need. Is it realistic that the almighty, infinite Creator of our world would choose to become a helpless baby, born in a stable, raised in the ghetto, later become homeless, and finally tortured and killed as a criminal? No, we serve an interesting, unique, mysterious God, who isn’t the kind of God we would make up if we tried. We serve a God who would rather dwell in a tent than a golden palace. He has his own personality. And why would you want anything different? Not only do I love You, God. I like You. I like who You are and the way You do things. You are an amazing, cool God.
And when we love Him and have great faith in Him he likes it. He really likes it. A lot. You know how I know? Because in the Bible His favorite people, who He blessed the most, were those who had a genuine, loving, unashamed, trusting relationship with Him. God wants us to rejoice in Him, to be excited about Him, to let Him be part of everything we do. So that whether we eat or drink or whatever we do we give glory to God (just as he commanded us to have feasts in the Old Testament to be glad and celebrate Him!). He wants us to sing praises to Him, and chant His name. Applaud Him and do fist pumps in the air with pride, saying, “They’re no match for my God. My God can do anything!”
I know this is true personally. Since having this revelation and living life like David lived it day by day, all of the sudden God has come out of the woodwork: putting the right people into my path at the right time, giving this shy introvert an unabashed passion to worship him publicly with tears (not caring what anyone else thinks), hope and peace in the midst of dark circumstances (valleys of the shadow of death) where normally I’d feel afraid and doomed, and an authentic desire to seek out opportunities to proclaim my loving relationship with God to friends and neighbors and anyone God gives me the opportunity to.
We only live once. Why not go all out, taking risks to serve God with all our hearts, even if we die? Live the kind of life that would make someone name their child after you.
After we’re all long gone, only the best of us, even the kings, will get only a sentence in a history book. I want mine to say: “And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in all the way of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left.”
*The musical soundtrack and audio reading of this essay can be found here: https://soundcloud.com/thesecretofdavid