Song of David

Song of David

Song of David.

Please read I Chronicles 16.

AUTHOR. King David, around 1040 BC. He may be the most famous character in the Hebrew Bible, with the possible alternative being Moses. He was hand-picked by God to be anointed as King while still a young shepherd boy; “And from that day on, the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power.” (I Samuel 16:13). He slays the giant Goliath while a young man, already a formidable warrior. He was a skilled musician sent to comfort the troubled, depressed King Saul. He was a fugitive running for his life as King Saul turned the tables and tried to kill him in rage and jealousy. He was finally confirmed King of Israel after Saul dies. He ruled as King until his son Solomon takes the throne. He was a great King in many ways, but he had too much blood on his hands from all those wars he waged. He took another man’s wife in an act of adultery, and had that woman’s husband killed, for which David paid dearly. His family tree produced Jesus, the Messiah, who was a direct descendant of David. St. Peter later called David a prophet (Acts 2:30), for “he knew God had promised with an oath that one of David’s own descendants would sit upon his throne. David was looking into the future (in Psalm 16) and speaking of the Messiah’s resurrection.”

In a full life of major spiritual, political, familial events, how did he see himself? The biggest clue to his self-identity is in his last address to the people, his last official words before his death. There is a phrase in II Samuel 23:1 that has been interpreted two different ways. Both versions are interesting and instructive. In the first version, he called himself the “sweet psalmist of Israel.” After a dramatic life of tumultuous ups and downs, it appears he still at the end saw himself primarily as a musician of the Lord, the one who instituted the music programs for worship with 4,000 musicians, the one who composed countless psalms for the God of Israel. It seems that at the end of his life, David circled back and saw himself as the young boy playing his harp and singing for his sheep and for his Lord God.

The other version of his final self-identity is translated as having David view himself as “the favorite of the Mighty One of Israel.” David saw himself at the end as someone like St. John the gospel writer, who viewed himself as the “one whom Jesus loves.” David comforted himself in believing that he was a favorite of Yahweh, a servant beloved by God Himself. In I Samuel 13:14, God told Samuel He was looking for a man after God’s own heart. God found that man in David.

Also in his final words, David gloried in the fact that the Lord inspired him, that the Spirit of the Lord spoke directly to him, that Yahweh’s word was “on his tongue.” (II Samuel 23:2). In the end, David was confident that he had been an inspired mouthpiece for God.

CONTEXT OF SONG. Soon after David was confirmed as King of Israel, he yearned to have the forgotten Ark of the Covenant, the historic symbol of God’s presence, brought to Jerusalem for a more permanent home. The first time David tried to transport the Ark, it was disastrous. He didn’t have the Levites carry the Ark as instructed, but had it carried unceremoniously on an oxcart. On top of that major mistake, a well-meaning Israelite touched the Ark, the sacred Ark of God, “which is called by the Name of the Lord Almighty, enthroned between the cherubim.” (II Samuel 6:2). A mere man was not to touch the Ark as if it were a piece of furniture. The man died and the Ark was not moved after all.

David decided to try to move the Ark again. This time, David is more careful to follow the Lord’s directions, and he wants to transport the Ark successfully in a big way. David wants to truly celebrate, to be raucous, boisterous, and loud in the celebration. So he appointed a choir of singers and musicians “to sing joyful songs to the accompaniment of harps, lyres and cymbals.” Then he appointed a large group to march before the Ark and blow their trumpets loudly, as another group blew their shofars, their ram’s horns, with great joy. All of Israel was shouting and cheering as they brought the Ark to Jerusalem in their holy parade. What could David do in this environment but dance? He was twirling, skipping, dancing ecstatically to demonstrate his elation at having God’s presence brought to his home city, this historic chest containing the Ten Commandments and Aaron’s budding staff. Here it was, the Jewish holy relic, built at the foot of Mt. Sinai by Moses and his craftsman, the very Ark that brings the Lord’s presence as He reveals Himself between the cherubim on the Mercy Seat! How can one contain oneself with this miracle?

The Ark was placed in a special tent, a Tabernacle, that David set up in Jerusalem. And what did he do immediately after housing the Ark? David proceeded to continue the joy, continue the worship, continue the music! He appointed a group of Levites to bless the Lord with lyres, harps, cymbals and trumpets in front of the Tabernacle. And David gave to these musicians a special song he wrote, just for this occasion. This was the first time that the appointed musicians blessed the Lord with music in David’s musical program before the Ark, music to be offered daily in worship of the God of Israel. “Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim His greatness,” began David’s song. “Let the whole world know what He has done!”

David’s song of Thanksgiving is a high point of praise in Scripture. It is quoted in many psalms, and it reveals David at his best, as “Israel’s singer of songs.” This song is ecstatic in praise of Yahweh, and shows the heart of David in his element, his joy in praising the Lord with exuberant music.

David’s song is a heavenly mouthful. We’ll all be singing this song around the throne in Paradise. David’s song focused on who God is, and what we are to do in response. Notice David’s words in their praise of God…

Attributes of God: Miracle-worker; Wonderful deeds; Greatness; Holy; Strong; Just; Covenant-keeper; Faithful; Savior; Glorious; Amazing; Worthy; Creator; Honorable; Majestic; Joyful; Splendor; Reigns; Merciful; Good; Everlasting.

Our Response: Give thanks; Proclaim; Sing; Tell; Exult; Rejoice; Seek; Remember; Publish; Recognize; Fear; Glorify; Enter into; Worship; Praise.

CREATION. In verses 31-33, David gives a sneak preview of when creation is no longer groaning, and is freed from the curse. There will be a day when creation is transformed, and David anticipates that day in this song of praise. David intuitively knew “the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. All creation was subjected to God’s curse.” (Romans 8:20-22). So in his joy David invites all of creation to praise God along with him, highlighting the Day of Redemption in nature, when the heavens will be glad, and the earth will rejoice. When the sea and everything in it will shout his praise. When the fields and their crops will burst with joy. When the trees of the forest will sing for joy before the Lord. David wants all of creation to join him in this song, and he poetically anticipates the Day when all creation will lose its shackles and praise the Lord.

MERCY. In verse 34, David offers for the first time in the Hebrew Bible a lyric that is probably the most repeated refrain in Scripture: “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! His mercy endures forever!” The refrain “His mercy endures forever” became a centerpiece in the worship liturgy in the spiritual life of Israel. The refrain was repeated at Solomon’s dedication of the Temple, for instance, and in a number of other times in Biblical history. The Hebrew warriors even used that refrain as a war cry before battle, which eventuated in an Israelite victory. This affirmation of God’s mercy appears 34 times in the Psalms alone. According to author Michael Card, this refrain practically turned itself into a national motto. Circling back to this first song of praise, David is rejoicing in front of the Ark of the Covenant, which has the blessed Mercy Seat as its cover, where the Lord reveals His glory. God’s glory is His mercy. The light of His presence is found in His mercy. And God’s supply of unfailing love and compassionate loyalty is eternal, everlasting, forever. David wants to make sure all the people remember that His mercy will never run out, that mercy is a central part of God’s eternal character, His divine essence. It seems that often in David’s life, he saw his mission as reminding his people of God’s pure mercy.

AMEN. Immediately after this amazing song is sung to completion, the people all declared, Amen! Yes! That’s the truth! May it be so! I agree! So be it! The people were one in heart with the words of David’s song. This is a high point in the history of worship with the people of Israel. To agree wholeheartedly with David’s song is not a light matter. It is the heaviest of matters… As heavy as the weight of glory. God’s glory.