In our Sundays over the summer we're looking at the life of David. Around 10% of the Bible is written about or by David, making him one of the most significant figures in the Bible. A high point in the Old Testament narrative, he ruled as a king-under-God, and while not always getting it right, was seen as setting the standard for kingship within God's people.
David is rightly often looked to for inspiration on worship: his Psalm-writing was prolific, he set an example in wholehearted (undignified) worship and the alternative tent he erected for worship has been the subject of much discussion by theologians, while also a source of inspiration for prayer and worship movements! Despite a personal and work life full of challenge, we see in 2Sam 22 (Ps 18) that he consistently pushed into God, as his refuge, shield and salvation.
We see in David 3 key choices that positioned him for worship.
Choice 1: He chose to walk with God
David chose to develop a close relationship with God, foreshadowing the relationship now available to all Christians through the work of Christ and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. Nine times we're told David "inquired of the Lord". He learned to 'welcome the presence' in worship (1Sa 16.23). Often his actions were accompanied by worship, for example they had to evacuate the city, the worship team played until they were the last to leave (2Sa 15.24).
I believe this action was all rooted in an attitude of humility and dependence. David knew his need of God! The New Testament describes him as "a man after God's heart". One commentator notes: "The king in Israel was not to be autonomous in his power and authority, rather he was to be subject to the law of God and the word of the prophet. The King was to be an instrument of God's rule over his people. It quickly became clear that Saul was unwilling to rule in this way, but David was willing, and set an example for us of leadership under God's authority."
There is a challenge for those of us who claim to be charismatics. Are we really living in this kind of 'charismatic', Spirit-empowered relationship with God, or are we just enjoying lively worship and church services?
Choice 2: He chose to be honest with God
Rather like the impetuous apostle Peter, David seems to have been earthy, raw, passionate, impulsive, real, honest, warrior. But crucially he was also open, real, honest, earthy with God. He knew that he needed to be absolutely, frankly and brutally honest with God.
We see this vividly in Psalm 32, foreshadowing the New Testament understanding that repentance from sin leads to forgiveness, freedom and joy: "Repent and turn to God … so that times of refreshing may come." (Acts 3) "Godly sorrow leads us to repentance." (2Co 7) "Walk in the light, have fellowship with one another … is we confess our sins he will forgive our sins and cleanse us." (1Jn 1)
Looking ahead to another godly king, are we like King Hezekiah, who on receipt of very bad news spread out the scroll before the Lord in an honest statement of prayer and dependence (2Ki 19, Is 37)?
Choice 3: He chose to be right with people
Although counter-cultural to us, David honoured the Lord's anointed, Saul, even though Saul was out to kill him. In a vivid and amusing story, we see David hiding at the back of a cave Saul was using to answer the call of nature. David's men urged David to let them kill Saul, but David would have none of it. I suspect that even cutting off the corner of Saul's robe to make a point, would have caused David some angst! Two chapters later there is another similar incident in which David spares Saul's life. David has a high regard for God's anointed leadership. Likewise, the New Testament urges us to honour leaders, in church and in society.
David also exercised forgiveness. Jesus is very clear on this too. If your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift at the altar and go sort it out! (Mat 5). Perhaps surprisingly, worship can wait! If you have something against your brother or sister, go sort it out! (Mat 18). Whoever is at fault go sort it out!
Worship is a community thing. We gather not just to worship God as individuals, but as worship God as a community. When we gather, right relational attitudes and right relational actions matter.
Daily and normal life choices
Finally, we see from David that we can learn to make these choices in daily life:
- We learn to listen to God and follow his lead in normal life, not just in church meetings
- We see the flaws in our character, and have the opportunity to be open and honest with ourselves in normal life
- We are thrown together with other people, and have the opportunity to life rightly and relationally in normal life
Let's be a people that come to times of corporate worship prepared and ready, because we chosen to allow God to work in our lives and hearts during the week!