William M. (William Mackergo) Taylor.

David, king of Israel: his life and its lessons online

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remarkable to be passed lightly by. The assembly was
not one of the elders of Israel alone, though they appear to
have been the spokesmen on the occasion, but it was virtu-
ally an aggregate gathering of the nation. The particular
numbers present from each tribe are given in the book of
Chronicles (i Chron. xii., 23-40), from which we learn that
Judah, Simeon, Levi, Benjamin, and in fact all the tribes,
were present in force, with the single exception of Issachar,
which sent only two hundred men ; but they made up in in-
fluence for their smallness in number ; for they are described
as " men that had understanding of the times, to know what
Israel ought to do." The entire number present was two
hundred and eighty thousand ; and it is most important that
we should observe the ground on which they rest their choice
of David, the ceremony that was observed in connection with
his coronation, and the rejoicings that were made over it.
" Behold," they say, " we are thy bone and thy flesh." He
was no alien who had come across some narrow ocean chan-
nel, or some lofty mountain chain, to conquer them for him-
self; "Also in time past, when Saul was king over us, thou


wast he that leddest out and broughtest in Israel." They
had not forgotten the day when he overthrew the giant in
the Valley of Elah j nor had they lost sight of the fact that
the only really brilliant portion of Saul's reign was that in
which David was by his side. They added, " and the Lord
said to thee, ' thou shalt feed my people Israel, and thou shalt
be captain over Israel.' " But why should they thus refer to
God's choice of David ? I answer, for two reasons. First :
because, although they had known all along that David had
been fore-appointed to the throne, they had yet been strug-
gling against that arrangement; and so, it was fitting now
that they should express their repentance, and declare their
readiness to receive him in God's name, and as from God's
hand. Second : because they wished to remind him and them-
selves that the real king of their nation was Jehovah, and
that he and they alike were under allegiance to him. This
reference to the will of the Lord, too, will enable us to un-
derstand what is meant when it is said that " King David
made a league with them in Hebron, before the Lord." He
pledged himself, both to the people and to God, to rule in
accordance with the principles which had already been laid
down by Jehovah for the administration of the national affairs.
It is a mistake, therefore, to suppose that the Jewish mon-
archy was an absolute and unconstitutional one. On the
contrary, there were in it the highest securities on the one
hand, for the liberties of the people; and on the other, for the
prerogative of the king. They chose him, it is true, but they
also pledged themselves to obey him so long as he ruled in
accordance with the divine law. He was their ruler, but his
authority was recognized only in so far as it was confirmed
and regulated by the divine statute-book. Thus both he and
they recognized God as the real sovereign of the nation ; and
so long, at least, as David sat on the throne, the theocracy
was a reality, and not a mere name. In this, indeed, as we


have more than once observed, we have one great funda-
mental difference between the administration of Saul and
that of David. Saul accepted the monarchy, designing to
make it as absolute and autocratic as that of other kings ;
but David counted himself only an under-shepherd, and de-
sired to regulate his conduct as a ruler by the commands of
God. The perception of this feature in his character gave
the people great confidence in him, and formed, we may be
sure, one reason for their joy on this memorable occasion ;
for, as soon as the anointing was over, they began a feast
which lasted for three days, and which is thus described by
the sacred historian : " There they were with David three
days, eating and drinking : for their brethren had prepared
for them. Moreover, they that were nigh them, even unto
Issachar and Zebulon and Naphtali, brought bread on asses,
and on camels, and on mules, and on oxen, and meat, meal,
cakes of figs, and bunches of raisins, and wine, and oil, and
oxen, and sheep abundantly : for there was joy in Israel."*

Nor are we to suppose that this joy was only a social
thing. It had a religious element in it also; and it was
probably on this occasion, when Levites and priests, together
with the princes of the tribes, and the men of war from every
quarter were assembled once more under one ruler in whom
they all had confidence, that the Psalmist composed and
sang that song of degrees which is so familiar to us all: "Be-
hold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell
together in unity ! It is like the precious ointment upon the
head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard :
that went down to the skirts of his garments ; as the dew of
Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains
of Zion : for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even
life for evermore."t

* i Chron. xii., 39, 40. t Psa. cxxxiii.


Thus, in the thirty-eighth year of his age, while he was yet
in the prime and vigor of his manhood, and with all the ex-
perience which the trials of his early years had given him,
David was seated upon the throne of the united kingdom of
Israel, amidst the rejoicings of the people, and with every
token of the favor of his God.

His first care as a monarch was to obtain a suitable capi-
tal ; and whether he was directed by the special guidance
of the Holy Spirit, or whether he was left solely to his own
judgment regarding it, we can not but admire the wisdom of
the arrangement which he made, especially when we contrast
it with the short-sighted policy of Saul in reference to the same
matter. The son of Kish set up his court in his native town
of Gibeah, a place of no intrinsic importance, and bearing re-
proach among the people as having been the scene of one of
the foulest outrages ever committed in the land. Moreover,
it was within the territory of his own tribe of Benjamin, and
his preference for it was apt to provoke the jealousy of the
others. David, however, proceeded upon other and more
statesman-like principles. He would not continue in He-
bron. No doubt that city was equally sacred to all the peo-
ple, from its connection with their common father Abraham,
but it had been recognized as the special capital of Judah;
and if David had remained in it, some overzealous parti-
san of Judah might have said that the other tribes had been
merely annexed to or absorbed in the little kingdom which
"for seven years and a half had its seat of government there.
Hence, just as in our own times, Victor Emanuel, when he
was called to the throne of a united Italy, removed his capi-
tal first from Turin to Florence, and afterward from Florence
to Rome, feeling that it was due to the other portions of his
people that he should be no longer a mere Sardinian or Tus-
can prince, so David wisely considered that a regard to the
feelings of the other tribes demanded that some other city
than Hebron should be chosen as the metropolis.


But in determining what place should be selected, many
difficulties would present themselves. Bethlehem, though
dearer to him than all other cities, could not be thought of;
and if he had gone into the territory of any other tribe than
his own, he might have been liable to the imputation of par-
tiality, and might have provoked jealousy throughout eleven-
twelfths of his dominions. In these circumstances, the easi-
est solution of the difficulty would be to get hold of some
place of requisite strength and importance not presently
identified with any of the tribes, and in the acquirement of
which all of them might have a share. Such a place was the
fortress of Zion, held by the tribe of the Jebusites, whom, up to
this time, no army had been able to dislodge. Visible as it
was from the heights of his native Bethlehem, it must have
been perfectly familiar to him, and perhaps the conquest
of it had been one of the fondest aspirations of his youth.
It was situated at the extreme verge of the territory of Ju-
dah, where it abutted on that of Benjamin, and belonged,
properly speaking, to neither. As we learn from incidental
notices in the books of Joshua and Judges, both of these
tribes had attempted its conquest without success. The
men of Judah, baffled in their effort, had retired to Hebron ;
and the men of Benjamin, with all .their prowess, were able
to take only the lower city, and, leaving the Jebusites undis-
turbed in their fortress, were compelled to settle down side
by side with a people whom they had only partially over-

Here, therefore, was a place eligible in every respect to
be his capital ; so, taking advantage of the enthusiasm which
his coronation had evoked, David led his army to Jerusa-
lem. But the Jebusites, strong in the confidence which they
felt in the natural impregnability of their position, laughed
him to scorn, saying to him, " Except thou take away the
blind and the lame, thou shalt not come in hither." Dif-


ferent explanations have been given of these words. Kitto
and some others understand " the blind and the lame " to
mean idols of brass which the Jebusites brought forth and
put upon the walls, and explain the taking away of the blind
and lame, hated of David's soul, as the destruction of these
idols. This, however, seems to me to be a cumbrous and
improbable interpretation, and I much prefer that which is
given by Keil, who translates the words thus: "Thou wilt
not come in, but the blind and the lame will drive thee
away." The Jebusites so thoroughly relied on the strength
of their citadel, surrounded as it was on three sides by deep
ravines, that they mockingly said the blind and the lame
would be a sufficient garrison to repel David's assaults.

But, roused by their scorn, he gave forth his order in
words which, though susceptible of different translations,
may be rendered thus : " Every one who smites the Jebu-
sites, let him hurl over the precipice both the lame and the
blind, who are hateful to David's soul " that is to say, let
there be no quarter. Furthermore, in order to stimulate his
men to the uttermost, he offered the post of commander-in-
chief to the captain who should first lead his troops into the
citadel. The prize was won by Joab, somewhat, we may sup-
pose, to David's mortifiqation ; for it is not unlikely that he
had hoped, by the means which he had taken, to promote
some less unscrupulous man to that honorable position, with-
out seeming to insult his nephew.

Out of this siege there arose this proverb, " The blind and
the lame shall not come into the house." This expression
is generally taken to mean that these classes were excluded
from the Temple, but for that assertion we have no proof,
and it is hard to see what this proverb could have to do
with the Temple, which was not at that time in existence.
The true explanation seems to be, " The blind and the lame
are there let him enter the place if he can :" a proverb


which came to be current in regard to any fortress that was
reputed to be impregnable.

Thus David took the stronghold of Zion, and began forth-
with to lay the foundations of that city, whose history ever
since, so thrilling in its incidents, and so checkered in its vi-
cissitudes, is full of deepest interest to every thoughtful and
intelligent soul. Beautiful for situation, it was to become
the joy of the whole land as the site of the Temple which
"Jehovah had chosen to place his name there." Surround-
ed by bulwarks, crowned with towers, it might have seemed
secure from all attack; yet Babylonians, Asmoneans, Ro-
mans, Saracens, Crusaders, Turks, all have in turn besieged
it. Still, these dreadful sieges give it not its chief renown.
As we pronounce its name, we almost forget all other things
connected with it, while we remember that He walked its
streets who came to earth for us men and for our salvation ;
that in the immediate neighborhood of its walls he endured
the terrible agony of Gethsemane and that within sight of its
gates he poured out his soul unto death, when he made his
soul an offering for sin. To this city the heart of the Jew
in every land yet fondly turns : and its name, recalling to
the Christian the memory of his Lord, is at the same time
associated with his hope of heaven that grand mother-city
of the children of God the New Jerusalem.

But I must not dwell on such alluring themes. Only as
we stand here and see how first the fortress of Zion was
taken by the prowess of David's troops, we may have some
idea of the statesmanship of the man who out of all other
sites chose this, so formidable in its strength, so stately in
its situation, and so beautiful in its surroundings, for the cap-
ital of his realm. The instinct of the warrior, the sagacity
of the ruler, and the genius of the poet, are all apparent in
his selection of this compact yet strong and queenly site for
the metropolis of the land.


And now, gathering up the lessons of this evening's lecture,
let us note how, when God has some great work for a man
to do, he prepares him for it, by the discipline of his provi-
dence. Not all at once did David pass from the shepherd
life of Bethlehem to the throne of Jerusalem. There was a
long, and weary, and trying road to be traversed by him af-
ter his anointing by Samuel, before he reached the lofty ele-
vation for which he was designated and consecrated by the
prophet's oil. He was not cradled in luxury, nor dandled
in affluence, but his character was hardened by trial, and his
judgment was matured by frequently recurring emergency.
From the very first, indeed, he was " prudent in matters,"
but such a history as his could not but stimulate and sharp-
en his natural abilities. His military genius, which was des-
tined yet to show itself on many a glorious field as he ex-
tended his dominion " from sea to sea, and from the river to
the ends of the land," had been quickened and developed by
his experiences in the long war with the house of Saul ; and
his knowledge of human nature, an acquirement so needful
for one who was to be a ruler of men, had been increased by
his dealing with his followers in the hold, and with his ene-
mies in diplomacy ; while, best of all, his confidence in God
had been strengthened by his manifold trials, in and through
which he had been sustained by the divine grace, and out of
which he had been delivered by the divine hand.

All these things, though perhaps he knew not of it at the
time, were disciplining him for the work which he was after-
ward to accomplish, while his lesser reign at Hebron gave
him an opportunity for forming within him those lofty pur-
poses which he sought in later days to carry out. His early
difficulties stimulated his inventiveness and strengthened
his resolutions. -And his after-reign was only the more glo-
rious because of the hardness which, in his younger days, he
had to endure.


But it is not different yet. Success is not usually a sud-
den thing, or, if it be so, it is not a wholesome thing. Gen-
erally speaking, it is a matter of time, and trial, and dili-
gence, and study. The heat of the conservatory, which
brings the flower rapidly to maturity, does also nurse it into
weakness, so that its beauty is only short-lived; but the
plant that grows in the open air is strengthened while it
grows, and is able to withstand even the biting winter's cold.
Resistance is necessary to the development of power ; and
the greatest misfortune that can befall a youth is to have no
difficulties whatever with which to contend. It is by over-
mastering obstacles that a man's character is mainly made.
Hence, let no one be discouraged who is called in early life
to struggle with adversity. He is thereby only making him-
self for his future life-work. I am confident that there is no
one here who has arrived at middle age, who does not now
recognize that, though he knew not of it at the time, he was,
under Providence, preparing himself by his early wrestlings
with difficulty, and, most of all, when the difficulty was the
greatest, for the particular position which he is now occupy-
ing. Not in a day, nor in a year, nor in many years, do we
reach the throne of our individual power, the sphere of our
personal and peculiar labor. We graduate up to it through
trial, and each new difficulty surmounted is not only a new
step in the ladder upward, but also a new qualification for
the work that is before us. Courage, then, my young broth-
er ; though every thing may seem to be against you, hold
on ; for if you be only sure that God is for you (and he will
be for you if you will be for him), you will at length attain to
the throne for which he has designed you, and the crown for
which he has anointed you. His plan of your life will not
fail, and when you see it all you will recognize its wisdom.

Nor does this principle hold merely of the early part of
our earthly life as related to the later. It will be illustrated


also in our earthly life as connected with a heavenly. If we
be Christ's, it is .no doubt true that he is preparing a place
for each of us ; but it is just as true that, through the disci-
pline of our daily difficulties, he is preparing each of us for
his own particular place, and the characters which we are
forming here will find their appropriate employment and de-
velopment in the work which in heaven will be assigned to
us. This at once explains our frequent trials, and gives us
strength to undergo them ; and just as through his wander-
ings and warfares, his Adullam experiences and his Hebron
monarchy, David was fitted for his Jerusalem reign; so, by our
cares and losses, our disappointments and our sorrows, our
hopes deferred and our labors abundant, we shall each be
fitted for his own peculiar post in the New Jerusalem above.
Thus, by the leverage of this principle we lift our earthly
lives up to the very level of heaven itself; and every expe-
rience through which we are passing now, becomes a prep-
aration for our eternal royalty at Christ's right hand.

But let us note, finally, the similarity, and yet the dissim-
ilarity, of the kingdom of David to that of Christ. It was in
connection with David's position that the Messiah was first
spoken of in prophecy as a king. David's power, small in
its beginnings, waxed greater and greater, until it became
supreme, and united all the tribes under its benignant pro-
tection. So it has been with that of Christ. The outlaw in
the cave of Adullam was not so contemptible in the eyes
of his fellow-countryman as He was who was " despised and
rejected of men ;" and the followers of David, consisting as
they did of those who were in debt, and those who were dis-
contented, and those who were in distress, were not so un-
likely to overcome their enemies, and lead their master to
his throne, as the fishermen of Galilee were to gain the
world's ear, and advance the cause of their ascended Lord.
Yet, as the house of David waxed stronger and stronger.,


while the house of Saul waxed weaker and weaker, so the
kingdom of Christ has still gone on advancing, in the face
of every resistance, while that of Satan has continually re-
ceded before it. We may not think so as we compare the
condition of both from day to day. Yet if we will but widen
our investigation, and compare century with century, we shall
see all along these nineteen cycles a clear and steady prog-
ress, indicating final triumph.

In one thing, however, the parallel fails. David's advance
was made with the sword, that of the kingdom of Christ is
made with the power of love and truth. He is the Prince
of Peace, and his victories are gained over the errors, the
prejudices, the selfishness, and the sins of men. Bloodless
in their character, they are beneficent in their results ; and
as he advances to his final conquest, his course will be mark-
ed with blessings, and his progress will be attended with re-
joicing. Not yet, indeed, do we behold the nations of the
world united in the acknowledgment of his allegiance, and
ready for his coronation. But the day is coming when he
shall reign in every heart, and over every land a day that
shall bring greater joy to the world than Hebron saw when,
the miseries of intestine war having been removed, David
was anointed over Israel. " Thy kingdom come," O Christ !
" Come forth out of thy royal chamber, thou prince of all the
kings of the earth." Draw the hearts of men everywhere to
thyself by the attraction of thy love. Come, and bring with
thee the Sabbath of the world. Come, and let thy corona-
tion-day be ushered in with the song of myriad voices

" Bring forth the royal diadem
And crown him Lord of all."



2 SAMUEL v., ii-vi., 23 ; i CHRONICLES xiii., i-xvi., 23.

AFTER David had established himself in Jerusalem, two
things were needed to make it the capital of the na-
tion. These were, that it should possess a palace for him-
self; and that it should be the abode of the ark of the cove-
nant, over which hovered continually the visible symbol of
Jehovah's presence. As I have repeatedly remarked, the
distinguishing peculiarity of David as a king was that he rec-
ognized in the most loyal manner the higher royalty of God,
and regarded himself as a mere human vice-regent. Had
he been content to build only an official residence for him-
self, Jerusalem would have been no more than the city of
David; but in a theocracy it was necessary also that the
metropolis should be the city of God ; and so, in that spirit
of patriotic piety for which he was so remarkable, David set
himself at once as earnestly to prepare a place for the re-
ception of the ark, as to erect a habitation for himself. En-
tering into a league with Hiram, king of Tyre, he caused to
be built for himself a splendid cedar palace, with the ques-
tionable addition of a harem. Yet amidst all this magnifi-
cence he did not forget to acknowledge the goodness of Him
from whom all his greatness came, for it was most probably
in connection with his taking possession of his palace that
he wrote and sang the 3Oth Psalm, which bears the follow-
ing title : "A Psalm and Song at the dedication of the house
of David." If in minor things a man's true self comes most
clearly out, then in this domestic ode we may see something


of what David was at home, and may learn how in every thing
he acknowledged God. After having gone over his new
abode, accompanied, as we may suppose, by all the members
of his household, he gathered them together in some conven-
ient chamber, or in the open court round which his palace
was built, and sang with them this Psalm, in which we know
not whether to admire more the pathetic allusions to the
sufferings of the past, or the holy resolutions in regard to
the conduct of the future : " I will extol thee, O Lord ; for
"thou hast lifted me up, and hast not made my foes to rejoice
over me. O Lord my God, I cried unto thee, and thou hast
healed me. O Lord, thou hast brought up my soul from the
grave : thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down
to the pit. Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of his, and give
thanks at the remembrance of his holiness. For his anger
enclureth but a moment ; in his favor is life : weeping may
endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. And in
my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved. Lord, by thy
favor thou hast made my mountain to stand strong : thou
didst hide thy face, and I was troubled. I cried to thee, O
Lord ; and unto the Lord I made supplication. What profit
is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Shall the
dust praise thee ? shall it declare thy truth ? Hear, O Lord,
and have mercy upon me : Lord, be thou my helper. Thou
hast turned for me my mourning into dancing : thou hast put
off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness ; to the end
that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O
Lord my God, I will give thanks unto thee forever."

If we contrast the spirit which breathes through these
lines with that which animated Nebuchadnezzar, when he
said, " Is not this great Babylon that I have built for the
house of the kingdom, by the might of my power and for the

Online LibraryWilliam M. (William Mackergo) TaylorDavid, king of Israel: his life and its lessons → online text (page 16 of 36)