William M. (William Mackergo) Taylor.

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

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Online LibraryWilliam M. (William Mackergo) TaylorDavid, king of Israel: his life and its lessons → online text (page 30 of 36)
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no remission ;" and all its altars are but like so many finger-
posts pointing down through the ages to Messiah, and hav-
ing on them this inscription, " Behold the Lamb of God which
taketh away the sin of the world !" It was not possible for
the blood of bulls and of goats to take away sin, but these
offerings foreshadowed a sacrifice of richer blood and no-
bler name than themselves, and now in Christ we have the
reality which they prefigured. They were offered, year by
year, continually ; this needed to be offered only once : they
were animals inferior to man ; he was the eternal, only-be-
gotten Son of God in human nature ; and so when he rose
from the tomb of Joseph, it was demonstrated to all that he
had finished transgression and made an end of sin. Till he


appeared, the avenging angel stood between earth and heav-
en, having his sword stretched out over the human race ;
but when he died, that sword was sheathed forever in his
own breast. And as the lightning conductor saves the build-
ing by satisfying the electric law, and drawing the heavenly
fire down upon itself, he saved sinners by attracting in upon
himself, and away from them, the penalty of their transgres-
sions. Here, then, in Christ crucified is the sinner's hope.
" Look unto him and be saved ;" for he is able to save unto
the uttermost all that come unto God by him.

Let us learn, finally, that a sincere sacrifice is always one
that costs us something. David would not offer burnt-offer-
ings of that which cost him nothing, and it would be well if
every professed follower of Jesus acted on the same princi-
ple. Whatever we lay upon God's altar should cost us some-
thing. Are we laboring in the ministry of the Gospel ? then
the offering which we make to God in the pulpit should be
purchased by study, and ought not to be the rash and hasty
utterance of unpremeditated speech. Are we teachers in
the Sunday - school ? then the lesson which we give our
scholars should be given at the cost of prayerful prepara-
tion, and ought not to be the empty talk of those who have
never looked at the subject until they have met their pupils
in the class. Are we asked to contribute to a good cause ?
then the gift which we put into the offering-box should be
something that has cost us some effort or self-denial to ob-
tain, and not simply the overflow of a full cup which we can
give without feeling that we are giving at all. Are we asked
to labor in some enterprise of benevolence ? then we are not
to plead that we can not do so without breaking in upon our
ease and enjoyment, but we are to take a part of these and
use them in the service of the Lord. Yea, what need I more ?
Is not the Christian's whole life, in its loftiest view, a sacri-
fice to Christ ? Let us see, then, that we make it a costly


sacrifice. Let us grudge no labor ; let us spare no pains ;
let us spare no self-denial, if only we may keep ourselves un-
spotted from the world, and make our lives a fitting acknowl-
edgment of the obligation under which we lie to him " who
gave himself for us !" What purity, what love, what self-de-
nial, what activity our lives would manifest, if, looking upon
them as sacrifices to God, we should apply to them the
words of David, " I will not offer burnt-offerings unto the
Lord my God of that which doth cost me nothing." There
will not be wanting those, indeed, to say, as we break our
precious vase, and pour our costly ointment on the Saviour's
head, " To what purpose is this waste ?" But only love can
fully interpret love ; and he who made his greatest sacrifice
for us will rightly understand and thoroughly appreciate our
offering. There is nothing wasted that is expended upon
him. Let us seek, therefore, to cultivate this grace of self-
sacrifice, not only that we may honor him, but that we our-
selves may enter into the full meaning of the precious words,
"It is more blessed to give than to receive." "Every man,
according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give ; not
grudgingly, nor of necessity ; for God loveth a cheerful giver.
And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that
ye always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to
every good work."

" Love still delights to bring her best,
And where love is, that offering evermore is blest."


2 SAMUEL xxii.

THE harp of David was his constant companion. When
in his early days he followed the sheep upon the slopes
of Bethlehem, he beguiled the weary hours with the music of
its notes. At the court of Saul he charmed away the evil
spirit from that monarch's breast by its soothing strains ;
and in all the vicissitudes of his checkered life, his hand, re-
sponsive to his heart, drew from his lyre appropriate music,
while his voice accompanied its sounds in words which,
even apart from the divine inspiration that pervaded them,
" the world will not willingly let die." In the cave of Adul-
lam, in the wilderness of Judah, at the court of Achish, and
in the Valley of the Jordan, on that dismal day when he fled
from his capital, before the rebellious Absalom, we have seen
how he solaced himself with sacred song; and in the deeper
darkness in which he was enveloped by his own shameful sin,
he proved that the contrite heart, when swept by the fingers
of Jehovah's love, gives forth ever the most thrilling tones.

Nor was it only in times of trial that the Psalmist struck
his harp. His joys, as well as his sorrows, found utterance
in song ; and when he brought up the ark to Jerusalem, or
returned in triumph from some long campaign, he signalized
the occasion by a gladsome ode of thanksgiving and praise.
Hence we do not wonder that, when he had been delivered
from all his enemies, and was enjoying a season of repose in
the evening twilight of his life, he gave expression to his feel-
ings in the words of this Psalm. His " May of life had fall-


en now into the sere and yellow leaf." The snows of sev-
enty winters had fallen on his head, but his heart was as
fresh, his imagination as brilliant and his piety as fervent
as ever; so, as he looked back on the way by which the
Lord had led him, and recounted all the deliverances which
God had wrought for him, he took his harp once more, and
sang to its loved music this Psalm, which for faith, for fervor,
for sublimity, and for devout thankfulness, is second to none
of his productions.

We have not hitherto gone very minutely into any of his
Psalms, and have contented ourselves with indicating in a
general way the historical occasions on which some of them
were composed, and pointing out the new significance which
they acquire when read in the light of the circumstances out
of which they sprung ; but as the inspired chronicler has in-
corporated this one in the narrative, and means us to regard
it as David's "even- song," chanted by him on the retrospect
of his life's changeful day, we may profitably spend a short
time in a survey of its contents.

With a considerable number of minor variations, the ode
before us is reproduced as the eighteenth in the book of
Psalms, and it has been said by some that the one is an in-
correct copy of the other. But to me it rather seems that in
the book of Samuel we have it in the form in which at first
the monarch sung it in his closet, as a personal outburst of
gratitude to God ; while in the Psalter we have it revised
and adapted to public worship, for the general use of the
tribes, and so, appropriately addressed to the chief musician.
This view is rendered more probable by the fact that we
have other cases of a similar sort in the book of Psalms, as,
for example, the i4th, the 53d, and the closing strain of the
4oth, which is nearly identical with the yoth. We believe,
therefore, that for reasons which have not been explained,
David prepared a twofold form of this magnificent produc-


tion ; and so, treating the two as separate and independent,
we content ourselves with noting the fact that there are vari-
ations between them, without attempting either to point out,
or to account for, each particular discrepancy.

The mention of Saul in the title does not indicate that
the Psalm was composed in David's early life, but rather
that, even though thirty years had gone since his persecu-
tion by the son of Kish, the deliverances which he then ex-
perienced had not faded from his memory, but still stood
out before him as the greatest mercies which he had ever
received. We are prone to forget past favors. The bene-
factors of our youth are not always remembered in our after-
years ; and in the crowd and conflict of events in our later
history, we have too often little thought to spare, and few
thanks to express, for our early mercies. We do not enough
consider that, in mounting the ladder of life, it is often more
difficult to set our foot on the first round than to take any
single step thereafter ; and, therefore, that those who aided
us in the beginning have given us by far the most effectual
assistance. But it was not so with David, for as he sits here
looking back on his career, his first conflicts seem still his
greatest ; and much as he blessed God for after-kindness,
he places high above all the other favors which he had re-
ceived his deliverance out of the hand of Saul. Nor may
we neglect to note that in all this David is but the repre-
sentative of the believer in Jesus ; for, no matter how many
or how great the mercies which he experiences, the first
grand "crowning mercy "of salvation from the guilt and pol-
lution of iniquity ever comes uppermost ; and to every song
of praise which he sings he adds some such doxology as that
of John : " Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our
sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests
unto God and his Father, to him be glory and dominion for
ever and ever. Amen."


The Psalm may be divided into five distinct though une-
qual parts. There is, first, an introduction extending to the
end of the fourth verse, and giving a general indication of
the character of the ode ; there is, second, a highly figura-
tive and sublime description of the dangers in which he had
been involved, and the deliverance which God had wrought
for him : this comprises verses 5-20 ; there is, third, an ex-
position of that principle of the divine administration in ac-
cordance with which he had been delivered : this is contain-
ed in verses 2 1-29 ; there is, fourth, a recapitulation in more
simple terms of God's doings on his behalf: this includes
verses 30-49 ; there is, finally, the closing stanza, in which
he gathers up the expression of his gratitude into one full
chorus of praise, and looks down the long vista of ages to
the far-off days of the Messiah.

In the introductory portion of the ode David sets forth
what God had been to him, and there are two things which
specially claim attention in his words. The first is the num-
ber and variety of the terms which he employs to describe
the protection which God afforded him ; and the second is
the emphatic personal manner in which he speaks.

He seems to have a difficulty in finding any one word
which would adequately express all that Jehovah had been
to him, so he heaps one term upon another, calling him " a
rock, a fortress, a deliverer, a shield, a high tower, a horn, a
refuge, and a Saviour." This is no vain repetition, neither is
it a straining after effect, like that of the young orator who
piles epithet upon epithet, weakening only where he meant
to strengthen ; but it is an attempt to describe, from many
sides, that which he felt could not be fully shown from any
single stand-point He means to say, that for every sort of
peril in which he had been placed, God had been a protection
appropriate thereto. As if he had said, " those whom God
intends to succor and defend are not only safe against one


kind of dangers, but are, as it were, surrounded by impreg-
nable ramparts on all sides ; so that, should a thousand
deaths be presented to their view, they ought not to be afraid
even at this formidable array." Nor is this many-sided de-
scription of God's protection without its value to us ; for
though we may have proved his power to help us in one way,
we are apt to fall into despair when some new danger threat-
ens us ; and therefore it is re-assuring to have David's testi-
mony to the fact, that those whom God shields are incased
all round, and will have perfect protection in every emergen-
cy. But numerous as are the figures under which God's help
is here brought before us, each of them is preceded by the
emphatic appropriating "my."* It is remarkable that when
the soul is either very deeply sunk in sorrow, or very high-
ly elevated in joy, its language is thoroughly personal. All
vague generalities and commonplace phraseology are swept
away, and the heart speaks for itself. It will allow no stran-
ger to intermeddle either with its gladness or its grief; but
it becomes intensely personal, and deals only in the singular
number. The hymn of Hannah and the magnificat of Mary
are illustrations in point; and in the epistles of Paul, although
the apostle often uses the plural number in the course of his
argument, yet when he ascends to the higher region of expe-
rience, he drops the we and the our, and it is then, " I thank
God, through Jesus Christ my Lord ; I live ; yet not I, but
Christ liveth in me." Nowhere, however, does this personali-

* In my early boyhood, after having heard a sermon in which the
preacher dwelt much on " the appropriating act of faith," I asked my
father what he meant by that expression. He gave me the same reply
which had been given him by his mother to the same inquiry, when he
was a lad, viz., "Take your Bible, and underscore all the 'mys,' the
' mines,' and the ' mes ' you come upon, and you will soon discover what
appropriation is." It is the focusing of all that God is upon yourself, even
as the lens concentrates the sun's rays upon one bright, burning spot.


ty of earnestness more frequently appear than in the Psalms
of David j and in the firm appropriation which he here makes
of God to himself we see how necessary to spiritual hap-
piness it is that we should be able to call God our own. A
fortress is threatening and terrible to all who are outside of it;
but it is, just because of that, only the more safe to those who
are within it ; and only when we believingly appropriate God
as our own do we enter into the divine fortress and enjoy his
protection. So long as we are unreconciled to him, his glo-
rious attributes, his infinite resources, his boundless might
appear arrayed against us ; but when, through faith in Jesus
Christ, we enter into covenant with him, all these are on our
side, and we are enabled to sing, " Behold God is my salva-
tion." Mark, is our salvation ; that is a higher thing than
to say God works out our salvation. He stands between us
and every evil ; and because we are Christ's, and Christ is
his, we can say with truth that all things, however frowning
they may look, are ours. My hearer, have you said unto the
Lord, thou art my God ? Is he thy salvation ? Remember
that he is not and can not be the salvation of any one until
the soul of the individual believingly appropriates him. Take
him thus to thy heart ; give him thus thy hand, and thou art
safe forever.

In the second portion of the Psalm, extending from the
fifth to the twentieth verse, the inspired poet describes his
perils and his deliverances, depicting "by the sublimest ex-
pressions and loftiest terms the majesty of God, and the
awful manner in which he came to his assistance, saved him
from his enemies, and extricated him from all his difficulties,
namely, by arming, as it were, the elements of heaven against
them, and sending a dreadful storm of thunder, lightning,
hail, rain, and tempestuous wind to discomfit and destroy
them. In this description there is every circumstance of
horror that can be mentioned ; the sentiments and images


are grand beyond description, the words lofty and express-
ive, and God is introduced in a manner worthy of his maj-
esty, encompassed with all the powers of nature as his at-
tendants, and as the instruments of his vengeance to execute
his purposes in the salvation of David and the destruction
of his enemies."* He speaks of his sufferings in this wise :
" The waves of death compassed me, the floods of ungodly
men made me afraid. The sorrows of Hades compassed me
about, the snares of death were laid for me in anticipation."
And when we remember his hair- breadth escape from the
javelin of Saul, and the many occasions in which he was im-
periled by the machinations of his enemies, we may not say
that he exaggerates ; but through them all his solace was in
prayer. " In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried
unto my God : he heard my voice out of his temple, and my
cry came before him, even into his ears." The good man's
refuge is ever at the mercy-seat. Though every way seem
shut against him, the way to God is always open, and when
he can get near to Jehovah he is safe ; for then he links him-
self to omnipotence, and God's faithfulness is pledged to give
him succor. Very deeply was this felt by David in all his ca-
lamities, and he did not cry to God in vain ; for he sent him
deliverance in such signal ways that it was made perfectly
evident that his salvation was of the Lord. The delineation
of his deliverance here is in a strain of the most highly-
wrought imagery, borrowed from the description of Jehovah's
descent on Sinai ; and such is the inherent sublimity of his
words, that even the most meagre translations of them catch
somewhat of their grandeur. The old version of Sternhold
and Hopkins ceases to be doggerel, and becomes classic
here ; and as we read the lines,

* " A Critical History of the Life of David," by S. Chandler, D.D.,
p. 366.



" On cherub and on cherubim

Full royally he rode,
And on the wings of mighty winds
Came flying all abroad,"

we have before us a conception the most sublime that ever
entered into human imagination.* We must remember,
however, that all this is poetic, and not historic. David
does not mean to say that these portents actually accom-
panied God's descent to his assistance. The simple truth
is, that no miracles were wrought on David's account, but
still his deliverance was as much God's doing as if he had
come down with all the glory of Sinai in his defense ; and
the discomfiture of his enemies was as complete as if Jeho-
vah of hosts had marshaled the armies which marched forth
to meet them ; so that, as the result of all, he makes this
acknowledgment, " He brought me forth into a large place ;
he delivered me, because he delighted in me."

This last phrase, " He delighted in me," fitly introduces
the next division of the Psalm, which sets forth the harmo-
ny of David's deliverance with the general principle of the
divine administration. There is a retributive element in
God's moral government. The Saviour himself has said,
"With what measure ye mete it shall be measured to you
again ;" and David here asserts that God deals with men ac-
cording to the principles on which men themselves act to-
ward each other. To the merciful, God is merciful ; to the
upright, he is upright ; to the pure, he is pure ; and to the
froward, he is froward. This last term, indeed, must not be
held as denoting that God is ever in himself froward, but
that in his providential government of men, the individual
who is froward is met with the frowardness of another ; or

* See an interesting paper on this verse, and the imitations of it by
modern poets, in Henry Kirke White's "Remains," p. 294.


if this be not strong enough as an interpretation, we must
hold the words as equivalent to the declaration made else-
where, that " he taketh the wise in their own craftiness, and
that he causes men to fall themselves into the pit which they
have digged for others." The general principle is this, that
God is on the side of right, and that if men conscientiously
adhere to that which they know to be their duty, he will, in
the long run, "bring forth their righteousness as the light,
and their judgment as the noonday." Now, in the main
David did this, so far, at least, as his public administration
and public enemies were concerned. I speak not now of
his character before God ; for so viewed, he was far from
perfect; but as he stood related to his subjects and his
enemies, he was distinguished by integrity and uprightness.
He was not dishonestly seeking his own ends. He was
only following God's leadings, and the men who were op-
posed to him were his enemies, just because he was so con-
spicuously the servant and the friend of God. The words
of Mr. Spurgeon here are well worthy of quotation : "Al-
beit the dispensations of divine grace are to the fullest de-
gree sovereign and irrespective of human merit, yet in the
dealings of Providence there is often discernible a rule of
justice by which the injured are avenged and the righteous
ultimately triumph. David's early troubles arose from the
wicked malice of envious Saul, who, no doubt, prosecuted
his persecutions under cover of charges brought against the
character of the man after God's own heart. These charges
David declares to have been utterly false, and asserts that
he possessed a grace-given righteousness which the Lord
had graciously rewarded in defiance of all his calumniators.
Before God, the man after God's own heart was a humble
sinner; but before his slanderers he could, with unblushing
face, speak of the cleanness of his hands and the righteous-
ness of his life. He knows little of the sanctifying power of


divine grace who is not, at the bar of human equity, able to
plead innocence. There is no self-righteousness in an hon-
est man knowing that he is honest, nor even in his believing
that God rewarded him in Providence because of his hones-
ty, for such is often a most evident matter of fact. It is not
at all an opposition to the doctrine of salvation by grace, and
no sort of evidence of a Pharisaic spirit, when a gracious man,
having been slandered, stoutly maintains his own integrity
and vigorously defends his character. A godly man has a
clear conscience, and knows himself to be upright. Is he
to deny his own consciousness, and to despise the work of
the Holy Ghost by hypocritically making himself worse than
he is ? A godly man prizes his integrity very highly, or else
he could not be a godly man at all ; and is he to be called
proud because he will not readily lose the jewel of a reputa-
ble character ? A godly man can see that in divine Provi-
dence uprightness and truth are, in the long run, sure to
bring their own reward ; may he not, when he sees that re-
ward bestowed in his own case, praise the Lord for it ? Yea,
rather, must he not show forth the faithfulness and goodness
of his God ? This cluster of expressions, therefore, must be
read as the song of a good conscience after having safely
outridden a storm of obloquy, persecution, and abuse ; and
then there will be no fear of our upbraiding the writer as one
who sets too high a price upon his own moral character."*
The principle underlying this section of the Psalm is the
same as that which has been expanded into the 37th and
73d odes in our Psalter, and must never be lost sight of by
any of us. It is " unto the upright " that " light ariseth into
darkness," and it is he whose heart is established, and who
shall not be afraid until he shall see his desire upon his
enemies. Or, more simply still, even in the present life

* Spurgeon's " Treasury of David," vol. i., pp. 272, 273.


there is a retributive element in God's moral government,
and men shall be done by as they do.

From the thirtieth verse on till the close of the forty-ninth
we have a virtual recapitulation, only in simpler phrase and
in more detail, of the deliverances which David had experi-
enced ; and it is interesting to note all through this section
of the ode indeed, I may say, throughout the entire Psalm
the writer's recognition of God's hand in every thing.
There had been many human agents employed in working for
him, but here he makes mention of God alone. In the suc-
ceeding chapter the historian gives us a list of David's thirty-
seven mighty men, and recounts some of their most valiant

Online LibraryWilliam M. (William Mackergo) TaylorDavid, king of Israel: his life and its lessons → online text (page 30 of 36)