William M. (William Mackergo) Taylor.

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

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deeds ; and, as the honors which their monarch conferred
upon them conclusively show, he was not ungrateful to them
for their fidelity, but his highest praise, and his devoutest
thanks went to the God who wrought in and through them
for his anointed's sake. Herein the Psalmist has left us an
example worthy of our imitation. We see the visible instru-
ment, but we forget all too often the invisible Author of all
our mercies ; and in these days especially, when men make
so much of physical laws, we are apt to hide God behind the
operations which he is himself carrying on ; and while ad-
miring the harmony and order of the universe, we have no
song of praise to Him who upholds it all. Let us be on our
guard against all this. It might perhaps be too much to say,
with Wordsworth, that one would " rather be a pagan, suckled
in a creed outworn," than one of those who believe that the
world is governed by laws without a lawgiver. But to me
there is no atheism more revolting than that of the man, be
he philosopher or not, who takes all his mercies as things of
course, ground out to him daily by the mill of ceaseless law,
and who has no song of gratitude to sing to Him " of whom,
and to whom, and through whom are all things."

But while in these verses we have this recognition of God


in all things everywhere apparent, there are specially three
attributes of God himself which are prominently mentioned
in them. The first is his faithfulness, as set forth in the ex-
pression, " The word of the Lord is tried." The term " tried "
denotes generally " put to the test ;" but here it has involved
in it the additional idea that the trial has been satisfactorily
passed. Before they are considered fit for actual service on
shipboard, anchors, chains, and cables are subjected to such
a strain as shall give those who employ them confidence to
use them in any emergency ; and when some great engineer-
ing work is finished, a railway viaduct, for example, it is test-
ed by some rigid trial before it is opened for public traffic.
Now, David's life had been, in some sense, such a trial of the
Word of God. By his struggles, his sorrows, his emergencies,
yea, even by his sins, he had been, as it were, put forth to
show how great a strain the promises of God could bear ;
and so at the close of his career he says : " The Word of the
Lord is tried. It has stood firm with me in all my conflicts
and calamities, and despite all my sins ; therefore let no one
despair. That which has been so solid beneath the weight
even of my sinful tread, will support any one who trustfully
ventures on it for himself." Thus interpreted, these words
of David are an exact parallel to the testimony of Paul, when
he says :* " This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all ac-
ceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sin-
ners ; of whom I am chief" (or first). " Howbeit for this cause
I obtained mercy, that in me first" (that is, first not in the or-
der of time, but first in the degree of guilt a sinner of the
first rank an Ai sinner) "Jesus Christ might show forth all
long-suffering, for a pattern to them, which should hereafter
believe on him to life everlasting." What an encouragement,
therefore, is there here to every one to rest in faith upon the

* i Timothy i., 15, 16.


promise of Jehovah ! No matter though we may have been
sinners of as deep a dye as Paul murderers, blasphemers,
persecutors ; no matter though we may have been back-
sliders of as dark a character as David adulterers, liars,
murderers, yet if even " from thence we seek the Lord, we
shall find him, if we seek him with all our hearts." He who
received them will not spurn us away from him. The prom-
ise which upheld them will support us. The welcome which
was given to them will not be withheld from us, for is it not
written, " Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast
out?" This Word has been tried and proved in different
ages of the Church, now by an Augustine, and now by a Lu-
ther ; now by a Bunyan, and now by a Newton ; but never,
perhaps, was it put to so great a strain as when the male-
factor on the cross cried at the very warning of the twelfth
hour to Jesus, " Lord, remember me when thou comest into
thy kingdom !" Let the answer which then came, " To-day
shalt thou be with me in paradise," encourage thee, oh sin-
ner, to put it to the proof now for thyself, and thou shalt be
another trophy of the Redeemer's power to save, another
witness bearer to the faithfulness of God in the keeping of
his gracious promise.

The second quality of the divine character to which spe-
cial prominence is given in these verses is the gentleness of
God. It comes out in these words : " Thy gentleness hath
made me great." This expression is to me the gem of the
Psalm. I am never weary of recurring to it. As in looking
on a spacious landscape, every feature of which is beautiful,
the eye finds itself at length resting with supreme satisfac-
tion on some one object of surpassing loveliness within it ;
or, as in listening to a piece of music, all of which is inspir-
iting, the ear catches up some specially bewitching strain,
which we keep humming over to ourselves in all our inter-
vals of labor ; so, after we have read this whole Psalm, we


come back again and again to this delightful phrase. It
falls upon the ear as if with the soft breathings of an asolian
harp, and amidst the jewels which shine out of this Book of
Truth, there is not one that sparkles with a radiance so di-
vine as this, " Thy gentleness hath made me great !" It is
indeed the very heart and centre of the cross of Christ. Da-
vid felt that God's kindness to him, in his weakness, his way-
wardness, his very wantonness of sin, had lifted him up to
the external greatness of his throne, and had built up in him
the internal greatness of his character.

But what did he know of this quality of Jehovah's heart,
compared with that of it which has been revealed to us in
the work of Christ, and in our calling into and training in
the Christian life ? While we lay helplessly condemned be-
neath the sentence of his law, God came to us, not with
Sinai's terror, but with tender love. " He that might the
vantage best have took, found out the remedy." And while
his sternness might have driven us from him, or moved us
to strive against him, we have willingly yielded to the attrac-
tion of his gentleness. Go read the record of the Saviour's
dealings with the woman at the well, with the woman that
was a sinner, with the self-satisfied Nicodemus, and with the
publican Zaccheus, and see how much his gentleness did in
making them truly great. Nay, look back on your own ex-
perience, and bear witness to those around you, how his love
"drew you, and you followed on," willingly surrendering
yourselves to its divine attraction. Nor is this all. Even
when we have been suffering under his hand, or have been
wandering from his way, how much of gentleness has he man-
ifested in our very chastisement. He has " stayed his rough
wind, in the day of his east wind ;" and if, like the eagle with
her young, he has " stirred our nest " and pushed us out of
it, we have scarcely remembered the roughness of that disci-
pline, when we have found ourselves upborne on the ample


wings of his grace, to loftier attainments in holiness than oth-
erwise we could have reached. All along the pathways by
which he has led us, we have met manifestations of his gen-
tleness : it has been the background of our very trials, and
as the mother soothes her broken-hearted and dispirited
child by the loving ministrations of her tender hand, until he
has forgotten his sorrow in the sunshine of her affection,
so God has been with us, " gentle as a nurse cherishing her
children." He has borne with us as none other could have
done ; and by that " method of indirectness " which the moth-
er knows so well how to practice with her wayward boy, he
has led us by a way which we knew not, and kept us attached
not by any outward bond, but by the inner tie of endear-
ing affection to himself. I have heard one tell, with ring-
ing laughter, how once in a storm at sea, when danger was
anticipated, a great overgrown man, not used to prayer, and
remembering only the hymn of his childhood, flung himself
upon his knees, and cried,

" Gentle Jesus, meek and mild,
Look upon a little child !"

But, after all, are we not all, even the oldest among us,
children still, and is not this still the most endearing epithet
of Jesus to every one of us "gentle Jesus." I beseech you,
therefore, brethren, by the gentleness of Christ, that ye pre-
sent yourselves now unto him, and so receive from him the
greatness of present holiness and future immortality. Every
day we live we are receiving new proofs of his tender love
to us ; but when we have passed through the veil, and stand
in heaven's own light, looking back upon all the ways in
which our God has dealt with us, we shall understand this
phrase more fully than we ever can on earth ; and as we
cast our crowns before the throne, our adoring homage to
him who sits thereon will find its appropriate expression



in these blessed words : " Thy gentleness hath made me
great !"

The third divine attribute to which prominence is here
given is the eternity of God. It comes out in these words :
" The Lord liveth, and blessed be my rock ; and let the God
of my salvation be exalted." A certain sense of solitariness
grows" upon a man as he becomes older. Those who were
venerable in his youthful days, and to whom he looked for
counsel, are one by one carried to the tomb. The compan-
ions of his early manhood fall at his side. He comes at
length to a time when he does not care to make many new
friends ; and when he reaches the limit of three-score years
-and ten, he begins to feel himself almost a stranger, even in
the place where he has spent his life. Perhaps a king, more
than most other men, will realize this experience. The poet
has spoken of "the lonely glory of a throne." The monarch
has no equals, and, from the nature of the case, can have few
confidants and counselors, except such as are venerable for
age. But as his reign wears on, one after another of these
early friends are taken away ; and as each is removed, he is
apt to think that a part of himself has been withdrawn from
him. Thus loneliness steals over him, and he comes at length
to be, like Moses among the tribes, the solitary survivor of
a buried generation. Something like this, I doubt not, was
felt by David as he advanced into old age. Samuel was
gone; Jonathan was no more; Ahithophel had proved a
traitor ; Joab had become a thorn in his side ; but there was
One always true, and it was with no ordinary emotion, we
may be sure, that out of his earthly solitude he sang of his
fidelity and deathlessness : " The Lord liveth, and blessed
be my rock, and exalted be the God of my salvation." Let
the aged among us fall back on this assurance, and find
their solace in the companionship of the Most High. He
hath said, " I will never leave thee nor forsake thee."

. EVEN-SONG. 395

The last strain of this remarkable Psalm gathers into one
inference of gratitude all the argument of the ode : " There-
fore I will give thanks unto thee, O Lord ;" and looking for-
ward to the permanence of his song, and its acceptance by
the Gentiles as a portion of their daily psalmody, he adds,
"among the Gentiles." Then, calling to mind Nathan's
prediction of the eternity of his kingdom, he concludes with
these words : " He is the tower of salvation for his king :
and sheweth mercy unto his anointed, unto David and to
his seed for evermore." Thus, rising out of David's per-
sonal history, this ode, like many others, ascends at length
to David's Lord, of whom, in the "perspective of proph-
ecy," the singer caught a glimpse ere yet he laid aside his

I have taken merely the most cursory glance at the struc-
ture of this sublime poem. Let me commend it to your care-
ful study in the retirement of the closet, and meanwhile let
me suggest two practical lessons from this whole subject.

Let us learn, then, to thank God for our mercies and de-
liverances. When the crisis of some great agony is on us,
there are no words which leap so readily to our lips as these :
" God help me !" At such times we feel shut up to go to
God, and we engage our friends to pray to him on our
behalf. But when the danger is past and the suffering is
gone, how seldom we think of Him on whom, while they
lasted, we called so passionately for relief. Of the ten
lepers whom Jesus cleansed, only one returned to give him

We despise the conduct of the French infidel who, while
the storm was threatening to submerge the vessel in which
he sailed, was on his knees in trembling prayer ; but when
the gale was over, ridiculed his own fear as cowardice, and
laughed at his own prayer as superstition. But are we so
much better ourselves ? Where is our thanksgiving for God's


free mercy, which, in answer to our prayers, he has so fre-
quently shown us ? In the time of pestilence the churches
will be crowded with eager suppliants that the plague may be
removed ; but when the disease has gone, you will have only
the merest handful to hold a day of thanksgiving. It is not
always thus, indeed ; "and when true gratitude is manifested
it moves us intensely, even from its very rarity. One case
of this description, at the close of the cotton famine in Lan-
cashire, England, stirred the whole British nation to its
depths. It was in the town of Staleybridge, which for many
months had been suffering the deepest distress. All those
weary weeks its factories had been silent, and its tall chim-
neys smokeless ; and its operatives, all their savings gone,
were reduced to a want which they bore with the most heroic
endurance. At length the war was ended, and a consign-
ment of cotton came to the town. Hastening to the railway
depot, the men unyoked the horses from the first wagon,
and drew it themselves into the court-yard of one of the fac-
tories. Soon an immense crowd surrounded it, and the tears
filled the eyes of the multitude as they gazed upon it, for it
meant employment, and employment meant bread. Just
then, while all were deeply moved, one solitary voice began
to sing the grand old doxology, " Praise God, from whom all
blessings flow," and in a moment every one in the vast as-
semblage joined in, while on the gaunt and famine-stricken
cheeks of faces upturned to heaven the big tears kept cours-
ing down. Often has that simple strain been sung in most
inspiring circumstances, but never with more depth of feel-
ing or more fervor of gratitude than on that occasion. But
why should our gratitude be confined to rare seasons ? The
true thanksgiving is thanksliving. The noblest doxology is
a holy life. Let us aim, my brethren, to translate into con-
duct the words of this sublime Psalm ; let us make each his
own life a hymn of praise, according to the poet's advice :


" Be good, my child, and let who will be clever
Do noble deeds, not dream them all day long ;
And so make life, death, and that vast forever
One grand deep song."*

Finally, let us learn from the experience of God's goodness
in the past, and trust to him for the present and the future.
" The Lord's aye to the fore," said a good Scotchwoman in
her day of trial ; and by this faith she was upheld. "The best
of all is, God is with us," said John Wesley, as he was dy-
ing and by this trust he was supported as he passed within
the veil. David had many experiences of God's faithfulness,
and so he could go calmly forward, saying, "God lives, bless-
ed be my rock ; and let the God of my salvation be exalted."
Let us follow his example, and "remember the days of old."
The Lord is now just what he was when he delivered us in
the past. He loves us as tenderly as he did then. He is as
near us as he was then. And he will deliver us once more.
Oliver Heywood, one of the English Puritan ministers who
was ejected in 1662 by the odious Act of Uniformity, has
related a touching anecdote which may impress the lesson
on which I now insist more forcibly than any words of mine.
He tells of a mother who, when one child was taken from
her, calmly bowed to the trial, and said, " God lives, blessed
be my rock ; and let the God of my salvation be exalted."
Another child was removed by death, and still she sang as
before, " God lives." But at length her beloved husband was
stricken down, and she seemed to sink into the very depths
of despair. As she sat wringing her hands in anguish, a lit-
tle child, whom God had spared to her, came to her knee
and said, " Mother, is God dead ?" " God dead, my child !
What do you mean ?" "When brother and sister were taken
away, you said, ' God lives ;' but now that father is no more,

* Charles Kingsley.


you sit and weep, and never say a word about God ; so I
thought he must be dead too." " No, my child, God is not
dead ; and he has sent you to rebuke the unbelief of my ,
heart. He liveth ; yes, he liveth ! and I will still cling to
him. ' Blessed be his name, and let the God of my salvation
be exalted.' " God liveth ! Let that be the sheet-anchor of
your heart, and it will hold you in the fiercest hurricane.




i KINGS i. ; i CHRONICLES xxviii. ; xxix.

AVID was now a feeble old man. The silver cord
was beginning to be loosed, and the golden bowl was
breaking. The grasshopper had become a burden, and
desire had failed. The days had come when, in regard to
all mere earthly joys, he said, " I have no pleasure in them."
He was waiting patiently for his change, having his comfort
cared for and his wants supplied by a beautiful Shunammite
maiden, who had been carefully selected for the purpose.
Surely, now, the storms of his life are ended, and he will
have a smooth sea as he glides into the eternal haven. So
we might have reckoned ; but still the dark retribution of
his evil deed was following him ; and ere he fell asleep in
death, the words of Nathan, " The sword shall never depart
from thine house," were to have another fulfillment. Ado-
nijah, his fourth son, whom he had pampered and petted by
the weakest indulgence, impatient for his father's death, and
eager to obtain his crown, entered into a well-concerted plan
to secure the object of his ambition. Let the parents before
me take note of this, and mark the folly of permitting their
children to go unrestrained into wickedness, or to obtain
without control every capricious desire. David " had never
displeased Adonijah at any time in saying, Why hast thou
done so ?" And now behold the result, as the monarch's
old age is saddened by the revolt of another of his sons
against his authority. Indiscriminate indulgence of a son
will only issue in his open rebellion against his father. We


may pamper our children into wrath, as well as provoke
them to it ; and he is no true lover either of himself or of
his son who does not seek to govern him by affectionate re-
straint. There must be discipline in the home, else the is-
sue will be sorrow. The rule must not be that of the des-
pot, indeed, else the end will also be disastrous ; but there
must be rule only let the hand of firmness wear ever the
glove of love.

After the example of Absalom, Adonijah set up a great
establishment, and rode about in a chariot drawn by horses
magnificently caparisoned, and preceded by fifty heralds.
Among his adherents were Joab, the captain of the host, and
Abiathar the priest. We do not wonder at the defection of
the crafty son of Zeruiah, for David had made him feel in
many ways that he was weary of his arrogant and overbear-
ing demeanor ; and he knew that he had little or nothing to
hope for from Solomon if he should come to the throne.
But it is not so easy to account for Abiathar's desertion.
He had been with David in the cave of Adullam, had been
the companion of his vicissitudes for more than thirty years,
and had done noble service during Absalom's revolt ; and it
is with the deepest sorrow that we see him now among those
who are taking advantage of the monarch's weakness to put
a creature of their own upon the throne. Mr. Blunt* sup-
poses, and with some show of probability, that in the later
years of his reign David had in some way shown his prefer-
ence for Zadok over Abiathar, and that in jealousy of his ri-
val, whom David had favored, we have the key of his con-
nection with Adonijah's rebellion. But whatever might be
his secret reason for his treasonable conduct, he would be at
no loss for pretexts by which to vindicate it both to himself
and others. He might allege that Adonijah was the eldest

* Blunt's " Scriptural Coincidences," pp. 153-157.


surviving son of David ; and that, as he was in the mid-time
of his days, and not, like Solomon, a mere youth, many dan-
gers to the State might be escaped by seating him upon the
throne. But God had already indicated, in the most solemn
manner, that Solomon was to be his father's successor ; and
any attempt to give the kingdom to another was not only
rebellion against David, but treason against Jehovah.

On this ground, therefore, as well as on that of personal
devotion to the aged king, the revolt of Adonijah was op-
posed by Nathan, by Zadok, by Benaiah, the son of Jehoiada,
and by the great majority of the mighty men whom David
had honored for their valor in his service. Against such
weighty adversaries one would have supposed that Adoni-
jah might have despaired of success ; but perhaps he im-
agined that Joab and his army would prove more than a
match for any force that could be arrayed against him. In
any case, he acted with the greatest promptitude, and went
out with his followers to the well En-rogel, near to which
Jonathan and Ahimaaz had been concealed on the day of
the king's flight from Jerusalem. Here he made a great
feast, and was already rejoicing in the success which he im-
agined he had achieved, when he found himself unexpect-
edly checkmated and defeated ; for Nathan, having heard of
his doings, had gone immediately to Bath-sheba, and sent
her into the royal closet to inform the king of what was go-
ing on. While she was yet speaking to him, Nathan him-
self, according to previous agreement with her, came in and
confirmed her words ; whereupon, after assuring Bath-sheba
with an oath that the throne should be given to Solomon,
David gave such orders to Nathan, Zadok, and Jehoiada, as
showed that even in the smouldering ashes of the old man
something of the ancient fire still lived. He bade them set
Solomon upon the white mule of state, and lead him through
the city to Gihon, where Zadok should anoint him king in


Jehovah's name. This done, he commanded that the trump-
et should be blown before him, and the shout raised, " God
save King Solomon." Thereafter they were to bring him
back to the palace and seat him on the throne, that all might
know that he had appointed him to be ruler over Israel.

These injunctions were obeyed to the letter, and the re-
sult was that the popular enthusiasm was evoked to the
utmost ; for the people " piped with pipes, and rejoiced with
great joy, and the earth rent with the sound of them." The
echo of their shouting broke in upon the mirth of Adonijah's
feast at En-rogel, and provoked from Joab the question,
"Wherefore is this noise of the city being in an uproar?"
which Jonathan, the son of Abiathar, came just in time to
answer. He told all that we have recounted, adding, as a
new incident, that the servants of the king had gone to con-
gratulate him upon Solomon's appointment, saying to him,
" God make the name of Solomon better than thy name, and
make his throne greater than thy throne ;" and receiving for
answer, " Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, which hath
given one to sit on my throne this day, mine eyes even see-
ing it." These tidings at once disconcerted the followers
of Adonijah, so that they fled every man to his home, while
the prince himself sought refuge in the Tabernacle, and
laying hold upon the horns of the altar, said, " Let King
Solomon swear unto me to-day that he will not slay his serv-
ant with the sword." Wisely, however, Solomon declined
to fetter himself with any oath, but simply, said, " If he will

Online LibraryWilliam M. (William Mackergo) TaylorDavid, king of Israel: his life and its lessons → online text (page 31 of 36)