November 2006 - Vol. 1

The Heart of David

by Mike Shaughnessy

David playing the harp by Rembrandt

A Psalm of David the servant of the Lord,
who addressed the words of this song to the Lord
on the day when the Lord delivered him
from the hand of all his enemies,
and from the hand of Saul.
He said: I love you, O Lord, my strength.
Psalm 18:1

What first comes to your mind when you think of the great king, David? The battle with Goliath? His affair with Bathsheba? His friendship with Jonathan? As significant as all these events were, his lasting impact was not through subduing the Philistines and building a kingdom. His kingdom was soon weakened, then divided and finally destroyed. His lasting impact was not in the models he gave us of true contrition for sin, nor of brotherly love. Apart from being an ancestor of the Lord, probably his greatest impact was and continues to be in the area of worship, especially in the psalms.

So, it makes sense for us to try to understand why he wrote them. What moved him? And what he did to establish the worship life of Israel.

The psalms David wrote for worship 3,000 years ago are still being used today

About David, the Lord said, 'I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will' (Acts 13:22). The Lord was pleased by David's willingness to obey. Even though David erred and fell, he always returned to the Lord. He was a man after God's own heart. He loved the Lord and desired the love of the Lord in return. He was so unashamed of this that he danced naked before all of Israel because of it. Like David, we want to be men and women who are after God's heart. We want an ever deeper relationship with the Lord, a deeper love for him.

David gave expression to this love for the Lord in worship and song. His love impacted all Israel. He intended it to. David put great effort into developing the prayer life of a whole country. He wanted all of Israel to know and love the Lord as he did. Worship wasn't just a hobby, something he worked on between wars or on his day off. Having united Israel in the face of its enemies and then defeated them, David went on to unite them before God by establishing a common way of worship for them. Formerly, Israel worshipped God on many hills and in many ways. Now David united them.

Some of his effort in the area of worship can be seen in 1 Chronicles 16 and 22-26. At the time, Israel's worship was seriously lacking. Because David's heart was for the Lord, he wanted to see that Israel worshipped the Lord in a way that was fitting. He organised the people and the worship of Israel. He crafted new instruments. He assigned people to sing, to play, (four thousand were to learn to play for worship alone), to burn incense, to consecrate objects used in worship, to offer sacrifice, to cleanse utensils, to be gatekeepers, to pronounce blessing, to keep the temple clean, to assist with the show bread, to prophesy with lyres, harps and symbols, and to keep charge of the treasuries and dedicated gifts. This was all in an effort to make sure that the worship of the Lord was continually happening in the nation of Israel. Worship was something that involved everyone. It was not a spectator sport.

David serves as a model for anyone who wants to take worship seriously. We may not all be gifted in the area of worship but we can seek to imitate David's heart for the Lord and give it expression in the best quality worship we can give.

Look upon Jerusalem the city now restored
Here the tribes of Yahweh come as one unto the Lord.
As he ordered Israel, they come to praise his name,
Here where courts of justice, the courts of David reign.

[Mike Shaughnessy is an Elder of The Servants of the Word. He lives in Lansing, Michigan, USA .]

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