I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging for bread. – David, Psalm 37:25
Poets or songwriters use their art to express truths or emotions that aren’t easily communicated through other means. Oftentimes I have read the poetry or heard the songs of people I was familiar with, only to realize that my understanding of those people was shallow at best. Written words often provide a window into the soul of the people who write them, revealing who they really are on the inside. I have heard it said that the composer Beethoven in person was really a difficult personality to get along with, but anyone who has heard his music will likely understand more about the soul of Beethoven than many of the people who knew him during his life.
When we read the songs that David wrote, it is easy to mentally disconnect from the fact that these were the heartfelt expressions of a person who lived long ago, but just like all of us. David’s life was filled both with great hope and deep sorrows. David was born into a home where the order of birth was important in determining social status, and having seven older brothers he was left to perform only the lowest of tasks. When the prophet Samuel came and asked to see all of his brothers, David’s own father didn’t regard him enough to bring him along. When David was later anointed King by the prophet, David began a life that was filled with adventure, excitement, enemies and lonliness.
David wrote songs his entire life, many of which are contained in the book of Psalms, and they reveal to us the heart and emotions of the man who wrote them. What makes David so different for most of us however is the chief subject and object of his writings, which was the God of Israel. It is easy to understand why someone would write prolifically about a person or place they love, but to write about a god seems foreign and unusual. It could be said that the story of David’s life amounts to a lifelong love story about his relationship with God. At the earliest points in his life while tending sheep in isolation, God was there. When David ran out to meet the giant in battle, God was there. When David was hiding in a cave from a King who sought his life, God was there. When David sinned against God by committing adultery and murder, God was still there. As an old man David looked back on the life he had lived and saw God as being the one constant of his life, who was always there.
People often relate to and value songs about love, to the degree that the songs themselves will reinforce their own feelings. The songs become expressions of the unexpressed feelings that they have, and become valuable to them for that reason. In the same way, the psalms of David are a resource to those who love God and have learned to rely on Him. David experienced things in his life far worse than what most any of us will ever have to face - who fought in countless battles, was slandered by his closest friends, and hated by powerful enemies. Through all of this however David realized that there was a source of power available in God for deliverance.
David’s life when viewed from a distance can seem extreme or even superhuman, but David himself had a heart that was very meek and humble. In Psalm 69:5 he wrote, “O God, you know my foolishness; and my sins are not hid from you.” If we can relate to David in that point alone, we should also consider what David said after a lifelong relationship with God, “The Lord is near to all that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth. He will fulfil the desire of those who fear him: he also will hear their cry, and will save them.” –Psalm 145:18-19
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