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Thursday, July 18th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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David - in His Services

Whyte's Dictionary of Bible Characters

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GOD is the only master with servants who accepts the intention for the action. God alone of all paymasters pays as good wages for the good intentions of His servants as He pays for their best performances. One of David's greatest and best services to God and man never went further than the good intention. But David was as much praised and as much paid for his good intention to build the temple as if he had lived to see the golden towers of God's house shining in the Sabbath sun. It will help on your salvation to lay it to heart that hell is paved with good intentions; and it will, at the same time, comfort every good and honest heart to be told that good intentions form some of the surest of stepping-stones to heaven. Think much about intentions. Give, and it shall be given you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that you mete withal it shall be measured to you again. After which Bengel acutely annotates that it is by our hearts that we both mete out to others and have it meted out to ourselves. It would have gone hard with the poor widow if she had only had a farthing meted out to her in her Lord's judgment on her. But her Lord looked on her heart. And thus it is that she sits in heaven today among the queens who sit there on their thrones of gold, because she had such a queenly heart that day in the temple porch. Both from David's intended temple; from the poor widow's actual collection at the door of David's temple; and from Bengel's spiritual annotation let us learn this spiritual lesson, that our hearts are the measure both of our work and of our wages in the sight of God. You cannot build and repair all the churches and mission-houses and manses at home and abroad you would like to build and repair. You cannot endow all the chairs of sacred learning you would like. You cannot contribute to the sustentation and spread of the Christian ministry as you would like. You cannot visit and relieve all the fatherless and widows in their affliction as you would like. You cannot stop all the sources of sin and misery in this world as you would like. You cannot make the reading, or the religion, or the devotional life of your people what your heart is full of. You wish you could. So did David. David had magnificent dreams about the temple. He built the temple every night in his sleep. And had he been permitted he would not have slept with his fathers till he had dedicated a most magnifical house to the name of the Lord. But it stands in God's true and faithful word that it was all in David's heart. And He who looks not so much on the action as on the intention, He saw in this also a man after His own heart. May all David's good intentions, and generous preparations be found in all our rich people; and may all the widow's love and goodwill be found in all our poor people. For the heart is the measure. And as we measure out good words, and good wishes, and good purposes, and good preparations, and good performances in our heart, so will it be measured back to us by Him who sees and weighs and measures the heart and nothing but the heart.

'Thou hast shed blood abundantly, and hast made great wars; thou shalt not build an house to My name, because thou hast shed much blood upon the earth in My sight. But, behold, a son shall be born to thee, and his name shall be Solomon, and he shall build an house for My name.' When I first read that sentence of such terrible disappointment to David, I looked to see David all that night on his face on the earth. But I did not know David; I had not yet got into all the depths of David's deep heart. For, instead of refusing to rise up and eat bread with the elders of his house, David was never in a happier frame of mind than he was all that night. David not only said, 'It is the Lord,' but his heart broke forth in a psalm such that there is nothing nobler in his whole book of Psalms. David not only consented that it was both good, and right, and seemly, that hands like his should not touch a stone of the house of God; but, that his son should be chosen of God to build Him an house-that set David's heart on fire as never Old Testament heart was set on fire like David's heart. As we read the psalm that poured out of David's heart that chastised and disappointed day, David is a man after our own heart. A psalm of resignation, and self-sacrifice, and thanksgiving, and many other virtues and graces like that psalm, covers a multitude of David's sins. Then went David in, and sat before the Lord; and he said, Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that Thou hast brought me hitherto? And this was yet a small thing in Thy sight, O Lord God; but Thou hast spoken also of Thy servant's house for a great while to come. And is this the manner of man, O Lord God? Would God we all had a heart like that! I have found David, my servant.

It makes it possible, and, more than possible, pleasant to a father to lie down and leave his work unfinished when he sees his son standing at his bedside ready to take up his father's unfinished work to finish it. Nay, I suppose a father who loved his son aright and enough would almost rather leave all his work and all his hope unfinished if he saw his son able and willing and chosen and called to take it up. This, no doubt, greatly helped David to resign his great hope of being spared to build the temple, that Solomon, his greatly-gifted, wise-hearted, pure, and noble-minded son was standing ready to take up and to carry out his father's long-intended task. Judging David that day by myself, David must have been a happy father and a thankful, as, indeed, the fine psalm he sang that day lets us see that he was. I myself would willingly lie down tonight and leave all my mismanaged and mangled life; all the mistakes and misfortunes and mishaps of my ministry; all the obstacles and offences I have been to so many of my people; all my wrong dividing of the word of truth; and all else that you know so well and sorrow so much over. I declare to you that I would lie down with a good will tonight and wrap my head out of sight in my winding-sheet, if I saw my son standing ready to take up and repair and redeem my lost life. I would say, Lord, now lettest Thou Thy unfaithful and unfruitful and offensive and injurious servant depart in pardon, since mine eyes have seen Thy salvation begun in my son. And if I saw all my sons preparing for the ministry of Christ in the Church of Christ I would die in a far greater triumph than David's death-bed could possibly be. Well, why not?

Come, my soul, thy suit prepare.-
Thou art coming to a king;
Large petitions with thee bring;
For His grace and power are such,
None can ever ask too much.

David did many other services, both intended and executed, both in the field, and on the throne, and in the house of God; but by far and away David's greatest service was his Psalms. The temple was built, and built again, and built again; but for two thousand years now not one stone of that so sacred and so stately structure has stood upon another. The very foundations of the temple have been razed out, sown with salt, and for ever lost. But the Psalms of David shine to this day with a greater splendour than on the day they were first sung. And long after the foundations of this whole earth shall have been ploughed up and removed out of their place, David's Psalms will be sounding out for ever beside the song of Moses and the Lamb. 'I have reared a monument of myself more lasting than brass.' And time, which has ground to powder so many temples of marble and of brass, has only set a more shining seal to the poet's proud boast. But how poor was his boast, and how short-lived will be his best work beside David's immortal Psalms! What a service has David done, not knowing that he was doing it; and not to his own nation only, but to the whole Israel of God. And not to Israel only, but to the God of Israel, and to the Redeemer of Israel. 'I have found David My servant, with My holy oil have I anointed him. I have exalted one chosen out of the people.'

I have said that David did a great service to the Redeemer of Israel, and I intended to say it. When I think of that service, all the other services that David has done by his Psalms shine out in a far diviner glory. I bless David's name for the blessing my own soul gets out of his Psalms every day I live. But when I trace that blessing up to its true source, I find that true and grace-gushing source in Jesus of Nazareth, whom I see growing in grace every day as He goes about in Galilee with David's Psalms never out of His hands. Think, people of God, of the honour to David, higher far than all the thrones on earth and in heaven,-the unparalleled and immortal honour of being able to teach Jesus Christ to sing and to pray. For, when the Holy Child said to Mary, Mother, teach Me to sing and to pray, what did Mary do, hiding all that in her heart, but put into her Child's hands David's golden Psalm beginning thus: The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. And then, think of Him as He grew in wisdom, and in stature, and in strength of spirit beginning to discover Himself in this Psalm of David and in that. Think of the sweet start, the overpowering surprise, the solemnity, the rejoicing with trembling, the resignation, the triumph with which the growing Saviour was led of the Spirit from Psalm to Psalm till He had searched out all David's Psalms in which David had prophesied and sung concerning his Messiah Son. See Jesus of Nazareth on His knees in the Sabbath synagogue with this place open before Him for the first time,-Lo, I come; in the volume of the book it is written of Me, I delight to do Thy will, O My God; yea, Thy law is within my heart. And, having once begun to read and to think in that way you will go on till you come to the cross, where you will see and hear your dying Redeemer with one of David's Psalms on His lips when He can no longer hold it in His hands. And He said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning Me. And they said one to another, did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us by the way, and while He opened to us the Scriptures?

O two disciples, on your way that same day to Emmaus, how I envy you your travelling Companion that day! My heart burns to think of your Divine Companion opening up to you David's Messianic Psalms that memorable day. And when I think also of the multitudes that no man can number to whom David's Psalms have been their constant song in the house of their pilgrimage; in the tabernacle as they fell for the first time hot from David's heart and harp; in the temple of Solomon his son with all the companies of singers and all their instruments of music; in the synagogues of the captivity; in the wilderness as the captives returned to the New Jerusalem; in the New Jerusalem every Sabbath-day and every feast-day; in the upper room, both before and after supper; in Paul's prison at Philippi; in the catacombs; in Christian churches past number; in religious houses all over Christendom at all hours of the day and the night; in deserts, in mountains, in dens and caves of the earth; in our churches; in our Sabbath-schools; in our families morning and evening; in our sickrooms; on our death-beds; and in the night-watches when the disciples of Christ watch and pray lest they enter into temptation. A service like all that is surely too much honour for any mortal man! Then David went in and sat before the Lord; and he said, Who am I, O Lord God? and what is my house? And is this the manner of man, O Lord God? And what can David say more unto thee! for Thou, Lord God, knowest thy servant.

Then, take David's knowledge of God, and his communion with God. There is nothing like it in the whole world again. There are many mysteries of godliness not yet revealed to us; but, to me, the mystery of David's knowledge of God and his communion with God is one of the most mysterious. Had Paul sung David's Psalms, and sent, now the twenty-third Psalm to the Philippians, and now the thirty-second and the hundred and thirtieth to the Romans, and now the forty-fifth and the seventy-second to the Colossians, and so on, I would not have wondered. I would wonder at nothing after the coming of Christ, and after His death and His ascension. But it baffles me to silence to see such Psalms as David's before the day of Christ. And I have never, with all my search, seen an intelligent attempt made to face that mystery.

No; David is scarcely second to the Man Jesus Christ Himself in this mystery of mysteries, the mystical communion of the soul of man with the Living God. Such knowledge is too wonderful for us; it is so high that we cannot attain to it. 'O God, Thou art my God. Early will I seek Thee. My soul thirsteth for Thee; my flesh longeth for Thee in a dry and thirsty land where no water is; to see Thy power and Thy glory, so as I have seen Thee in the sanctuary. Because Thy loving-kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise Thee. My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth shall praise Thee with joyful lips when I remember Thee upon my bed, and meditate on Thee in the night watches. My soul followeth hard after Thee.' That would not have stumbled me had I come on it in the heart of the seventeenth of John itself. To David in the sixty-second, and in its sister Psalms, there is only I AM and David himself, in all heaven and earth. Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned, David says in another Psalm. And, 'Thee, Thee only,' is the sum and the substance, the marrow and the fatness, the beauty and the sweetness of all David's communion Psalms. To know God, and to be in constant communion with God, this is life to David; this is better than life; this is love; this is blessedness. Then, again, it is told of Luther in his 'Table Talk,' that being asked one day which were his favourite Psalms-Why, to be sure, he answered, Paul's four Psalms,-'Blessed is the man whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sin is covered,' 'Have mercy upon me, O God,' 'Out of the depths,' and 'Enter not into judgment with Thy servant.' Do you not see, he demanded, that all these Psalms tell us that forgiveness comes without the law and without works? Forgiveness and peace come to him that believeth. 'That Thou mayest be feared.' That dusts away all merit; that teaches us to uncover our heads before God and to confess that forgiveness is of His grace and not of our desert at all. 'Even as David describeth the righteousness of the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, saying, Blessed is that man.' David knew it experimentally. It was Paul's privilege to know it both historically and experimentally, as we say, and then to set it forth doctrinally, as we say also. And it is our privilege to have it in all these three ways, if we love and value such things above all other love and value. Even David without Paul was not made perfect. Nor will we be without them both. 'I have found David, My servant. And My mercy will I keep for him for evermore, and My covenant shall stand fast with him. My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of My lips. Once have I sworn by My holiness that I will not lie unto David.'

But, with all that, the half, and the best half for you, has not yet been told you. After all that, listen to this. He that hath ears to hear, let him give ear to this. 'In that day he that is feeble in Jerusalem shall be as David, and the house of David shall be as God.' Does Feeble-mind hear that? Then let him receive and rest on that. Let him wake up psaltery and harp at the hearing of that. And let all that is within him sing and play like David. Let him sing and play, and that with the mind and the heart and the spirit like David. Let him sing and play to God, and to God only, like David. Let him who is feeble in faith, and in repentance, and in holiness, and in communion with God, be much in the Psalms. Let the Psalms dwell richly in the feeblest among us, and the feeblest among us will yet be a man of more spiritual strength than David. Sing a heart-strengthening Psalm every morning, and a heart-cleansing and a heart-quieting Psalm every night. Seven times every remaining day of your earthly pilgrimage sing a Psalm. Let no place, and no conversation, and no occupation delude you out of your heart-refreshing Psalm. Fill the house of your pilgrimage with the sound of Psalms. Let the prisoners hear you. Let the angels hear you. Let God hear you. Let Him bow down His ear and hear you. And let Him say to His Son, and to His angels, and to His saints, over you and over your house, I have found a man after Mine own heart; with My holy oil have I anointed him.

Bibliography Information
Whyte, Alexander. Entry for 'David - in His Services'. Alexander Whyte's Dictionary of Bible Characters. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​wbc/​d/david---in-his-services.html. 1901.
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