Rather than reading the Bible through the eyes of modern secularism, this provocative six-part course teaches you to read the Bible through its own eyes—as a record of God’s dealing with the human race. When you read it at this level, you will discover reasons to worship God in areas of life you probably never before associated with “religion.”
© Charles A. Clough 1998
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 4: Disciplinary Truths of God’s Kingdom
Chapter 1: The Golden Era of Solomon: The Discipline of Blessing
Lesson 75 – David and Saul – En-Gedi; 1 Samuel 24
15 Jan 1998
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
We’re going to look at a situation in David’s life, and watch how he manages this, watch what he uses of the truths of the Word and try to absorb this as a model of how a team should operate, because what we’re going to find is that the other teams don’t operate this way. This is the Davidic model, the Messianic leadership model. We want to start by turning to a Psalm of David that records this event, Psalm 57. David was one of the great believers of both Old Testament and New Testaments, and he is often looked down upon as unspiritual because of various things that happened in his life. But God’s evaluation, whether it’s mans or not is another story, but God’s evaluation is that he is a man who wholly followed after the Lord. This causes a lot of heartache and problems with folks but that’s the evaluation of Scripture. So if Scripture is our criteria then we go with the Scripture.
In this Psalm we have a situation that happened earlier on in his life, and I think we’ve given you enough background of history so that as we get into the Psalm and watch it you can pick up on things that you would not have picked up on had you not come to class. We’re going to look first at the Psalm itself, the title, because in the Hebrew verse 1 is that title. If you looked in a Hebrew text Psalm 57:1 reads, “For the choir director,” even though the English translation verse 1 starts out “Be gracious to me, O God,” in the Hebrew “Be gracious to me, O God,” is verse 2. The titles are considered part of the Scripture in the Hebrew. So we take these titles seriously. Not often do the titles tell us a lot about the Psalm, but they tell us enough, the Holy Spirit logged enough in those headings usually to set us up with some of the content.
What we want to look at in this title is after it says “For the choir director;” it says “Al-tashheth,” and whenever you see something like that, that “tashheth,” you know that the translators didn’t know what to do with it. Because if they knew what to do with it they would have translated it; all they did is alliterate it, they took it and made it a one to one corresponds between the sound in the Hebrew and the English language. In the Hebrew, if you read the Hebrew it says “Al-tashheth,” and “Al-tashheth” doesn’t translate anything, it just puts it there. They’ve done that everywhere this occurs. If you look at Psalm 58 it says “Al-tashheth.” Psalm 59 says “Al-tashheth.” In Psalm 75 you see “Al-tashheth.”
So what does “Al-tashheth” mean? This is a Hebrew verb and Hebrew reads from right to left, so “tashheth” is a prefix to the Hebrew verb, and it’s a negation. It’s a particular kind of negation, it says don’t do this; “tashheth” means to destroy, so the title here in Hebrew means don’t destroy. The reason the translators haven’t translated it is because it doesn’t really make a nice title. “For the choir director, don’t destroy,” is he telling the choir don’t destroy the song, what is going on here. We have to decide why is this in the title? Actually, most people that have looked at this Psalm feel that “Al-tashheth” is sort of a code put into Psalms 57, 58, and 59 to describe a period in David’s life when he had the choice to destroy Saul. Psalm 57 is going to be a snapshot of an event that probably didn’t last more than thirty minutes in David’s life, but had very strong repercussions in how he ascended the throne.
Let’s review a few things about David. David is a model of Messianic leadership. He came after Saul, so we have Saul, then we have David, and before we had Saul we didn’t have any kings. There were no kings in Moses day, or Joshua’s day. Why did they have a king? Why was the institution of the monarchy begun? It was the people that cried out to solve a problem in their community and their politics. What was the problem? The problem they had was that society was disintegrating into chaos, “every man did that which is right in his own eyes.” That was an internal problem. What they sought was an external solution. That was the problem spiritually and they tried to solve it with a human solution. So they demanded, they didn’t just ask, they actually demanded that God give them a king. How did they qualify it when they asked? God, give us a king like all the other nations. What a stupid request. What was the whole purpose of Israel in history? To be like the other nations? No, to be different, they were to march to a different drummer; they were called to a different calling.
That’s why the Old Testament is so good because it just pictures us the way we are, and we get uncomfortable with sanctification, we want to kind of have one foot in the world. That’s what they wanted; they wanted a king like all the other nations. Remember what happened is God said you’re not going to get a king like all the other nations, I’ll consent to giving you a king, and He gave them this guy, out of the tribe of Benjamin. He let Saul’s monarchy, that dynasty, be a conditional dynasty. It was conditioned on whether or not Saul would obey the Lord. So Saul is given a promise but it was conditional, sort of like the Sinaitic Covenant is a conditional covenant.
Saul disintegrated and got out of it, rebelled against the Lord, a very proud man, nothing immoral in his life, lived what would be a respectable life in the community, but he had a problem, and it was right from the very beginning, it’s like he was half ashamed to be identified with the Lord. When the pressure came on him he immediately reverted to human solutions, couldn’t get his eyes on the Lord, it was always Saul, Saul, Saul, what are people going think of Saul, and never what does the Lord think of Saul. Finally Saul was replaced in God’s economy by David of the tribe of Judah, and David eventually, not at the point of Psalm 57 but eventually he would be given an unconditional promise, i.e., the Davidic dynasty would go on forever and ever.
So David becomes a model. God often works that way, He gives us what we think is an answer to our prayers, for us to play with it for a while, then get dissatisfied with it so we’ll really get down to business and look to Him to solve the real problem. God gave them a king, the one that was sort of like what they wanted. It failed, it started to fall apart and David was the replacement. When we went through that point of history I made a point of contrasting David’s behavior with the contemporary ancient Near Eastern kings. I gave you some quotes from Sennacherib, some quotes about how these kings dealt with political problems.
What was David’s political problem? He’s called to be king, what’s the problem? What age was he when he was called to be king? He was a late teen, and it’s a little arrogant to be a late teen and here’s Saul, old enough to be his father, who’s sitting on the throne. So we’ve got a little problem, I’m called to be king but somebody else is sitting on the throne. So we have to have a change of dynasty here, not just a change of political party, a change of dynasty. How was this usually handled in the world? We gave quotes; we gave historical background quotes. I’m giving you all this background because we’re going to deal with just one word, in Psalm 57 we’re just dealing with one word, “don’t destroy.” To get the flavor for what’s going on here we want to know our history. David’s behavior differed from the behavior of his contemporaries in that his contemporaries, when they wanted to ascend the throne what did they do to the opposition? Knock them off, kill them, and not only kill the king but kill his progeny because of the dynastic idea. You know, if the guy’s got ten kids, you’ve got ten potential problems. So you knock them all off, you don’t just kill the king, you kill his sons and if he has grandsons you kill those too. Take them all out. That was standard procedure.
Does this give a little bit more flavor why “Al-tashheth” is there? Don’t destroy. David, at an early point in his life, he has not yet ascended the throne, is being warned not to destroy. The Psalm is characterized as a “don’t destroy” Psalm. David knows he is called to the throne, he knows Saul is after him, and he is going to say no, I am going to trust the Lord to put me on that throne; it is going to be by faith, not by works. I can sit here and I can engineer the politics, I’ve got the army, I can train the assassination team and they can go take him out, no problem. But to do that would create a problem in that who gets the glory after it’s all done? Obviously David in his humanity gets the glory. David in his human skills gets the glory. Where’s the Lord in all this. The Lord was the one that called Him to the throne, so David has a contest here. It’s bad enough to have to sit and wait for Saul to get off the throne; it’s quite another story when the guy comes after you to kill you, now you’ve got a problem. And it becomes triply bad when you’ve got your own army, with guys that have risked their life for you, and you’ve got a chance to take this guy out and end the threats to their life and you don’t do it. That’s the situation, politically, for David in the middle of this Psalm.
We want to look a little bit at the background of what was going on because it says it’s “A Mikhtam of David, when he fled from Saul, in the cave.” That pins it down pretty much to certain passages of the Bible. We want to turn back to 1 Samuel 24; this is when he’s in the cave, so let’s watch what happens. It’s an amazing story. What we want to study is what must have gone through David’s thought processes; that’s what we want to learn, we want to learn how to handle problems like David did, not just the Goliath problem but the Saul problem. Let’s see if we can mimic this great believer’s mental attitude when he faced problems; that’s what we’re trying to do here. Let’s go back in history to 1 Samuel 24 and understand the situation.
I have to forewarn you here, the Old Testament is very candid, and this passage as well as the one which I hope you will read for next week, 1 Kings 11 and 12. 1 Samuel 24 is going to be one of those passages and the Hebrew has a delightful ironic sense of humor here. Watch for it. “Now it came about when Saul returned from pursuing the Philistines, he was told, saying, Behold, David is in the wilderness of En-gedi.” If you have a map of Israel in your Bible, you have the Sea of Galilee, the Dead Sea, the Mediterranean Sea over here, Jerusalem here, Saul has come back from down in this zone and he comes across near the capital, Gilgal because Jerusalem isn’t the capital yet, and right here where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, that’s where those caves are.
The cave that’s mentioned here is the same area of the country, En-gedi, right on the western side of the Salt Sea, the Dead Sea, and on this cliff, it’s an all brown desert area, you just have this water sitting here and these mountains rise up on the west side, and up in those mountains there’s caves. That’s where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, some little shepherd boy was up there in 1947 and he was throwing rocks into the cave for jokes and all of a sudden instead of the rock going click, click it went clunk, so he said hmm, wonder what my rock hit. So he went up there and he found a shattered urn and he started looking at the urn and here were some scrolls. That’s the exciting story of how, in 1947 the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, a very important discovery. That’s the wilderness of En-gedi, it’s a desert area that is full of caves. It was the hiding place and the hideout of highway guys, guys that wanted to escape society. It’s near the area where John the Baptist preached. If you’ve been there you realize it’s nice and quiet, nobody bothers you because nobody wants to go there. It’s just a wilderness area. David is hiding there.
Verse 2, “Then Saul took three thousand chosen men from all Israel, and went to seek David and his men in front of the Rocks of the Wild Goats.” It’s a very specific place, known apparently to the author of Scripture very clearly.  “And he came to the sheepfolds on the way, where there was a cave; and Saul went in to relieve himself. Now David and his men were sitting in the inner recesses of the cave.  And the men of David said to him, ‘Behold, this is the day of which the LORD said to you, Behold; I am about to give your enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it seems good to you.’ Then David arose and cut off the edge of Saul’s robe secretly.  And it came about afterward that David’s conscience bothered him because he had cut off the edge of Saul’s robe.  So he said to his men, ‘Far be it from me because of the LORD that I should do this thing to my lord, the LORD’S anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, since he is the LORD’S anointed.  And David persuaded his men with these words and did not allow them to rise up against Saul. And Saul arose, left the cave, and went on his way.”
Think of this, put this in the historic setting. Talk about getting caught with your pants down, this is the place in the Scripture. Here it is, here’s the king in the most compromised position that you could possibly imagine, and this is part of the humor of Scripture. It’s all done without making it silly humor, but there’s a divine irony and we have to enjoy how the Holy Spirit worked here in this situation. There’s tremendous irony to this. Of all the caves that he had to pick, it was the cave where who is in the back but David and trained military guys, sitting there watching this whole thing go on. You can imagine David’s own guys, hey look, we’ve got a clear shot here, let’s get the guy now, we can kill him and disappear in the inners of the cave and they’ll never know it even happened, they probably don’t know what cave he went into, it’ll take all day to find this guy. A beautiful set up, beautiful set up in the light of history.
David sits in the situation, tailor-made for an assassination against the competing dynasty. If he were to think as a pagan would think, as Sennacherib would have thought, there’s no question what David would have done in this situation, absolutely no question. But David is here and David has something in his heart and it’s called the Word of God, and that makes a difference in how he manages this situation. Notice he has to manage his own situation, he has to manage the guys that are with him, and he has to do it in such a way that it’s going to leave him in conflict, serious conflict, with the accepted norm and behavior of political people in that time and age.
With that background let’s go to Psalm 57. Before we’re finished you’ll see that Psalm 57 is taken up in our hymn book. Maybe I’ve ruined the image of the hymn for you but now when you start singing that hymn again you’ll think of the cave. Psalm 57 is a “Mikhtam,” that means a kind of Psalm. Psalms have structures to them, and in the last hundred years of church history there have been enough people study the Psalms that they’ve been able to figure out there’s categories to Psalms. There’s a cycle inside these Psalms and if you capture this cycle you’ll see it repeat. It’s artistically done so it’s not mechanical, every Psalm is different.
Here is the structure of a Psalm. Usually in a Psalm you have these elements, I’ll list them and when you read Psalms just look for these kinds of elements. One of the things that you’ll find in a Psalm is a description or a lament over some problem; we call this the lament section. Also you’ll find a verse or two, usually not more than two verses in any given Psalm, that express the promise or the doctrine that the Psalmist claimed by faith in the middle of that lament. It’s a very interesting study in the Psalms of how these guys thought, and by studying the Psalms you can watch how they managed. There’s a lament section, you can usually pick that out because it’ll be a description of the problem. Then there will be a confidence section. When you get into the original languages the verb tenses shift and there’s all kinds of signals for this, unfortunately in the English translation it doesn’t all come out, but it’s much more powerful in the original languages. There’s a confidence section, then there’s usually a couple of petition sections, so you’ll have a petition in there. So lament, confidence, petition.
Then you’ll have somewhere usually a praise section, and the praise is described two ways. The scholars that have used this classification call some praise declarative praise, and descriptive praise. Here’s the difference: declarative praise means I declare what God did in the particular situation, the specifics, that’s declarative praise. The descriptive praise is a generalization of the character of God that led Him to do this specific thing in the particular situation. It’s a generalization, in other words, after watching God do it thirty-two times, that He acts this way in this kind of situation, I start generalizing and saying, well then, God is a God of love, God is a God of power, etc. That’s called descriptive praise.
You’ll see these five elements in almost every Psalm, and there are patterns to combining these elements. There are certain Psalms that are heavy on lament and they’re called the lament Psalms. There are Psalms that are heavy on descriptive praise; they’re called descriptive praise Psalms.” There are Psalms that are heavy on declarative praise; so don’t think of all these five elements as equal, sometimes they expand and the other parts contract.
This particular Psalm has a structure it, and we can’t go through it verse by verse because we don’t have time, but I’m going to go through enough of it so we’ll at least see a little bit about how David thinks. As a side note let me give you some structure of the Psalm. Verses 1-5, which concludes “Be exalted above the heavens, O God, let Thy glory be above all the earth.” Most of verses 1-5 is emphasizing going to God in the middle of the problem. Just quickly scan that, Verse 1, “Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me, for my soul takes refuge in Thee; and in the shadow of Thy wings I will take refuge, until destruction passes by.  I will cry to God Most High, to God who accomplishes all things for me;  He will send from heaven and save me; He reproaches him who tramples upon me. Selah. God will send forth His lovingkindness and His truth.  My soul is among lions; I must lie among those who breathe forth fire, even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword.  Be exalted above the heavens, O God; let Thy glory be above all the earth.”
Do you see what’s going on there? Where’s the petition in that, where do you see him talking to God, asking God to do something? Clearly the petition is in verse 1, “be gracious.” It’s not in verse 2, that’s describing something, it’s not addressed to God. Verse 3 is describing something, not addressed to God. Verse 4 is describing something, not addressed to God. But verse 5 is addressed to God. So it’s like a sandwich, there’s praise in verse 1; there’s praise in verse 5. Let’s characterizes verses 2-4 that are the meat inside the two pieces of bread. Verses 2, 4 and 5, “I will cry to God Most High, to God who accomplishes all things for me;  He will send from heaven and save me; He reproaches him who tramples upon me. Selah. God will send forth His lovingkindness,” which of the five elements is verse 3? The confident section, that’s describing the confidence he has in the Lord in the middle of the situation. Verse 2 is sort of he’s talking to himself and he’s kind of up courage to trust the Lord. Verse 4 is a description of the problem, so it would be more like a lament.
We haven’t seen any praise here. So the first five parts of this Psalm are heavy into petition and lament. So verses 1-5, that section of the Psalm tells us the mental attitude that’s going on inside David’s head, very instructive, because the Holy Spirit who knows David’s heart allows David later to write this out for our edification. Now we know the 1 Samuel 24 situation in the cave, we see the situation David’s in and we want to get inside his head because this guy is a sharp believer, we can learn a lot watching David. Verses 1-5 are how he’s cycling all this data; this is what’s going on.
Verses 6-11, “They have prepared a net for my steps; my soul is bowed down; they dug a pit before me; they themselves have fallen into the midst of it. Selah.” What does that look like? The lament again, it’s a description of the situation. Verse 7, “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing, yes I will sing praises!  Awake, my glory; Awake harp and lyre, I will awaken the dawn!  I will give thanks to Thee, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to Thee among the nations. [10 For Thy lovingkindness is great to the heavens, and Thy truth to the clouds.  Be exalted above the heavens, O God; let Thy glory be above all the earth.”
What are the elements in that? Praise, heavy on praise. Verse 9 is praise, verse 10 is praise, verse 11 is praise, it’s a wish for God’s glory to be manifest. So clearly from verses 6-11 the Psalm shifts. Do you see how this shifted? Watch that, you’ll see that again and again in the Psalms. The Psalm starts out taking you through the problem, they take you to exactly the doctrine and the truth the guy used, and then they take you to the resolution. It’s a very insightful thing. What we’re allowed to do by studying these Psalms is get inside these guys minds, these great believers and how they thought so we can walk through life holding their hand and saying okay, take me through that trial David, I want to watch how you handled it from the inside.
Verses 7, 8, 9 and 10 all deal with praise. Do you notice anything in verses 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 where you see a confidence section repeated, where he’s expressing confidence in something? Verse 7, it’s very clear in verse 7 that he has absolute confidence the Lord’s going to handle this problem for him. There’s one other little tidbit in verse 6, you have to look at it carefully, go through each one of the lines, and see if you don’t notice something different between verse 6 and verse 4. We said both of those are laments. Verse 4 is a lament in the sense it describes the problem; verse 6 starts out looking like it’s doing the same thing, but what happens at the end of verse 6? That’s a prophecy of something. What verb tense is that, past, present, or future? It’s past, “they have fallen into the midst of it.” Therefore, is verse 6 looking at the problem before resolution or looking at the problem after resolution? It’s looking at the problem after it’s been solved. So this section, and this is typical, the praise sections of the Psalms will look at the situation after God solved it. That’s why they’re praising God.
Now here’s the tricky part, sometimes the confidence is so powerful in the heart of these believers that they can absent themselves from the situation, get out of the situation, and look at the situation as though it’s already been resolved, even though it hasn’t been in reality. When you see that, and there are several Psalms that do that, that tells you how powerful these guys were mentally, it shows you what kind of a mental attitude they had. Talk about tough people, people like David in these kinds of situations accomplish these great things for God because on the inside they have that amazing confidence, they could even visualize it in their mind as something that is already past, the problem is already over, even though it wasn’t over. They had a grip on the mind of God, it was that powerful.
Let’s go back to verse 1 and go through this and study how David handles it. Watch what truths come in here, because now we want to go verse by verse. Let’s look at what sort of truths, what kind of doctrines about God is David using here. “Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me, for my soul takes refuge in Thee; and in the shadow of Thy wings I will take refuge, until destruction passes by.” The first line, “Be gracious … be gracious,” we’ve gone through the events, creation, fall, flood, covenant, etc. why does he ask God to be gracious? What does that immediately tell you where David’s coming from in the situation? Does he merit this? No. He immediately puts himself in absolute humility before the Lord, realizing he is a sinner. Because he can say “be gracious to me, O God,” that is one of the secrets of why he didn’t get so self-righteous and say I’m so much better than Saul, God has to kill Saul because I’m so great. That’s not part of his attitude, it doesn’t even figure into the equation. He starts right out on a grace basis. He says my relationship with the Lord is based from beginning to end on His grace and that means it’s not some merit that I have in my heart that I’m such a great and wonderful person that God just have to open the pearly gates for me, I’m coming, hey God, get ready. There’s none of that in here, just “be gracious, be gracious to me.”
Then it says “for my soul takes refuge in Thee; and in the shadow of Thy wings,” when you see an expression “in the shadow of Thy wings,” and you have a concordance, try looking that up and see where it first happens in the Scriptures. When you look at a concordance always look at expressions and find out when it was first used. Think about what we’ve learned in history, I want to take you where this expression is first used. Turn to Deuteronomy 32:11, where did David get all this truth from? “Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that hovers over its young, He spread His wings and caught them, He carried them on His pinions.  The LORD alone guided him,” etc. That’s a picture of God’s grace toward whom? What did we study?
We got into Deuteronomy, we got into the giving of the law and I said the national anthem had to be taught to the nations. The national anthem that was given to Israel was Deuteronomy 32. Our national anthem depicts what happened in Baltimore Harbor in an actual historical event. Most people are too embarrassed to sing the second and third stanzas but they really are neat. Deuteronomy 32 is the national anthem of Israel and it does our national anthem one better. Our national anthem looks back to what happened at Fort McHenry, but Deuteronomy 32 looks back and it looks forward into history to the future ultimate consummation of the history of Israel, and it gives confidence that the nation Israel is not going to evaporate, disappear from history, it has a destiny. In the middle of all that, verse 11 is a revelation of the nature of God in analogy with an eagle caring for its young. The eagle was looked upon as a great bird of prey, a strong, strong shelter. So it’s a picture in verse 11 of a mother or father eagle covering up its young.
Just a side note, this metaphor of God spreading its wings to protect its young occurs again, several times in the Bible. Do you remember where Jesus used this? There was one point in Jesus life where He mentioned this same metaphor. It was toward the end of His life, He came into Jerusalem on palm Sunday and the crowds began to turn against Him and He knew He was going to go to the cross, and He looked back at the walls of Jerusalem, and He said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, like a mother hen I would gather the young but you would not.” That shows you a feature that is consistently depicted from Deuteronomy 32 all the way through the Gospels, God is pictured as a mother bird caring for its young. There’s something in the biological behavior of the structure of that animal behavior that is deliberately designed in to reveal something about our God in Heaven.
Where did David get the metaphor? He got it from the national anthem. So let’s go back to Psalm 57, it’s not a mystery now. These words in these Psalms are all things that the guy learned in various places. He learns to come to God on the basis of grace. “Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me, for my soul takes refuge in Thee; and in the shadow of Thy wings I will take refuge, until destruction passes by.” Notice the confidence there? That he’s not going to have to take refuge for much longer because he has this confidence that the destruction will pass. Where’s he getting that from? Who’s sovereign? What does David have in his God that the pagans don’t have in their gods? Go back to that basic diagram. We’ve got to live as David would have back in those days.
The pagan has this idea of Continuity of Being; he has gods that are finite and limited. If he puts his trust in god B, how does he know what’s going to happen next week in the council of the gods, who’s going to be chairman next week, god F; well what happened to god B, I trusted him last week. That’s why, remember when we had that quote from Sennacherib, and I deliberately put it in the notes, I had him quoting how many gods and goddesses, he was praying to this god and that god, all the gods. Why? Covering his bases. He didn’t know who was going to be in charge next week, because the pagans have ignorance ultimately underlying them because they have no Word of God, there’s no Bible that Ishtar wrote, Venus wrote, Jupiter wrote; did any of those gods or goddesses write a Bible? No, because none of them talk. So the pagan ultimately is done, he is ignorant. He faces silence there.
David believes in the Creator/creature distinction. He knows that there’s a Creator who is omniscient, He knows that God is all powerful; he knows that God is sovereign, so destruction will pass him by. In verse 2 he quotes a name for God. This is not a Jewish name and you should be sensitive to this. “God Most High” is unusual for a Jew to address God that way. That’s striking, why doesn’t he call Him Yahweh? But why, “God Most High?” That is a pagan, Gentile name; that’s the name Melchizedek used. Oh, Melchizedek used it, and who was Melchizedek? Melchizedek was the last of the king-priests before the baton was handed over to Abraham. What does David’s kingship mirror? He is to be a king and a priest after the order of Melchizedek, preparing himself for the ultimate, Jesus Christ. So he’s using Melchizedekian language to describe God, Genesis 14.
Now we know, “shadow of Thy wings” is from Deuteronomy 32; we know that “Most High God” is a title from Genesis 14. He says “He will send from heaven and save me; He reproaches him who tramples upon me. God will send forth His lovingkindness and His truth,” verse 3. There’s a whole bunch of studies on all those words. But I want to single out two words, the words translated lovingkindness and truth because those appear frequently. You can’t read the Psalms without understanding these two words, they’re very critical to understand vocabulary wise.
Lovingkindness is an adjective that describes covenant loyalty. Implicit in the word lovingkindness is a covenant of some sort. Does that ring a bell? Yes, the Davidic Covenant, the Sinaitic Covenant, the Abrahamic Covenant, these guys all thought in terms of those contracts. See how powerful that contractual way of thinking is. When they got themselves in a jam, apparently they went back in their hearts, whose contract is involved here. I’ve got the paperwork and it’s all signed, and they went back to the paperwork, they went back to the contract. This lovingkindness is always used in terms of some sort of covenant. That’s why it’s used for marital love; it is not used for when two young people fall in love; that is another word, ahav, because there’s not yet a covenant established. The vocabulary shifts to chesed when there’s a covenant. So lovingkindness has covenant in the background. The idea of truth there is the picture of strength and stability. Remember immutability, God is immutable, He doesn’t change, He is all powerful, the word kind of encapsulates all those attributes sort of like in one package. [Blank spot]
Well, this is where the confidence is coming from. What he is doing here is he’s taking all that information about the covenant, about keeping covenant, about God who is sovereign, God who is omnipotent, God who is omniscient, God is who is eternal, God who is loving, God who is holy, all that wrapped up in these words. That’s why he’s able to do what he’s going to do in this cave.
Verse 4 is a description of what happens, and notice how he generalizes it, it’s not just Saul, “My soul is among lions; I must lie among those who breathe forth fire,” now knowing what you know of 1 Samuel 24 what do you suppose he’s talking about there? Do you suppose he could possibly be including some of his own people? It’s just a thought, we can’t be dogmatic here. The guy is supposed to be a leader here, and he’s got to lead in the nation. One group is out to kill him, the other group is out to kill that group, so it’s kind of isolating for David, he’s the lone guy. So he says “My soul is among lions,” and the word “lions” is often used of warriors, that’s why that same imagery is taken over in 1 Peter and applied to whom? “…a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.” “My soul is among lions, I must among those,” I have to sleep, “with people who breathe forth fire, even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword.”
Do you notice the emphasis in verse 4 on speech, watch how often in the Psalms David is complaining about gossip and maligning and criticism. Speech! Here’s a guy that went out there, a warrior. I could show you passages in the Old Testament in Samuel of him coming back from battle, you think Saul relieving himself in a cave is a problem; you ought to see what it says in the Hebrew about what David did when he came back from the battlefield. The point is, it’s very, very picturesque what’s going on here. Yet in all that violence of the battlefield the thing that bothered David the most was people running off at the mouth. I think we all see that. What does the most damage to a group? It’s the maligning, criticism and gossip, and everything else that goes on, and it ruins people’s reputation, it ruins communication, it ruins fellowship, so there are warnings in the Scripture about using our mouth.
Now in verse 5 he ends with an appeal, it’s sort of like a preliminary praise, but it’s in the form of a petition. “Be exalted above the heavens, O God; let Thy glory be above all the earth.” What does that tell you in context with verse 4? See what he’s doing? In verse 4 he’s analyzed the problem, he’s so thought about the problem that he perceives, there’s no way I can solve this problem because it’s the sons of men, it’s inherent fallen human nature, so if there’s going to be any redeeming work here, God has to do it. That’s why he says let there be a testimony for God. That’s one of the things that is involved in praise. Who gets the credit? After all is said and done, in the final analysis, who gets the bulk of the credit here?
David is controlling him and his men in that cave, when they could so easily, within feet, a few more feet, a sword and a knife, would have taken out his problem. You can just see these guys saying let me go get him! Now, come on, he’s almost finished, he’s only got a few minutes to do this thing, and these guys are professional killers; that’s what their job is, they’re trained to do that, that’s the warrior group, he trained them all the way from another cave, called the cave of Adullam. David has trained these guys. And they’re just chopping at the bit to do this and he says no, do not destroy, do not destroy. What do you mean don’t destroy, come on David, if we let this guy go we’re going to be killed some day in battle, don’t you have any consideration for us, we’re trying to help you pal. So the pressure is on David from his own people.
But David isn’t thinking about his own people, he isn’t thinking about Saul. Verse 5 tells you where this man’s heart is. He is thinking about who gets the credit. God has called me to this dynasty, if the dynasty is ever to get going in history, God will have to put me on the throne, no one else, not my wisdom, not my political gimmicks, not all my negotiations, God is going to have to do it and God will get the credit. And God did.
The rest of it is the declaration of praise. This is looking back at it, verse 6. We come now to this past tense in verse 6, because here is where you start to pick up the flavor. The crisis is over; verses 1-5 analyze what was going on in his mind. Now whether verses 6-11 went on in his mind at that time or whether verses 6-11 tell you what he was thinking after the whole thing was resolved we don’t know. “They have prepared a net for my steps;” this is all the plotting with Saul and his men, “my soul is bowed down;” and notice when it says “my soul is bowed down” he’s admitting that he’s depressed. He’s not going, you know, “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy” business; it’s not quite like that. He is depressed, he’s feeling the pressure. This goes on day after day after day after day. He’s got to sustain this group of guys out in the caves of this En-gedi wilderness. Can you imagine the food problem, just think about this. You’ve got a little practical problem. Where are you going to get food and water out to that group? So they have foraging, they must have had to go out on search missions to get their food every single day. All kinds of problems, just the logistic problems alone, no wonder he felt “bowed down.”
“… They dug a pit before me; they themselves have fallen into the midst of it.” Knowing what’s going on in the cave, do you see where that metaphor came from? See, there’s an irony to this. They literally have tried to set David up in the wilderness of En-gedi, surround him and destroy him. And what he’s saying, God, they’ve set a pit and they’re the ones that are going to fall into it. This guy is on a pit right now. You have to read this with the background in mind to get the full flavor of what’s happening here. There’s irony in all this, there’s a tremendous sense of the sovereign of God. What did God accomplish? He brought Saul within a few feet of David. We’ll see what the response is in a moment. He speaks, “they have fallen into the midst of it.”
Now in verses 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 is his tremendous confidence. “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast.” What did he say in verse 6, “my soul is bowed down,” but “my heart is steadfast.” There’s a difference, you can be depressed and still believe. You can still believe that these are promises; it may not always work out to put a smile on your face, but deep down, at your deepest level, even though it hurts up in the upper levels, at the deep levels, the foundation levels, you’re not really disturbed, your feet are on the ground. It smarts and stings a little bit up here, but down in the depths of your heart your feet are solemnly planted. We’ve all been in that situation, that’s where he is. “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast,” and now he says I’m going to sing, “I will sing, yes, I will sing praises!”
In verse 8 he’s talking to himself when he says, “Awake, my glory,” “my glory” is usually used synonymously with soul, and he says “Awake, my soul, awake my harp and lyre,” what was one of his talents? Music. It was a method of expressing his thankfulness to God. Verse 9, “I will give thanks to Thee, O Lord” and notice, not just personally, who was he giving thanks before? “among the peoples; I will sing praises to Thee among the nations.” How did David, literally, sing praises among the nations? What are we reading here, what book of the Bible? Psalms. Has he given praise before the nations? Yes, because the book of Psalms got published among the nations.
Plus the fact in his own career he probably shared this with other kings. Don’t think while he was reigning in Jerusalem he didn’t have business deals. We know he talked to Hiram of Tyre because that’s how Solomon knew how to get the cedar for the temple. So David probably talked many times, and these kings would share stories of how they got to the throne. Well David, how did you get to the throne? And that was his opportunity to give a testimony. These other kings would say, well I killed so and so, and I killed this guy and I wiped out his family. David, how many families did you wipe out? None. You’re nuts, you didn’t kill your opponents. No, I didn’t kill them. Why not? Because I have a God in heaven, that’s why, and I don’t have to take care of those kinds of things because He takes care of them for me. It was an opportunity to give testimony. So David gives testimony to the truth.
Let’s conclude by turning back to what happened at the end of that incident in 1 Samuel to see what kind of a victory God really gave to David. Something stunning happened here. As we read before, David came up, cut a garment off of Saul, after Saul went out of the cave David said, in verses 9, 10, 11, he went out into the open and he said Saul, I’m here, look, and he held up this piece that he’d cut off his garment. I was here.
[Verse 8, “Now afterward David arose and went out of the cave and called after Saul, saying, ‘My lord the king!’ And when Saul looked behind him, David bowed with his face to the ground and prostrated himself.  And David said to Saul, ‘Why do you listen to the words of men, saying, ‘Behold, David seeks to harm you?  Behold, this day your eyes have seen that the LORD had given you today into my hand in the cave, and some said to kill you, but my eye had pity on you;’ and I said, ‘I will not stretch out my hand against my lord, for he is the LORD’S anointed.’  ‘Now, my father, see! Indeed, see the edge of your robe in my hand! For in that I cut off the edge of your robe and did not kill you, know and perceive that there is no evil or rebellion in my hands, and I have not sinned against you, though you are lying in wait for my life to take it.’  May the LORD judge between you and me, and may the LORD avenge me on you’ but my hand shall not be against you.  As the proverb of the ancients says, ‘Out of the wicked comes forth wickedness;’ but my hand shall not be against you.  After whom has the king of Israel come out? After whom are you pursuing? After a dead dog, after a single flea?  The LORD therefore be judge and decide between you and me; and may He see and plead my cause, and deliver me from your hand.”
Saul knows very well that if David got close enough to cut this off, he got close enough to chop his head off or stab him. So it was living evidence that David wasn’t just bluffing. He goes on and describes it; it’s an amazing dialogue, verses 11, 12, 13 and 14. Now verse 16, here’s the result, here’s the end of the scene. “Now it came about when David had finished speaking these words to Saul, that Saul said, ‘Is this your voice, my son David?’ Then Saul lifted up his voice and wept.” Saul was a very emotional person, a very unstable kind of person. He floats around spiritually but he was emotional. By the way, it shows you therefore that emotions and the Holy Spirit working doesn’t necessarily coincide.
Verse 17, “And he said to David, ‘You are more righteous than I; for you have dealt well with me, while I have dealt wickedly with you.” See, it led to a confession of sin. Verse 18, “And you have declared today that you have done good to me, that the LORD delivered me into your hand and yet you did not kill me.  For if a man finds his enemy, will he let him go away safely? May the LORD therefore reward you with good in return for what you have done to me this day.”
Now the amazing thing in verses 20-21, keep the history and background in mind; keep your history in mind! What is the big picture? Dynastic succession. That’s what’s going on here, who is going to control the throne of Israel. Here’s the guy that’s on the throne, who has all power, and what does he say in verses 20-21 as a result of this? “And now, behold, I know that you” not only will be king, “but you shall surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in your hand.  So now,” look at this, look at verse 21, “So now swear to me by the LORD that you will not cut off my descendants after me, and that you will not destroy my name from my father’s household.” And guess what the verb “destroy” is? It’s the title of the Psalm, “Al-tashheth,” don’t destroy my seed. What’s the object of the verb “destroy?” The old dynasty. Why not destroy it? Because God is in control. It is not man’s prerogative, it is God’s prerogative, it is the Word of God that’s going to establish this thing, and I’m going to trust the Lord to do this.
Here we have an eloquent portrayal of the behavior, for about thirty minutes, probably this whole thing was started and finished in thirty minutes, a snapshot of one of the great believers of all time and how he managed adversity, trial and pressure, and how he came out of it. Then in verses 20-21 what he accomplished by it. He could have killed Saul, but what would that have done? It would have hardened the people who were the Saulites. It would have hardened them you would have had to fight all of them. But by having Saul himself, in verses 20-21, admit that yeah, my dynasty is finished, and the destiny of my sons rests on you, he’s defeated. Who is defeated here? Saul is defeated, and he was defeated without even being touched with a knife. The reason is because David used another sword, the sword of the Word of God that is living and powerful and sharper than two-edged sword.
David is an amazing story here of a guy, a king, a Messianic leader who operated with all of the covenant knowledge, all the knowledge of the attributes of God, and now we’re going to watch, sadly, one of the all-time ignoramuses on the throne, called Rehoboam. Watch what this guy does. Keep David in mind; use him as a reflector as we start studying these other guys. It’s going to be a study in what we call, in the actual area of doctrine it has a name, it’s called hamartiology. Hamartiology is a study of sin, and that’s what we’re going to be studying, hamartiology and sanctification, hamartiology and sanctification, over and over. That’s the story of the next few weeks. It’s great, because we need to know that.
Are there any questions on what we’ve done as far as the history up to this point because as I said, we’re going to go pretty fast through an awful lot of history in the next few chapters, because we’ve got to cover everything from 930 BC, we’ve got to cover 200 years of history and it involves political intrigues, and if you’re new to the Bible this can be very confusing for you because if you don’t know kings and who did what under whose reign it can get kind of confusing. So what I’m going to try to do is go through passages of Scripture. Next week I’d like to go through 1 Kings 11-12 and just go through the passage, so if you haven’t gone through it and it’s new to you, by the time we get through next week it won’t be new to you. That’s a critical section. So we won’t attempt to go through every single chapter, we’re just going to take segments through a few certain chapters of the Old Testament. Any questions?
Question asked: Clough replies: I think I know what you’re talking about, you get it on the radio and in books and stuff, the problem with that approach is that you’re fooling yourself and ultimately it’s deception because only the Holy Spirit can give you that confidence. We’re talking true truth here, and frankly, I think we’re better off being somewhat skeptical about things until the Holy Spirit opens our hearts. The analogy would be before you became a Christian, and you might have been around Christians, peer pressure, and you might have felt well, I believe in Jesus. Before I became a Christian I thought I believed in Jesus too, but if you asked me what was the content of my belief I couldn’t tell you. But I could have tried to work something up, but that’s all stuff that you work up. Real truth, like we all know, someday the Lord opened your heart and you trusted the Lord. And you didn’t do that, you didn’t sit there and work it up. Well, it’s the same thing; you don’t sit and work that kind of stuff up. When those Psalmists experienced that confidence, I’m sure they would have told us if we could interview them, oh well, the Holy Spirit just gave me that, the Lord just opened my heart to that truth. That’s why you don’t always observe it, it is not true that that’s one in every Psalm. It’s not standard procedure. I just pointed it out so you could be on the lookout for it.
Some people have argued that they had a prophetic spirit in that they could actually visualize, the Lord might have taken them to visualize this in a way that He doesn’t to us, because after all we’re talking here about people who write Scripture. So, special situations might have applied to them that don’t to us. But the main problem, the main principle in what we’re seeing here is always look for the confidence section when you read a Psalm. Look for a confidence section, because that will queue you as to what was going on in their head about God. That will tell you what the battle was. I think that’s the discipline we want to get. I always am intrigued by how did they handle that? I want to know, how did they handle that, what were you thinking when you acted that way. That’s why those confidence sections inside the text are so critical. Just like tonight when that past tense occurred, the visualization is that they’d fallen into the pit and it’s not like I commanded them to fall into the pit, I claimed that they’d fallen into the pit, it’s much more, almost like passive, they did this to me and they’ve fallen into the pit. He can see it happen.
Like I say, I don’t think we know in Psalm 57 whether that happened prior to or after, it’s hard to tell.
Question asked: Clough replies: You can use it oppositely though; you can use this in another way, backwards. Instead of using it, name it and claim it, there’s another way I’ve found useful and that is when I’m not trusting the Lord…. The problem is usually when I’m not trusting the Lord I’m distracted from not trusting the Lord so I’m not even conscious I’m not trusting the Lord. That’s what the problem is because sin is so deceptive. So when circumstances hit me over the head or my wife hits me over the head or something like that, and I realize I’m not trusting the Lord in this situation, when you first become aware that you’re not trusting the Lord in a situation, a good question and discipline to do is say to yourself, now wait a minute, I’m not in neutral, so what am I trusting in? And then when you start asking yourself, what kind of a God-image am I having that leads me to behave this way, it’s great because all of a sudden it grabs all the crud in your thought patterns and pulls it out for examination and you say man, I have accepted a pagan premise here. God really isn’t in control, because I have to believe something. At all times I’m operating on one presupposition or I’m operating the other.
Question asked: Clough replies: You’re saying it’s spontaneous. Obviously praise is after the fact, it’s just that in some cases there’s a prophetic element in these Psalms. I can’t think of a good example now, but there are those cases where this thing happens and you know from the context that he’s still in the middle of the problem, and he has this ability to see it. But it’s not always there. Now Psalm 57 you’re probably right, probably all these are, all of them were written after the fact. The question is when they wrote them after the fact, when David sat there and either dictated it to somebody, a scribe who wrote it down, is he telling the scribe that gee, thinking back on that cave incident, this is how God was praised, or is he saying to the scribe who’s writing it down, let me tell you what I was thinking when I did that? It’s hard to say because we don’t know how these Psalms were composed.
Question asked: Clough replies: Is confidence even specifically more than that, and that’s what I wanted to get into when I showed you the eagle metaphor, and how he used chesed, the word for lovingkindness, I brought those two up because I wanted to show that David had more, he knew God well enough to know He was omnipotent, omniscient, etc. and he surely did trust that way. But the very fact that he was using those words and those metaphors that are anchored to covenants tells you that he was standing on those covenants. Even though he doesn’t say “I believe in the Davidic Covenant,” he doesn’t have to say that to tell us that’s in fact what he’s doing.
Question asked: Clough replies: We have to realize that the presence of depression and fear is not always a sign we’re out of fellowship, because if it is, we’ve got a problem with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. If Jesus was sinless, and He is so upset by what’s going to happen that’s He’s rupturing temple areas in His forehead, I beg to differ with some people, He wasn’t just sitting back and “naming it and claiming it,” not in that situation He wasn’t. Then what are we going to say, Jesus was out of fellowship in the Garden of Gethsemane. Clearly not. Then that shows you that you can be in faith and still be working through all kinds of emotions. It’s who wins, does the emotional pattern totally overwhelm you, or finally is there a spiritual control, where a human spirit is not ultimately be subdued by the fleshly emotions.
Question asked: Clough replies: Saul is all over the board. He’s a double-minded man, and he’s all over the board. And this is why it’s caused no end of Bible scholars …, because over the years people have asked the question, was Saul a believer? You can hardly tell with this guy, at times he really looks like a genuine believer, and at other times he blows it. I personally think he was a believer. I think he had all kinds of disobedience problems, and God thrashed him. And finally God killed him. We have to recognize that all believers don’t … the end of every believer’s life is not always a happy story. We’ve got a little deception going on in our own little evangelical circles about that, people go around and say well, Solomon couldn’t have been a believer because he didn’t last. I beg your pardon, but Solomon was a believer. Now he tubed out at the end of his life. Did he lose his salvation? No, he didn’t lose his salvation. The point is 2 Samuel 7 says he who disobeys will be chastened with the rod of men. Who’s doing the chastening? The men? No, behind it is an unseen hand that’s doing the chastening.
Like in 1 Corinthians 11 we read at every communion service here, “many are sick and weakly and many sleep,” it’s clearly saying that the Lord kills people, believers, He doesn’t bother the unbelievers, it’s the believers. So you find believers in jail, you find believers in the funny farm, you find believers sick when they shouldn’t be, we’re amiss, we’re all sheep, stupid sheep. That’s why David is so good because he gets involved in about everything we can get involved in and yet he comes out smelling like a rose, and it’s just because David was dong things in his life that the other guys didn’t do. David would get out of it, but somehow David’s heart was sensitive and the Holy Spirit came to him and he responded and got back on track. He had a whole lot of glop to deal with, but he got back on the track.
And then you see somebody like Solomon and you say for crying out loud, what happened to this guy? He had everything going for him and he wipes out. Then we’re going to see some real ripping cases as we go on in 1 Kings. Some of these guys, you wonder where did these guys come from, what planet are they from? Were they believers? Probably, yeah. That’s why I want to go through that history because I want us to see what crummy messy lives these guys had, not because we want to lead crummy messy lives, because these guys paid for it, they suffered for it. When God calls a nation to a destiny and the people don’t respond to what He called them to, He’s going to get out the whip. That’s what’s happening here. God says I’m going to chasten with the rod of men and boy He chastens with the rod of men 300 years. 1 Kings 11 is 930 BC, the big dates are 2000 BC, Abraham; 1400 BC the Exodus; 1000 BC David, now we’re going to go from 1000 BC to 500 BC. The revolution, the civil war, happens in 930-931 BC. Then from 930 BC to 720 BC, this is how long the northern kingdom lasts, and in 721 BC the Syrians come in and they take it out. So ten of the twelve tribes are totally shot in 721 BC. The southern kingdom goes on to 586 BC and they’re taken out by the Babylonians. So now you have the northern kingdom and the southern kingdom terminated in history.
But the neat thing is that while all this horror story is going on that we’re going to look at, there arises in Israel a new class of people, and these are the people that write practically the whole center part of the Old Testament. They’re called the classical writing prophets. We want to look at those classical writing prophets because liberals who criticize the Scriptures have always insisted that the classical prophets were reformers. This is the liberal idea, that they were reformers; they came to reform the nations and do these things. We went through the treaty last year and I showed the cursings and the blessings. What we’re going to see is that when the classical writing prophets start doing their business, Isaiah, Jeremiah, the big guys, when they start doing their business and they start writing, they start ministering to the nation, they are not reforming to the nation. They are prosecuting attorneys that are going back to particular parts of Deuteronomy and Leviticus and Numbers, taking those Scriptures and taking them centuries later and applying them to their society. And they’re convicting the nation for violation of these particular parts of Scripture. There’s no reformation, there’s no reform, there’s no social agendas there. It’s prosecuting attorneys that are coming up and convicting the nation and explaining, you are suffering because you violated this point, this point, this point, and this point. That’s what those cries of the prophets were all about. It’s not saying you’re sinners. They are sinners, but it’s far more specific than that. It’s covenantal.
That’s what we want to see, it’s the structure that goes on. Even though the word covenant isn’t in Psalm 57, the imagery is there. David is functioning in the light of covenant. So watch what happens in 1 Kings 11-12.