TODAY’S READING: 1 Samuel 21–24; Psalm 34, 56
We cannot escape the reality that the drama between Saul and David was played out before the nations whether the Philistines (1 Sam. 21:10–11), Moabites (22:3–4), or Edomites (22:9–19). Tragically, energy that should have been spent on missions was spent on infighting. God allowed the kingdom of Israel because He wanted it to be an invitation, a displayed relationship so life-giving between Israel and Jehovah that holy jealously would stir all the nations to know Jehovah themselves. But instead of focusing on this kingly mission, Saul spent his energy trying to find and kill David, hardly making union with Jehovah appealing to the nations looking on. Instead of glorifying God among the surrounding nations or developing justice and peace as God’s holy example, Saul toggled back and forth between fighting Philistines and fighting David (23:28, 24:1). What might Saul have done if he had trusted David and concentrated on developing Israel? What might we do as the body of Christ if we spent less time fighting with one another and instead concentrated all our prayers, emotional energy, finances, and personnel on glorifying God among the nations? The unreached remain unreached, not because there are not enough gospel resources available globally (people, Bibles, finances, and prayers), but because those resources are not singularly applied to harvest. They are divided—some for gospel advance and some for self-protection (at best) and civil war (at worst).
If Saul was causing international shame, David at least was trying to lift global praise. The superscript of Psalm 34 says that David wrote it when he pretended madness before Abimelech. The seeming tension resulting from the text in 1 Samuel 21:10–15 calling the Philistine king “Achish” is resolved when we realize that “Abimelech” was the title for Philistine kings—literally meaning “my Father, the King.” The beauty of David’s feigned madness was in the content of his praise. David was fleeing for his life. His leader wanted to kill him. He had no safe place in his own nation to rest and had to beg at the gates of his mortal enemy. He must pretend that he had lost his mind with no shred of dignity left and his life reduced to shame. And in that context David’s spirit and character soared as he opened his mouth and declared: “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth… Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together (Psalm 34:1, 3). And so it is around the world, through history, and in times of duress, the most beautiful praise is when men and women surrounded by and isolated among the peoples, whether hostile or curious, lift their eyes off their pain and sorrow and declare, “I will bless the Lord at all times,” and invite the Fulani, “Magnify the Lord with me!”
David also made a case for universal glory. Psalm 56 was written when the Philistines captured David at Gath, and there in passion David erupted: “In anger cast down the peoples, O God” (v. 7). We have so abused anger that we lost its righteous application. While anger is often used wickedly, it is essentially a secondary emotion. When a holy God is angry, it’s because something is so wicked that it must be destroyed. When God hates something, He is so against it that He will destroy it. Think about the molestation of children, rape, trafficking of women, divorce, racism, and more: Should not these things be destroyed, and should not a holy God lead the charge in their destruction? Then what about evil nations and evil people? Is a good God not glorified when He destroys evil wherever it is found? He should; it is required by His holiness. G. K. Chesterton put it this way in his book Man Alive: “The goodness of good things, like the badness of bad things, is a prodigy past speech; it is to be pictured rather than spoken. We shall have gone deeper than the deeps of heaven and grown older than the oldest angels before we feel, even in its first faint vibrations, the everlasting of the double passion with which God loves and hates the world.” So does God hate or love the peoples of this world? It is both—if hate is understood as being so passionately against something wicked that in anger God will destroy it, and if love is understood as being so passionately for someone that God would do anything, including pour out His anger on His beloved Son, to save him or her.