Part 2: The Day David Felt the Fear, and the Psalms were Born.
Is Something of the Path Laid Out for David Our Path too? By Jeff Sullivan
When Saul and the army of Israel faced 40 days of terror and taunting from Goliath, their future King David seemed almost immune to the crisis of fear and doom as he arrived on the scene and quickly disposed of the threat with a mere sling and a stone. If bold faith, confidence, and zeal for God were all the prerequisites for becoming King of Israel, David would’ve surely ascended to the throne shortly after this great victory. But God had only just begun to form the shepherd boy who would eventually lead His people. A training ground of God’s own design was just beginning for David, and feeling the fear and taking refuge in God were its main course. The Lord was after more than just another monarch to rule His people; He was shaping a royal shepherd to feed His flock. He was fashioning a psalmist whose prayers and praises, born out of crisis, would bless and encourage God’s people for the rest of time. But is this only a story about ancient kings and heroes of the faith, or is there a life lesson for us too in our walk with the Lord in times of fear and crisis? I believe there is great encouragement for God’s people hidden in this story that offers instruction and hope when we pass through such times. Can a season of crisis be of eternal value in our lives? Can it plow deeper than we would ordinarily allow and bring us to a better, more fruitful walk with God? It did with David and I believe it can for us too, in a similar fashion. Charles Spurgeon once wrote, “They that dive in the Sea of Affliction bring up rare pearls.” For David this ocean looked more like the wasteland of a desert as it became apparent that Saul and the very army he’d rescued from Goliath were now seeking to take his life. The fertile ground that cultivated such a rich harvest of psalms and prayer in David was outwardly a “dry and weary land where no water is” (Psalm 63:1). Over the next decade he would be, in his own words, hunted “as one hunts a partridge in the mountains” (1 Samuel 26:20). On the day his life as a fugitive began, the day everything changed for David and he realized he was a marked man, he makes a revealing statement that captures the anguish of his soul and the depth of the fear that he would carry with him for years to come. On the day Saul’s son, Jonathon, confirms he must flee for his life, David says, “As surely as the Lord lives, there is but one step between me and death.” (1 Samuel 20:3) I don’t think this was hyperbole; In many ways he really was that close to death’s door. Maybe he had been this close to the edge before but this time he felt it. This time it was a precipice he would need to live by; a precarious existence that would follow him for years to come and keep him calling on the Lord, “evening, morning and noon” for his very protection and sustenance (Psalm 55:17). If the old adage is true that says, the arrow that will reach heaven must be launched from a bow fully bent, than this was the crisis that would bend David into that place of prayer and form a permanent posture of desperation for his very life before God. It was an unwelcome chapter in his life, and a long one, but one that he submitted to and one that would draw him closer to God than he had ever been. The Lord would become his only place of refuge and prove to be an “unshakable stronghold” (Psalm 62:2). Out of this trial he would come to say, On God my salvation and my glory rest; The rock of my strength, my refuge is in God. Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us (vs. 7, . At what must’ve been a particularly low point in David’s life as a refugee, he fled from Saul to Goliath’s hometown and sought help from the King of Gath. But the plan unraveled, and David was driven away in shame. It was here that Psalm 34 was likely birthed when he wrote: I sought the Lord and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears (vs. 4); This poor man cried and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles (vs. 6); And, The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit (vs. 18). In the dry and weary land where no water is, David realized, I have beheld you, beholding your power and glory. (Psalm 63: 1-2). On another occasion, after a particularly close call, it’s recorded in 1 Samuel 27:1 that David said to himself, “Now I will perish one day by the hand of Saul.” We all know that God had better things planned for David and that this was not to be the outcome of his trial, but at the time he really believed a tragic end was in store. Maybe this low point would be the impetus for Psalm 31:22 where he later writes, As for me, I said in my alarm, I am cut off from your sight! Yet you heard my cry for mercy when I called to you for help. Looking back at this season, he concludes, O love the Lord all you His godly ones. The Lord preserves the faithful. Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the Lord (vs. 23, 24). So, in a very real way, David’s crisis was a gift from above. “It was good for me that I was afflicted,” says Psalm 119: 71. The fear he felt on the day that launched him into the wilderness was also the thing that drove him to his knees and kept him there. Though it felt like his soul was “but one step away from death,” he was never in a safer place spiritually. Have these days brought you to a dangerous precipice? Are you there now? Maybe it’s a medical threat, or maybe it looks like the possibility of financial ruin; or maybe it’s just a vague and terrible sense of uncertainty about the future that makes you share something of David’s fear and foreboding. That’s ok. Perhaps the path laid out for David is more common than we realize in this life of faith. Let it bend the bow and launch a psalm, a cry, a prayer or a praise. Let it lead you to the Rock that is higher than us, as David says in Psalm 61: 1-4 Hear my cry, O God; Attend to my prayer. From the end of the earth I will cry to You, When my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For You have been a shelter for me, A strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in Your tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of Your wings. Jeff Sullivan, April 30, 2020