By Aude McKee
When we speak of the devotion of David, we have reference to his attitude toward God. Devotion (devoutness) is an internal quality that motivates and regulates external conduct. Nothing that is said here should be taken to mean that we should feel less concern for external compliance with God’s Word, but we do hope to impress on the minds of each of us that without devotion, whatever we might do externally would be unacceptable to God. W.E. Vine, defined the word eulabes to mean “taking hold well, primarily, cautious, signifies in the New Testament, careful as to the realization of the presence and claims of God, reverencing God, pious, devout” (Vol. 1, p. 307).
R. C. Trench, Synonyms. of the New Testament (p. 163), speaking of a number of words in this family, said, “If we, keep in mind that, in that mingled fear and love which combined constitute the piety of man toward God, the Old Testament placed its emphasis on the fear, the New places it on the love (though there was love in the fear of God’s saints then, as there must be fear in their love now), it will at once be evident how fitly eulabes was chosen to set forth their piety under the Old Covenant, who like Zacharias and Elisabeth, ‘were righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless’ (Luke 1:6), and leaving nothing willingly undone which pertained to the circle of their prescribed duties. For this sense of accurately and scripulously performing that which is prescribed, with the consciousness of the danger of slipping into a careless negligent performance of God’s service, and of the need therefore of anxiously watching against the adding to or diminishing from, or in any other way altering, that which has been by Him commanded, lies ever in these words. . . when used in their religious signification.”
A form of the word eulabes is used in Hebrews 11:7 to describe the attitude of Noah toward God. He prepared the ark, we are told, because he was “moved with fear.” His faith in God and his devotion to Him, motivated him to give his life to a project that was as opposite to f4common sense” (human reasoning) as anything possibly could have been. But, without doubt, all those who observed his preaching and his building could see his devotion demonstrated. The purpose of this lesson is to encourage each of us to examine our own service to God. Is it a heartless, cold, formal service and worship performed because it is required, or does our conduct reveal a heart that is truly devoted to God? Let’s look at the life of David and see his devotion demonstrated time and time again.
David’s Devotion Evident Early In His Life
Our readers will recall that David was the youngest of the eight sons of Jesse, and while he was still a “youth” he was anointed to be the new king over the nation of Israel at Saul’s death. After his anointing, David went back to his job of keeping sheep while three of his older brothers were fighting against the Philistines in Saul’s army. After a time, Jesse asked David to go to the battle area and check on his brothers. Upon arriving, he found a distressing situation. Goliath, a Philistine at least nine feet tall, would come out every day and defy the Israelite army by challenging them to pick out a man to fight him, and the Israelites were terrified. But David said to Saul, “Thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine” (1 Sam. 17:32). Saul didn’t think much of the idea and tried to argue with David on the basis of his age and experience. David then related how he had been able to kill both a lion and a bear that had threatened his sheep, and the same God that had provided that deliverance would deliver him out of the hand of Goliath. In preparation for the encounter, he refused Saul’s armor and sword, and chose instead his sling and five smooth stones from the creek. In a moment we see Goliath on the ground and, to finish the job, David took Goliath’s own sword and cut off his head. He was able to accomplish the task because, as he told Goliath, “Thou comest to me with a sword and with a spear, and with a shield; but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou has defied.
David’s Devotion To God Can Be Seen In The Psalms
“The heavens declare the glory of God;, and the firmament showeth His handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech and night unto night showeth knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world” (Psalms 19). “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul; He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalms 23). In Psalms 27 he said, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” We know these words were penned by inspiration, but as you look at the overall life of David you can know that these Psalms (and a host of others) expressed the sentiments of his soul.
David’s Devotion Was Revealed By His Respect For, Sacred Things
When David was near death, he charged his son, Solomon, with these words: “I go the way of all the earth: be thou strong therefore, and show thyself a man. And keep the charge of the Lord thy God to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, and His commandments, and His judgments, and His testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses. . .” (1 Kings 2:2-3). David had a high regard for the Word of God! Psalms 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible, and in those 176 verses, God’s Word is mentioned in all but five. Statements like, “Forever, 0 Lord, Thy Word is settled in heaven,” “Through Thy precepts I get understanding,” and “Thy Word is a lamp to my feet and a light unto my pathway” (89, 104, 105) are precious to all of us, and they show David’s respect for the Word of the Lord.
To this writer, David’s attitude toward Saul is one of the most impressive things in the life of David. After David killed Goliath, David’s name became a household word. He was loved by women and praised by men. Saul became insanely jealous. He made several attempts to kill David but David never retaliated. Later David had to flee to the wilderness of Engedi to protect himself from Saul. Saul then went looking for him with 3,000 chosen men and on one occasion went to rest in a cave already occupied by David and his men. When they were asleep, David’s men told him to “do to him as it shall seem good unto thee. ” So David slipped up near Saul and cut off a piece of his robe. David would not allow his men to kill Saul, and his “heart smote him, because he had cut off Saul’s skirt.” Later he showed Saul the piece of garment and reminded him that he could have killed him, but, he said, “I will not put forth mine hand against my lord; for he is the Lord’s anointed” (1 Sam. 24: 10). David would not lay a hand on Saul, to harm him, because David was devoted to the God who anointed Saul to be king.
David’s Devotion Is Manifest In His Ability And Willingness To Repent
Repentance, by its very nature, must spring from a heart devoted to God. Repentance is a change of mind regarding sin, and sin is a violation of divine law (1 John 3:4). Without a proper regard for the author of the law, there could be no change of heart when the law is broken. It’s a fact that no person lives above sin (1 John 1:8) and David was no exception. In 2 Samuel 24, we are told of David’s numbering the people and of the Lord’s displeasure. David, without doubt, had the thought of relying on numbers and not on God. Then it seems that almost immediately after the numbering was completed, David had a change of mind. “His heart smote him,” we are told, and he said to the Lord, “I have sinned greatly in that I have done. I beseech thee, 0 Lord, take away the iniquity of thy servant; for I have done foolishly.”
The best known of David’s infractions of God’s laws was his affair with Bathsheba. In that episode, that scholars say may have extended over at least a year, David broke at least five of the Ten Commandments. He lusted for and coveted his neighbor’s wife (# 10), He committed adultery (# 7), he attempted to bear false witness to Uriah (# 9), he stole another man’s wife (# 8), and he murdered her husband (# 6). The last verse of 2 Samuel 11 says that “the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.” But David had three things going for him. First, he had someone in heaven who was concerned for his soul; second, he had a prophet who was willing to tell him the truth about his spiritual condition and his relationship to God, and third, he had a conscience that was still tender enough to be pricked – he was still devoted to God. When Nathan had told him the story of the rich man who, instead of killing one of his many lambs to feed a guest, sent a servant to the house of a poorman who had but one ewe lamb but he loved like a daughter, stole it and killed it to feed his guest, David’s reaction was, “The man that hath done this thing shall surely die; and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing and because he had no pity” (2 Sam. 12:5-6). Then came those famous words of Nathan, “Thou art the man.” David then replied, “I have sinned against the Lord.”
Psalms 51 was probably written by David following the sin with Bathsheba. We ask that you read the entire chapter carefully, but then note especially verse 15-17. “0 Lord, open thou my lips, and my mouth shall show forth thy praise. For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it; thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” David could have offered animal sacrifices to the day of his death to no avail, but with a heart (spirit) broken by a knowledge of his violation of God’s law, he could then approach God through the means provided under the law of Moses. How true are the Words of Jesus in the sermon on the mount – “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Every sin is a tragedy of immense proportions, but the tragedy becomes an eternal one when we fail to repent. In Hebrews 6:4-6, the Holy Spirit did not say that “it is impossible for those who were once enlightened. . . . ” to sin ‘ but He did say that “if they shall fall away (it is impossible) to renew them again unto repentance. . . . ” Surely it must be correct to say that any person who finds it impossible to repent, has lost his devotion to God. He no longer stands in awe of God, he no longer has a wholesome dread of displeasing Him, and he no longer recognizes God’s claims on his life. His loss of devotion must mean a loss of love and respect for God. David never lost his ability to repent – regardless of what he did, there was always that desire to be restored to God’s fellowship.
The writer of the Hebrew letter sums up what we have tried to say in this lesson on the devotion of David. “Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence (devoutness, NASV) and godly fear” (12:28). Devotion (devoutness) is an absolute necessity in our service to God.
Guardian of Truth XXVII: 17, pp. 519-521
September 1, 1983