Archive for December 8, 2011

Dec 8

Who Does David Think He Is?

2011 | by Trent Hunter | Category: Gospel,Sermon Follow-Up

Reading through the Psalms, you might ask yourself this question from time to time.

For example, several weeks ago in his sermon, “The Lord is My Rock,” Ryan preached from Psalm 18, where David writes:

The LORD dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me. For I have kept the ways of the LORD, and have not wickedly departed from my God. For all his rules were before me, and his statutes I did not put away from me. I was blameless before him, and I kept myself from my guilt. So the LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight. – Psalm 18:20-24

Twice here David says he is righteous, and that his hands are clean. Once is already one too many times for those who accept the biblical doctrine of sin. We aren’t righteous. We don’t have clean hands.

So, what’s going on here?

If we were to sit down with David and ask him to explain what he meant, what would he say?

One way to get an answer to that is to look at the other things he has said.

First, as Ryan pointed out, David knows he is a great sinner.

There are plenty of places where David confesses great sin. Psalm 14, 32, and 51, for example, reveal the depth of David’s self-understanding as a rebel in God’s world. In Psalm 143:2, he says clearly, “no one living is righteous before you.” With that clarification, a clear takeaway from David’s reflection in Psalm 18 is to say that God loves and, indeed, God rewards obedience. Inasmuch as David was obedient, God was pleased to reward David, even if this isn’t all there is to say about David or God’s dealings with him or us.

But there is more to see from David’s own writing.

Second, David knows where any human goodness or greatness comes from: God!

This comes out beautifully in his prayer in 1 Chronicles 29:10-14:

Therefore David blessed the Lord in the presence of all the assembly. And David said: “Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of Israel our father, forever and ever. Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name. But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you.”

In his helpful article, “Who Owns Greatness?,” our friend, Fred Zaspel, helps us to see the significance of David’s words in this passage and on this subject. I’ll quote a large portion of the article here, though the whole piece is worth reading:

The gist of David’s praise is clear enough — God rules over all in greatness, power, glory, victory, and unrivaled majesty. But notice that David’s thinking goes much deeper than just that. He does not say that God is great. He says that greatness belongs to God. He does not say that God is majestic. He says that majesty belongs to God. “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power,” and so on. It is one thing to say that God is great, but it is quite another step to acknowledge that greatness itself — all greatness — is his. That is to say, whatever greatness we see in this world is a borrowed greatness, on loan from God. Whatever power there is, it is a power that comes from God. It is all his. And whatever measure of greatness we have — physical, moral, political, societal, financial — we have it because God has condescended to share it with us. “Both riches and honor come from you,” David says, because it is all his to begin with.

We need to learn this well. It is a massively humbling truth: the more we do for God the more we are indebted to God for the honor of it. I can take no credit for any measure of greatness or goodness I may possess, for it is all a gift from God.

Having recognized all this David takes the inevitable next step of worship. He prays that God will continue to show this favor to his people, and keep their hearts for himself. “O Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, our fathers, keep forever such purposes and thoughts in the hearts of your people, and direct their hearts toward you. Grant to Solomon my son a whole heart that he may keep your commandments, your testimonies, and your statutes, performing all, and that he may build the palace for which I have made provision” (1 Chronicles 29:18-19).

So, God does reward obedience. But at the end of the day, our obedience and, thus, God’s favor is not a credit to our own greatness, but to the God of all greatness. David gets that. God is great in Himself and is the source of any greatness we find in the world, or any greatness that we ourselves possess.

Finally, David knows that God will provide a son who will eclipse him in greatness and wholehearted obedient to God.

He wouldn’t have been able to speak about Christ with the kind of clarity that we have from our position. Indeed, Peter tells us that the prophets “searched and inquired carefully” to understand where exactly all of God’s promises were pointing (1 Peter 1:10). David was in that boat.

But threaded through David’s prayers is the expectation of a messiah to come. Sometimes that expectation is pronounced and glowing. Sometimes it shows up in confessions of what God requires that show us David’s desire, but also his own inadequacy as God’s king. He is not God’s ultimate solution. In Hebrews 10:5-10 the author of Hebrews made this connection when he quoted David from Psalm 40, writing about Christ:

When Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’” When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” . . .then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

As Christians, we can thank God that He rewards obedience, and we can thank Him for providing the obedience He requires of us in Christ.

Jesus is our obedient King. He was obedient to his Father’s will in everything, unlike us. And he was obedient to his Father’s will in everything for us, “to the point of death, even death on a cross,” (Philippians 2:8). In Christ, we inherit the reward for the obedience that Christ performed.

As we read the Psalms and learn to pray them together, it’s good to know who we’re listening to and to know who these writers think they are. David knows he’s a sinner, that his greatness is from God, and that God’s promise to save His people rests on God’s own faithfulness to fulfill His Word.

With Christmas in mind, it’s good to know who we’re celebrating and what we’re proclaiming: the one with clean hands and a righteous life, who gives to those who believe in him the reward for both.