Reading Psalm 9 this morning, I was struck by how strongly David identifies his cause as ‘just’ and ‘righteous’ – and how confident he is that God sees things the same way;
“When my enemies turn back, they stumble and perish before your presence. For you have maintained my just cause; you have sat on the throne, giving righteous judgment.” – Psalms 9:3–4 ESV
This comes partly from David’s view of kingship or, rather, God’s appointment of people to kingship. This came out clearly in the respect he held for Saul and his status as ‘God’s anointed’ (eg 1 Sam 24:1-22 & 1 Sam 26:1-25).
David’s sense of justice around himself and his cause come in the context of God’s anointing on him as King. Whether it is David or the man trying to kill him, David’s expectations are consistent – action taken against God’s anointed is action taken against God. It’s just wrong.
Behind this is an absolute confidence in who God is and what He is like. This comes out in Psalm 9 and pretty much every other Psalm (particularly in Ps 18 & 57 which appear to have been written during his time on the run from Saul). The Psalms reveal that David felt anger, frustration and a range of emotions towards those who attacked him, but he continually comes back to the reality of God’s authority and justice rather than those opposed to him.
David’s confidence in God’s character and ability to trust Him set David free from the urge to ‘grab’ what was promised him in 1 Sam 16:13 or to execute judgment on Saul himself. Instead there is an attitude of security and peace – also apparent in his response to Shimei during Absalom’s insurrection (2 Sam 16:5-14).
Because of God’s character and call, David can endure suffering, injustice and persecution, secure and non-reactive. He can also pray with conviction and authority that seems almost inappropriate.
Jesus demonstrated even greater security in his identity. On two occasions God clearly and publicly affirms and identifies Himself with Jesus as His Father (Mk 1:9-11, 9:7, Lk 3:21-22, 9:35) – particularly significant when Jesus’ parentage may have been the subject of childhood taunts or gossip.
Jesus clearly saw himself as the Son of the Father in a very deep way (eg Mt 11:27, Jn 5:19-23). He was able to freely serve (eg Jn 13:1-5), resist sustained temptation to take short cuts (Mt 4:1-11) and choose surrender and submission to the Father when faced with intense suffering and injustice (Mt 26:36-46).
The security Jesus had in the Father’s character and call allowed Him to interact with people and opposition from a place of abiding and restedness rather than anger or frustration. He was able to follow the Father’s lead and wait for His timing rather than grabbing for Himself. This is exactly what Paul draws on when he exhorts the disciples in Philippi to handle conflict better (Philippians 2:1-11).
This security also enabled Jesus to teach and pray with authority – confident what the Father was doing and asking Him to do, and able to do it with conviction. Onlookers were astonished by Jesus’ authority (eg Mark 2:1-12, 4:35-41).
Jesus demonstrates a peace and a freedom to handle opposition and injustice. He relates to people based on His security in the Father’s affirmation and character rather than their sinfulness, blindness or weakness.
Jesus clearly expected something very very similar for us – He prayed we would have the same intimacy with the Father (John 17:20-21) and He sent us just as the Father sent Him (John 20:21).
So, Jesus and David both demonstrate a peace and spiritual authority that stemmed from their knowledge of God’s character and what He was asking them to do. And we are invited into that same space.
My personal application
This reinforces my conviction about the importance of prayer (ask-seek-knock + listen + obey) and marinating in the Bible.
Soaking in the Bible deepens our understanding of God’s character and gives us clarity on our call in a general sense. Seeking God in prayer – hearing and responding – deepens our understanding of who He is, how to discern His voice, and His specific call.
The challenge for me personally is applying this on the home front – when rudeness or carelessness from my kids provokes a harsh reaction from me, what is going on? I am not responding out of that place of peace or security in God’s promises and character. Somewhere in that interaction there is something that I feel threatened by, and my response is to try ‘grab’ for it with my own strength. Result: damaged relationship with the Father and with others.