David is a poet, and not just a poet but also a musician. The first we hear of David after his anointing is that he is known as a man skilful in playing [the lyre], a man of valour, a warrior, prudent in speech, and a man of good presence, and he was sent to play for Saul, to soothe him when evil spirits tormented him, and at this point Saul loved him greatly (1 Sam 16:14-23). As we know, the relationship between Saul and David did not remain on such a good footing, but after Saul’s death we read that David intoned a lamentation over Saul and his son Jonathan (2 Sam 1:17-27). David’s final words recorded in 2 Sam 23:1-7 are also a poem – and in between we have the Psalms, many of them attributed to David.
David, like Moses last week, was a remarkable man, so blessed by God, so talented in so many areas (see 1 Sam 16 mentioned above) and yet so human. And he expressed his humanity in his music and poems:
his joy and love of God and God’s creation,
his fear and despair when Saul sought to kill him, his sorrow at the loss of Saul, his King and Jonathan, his friend,
his remorse at his own failings,
his dependence on God for the responsibilities of kingship.
We read his poems in translation so lose some of the poetic nuances of the original; some of them are acrostic poems – using each letter of the Hebrew alphabet to start each line or verse – and some were clearly not just poems but lyrics, set to music on the lyre (same Greek root word). It is worth looking through the book of Psalms and reading not just the Psalms themselves but the explanations given to many of them.
Many of our own hymns and worship songs are based on Psalms, probably the best known being Psalm 23, and some denominations for many years only used the Psalms in worship in what is known as metrical settings. David’s poems are an incredible resource for us in our worship individually and corporately and should not be taken for granted. Read them, sing them, get to know them so that you can turn to relevant ones depending on your own mood.
Praise God for blessing David with this talent, and for giving us this resource.
The heavens are telling the glory of God;
and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours forth speech,
and night to night declares knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words;
their voice is not heard;
yet their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.