Some of My Best Work

If you study the life of David (often considered the greatest king of Israel), one thing you come across is the fact that he wrote many of the Biblical Psalms (songs of worship). He is considered to have been a musical genius. One of the things he did with those songs was to calm the riled spirit of King Saul.

You may remember that the king was tormented by an evil spirit sent from God (1 Samuel 16:14). David was called upon to play his lyre (harp) to “soothe the savage breast” as it were. Apparently, David was good enough as a songwriter and instrumentalist to pull this off for a while. Eventually, Saul got worse and worse, and David had to flee from Saul’s wrathful violence.

Inspiration

One of the interesting parts of the story that is never actually stated in Scripture is where David got his material. What was his inspiration? Where did he write these masterpieces? How did he get so good?

If you remember your childhood Bible stories, you’ll recall that David started out as a shepherd boy. He spent much of his time out in the fields with the sheep. From what we can glean and assume, he learned to play the lyre as well as become efficient with the sling shot.

He probably sang his music to the sheep (as well as to the Lord) to calm them after he had killed a bear or lion that was attempting to obtain supper from among the flock. That’s just a guess, but it stands to reason. To be advanced at either the art of self-defense or music, one has to spend considerable time at it. He was proficient at both.

Magnum Opus

If we read his most famous piece (Psalm 23), we get a sense of why his stuff lasted so long. It’s been on the charts for centuries now. He probably wrote it while he was out in the field with the lambs, ewe, and rams. I guess a lot of artists have been inspired by the wonder of a pastoral setting. David probably wasn’t the first, either.

Then, of course, there was the cave. At least two of David’s Psalms were written while he was hiding in a fissure in the mountains (Psalm 57 & 142). Saul was again on the warpath, and David was the target of his wrath. The would-be-king concealed himself in the Cave of Adullam and wrote these magnus opuses. Apparently, fear was also a great stimulus for him and his music.

All of this made me think about where I do my best work. It’s definitely not in a cave and certainly not in a field. Being surrounded by sheep doesn’t cut it for me either. I guess there have been times when I feared I wasn’t going to make a deadline. So, it seems the one thing I have in common with David (aside from our first names) is fear. After all, “I am in the midst of lions.” (Psalm 57:4)

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]

The Runt of the Litter

When the prophet Samuel approached Bethlehem, he had instructions from God to anoint one of Jesse’s sons to be king. He was a tad nervous about anointing a new king while King Saul was still alive and kicking. Consequently, he did so under the guise of sacrificing a heifer to the Lord and worshiping with the locals.

Jesse and his sons were invited to the service, and Samuel, seeing what fine sons Jesse had produced, assumed the new king was among them. What he didn’t know was that not all of Jesse’s sons were present. He saw seven strapping young men, but God told him the future monarch was not there. That’s when the Lord issued the now famous statement, “People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

The New King

When the Lord indicated that the new king wasn’t part of the gathering, Samuel must have been a bit more than confused. He asked Jesse if he had any more sons. There was, indeed, one more. His name was David, and he was tending sheep out in the field. I suspect that the baby of the family often gets left out of such things as neighborhood sacrifices. Still, the Lord had other ideas.

When Samuel heard that there was yet another son, he asked Jesse to send for him. Most English translations of Scripture tell us that Jesse simply told Samuel that “the youngest” was not present. There is one publication, however, (The Message Bible) that quotes Jesse in somewhat of a differing fashion. The Message has Jesse stating that “the runt” was out tending the sheep.

To understand this, we need to realize that The Message is not a translation for study but is a paraphrase designed to be a “reading Bible.” In other words, it is loosely translated in such a way that it can be easily read by laypeople in their own, modern-day language. The rock singer, Bono, from the group U2 has helped to make this version of Scripture famous by endorsing it and its author, Eugene Peterson. Frankly, it is an easy read as compared with the likes of the King James Version, for example.

An Interesting Perspective

Peterson inserted the term, runt, as a translation of a Hebrew word that literally means “the small one.” Most Bible scholars look at that and say Jesse was referring to David’s age. Consequently, they translate it as “the youngest.” And to be fair, David was certainly no runt—as least, not as we think of a runt. Still, it posits an interesting perspective.

Kingly lines don’t generally come from the youngest child of eight males. More often than not, the eldest will become king. That’s what Samuel assumed, but you know what happens when we assume.

I actually like to think of David as the runt. It gives me great hope. If God can take the least and turn him into the greatest, there’s still hope for me. For you too, I suspect.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]