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.
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.
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.]