For the next three weeks, we are going to look at the life of one of the most pivotal figures in the Bible: King David. We are going to read about His life, but we will also explore the music that he wrote in the Psalms. Today, I am going to set the stage for this study by explaining where David fits in the history of Israel.
Before I go any further, it might help you to know who Israel is and why it is so important that the whole Old Testament is centered on them. After God created the world, the world quickly fell into sin. Adam and Eve rebelled against God, and then their son Cain committed murder. After multiple generations, the world was so wicked that God sent the flood to wipe it out - all except for the family of Noah.
God settled on a plan to redeem the world and free it from sin. He would send His Son to die for the sin of the world. But He knew that this would take some preparation - after all, the plan would only work if the people of earth understood His Son’s sacrifice when it happened. That meant that they needed to know Him, they needed to understand what “sin” was and why it was such a problem. They needed to understand why humans couldn’t just save themselves.
And so God chose one man, named Abraham, and started to work on him and his family. Year after year, generation after generation He slowly taught them the lessons they needed to know. Over time that family became quite large - an entire nation of people. This nation of people found itself in the land of Egypt, and were turned into slaves. God sent a man named Moses and saved them from slavery. God saw that they needed a land of their own, and so He brought them to Canaan - a wonderful, fertile land perfect for farming and fishing, trading and crafting.
As the years went by, the people of Israel struggled to obey God. They would do well for a bit, then they would start to fall away - worshiping other gods, treating their neighbors badly, becoming greedy and selfish. When that would happen, God would stop protecting them. Eventually a famine might occur, or a plague. Most often, though, one of Israel’s many neighbors would invade and try and take away the land God had given them.
Each time this happened, the people would suddenly remember God. They would pray to Him, asking Him to protect them again and they would turn away from their sins. Each time God heard them, and would send someone to lead them out of the mess they found themselves in. These leaders (the Bible calls them the “Judges”), like the people, were a mixed bag. Some (like Gideon and Deborah) were godly men and women who led the people with justice and wisdom for many years. Others (like Samson) were... less helpful.
Over time, the people became tired of the constant change of leaders. They looked at their neighbors and saw that all of them had kings. They decided they wanted a king too, and so they told Samuel - the last of the Judges - to ask God for one. God gave in, and gave them a man named Saul.
For a while, King Saul was great. He was a warrior, and inspired the troops on the battlefield. But he was also insecure - he really wanted to be liked by the people, all the time. Eventually, his desire to be popular led him to make some really bad decisions - including turning away from God.
Once again, God’s protection was removed and Israel’s neighbors started to creep in, taking whatever they could find. Saul, despite his bravery, wasn’t enough to keep them out, and Israel started to lose battle after battle, town after town to a group called the Philistines. Again, the people called out to God and asked for help.
Out in a distant field, a teenage boy is tending his father’s sheep. Thin, pimple-faced and poor, this boy David had no expectations of a glorious future. As the youngest of seven boys, he was probably doomed to roam the fields tending sheep for the rest of his life, with just his sling and his harp to keep him company. He picks out a tune on the harp strings - a song about God being his shepherd he’s been writing in his long hours in the fields. Suddenly he hears a servant running out calling his name. As the breathless boy gets to David, he starts spouting some crazy story about how Samuel - the Samuel - is at the house and wants to talk to David...