I’m working on a series called “The Power of Praise in the Darkness.” This is post #3, and it’s really important that you understand what praise and worship actually are in order to fully understand what I’m talking about here. So please make sure you didn’t miss the last post! The list of all the posts in the series is here.
What comes to mind when you think of David from the Bible? Who was he? What rolls did he fill?
I think of him as a king, shepherd, warrior, songwriter, and worshiper. This is what his fellow Israelites would have called him, and they all describe what he did.
God called him “a man who is after My heart.” (1 Samuel 13:14, 1 Samuel 16:7, & Acts 13:22 – All three passages are here.) This description is less about his observable activities and very much about his mind and heart.
Here’s my question. Which of those first five natural descriptions is most closely related to God’s description?
The answer? Worshiper
Here’s another question: Was the fact that he was a successful warrior connected to the fact that he was a worshiper?
The answer? Yes!
Look at what he said when he faced Goliath: “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down and remove your head from you. And I will give the dead bodies of the army of the Philistines this day to the birds of the sky and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not deliver by sword or by spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and He will give you into our hands.” (1 Samuel 17:45-47)
“Lord of hosts” means “Commander of heavens armies,” so he was basically stating for all to hear that he was relying on God because of those unseen armies. The armies who weren’t cowering behind the rocks in fear like the Israelite army was! David lifted up the name of God right there as he was facing the giant. He was confident in God’s desire and ability to deliver His people, and that is why he faced the giant without fear.
Was this a one-time incident with David, or was this statement merely a reflection of how he lived his entire life? Let’s look at more examples.
1 Samuel tells how David spent many years running for his life from Saul. Please think about that. Really think about it! This is not just a random person who wanted to kill him. Saul was the king. So this was the equivalent of all those movies we’ve got where the government is out to kill the movie hero.
Psalm 57 shows David’s situation and what was in his heart. He’s running for his life. So he says this, asking God for help:
A Mikhtam of David, when he fled from Saul in the cave.
1 Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me,
For my soul takes refuge in You;
And in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge
Until destruction passes by.
2 I will cry to God Most High,
To God who accomplishes all things for me.
But then his focus changes a few verses farther on:
7 My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast;
I will sing, yes, I will sing praises!
8 Awake, my glory!
Awake, harp and lyre!
I will awaken the dawn.
9 I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing praises to You among the nations.
10 For Your lovingkindness is great to the heavens
And Your truth to the clouds.
11 Be exalted above the heavens, O God;
Let Your glory be above all the earth.
Read that again and picture yourself in circumstances like his! Do you see how he was not denying his circumstances, but he chose to focus instead on the character and greatness and faithfulness of God? He chose to praise Him and lift Him up! Remember what my last post said about what it means to lift someone up?
Psalm 55 has another example. The Bible says he wrote it “when the Philistines seized him in Gath.” Remember that Goliath was from Gath, so here is a circumstance when the Philistines appear to have him in their power. I’m sure they were getting ready to have their revenge on the Israelite warrior who had killed their champion! David writes:
Be gracious to me, O God, for man has trampled upon me;
Fighting all day long he oppresses me.
2 My foes have trampled upon me all day long,
For they are many who fight proudly against me.
But again, look at how he shifts his focus:
3 When I am afraid,
I will put my trust in You.
4 In God, whose word I praise,
In God I have put my trust;
I shall not be afraid.
What can mere man do to me?
Do you see it? David is more confident of God’s power than he is of the Philistines’ ability to do what they want with their own captives! His trust proved justified, for the Philistines did not kill him, and he went on to eventually become king of Israel.
Psalm 59 has another example. David wrote it “when Saul sent men and they watched the house in order to kill him.” David starts the Psalm out talking about where he is at, what he is facing, and asking God for deliverance. And then he shifts his focus again:
16 But as for me, I shall sing of Your strength;
Yes, I shall joyfully sing of Your lovingkindness in the morning,
For You have been my stronghold
And a refuge in the day of my distress.
17 O my strength, I will sing praises to You;
For God is my stronghold, the God who shows me lovingkindness.
David went through plenty of other situations that we can identify with. Have you ever felt like God was far away? Look at Psalm 28:
To You, O Lord, I call;
My rock, do not be deaf to me,
For if You are silent to me,
I will become like those who go down to the pit.
2 Hear the voice of my supplications when I cry to You for help,
If we continue on with the Psalm, we see that even when God feels a million miles away — even though David has not received his answer — he chooses to praise God for what he cannot yet see and what he doesn’t yet feel:
6 Blessed be the Lord,
Because He has heard the voice of my supplication.
7 The Lord is my strength and my shield;
My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped;
Therefore my heart exults,
And with my song I shall thank Him.
Have you ever had someone tell lies about you? Look at Psalm 109:
O God of my praise,
Do not be silent!
2 For they have opened the wicked and deceitful mouth against me;
They have spoken against me with a lying tongue.
3 They have also surrounded me with words of hatred,
And fought against me without cause.
4 In return for my love they act as my accusers;
The Psalm continues for awhile. But what does David choose to do in this situation? How does the Psalm end?
30 With my mouth I will give thanks abundantly to the Lord;
And in the midst of many I will praise Him.
I have praised my way through many very difficult circumstances, but sometimes it’s a very hard choice to make. I remember one very simple, basic example. I was having an absolutely awful day, and the phrase that came to mind was, “This is a day from hell.” But before I even finished thinking the words, the Holy Spirit stopped me with Psalm 118:24:
This is the day which the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
The Holy Spirit challenged me, asking me if I really thought I knew better than God. For He said that He had made each day, and He had commanded me to rejoice and be glad in that day, and here I was about to declare something totally opposite!
He asked if I was really going to keep relying on my own perceptions, even though Proverbs 3:5-6 commands us not to do that! In fact, those verses promise that if we want God to lead us down the good path out of our circumstances, then the way to do that is to stop relying on how things look to us, trust in Him and acknowledge or verbalize who He is (in other words praise Him), and He will lead us out! Look at the promise:
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
6 In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.
Do you see how our choice comes down what we choose to believe and focus on? Will we believe what God says, or will we believe our own understanding? Will we focus on what our circumstances look like to us, or will we focus on God’s character, His power, and His promises?
Hebrews 11:6 says that it’s impossible to please God without faith. Our faith is tested — proven — when we are in the middle of dark circumstances… and it’s proven in how we respond. Do we respond according to our own understanding and how the circumstance looks to us? Or do we chose to trust in who our God is, to lift Him up right there in the midst of the mess, and praise Him?
So again and again and again, we see that no matter what difficult situation David was in, he brought his problems to God. And then he took his eyes off the problem, turned his focus on God, and chose to praise Him!
This is why God said David was “after” His heart. And this pleased God!
And so we come to the secret that many, many people do not know:
Our choice to praise Him in the middle of our dark circumstances releases God’s power.
In the next lesson, we’ll look at where the battle happens, and then we’ll look at how praise and worship is so powerful!
Entire list of posts: The Power of Praise in the Darkness