PCG members: In addition to PCG Signposts, sign-up for the members-only Friday Philadelphian weekly email newsletter! Click here or email news@pcog.org
David and the Living God
Israel’s greatest king had a marvelous relationship with God that serves as an example to all of us. To David, God truly was alive!

In Acts 13:22, God calls David “a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will.” David wanted to fulfill all of God’s will. He didn’t say, Well, I keep two of the commandments, or nine of them. He wanted to keep every one of them, and to fulfill every little detail he could to obey God.

At times David was rich; other times he was poor. Whether rich or poor, he always worked on keeping close to God. He knew his relationship with God was most important. That’s why he was a man after God’s own heart.

That attitude made David an outstanding king. We can learn priceless lessons about how to be leaders for God from his example.

Some commentaries say David’s example is just a popular legend. That is totally false. You can easily prove that the Bible is God’s Word and that David served God. Even archaeology is proving more and more that the Bible’s account of King David is accurate. He was, indeed, a real person and a faithful man. And because of his deeds, soon David is going to be resurrected to rule over all Israel forever!

The former prophets—especially Samuel and Kings—contain a lot of history and instruction about Israel’s kings and priests. In essence, the former prophets teach us how to be kings and priests for God. At the heart of that instruction is the example of one of the most towering personalities of the Bible, King David.

God Looks on the Heart

When Saul proved to be such a poor king of Israel, God rejected him. “And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the Lord thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the Lord have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever” (1 Samuel 13:13). That sounds like what God told David! Did Saul have a chance to do what David did? It certainly sounds that way to me. Look what an opportunity that man had, and how he failed in it.

“But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the Lord hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the Lord commanded thee” (verse 14). God is not passive about this. He is always vigorously seeking a man after His own heart.

God wants each one of us to follow David’s splendid example. That is why there is so much about David in the Bible!

God instructed Samuel the prophet to visit the house of Jesse because He had chosen a king to replace Saul from among Jesse’s sons. When Samuel went there, Jesse put forward Eliab, whom he thought was his most talented and effective son. Samuel was immediately impressed. Surely this fine young man was the king God had chosen.

Actually, God had something to teach Samuel and Jesse. “But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Pay attention to this: God doesn’t look at us as the world does. He doesn’t look to see if you are tall, dark and handsome. He doesn’t check if you have a high IQ. He looks on your heart. The heart as it’s described here is the seat of the senses, affections or emotions, or the seat of the will. Perhaps the closest word we have to that is “attitude.” When He is choosing people to serve Him, He looks on their heart. If your attitude is right, it doesn’t make any difference what else you may lack; God can use you powerfully. You don’t need to feel inferior to anybody.

It’s important that we learn more and more to look upon leaders and men the way God does. Saul was an impressive man: probably about 7 feet tall, I’m sure a good-looking man, and personable. The people just fell in love with him. But God doesn’t want us to look at people that way!

In dating, people tend to look at the exterior; women in this world quite often want to choose someone like Saul—tall, dark and handsome. Men often use similar standards toward females. God is telling us that if you look at a potential spouse that way, you might end up with someone like Saul as a husband! We have to be ever so careful.

We urgently need to look on the heart when we are seeking a husband or a wife. That means without God’s help we make dangerous mistakes. It happens all the time! How spiritual are you? How much do you know how to look on the heart?

If we’re going to be a leader for God, we must let Him teach us to look on the heart. Men may have a few insights into the attitudes of other people, but they are extremely limited. Only God knows how to look on the heart.

Men make catastrophic mistakes when they think this ability belongs to them.

We can never look on the heart as God does. But we can always go to God in deep humility for help. We can continue to learn from God throughout our lives.

Even in child rearing, we need to learn to look on the heart, or we can’t very well rear our children to develop the heart that God wants or the attitude that David had. We can never properly rear our children without help from God in this area. This understanding is critical, or much of our instruction and discipline will be less effective.

We must know how limited we are in looking on the heart. We always need God’s help in this area. And the need is desperate. But first, we must see that we don’t naturally have this ability.

Nobody needs help in this area more than God’s ministers! Without the ability to look on the heart, serious mistakes will be made. Only God can give us this understanding.

After God refused Eliab, Jesse called Abinadab, his next son. God refused him too. Then came the next son, and the next—a total of seven sons. They were outstanding young men—and God told Samuel to reject every single one of them! These were the best sons Jesse had, at least as he reasoned. He didn’t even consider David. Isn’t that amazing?

If people in the world were to look around and choose people to represent God in this end time, how many of us would be chosen? Probably none of us! But God does the choosing. And He doesn’t judge the way men judge. He doesn’t look upon you the way the world does. That is something we need to keep in mind.

Samuel asked if Jesse had any other sons, and Jesse was reluctant to mention David. David doesn’t have any outstanding ability, he said. All he does is take care of the sheep (verse 11). But Samuel insisted that David be sent for. “And he sent, and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to. And the Lord said, Arise, anoint him: for this is he” (verse 12). God chose young David.

David was different from others around him. He was a man after God’s own heart—that’s why he was chosen. Are you that way? Does God think of you as a person after His own heart? Do you want to fulfill all of His will—everything God wants you to do in your life?

If you do, you’re going to have wonderful success.

Develop Your Talents

When David was out on the night watches with those sheep, he spent a lot of time thinking about God. He thought about God’s power. He meditated on God’s law.

David was a real student of God’s Word. He saw God’s Word as “a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path,” as it says in Psalm 119:105. He kept this shining lamp right there to guide him in the path, and then just walked down that lighted path. That is why and how David became great. He let God’s Word guide him, not his carnal reasoning.

He later became a friend of Samuel. He didn’t shy away from the top leaders of Israel; he wanted to be right there with them because he knew that would help him grow and get to know God better.

Several times throughout his life, David said that God was with him. That was like the motif of his life. That’s the most important statement that you can make about a person: that God is with him.

David was accomplished in the arts of his age and country. He was a poet, as you can see in the Psalms. He was also a musician, a skilled harpist. In his hours alone, watching after the flock, he composed and sang songs for God. His skill on the harp became well known throughout the neighborhood. It actually became the means of his introduction to the court of King Saul.

Saul was having deep spiritual and emotional problems. His servants recommended that he find someone who could play soothing music on the harp whenever he was troubled by an evil spirit. Saul agreed that this was a good idea and asked them to find such a musician.

Please pay close attention to this verse: “Then answered one of the servants, and said, Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, that is cunning in playing, and a mighty valiant man, and a man of war, and prudent in matters, and a comely person, and the Lord is with him” (1 Samuel 16:18). Read that again: This was a teenager he was talking about! What a reputation David had built!

It’s amazing what a contrast there is between this man’s view and that of David’s own family. David’s father and brothers had an extremely low view of him. Even after Samuel anointed him, they didn’t esteem him highly—they put him right back out with the sheep (verse 19). Sometimes when a boy is cast aside like that, he will do almost anything to please his dad. Maybe God worked things out in a way that would motivate David, and in the process he would learn to see a Father—a spiritual Father—who would never view him as an outsider or outcast, and would never let him down! Maybe that helped to really motivate David. Whatever the reason, this young man just kept working and making a strong name for himself.

God is choosing His nobility, His royalty, today. He wants you to be talented and to develop your talents. Do you develop your talents the best you can? Are you preparing to lead the world in that way? That is important to God.

David wasn’t some fool who didn’t know anything; he was an intelligent young man. He clearly cultivated his talents diligently, and surely that was part of why God chose him. But first of all, David sought God; and as a result, God kept opening doors for him.

Notice too that this servant called David “a valiant man.” He had courage. He was gutsy like no young man on Earth at that time! He wasn’t afraid to step out and do what needed to be done. God was impressed by how valiant he was. We too need to develop our abilities and have courage when we need to use them.

Be a Positive Person

So Saul sent for David, and David joined Saul’s court. “And David came to Saul, and stood before him: and he loved him greatly; and he became his armourbearer” (1 Samuel 16:21). David had a lot of love for people. He loved Saul greatly! And Saul wasn’t such a great person at this time; he was having some serious problems. But David loved him. He must have looked upon him the way God did. God loved Saul—He just didn’t like the way Saul ruled, and tried to get him to repent. But David thought like God in this way.

How about you and me? Do we have a lot of love for God’s people and God’s leaders as David did? Are you outgoing and loving toward people? Or do you sit back, maybe looking suspicious or having an evil eye toward people? David was full of love and truly loved being around other people.

David had to see that this was God’s man. He obviously knew he was to be king, but he was happy to wait in the wings until God took Saul or moved him out. He knew God had a hand in placing Saul into that office, and he was God’s man until God removed him. Saul was God’s king—the only king God had on Earth! David loved Saul greatly because David loved God greatly.

It just isn’t natural to think this way.

Soon Saul sent a message to Jesse saying that David had found favor in his sight (verse 22). David really made a positive impression on people. This is why Saul wanted him around.

“And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him” (verse 23). Wasn’t that powerful music, inspired by God? This is what good, God-inspired music can do. Saul wouldn’t have been soothed by so much of the popular music in this world. But here David played the sort of music that actually healed Saul and caused that evil spirit to leave! Demons don’t want to be around a happy environment.

God used David to lift Saul’s spirit. There is a lesson here too. Clearly we must learn to control our own emotions and stay positive. But if you’re going to be royalty for God, you must also learn to be encouraging to other people. That’s what a leader does. Are you an encouraging person to be around?

When we are negative, we can cause other people to become negative and discouraged. There isn’t any reason for God’s people to be discouraged.

Contrast these two kings. Saul was depressed and discouraged, and he needed somebody to play music just to drive away his negativity. David was the opposite: He used his talents and personality to lift up those around him. He was able to play inspiring music on the harp; he loved Saul, and he was outgoing and uplifting. He was a happy person; he was positive. That’s what God wants you to be.

Think about this. If you’re going to help Jesus Christ rule in the World Tomorrow, you must be living by these laws. You must be a person who has a positive impact on other people. If you are, you can be a great encouragement to them!

The Faith to Fight

When King Saul ruled, the nation suffered from a shameful lack of faith. David, still a teenager, visited the army on the battlefront and saw Israel’s soldiers—who should have been the picture of faith-filled valor—cowering in fear before a Philistine warrior. “And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him, and were sore afraid” (1 Samuel 17:24). Those men were afraid of a man! You see the same pathetic spirit of timidity and fear—and even worse—in modern Israel, both physical and spiritual.

Saul offered a great reward to anyone who would stand up to Goliath—but no one would fight even for riches (verse 25). Saul wasn’t even considering fighting the giant himself.

Why were these men so shamefully fearful? It was primarily because of Saul’s poor leadership!

Young David had a totally different spirit. “And David spake to the men that stood by him, saying, What shall be done to the man that killeth this Philistine, and taketh away the reproach from Israel? for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (verse 26). David saw these not as the armies of Israel—but as the armies of the living God! Who would dare defy the armies of the living God? David asked. Not one person in that army looked at it that way! And David was just shocked.

David’s older brother Eliab got indignant at David—and remember, this was after David was anointed as king! He accused David: “I know thy pride, and the naughtiness of thine heart; for thou art come down that thou mightest see the battle” (verse 28). The Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible defines pride as haughtiness, arrogance, insolence, rebelliousness. “This kind of pride presumes to have more authority than is warranted,” it says. The word naughtiness means badness, wickedness, wretchedness, an evil condition. These are terrible things for a brother to say to another brother! Maybe Eliab was offended that he hadn’t been chosen as king! He looked good, but God didn’t choose him—and his attitude here probably indicates why.

Who was the real soldier here? Someone can look like a warrior, but it takes real faith to stand up to giants and other problems. Trials reveal who the real warriors are. We cannot fake this. When the big battle comes, who will stand up like David and fight for the living God?

David asked his brother, “Is there not a cause?” (verse 29). Can’t you all see there’s a good reason to fight here? he asked. We need to take this Philistine on! Today, we have a cause to stand up and fight for God! We could never do the Work if we didn’t have the attitude that David did here.

David’s language was so different from anyone else in the army. They hadn’t heard anyone talk like that before. This young man really had something that nobody else saw but God. This was something that would make him a great king. You can already begin to see, so soon after David was anointed, why God was so impressed with David’s heart. This young man clearly had a lot of spiritual depth.

In verse 34, David told Saul, “Thy servant kept his father’s sheep ….” It is interesting the way he expressed that. You would think that normally someone in his job would call them “our sheep.” But David saw them as his father’s sheep, and nobody was going to take his father’s sheep because, I think, he wanted Dad to think highly of him.

As a youth, David had slain a lion and a bear that menaced his father’s sheep—even delivering the sheep from the mouths of these animals! Imagine that! If you were taking care of a flock of sheep and a lion came and grabbed one of those lambs, probably every one of us would say, “Well, I think I can afford to lose one lamb.” Think about what this young man did, who knew that the God who created that lion was alive—and if it were necessary, would kill it because it was taking his father’s sheep! Imagine what kind of prayers he prayed for those sheep, that God would watch over them and protect every single one. And did God ever protect them! There was no way that a lion or a bear was going to get any of those sheep!

We have to live like God is alive, as David did! David had a certain childhood innocence that even made him stronger in this area, but he risked his life for a lamb! And that’s a type of God’s flock! Would we ministers risk our lives for one of God’s people? I hope we would—we certainly should. That’s the kind of love that David had.

So when Goliath menaced Israel’s army, young David told Saul, “The Eternal that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine” (verse 37). Goliath might have been the biggest man to ever walk the Earth. He was a trained warrior, covered in impressive armor. David knew this was a most dangerous situation. He was not playing games. He recognized that lives were at stake; he was not naive about that. But notice how he said that. He knew God had won those battles with the lion and the bear, not himself, and he never forgot that.

Faith in the Living God

Listen to how David spoke to Goliath: “Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. And all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hands” (1 Samuel 17:45-47). David was just a young man who believed God, and God was dynamically alive to him. What a difference that makes in a person’s life!

Do you think maybe Goliath was shaken by this talk? I think he was. He’d never heard anything like this! He had to stop and think, Well, he certainly has confidence. He’s a gutsy little guy. I’m sure it unnerved him. He’d heard stories about the God of Israel.

When David went to fight, he picked up five stones, not just one. One would have done the job, but David had to do his part. He didn’t just stand there and say, I’m going to pray that God takes care of you. No, he said, “I’m going to kill you by God’s power!” He had to go out there and let God’s power work through him. He had five stones, but he said, “The battle is the Lord’s.”

What problem are you facing that you can’t handle? No matter how gigantic it is, there is no problem you can’t handle if you face it the way David did. We can conquer anything if the battle is the Eternal’s! But if we don’t have this living God in our lives, we’re not going to conquer like we should. We need all of this power that David had in order to win. Trust God and face your problems in faith, and God will deliver you. Beyond that, He will ultimately use you like He is going to use King David as a king in the World Tomorrow!

This is not just a nice slogan or a cute formula: I’m talking about having faith in the living God—trusting God to do great things in your life! He has promised to do that—and He cannot lie! (Titus 1:2).

God is the same yesterday, today and forever. He wants a whole Church full of Davids! This is the Church of the living God! We host a college of the living God, and youth camps of the living God, and congregations of the living God! Our publications are of the living God! God established all those things. He’s alive! And oh, how we are blessed because of that! We in God’s Church today really need to think like David.

How did David express it? “For thou art my hope, O Lord God: thou art my trust from my youth” (Psalm 71:5). Believing God was what David was demonstrating before Goliath, before the lion, before the bear, back in his early teens. “O God, thou hast taught me from my youth: and hitherto have I declared thy wondrous works” (verse 17).

God is a magnificent, powerful, wonderful, loving God! Can we declare His wondrous works even from our youth? God wants some people—even young people—to stand up and say so with their lives today! And show the world by deeds that God really is that way!

Do you expect God to work miracles in your life? It’s up to you. Your life ahead is what you make it, and what God makes it through you.

We must always remain humble, of course. David’s faith in God helped him realize just who he was and helped him never get proud or vain. But with faith, nothing could stop God from doing awesome things in his life!

David knew he was a king, and he thought like one, and he fought like one. He was quite a king even before he became king!

David displayed amazing faith and courage here. He personally stepped up and killed the giant that brought such a reproach on Israel.

God later replaced Saul’s weak leadership with David’s faith-filled leadership. And as we will see, with that change in government came a transformation in Israel’s military.

You will see the impact one leader can have on his nation and the world when he believes the living God!

Giant-Slaying Leadership

Here is an event from toward the end of David’s reign as Israel’s king: “Moreover the Philistines had yet war again with Israel; and David went down, and his servants with him, and fought against the Philistines: and David waxed faint” (2 Samuel 21:15). At this point, David was an old man.

Among this Philistine army was a whole mob of giants like Goliath! “And Ishbi-benob, which was of the sons of the giant, the weight of whose spear weighed three hundred shekels of brass in weight, he being girded with a new sword, thought to have slain David” (verse 16). Notice what happened in the face of this threat: “But Abishai the son of Zeruiah succoured him, and smote the Philistine, and killed him. Then the men of David sware unto him, saying, Thou shalt go no more out with us to battle, that thou quench not the light of Israel” (verse 17).

David’s men wanted to protect David in order to ensure that “the light of Israel” would not be quenched. What a superb attitude! These men could have defected from David, calling him an adulterer and a murderer. Instead, they were sterling examples of virtue and loyalty toward their king.

To some degree, we will all be under King David in the World Tomorrow, so we need to cultivate this same spirit!

Those men knew God was behind David. They knew that following David was the key to Israel’s success.

What a difference it makes when God is working through a man to lead His people, and the people simply follow that man!

David set a wonderful example of trusting in God, and he inspired others to do the same. We should be striving with all our being to attain David’s spiritual stature.

These soldiers under David were valiant—a stark contrast to what they had been under King Saul’s leadership. “And it came to pass after this, that there was again a battle with the Philistines at Gob: then Sibbechai the Hushathite slew Saph, which was of the sons of the giant” (verse 18). Sibbechai was yet another giant-killer cast in David’s mold.

“And there was again a battle in Gob with the Philistines, where Elhanan the son of Jaare-oregim, a Bethlehemite, slew the brother of Goliath the Gittite, the staff of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam” (verse 19). Elhanan, too, followed in David’s giant-slaying footsteps.

“And there was yet a battle in Gath, where was a man of great stature, that had on every hand six fingers, and on every foot six toes, four and twenty in number; and he also was born to the giant. And when he defied Israel, Jonathan the son of Shimea the brother of David slew him. These four were born to the giant in Gath, and fell by the hand of David, and by the hand of his servants” (verses 20-22).

Why did Israel become so great under David? These men wanted to do all they could to help their king. They killed giants just as David did! This faithful attitude came from David right on down through his generals.

This is how we can become the greatest possible Church!

This wonderful example demonstrates the unity of command God wants His Church to have.

Each one of us should ask ourselves how much we possess this attitude. Would you stand up and fight the way these men did? Will you unify around God’s leader today the way those men rallied around David?

Remember these examples. Follow the faith of the man God is using to lead spiritual Israel. Don’t follow the man.

We all need to be giant-killers! God makes that possible for every one of us. That is how the Body of Christ will become powerful and accomplish amazing things!

This example of David’s army of giant-killers represents the epitome of God’s government! These men weren’t afraid—they didn’t run from giants. What changed from the cowardice and timidity they displayed under Saul? What made the difference? They followed David’s example of faith! And in so doing, they grew in their love for God.

It’s not enough that David be great. Everybody under him must be great! That is what is required if we are to have a great Church. There can be no breakdown in any link.

God’s Church needs to understand this truth better than it does today. This towering lesson in government is what will help us finish the Work with real strength!

David’s Last Words

“Now these be the last words of David. David the son of Jesse said, and the man who was raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel, said, The spirit of the Lord spake by me, and his word was in my tongue. The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God” (2Samuel 23:1-3). These are the last words of the sweet psalmist of Israel. God spoke through this great man. David learned many lessons and wanted to impart them before he died.

The government of God “must be just, ruling in the fear of God”! We see many examples of devastating failure. But David wanted us to see the fabulous fruits of God’s government of love. So he illustrated what it is like when a ruler submits to God. “And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain” (verse 4). God’s loving government is like the morning when the sun rises in a cloudless sky. It’s like the tender grass springing beneath a brilliant sun after a pleasant rain. Read these verses in the Revised Standard Version. There is no greater poetry in the Bible about God’s loving government.

David is going to rule over all Israel because he learned how to rule and be ruled within the government of the living God. We must learn not only to submit to God’s government, but also to love it as David did.

I would not like to live under the government of most people. They don’t understand God’s loving family rule. But to have God’s government, and then reject it, is the greatest possible catastrophe! This is exactly what the Laodiceans have done. Most of God’s own people have been deceived about God’s government. They don’t even understand how the devil has deceived them.

Mr. Armstrong once said, “The restoration of God’s government is uppermost in God’s mind. Is it in yours?”

“Although my house be not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he make it not to grow” (verse 5). How can anyone say these books are not prophetic? God made a covenant with David that lasts for all eternity! David learned how to implement God’s government. That rule will solve all the problems in this world.

When we think of David today, we tend to think of him as a great empire builder and giant slayer. He certainly was that, but he was a weak man, too. He made quite a lot of mistakes that cost him dearly and made him a weak king for much of his kingship.

But overall, what was God’s evaluation of him? God loved David’s rule as king over Israel! So much so that He’s going to make him king over Israel forever!

David is about to rule this world. He and Christ and God’s people are going to galvanize the whole world and fill it with love, happiness, faith and joy. What a future we have! We are already kings and priests, and we will be right there, ruling with David. Then we will get to go out and help David show this world how to live, and teach them all about the living God.