So David makes an interesting statement in the sixteenth Psalm. He says in the first half of the eighth verse that he had “set God always before [his] face”. This, I think, is the ultimate lesson of life. Seeing God at the forefront of everything: all our actions, all our interactions, all our motions, all our emotions. Everything under the sun. I’d venture to say it’s a conscious decision that David made to see God “before his face”. And because we can’t see God with our eyeballs, he’s speaking metaphorically about, not only an ideological understanding of God’s thoughts as model for his own, but choosing to be like God after knowing Him. Paul says in Ephesians (5:1) to be “followers of God as dear children”. The connotation of “followers” from Greek is “imitators”. And this kind of imitation is not flattery. In order to be like God, you have to start by thinking like God. God saw this about David. Sure, He made David and gave him his unique gifts and talents, but if David had not responded to God, then God couldn’t have used him like He wanted.
The story of David, with all its ups and downs, plays out brilliantly and beautifully. One person among millions–rising to the pinnacle. I especially like that he was both warrior and poet. Musician and soldier. Sojourner and ruler. A life of seeming contradictions where grace and strength, art and power, were alloyed into one man’s temperament, and ultimately shaped the national identity of Israel. A little country among giants at the crossroads of civilization. I’d have to say that David was the first of the Philosopher-Kings. His son Solomon fits the description as well. Let’s back up to the seeds of such revolutionary realizations.
If you think that power and prestige were the ultimate goal of his life and psyche, consider this declaration of his (Psalm 27:4): “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple.”
Take it or leave it. David had an intense thirst for God. An insatiable appetite for His love and grace and understanding. And so he was willing to wait. Unless God somehow told David–prior to Samuel showing up to anoint him king–that He was going to coronate him and call him to rule Israel, there was absolutely no way David could have known. Imagine the shock and surprise of being told that, in spite of your humble beginnings, you were called to make some outrageous Nobel-prizewinning discovery? Or make a work of art that would change national and international perception of art as a concept? Or in some way become an iconoclast who’s far more than merely a cult of personality? What would you do if you found out you were headed for the top? Would you “set God always before your face” as David did? Here’s the deal: this is what God wants for you, for me, for everyone. And the world is big enough for you to be the best there is at who you are. That’s one step above being the best there is at what you do. Being the absolute, superlative epitome of yourself is where God is aiming. We can’t be Jesus. But we can be as like Him as humanly possible. One thing I reflect on occasionally is the realization that, were I the only person God ever made, He would’ve asked Jesus to die for me to redeem me (as would inevitably be required) and Jesus would’ve joyfully complied. He would have obeyed His Father to reunite us–even if it were just us. Just you and God. This is one of the great secrets of life: God loves you. And His love is all-encompassing to the point that you can feel (Without pride, is that possible? Yes.) that God did all this for you.
David’s life is a perfect template for us. And also a roadmap for getting there. Jesus is walking with us and as we “set Him always before [our] face” He will show us that He is “at our right hand that we should not be moved” (That’s the second half of Psalm 16:8.). He’ll see to it that we get there.