Songs of a Warrior Poet

“The LORD Has Sought Out a Man After His Own Heart”

He was warrior, poet, king. He was, perhaps, the greatest man to live in the millennium before Christ. But life was rarely easy for David son of Jesse. Many loved him, but many others despised him. Some desperately wanted him dead.

Life got off to a rough start for David. When God rejected Saul as king, He sent the prophet and judge, Samuel, to Bethlehem on a secret mission to anoint a new ruler for Israel. At God’s command, Samuel invited Jesse’s family to celebrate a sacrifice. Jesse presented seven sons to Samuel. Only after God, to Samuel’s surprise, had rejected all seven of these physically impressive young men did the prophet coax the information out of Jesse that there was an eighth son. With the godliest man in Israel at his home, Jesse somehow never thought to invite his youngest to meet him. David had remained in the fields with his father’s sheep. To his own family, David was a nobody. God thought differently. “The Lord does not see as mortals see,” God said to Samuel. “They look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). So Samuel “anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward” (1 Samuel 16:13).

That development did not mean that David now had the respect and esteem of his family. The evidence points in the opposite direction. Despite—or maybe because of—the fact that he had grown to be “a man of valor, a warrior, prudent in speech, and a man of good presence” (1 Samuel 16:18), David was still treated contemptuously by his brothers. When he visited them on the battlefield, the eldest taunted David with accusations that he was irresponsible, presumptuous, and deceitful, a mere thrill seeker.

Life only became more difficult in the years that followed. David made the top of the “most wanted list” for the regional power, Philistia. Israel’s own king, who by then was David’s father-in-law, became obsessed with killing him and chased him all over the wilderness of Palestine. David’s family, along with the wives and children of his men, were kidnapped by raiders. His own men were so angry at David for this debacle they almost stoned him. Later, his own wife, disgusted by the fervor of his worship, mocked him bitterly for his faith. And it got worse. After David began consolidating his power as king, he endured two heartbreaking civil wars—the second one instigated by his own rebellious son.

David was a persecuted man.

In the New Testament, we learn that “our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). But we should be careful not to over-spiritualize persecution. Even though our struggle is against spiritual forces of evil, these cosmic powers use everyday humans to do their dirty work. As David discovered, persecution is usually meted out by antagonistic family members, treacherous spiritual leaders, and callous unbelievers. Even Jesus was not killed by a sudden blast of fire from satan’s fingertips, but by an unholy alliance of a traitorous friend, some jealous clergymen, a fickle crowd, and a spineless civil government. When you are persecuted, the opposition and betrayal come from real people, many of whom may have once claimed to be your friends. That’s what makes persecution so deeply personal and so intensely painful.

But in David son of Jesse, God had found a man after His own heart. Rather than reacting with fear or bitterness or cynicism, David responded to the pain by turning his face towards God. He recorded his agonies, his pleas, and his assurances of God’s provision in poetry, which became the deeply moving lyrics to some of David’s most profound and challenging psalms.* This treasury of victorious suffering has helped many a persecuted man or woman of God to find Him in days of trouble.

Even Jesus in His dark hours on the cross quoted Psalm 22 when He cried, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Jesus was not despairing. His ancestor after the flesh, David, had walked this lonely road before him and had found the Father waiting for him at the end. Jesus was affirming that this psalm had found its fulfillment in His suffering, and that it would likewise find its greatest fulfillment in His resurrection.

During the past five years, the psalms of David have taken on a rich meaning for the ones who are writing down these thoughts. When we found ourselves the targets of a vicious and irrational slander campaign, it drove us to Father and to His word. Suddenly these songs of David were no longer simply “scripture”; they were our reality. As we have turned our own faces to God, we have discovered, like David before us, that while we may live on a cruel planet, we live under a compassionate Heaven. We have even begun to taste what Paul spoke of when he said, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10).

But enough of that! For really, this book isn’t about us and our persecutions. It isn’t even about David and his.

It’s about you and yours.

“A Sacrifice of Praise”

There is no use sugar-coating the truth. We were born on a battlefield. If we have been bought by Jesus’ blood, then we are stationed in an outpost of Heaven on a planet ruled by hell. Our very existence in this world is an offense to the brutal tyrant and twisted psychopath who rules it. It infuriates him that we reject his world’s values. It threatens him that we regard him as an illegitimate imposter. It enrages him that we offer wholehearted, loving obedience to Another. So he targets us. He attempts to deceive and distract us through life’s riches, worries, and pleasures. If we pass that test, he tries to squeeze us into his world’s mold through intimidation. So for every life that has been laid on God’s altar, persecution is an unavoidable fact.

Persecution is not just for some hypothetical elite class of Christian. Paul assures us, “All who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12-13). You heard right: all you have to do to guarantee you will periodically experience painful episodes of persecution is to want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus. You need not be all that mature or “successful.” If you have a sincere passion to abandon your life to Jesus and His Kingdom, you will automatically make yourself a target for satan’s wrath. And the reverse is also true. People who can live long lives without being persecuted for their faith must not have any—at least as God defines faith.

While satan can attack us directly at times, he normally uses human pawns. It’s easy, and he has billions to choose from. He can inflame people’s prejudices and fears and jealousies simply enough. Those who belong to the world—whether religious or secular in their inclinations—have a natural hatred for anything different, especially if it makes them somehow feel guilty or inferior. But Jesus would encourage us! The world is only reacting to His Life inside of us:

If the world hates you, be aware that it hated Me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world—therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, “Servants are not greater than their master.” If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But they will do all these things to you on account of My name, because they do not know Him who sent Me (John 15:18-21).

So if our impact on others helps them obey Jesus, then that is a wonderful outcome. What we must see is that it is equally wonderful, though far more painful, if they respond with hatred. The only intolerable response would be for the world to accept us as its own. If we are being faithful to Jesus and His word, we should expect persecution, and we should even learn to rejoice when it comes:

Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice on that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets…Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets” (Luke 6:22-23,26).
Hated but happy—what a paradox! Personally excluded from human society, publicly insulted and criticized, privately rejected as evil, and yet blessed. But Jesus is not speaking in riddles here. He means what He says. Jesus gives us three good reasons to rejoice.

To begin with, the pain we experience in this world will be infinitely outweighed by the reward we will receive when we graduate to the next one. As Paul put it, “This slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).

What is more, we can receive the world’s insults as a compliment. The true prophets of God have always been treated shamefully by the world. Invariably they proclaim a call to repentance and a warning of impending disaster if sin and idolatry are tolerated—and just as invariably, false prophets proclaim a false peace (Jeremiah 6:13-14; Jeremiah 23; Jeremiah 28; Ezekiel 13; Micah 3). Little wonder on our fallen planet that the false prophet wins the popularity contest every time. Persecution may not prove you are a true prophet, but widespread and lasting popularity proves you are a false one. If a world so twisted that it crucified Christ also hates you, is that such a bad thing? Would you want it another way?

For in the end, Jesus assures us, we are in fact suffering “on account of the Son of Man.” There are sacrifices we would never make for ourselves but we willingly make as a gift to someone else. There are sufferings we could not put up with for our own benefit but we gladly endure for the sake of one we love. When we suffer as Christians, we are suffering for Jesus. What a privilege! When we are rejected because we belong to Him, it is an honor. We are taking a stand for the One who is the only Light in a dark world, the only Truth in an ocean of lies—for a Heart so full of beauty and nobility and courage that we have pledged ourselves to follow Him wherever He goes. We are only showing our loyalty and love to the One who died for us. As the Hebrews writer put it,

Jesus also suffered outside the city gate in order to sanctify the people by His own blood. Let us then go to Him outside the camp and bear the abuse He endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. Through Him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess His name (Hebrews 13:12-15).
The “sacrifice of praise” that we bring to God is not really a worship song shared among friends in safety. It is “the fruit of lips that confess His name” when doing so invites abuse. David once declared, “I will not offer burnt-offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing” (2 Samuel 24:24). The living sacrifice that we offer Him will likewise be costly. What can we give the King of the Universe to show Him our devotion? Does He need anything from us? No. But we can offer Him something costly to us, and He will receive it as a treasured gift. The faithful proclamation of the name of Jesus in the face of persecution is just such a sacrifice.

All of that explanation is pointing to a simple conclusion: you will be persecuted, if you are loyal to Jesus. Some of you who read these words have already experienced the reality of that statement. If so, we offer you our love and gratitude and respect. Like David, you and we must learn to walk the costly way of faith in the face of persecution. There is so much at stake.

“The Good News of the Kingdom”

While times of peace are welcome in the corporate life of the church (Acts 9:31) and in the lives of individual believers as well, we must accept that persecution is a part of our existence in this world. It cannot be avoided without endangering our souls through compromise and lukewarmness. Instead it must be met with faith. Only then will suffering be transformed into hope by a miracle of God’s love (Romans 5:3-5).

This faith-response to persecution will affect far more than just you. When you turn your face toward Father in your time of suffering, you touch Divine Life. The comfort and consolation and peace that you receive will overflow into others’ lives as well (2 Corinthians 1:3-7). The death we die on the inside becomes life for others (2 Corinthians 4:12). This “death in us, life in others” principle has always been true. But it has special bearing for these last of the Last Days as we draw nearer the return of Christ. Please consider this truth! It will change your life.

There is an increasing sense among Christians that the Day of Jesus’ second coming is near. We are not referring, of course, to hucksters who try to profit from end-of-the-world hype. They hope their hysteria gains them followers to buy their books and trinkets—and truly, financial gain is the only reward they will ever receive. No, we are talking about something far purer and nobler than that! Among genuine believers there seems to be a growing longing for Jesus to return and a stirring of hope that His coming could be soon. These yearnings might just signify the very beginning stages of “the Spirit and the Bride saying, ‘Come.’”

But even among true children of God, there is still far too much attention paid to when Jesus will return and far too little focus on what must happen first. We can be absolutely certain from the prophetic words of scripture that the church, Jesus’ Bride, will have “made herself ready” before He comes for her (Revelation 19:6-8) and that she will be beautiful and radiant on that day (Revelation 21:1-4). The worldliness, weakness, and compromise that characterize most of contemporary “Christendom” are unacceptable to God in any age, let alone the end times. We delude ourselves if we think Jesus will come back without seeing a dramatic advance in holiness** and a striking growth in spiritual stature*** in the church. His own words also assure us that this Prepared Bride has an assignment to complete before He returns for her:

Then they will hand you over to be tortured and will put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. Then many will fall away, and they will betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because of the increase of lawlessness, the love of many will grow cold. But anyone who endures to the end will be saved. And this good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the world, as a testimony to all the nations; and then the end will come (Matthew 24:9-14).

According to Jesus’ prophecy, the church must first proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom throughout planet earth. She must testify to every nation about the reign of Jesus as King over a people who have submitted to Him in self-abandonment and love. She must go beyond proclaiming this message in words. She must demonstrate it in her life. Then and only then will the end come: when through both her testimony and her life, the church has manifested the wisdom of God in its rich variety to the nations of the earth and to the authorities in heavenly realms.

And the proclamation of this Kingdom Gospel has everything to do with persecution.
Those who will complete this task will have endured unimaginable suffering. They will be hated by all the nations they are trying to reach—including the nation where you live. They will be tortured and killed. They will even be betrayed by false brothers. Their love for Jesus and for each other will remain at the boiling point, despite deception and coldness all around them. And this is the hallmark of the prepared Bride: she will withstand all of these trials and be saved, and she will press past mere endurance to accomplish the work of testimony that Jesus assigned her.

So if we are faithful to Jesus today, we will be persecuted. But as the end approaches, this satanic opposition, mediated through human beings, will become much more frequent and increasingly severe. If we are to “endure and be saved,” and if we are to become fit vessels to take the Good News of the Kingdom to the nations, it is essential that we learn now to meet persecution with courage, resolve, hope, joy, and a reckless faith.

For all these reasons David, the warrior poet of Israel, has much to teach us. May his songs become yours during both the bright days and the dark nights, as you grow into being a man or woman after God’s own heart!


* A partial list would have to include Psalms 5, 7, 9, 10, 13, 16, 21, 22, 23, 28, 31, 35, 36, 40, 41, 44, 52, 55, 58, 59, 68, 70, 71, and 137. There are many other examples of songs David wrote after he had triumphed over enemies.

** See Dear Bride (

*** See The Church Prepared for the Return of Christ (

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