David’s Hands

Albert McShane

Nothing could be more important in the virtues of David than the condition of his heart, so it is to be expected that this should be prominent in his history. As soon as Saul was rejected, Samuel told him that "the Lord hath sought Him a man after His own heart" (1 Sam. 13:14), and when the day of David’s anointing arrived, the prophet was told that "man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart" (1 Sam. 16:7). Obviously there were qualities in the heart of David which were precious in the sight of God. However, in this paper, attention will be given to his hands, for while they were not as important as his heart, they did play an important part in his life.

The Strength of His Hands

In the youthful days of David while he was tending his father’s sheep a lion and a bear invaded the flock and the lion seized a lamb and held it in its mouth. David snatched the lamb from it. Then the enraged lion rose up and attacked him, but he caught it by the beard and slew it. We are not told that the bear attacked him, but it shared the same fate as the lion. Not many can claim that they caught an angry lion by the beard, but David could have held out his hands and said what few others could say, "these hands have handled the beard of a lion when it was furious and sprang up against me." The king of beasts was no match for him, for he rent it as one would a kid. The paw of the bear is its powerful weapon, but it too was mastered by the mighty hand of the shepherd boy. In recounting his experience he is careful to give all the glory to the Lord, for he confessed that the Lord delivered him from the paw of the lion and the bear (1 Sam. 17:37). Divine power enabled him to accomplish these feats. Later when engaging the enemies of Israel he was most effective on the battle field, for what was sung by the women after the slaying of the giant, became literally true. "Saul has slain his thousands, but David his ten thousands." In this feature also the strength of his hands was demonstrated. Like all other qualities he had, his strength on the battle field was from the Lord. On two occasions he wrote, "He teacheth my hands to war" (Psa. 18:34; 144:1).

There was one occasion when he might have used his strong hands, but refused to do so. It was when he was hunted by Saul and hidden in the cave of Engedi that the opportunity to slay Saul was allowed him. But he refused, and limited his action to the removal of the skirt of the king’s robe. He refused to slay the Lord’s anointed, and had a conscience about the damage he did to the robe. When later speaking to Saul he assured him that he could have slain him had he desired to do so, and held up in his hand the portion of the garment as proof of what he said.

Most see in the lion a type of Satan, and in the bear a type of the world. The enemy would snatch the young for its prey, but the shepherd of God’s sheep will risk his life, and by the help of the Lord will overcome the enemy, and deliver the helpless one from his grip. The world, like the bear, would embrace the young in Christ, and carry them away. It too can be overcome by those who have a shepherd’s heart, and the young in Christ can be rescued from its grasp.

The Skilfulness of His Hands

The wonder in David’s case is that his hands were not only powerful, but skilful. Many have strong hands, but they are so clumsy and awkward that they are useless in doing anything requiring skill. The hands which had mastered the lion and the bear were nimble enough to pluck the strings of the harp. When a skilled musician was sought to quiet Saul in his frenzies, one of his servants recommended David as a master musician. His words of praise were sufficient to convince Saul that no one else in the nation was better qualified to play the harp than David. How he became skillful in this art is not stated, but possibly while tending the sheep, he made use of his spare time in practicing on his stringed instrument. Doubtless he did not think when he was enjoying the joyful strains in his private life, that one day he would be in the king’s palace making the same joyful sounds, and watching with admiration the relief these brought to the distracted king. "And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand" (1 Sam. 16:23).

There is still a need for those who can calm the disturbed spirits amongst the saints. Not that these can be quieted by instrumental music, but there are still those who are masters in soothing those who become spiritually deranged. In the household of Saul there was not one who could perform this duty, and in not a few assemblies there is a lack of men who can calm the spirits of those who have lost their sobriety. Learning to sound the right note which will calm the situation when tempers are roused is an art worthy of pursuit.

(To be continued)