For several weeks, I have been reading portions from the Psalms and portions from the book of Acts. Out of the 150 psalms, 73 are attributed to David and have his name at the top. There are two other psalms that are widely considered David’s, even though his name is not at the top. Thus, we can say that about half of the psalms belong to David. The book of Acts has 28 chapters and while Paul is mentioned often in the first 14 chapters of Acts, the first half really belongs to Peter. But we read nothing about Peter in the second half because the emphasis is on the work that Paul is doing as a witness for the Lord Jesus Christ.
David and Paul both started as defenders of the honor of God. As the youngest in his father’s house, David is the keeper of the sheep; it is in this context that he fights against lions and bears. It is his sheep tending/protecting experience and winning against those ferocious animals that enables him to transfer those experiences to his battle with Goliath. He tells King Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God, The Lord who has delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”
When Paul talks about his childhood and youth, it is again a background of defending the honor of God. To the Philippians he writes, “If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law a Pharisee, as for zeal persecuting the church, as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.” In Acts 22:3 he tells us that he was a Pharisee of Pharisees and that he was trained under one of the greatest teachers of Israel, namely Gamaliel. From childhood, he studied the scriptures and learned about God. Paul was able to use this knowledge and training to defend Jesus.
The second similarity that struck me was how slowly David and Paul were accepted among the people of Israel and the people of the apostolic church. David slays Goliath and his music drives away the evil spirit that attacked Saul, but only two tribes out of the 12 tribes of Israel accept him as king after Saul’s death. Paul has a spectacular encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, but the apostles are reluctant to accept him among themselves. Once he has been rejected, he retreats to the desert to meditate on this incredible event that contradicted everything he believed before. It is Barnabas who remembers that there is a gifted young preacher who could revolutionize the world and brings him to Antioch—a cosmopolitan place where the followers of Jesus are called Christians for the first time.
The musician king and the great preacher theologian had their ups and downs in their relationships with God. There were times when they know each tiny step that God wanted them to take, and then there were times when God seems distant. David writes of those times when God was not answering, and Paul records his own despair. But Paul also acknowledges that God is powerful enough to redeem all our problems—the worst thing that can happen to humans is death and God can even raise the dead.
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David wants to build the temple in Jerusalem, but God tells him that he could not because he is a man that had too much blood on his hands. Paul proclaims the good news of Christ to people in many places, knowing that one day he would preach in Rome. When he finally arrives there, it is not with the freedom he had when he reached Athens. Instead, he is tied to the soldier that guards him while an emperor condemns him to death.
In the seminary I took a course entitled Biography as Theology. I wanted to teach that course a number of times, but there were never enough students who signed up for the course. Sometimes we are under the impression that God was more present with David and Paul during their lifetimes than God is with us today. However, like David and Paul, we become the children of God and each one of us lives our bio (life) in the presence of Theos (God). We shall have mountaintop experiences and deep valley experiences, but our biography is always being written in the presence of God to teach those who will come after us.