He also chose His servant David and took him from the sheepfolds; from the care of the ewes with nursing lambs He brought him to shepherd Jacob His people, and Israel His inheritance. So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, and guided them with his skillful hands. Psalm 78:70-72 NASB
Ewes with nursing lambs – “The Lord is my shepherd,” and David is a close second. According to Asaph, David is just the kind of king you want. He knows how to protect the “ewes with nursing lambs.” Asaph focuses our attention on the most vulnerable of the flock. David is the real protector. He has the experience to prove it. He captures the image in one word, עָלוֹת (a-lot, “those that give suckle”). The candidate who stops to kiss a little baby during a rally, all perfectly caught on television. Oh, my, isn’t he compassionate? Why, what a wonderful man he is!
Asaph can’t resist another line in the royal resume. He shepherds Israel “according to the integrity of his heart.” My, oh my. Not only compassion; honesty! Actually, more than that. tōm, integrity, is from a verb about completeness. Ethically sound, upright, unblemished—as close as you will get to the Hebrew idea of “perfect.” The candidate with everything.
Just don’t ask Uriah—or Joab—or Shimei son of Gera. Maybe you’d better not invite Bathsheba to the rally either—or Ahinoam—or Michal. Now that I think of it, probably better not invite any of the women. Just let the “ewes with nursing lambs” image stand. No sense in diminishing it with the actual sexual exploits. What did that American President say when confronted? Oh, yes, “because I could.” Well, Israel’s great shepherd king isn’t far behind. There is one significantdifference (and it’s a big one). David repented—big time. At least about the sexual stuff. Not so sure about the murders. But, hey, that’s politics. He started out great. Lots of spiritual awareness. Lots of tōm. Lots of shepherding. But power has a way of corrupting even the best shepherds. Asaph must have written this early in the campaign.
What’s amazing is that this poem is even in the Psalms. No one “redacted” it to clean it up or make it fit the events of the real Davidic monarchy. It’s here, an unapologetic, political endorsement. We know the rest of the story, but only because we’re centuries removed from the political fervor of the time. Perhaps that’s what we really need today—time, lots of time before we can truly understand what is really happening. Too bad we’re not afforded that luxury during our lifetimes. We’re like Asaph, interpreting events in the moment, without the divine perspective of eternity. In the end, Asaph’s glowing view of the Davidic reign helps us realize that the only perspective that really matters is God’s, and when we don’t know exactly what He’s seeing, we just have to go with what we’ve got—and wait. I suppose that really does mean we’re lucky. After it’s all over, God wins.
Topical Index: politics, Asaph, Davidic kingdom, shepherd, Psalm 78:70-72