The Warrior Artist's Last Song
Updated: Jul 9
“I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.” Psalm 34:7
When King David played the harp and sang, heaven and earth united as one. Music and worship were great influences in David's life, and reign as king.
I was overwhelmed when I saw “King David Playing the Harp” for the first time. My eyes were immediately drawn to the aged king’s gnarly fingers strumming on his ornate harp as he transfixed his eyes toward the heavens. By now, David is about 70. It would most likely be that last time the king would play the harp. David died when he was seventy-one years old, after a 40-year reign in Hebron and the United Kingdom.
David’s posture is a compelling picture of reverence and worship. A “crownless” king is humbly offering praise to the Lord with his harp.
It was interesting to learn that two artists, German Flemish Baroque painters, Peter Paul Rubens, and Jan Boeckhorst painted the masterpiece. Peter Rubens painted only part of the work: the head, a study on a small panel he began in 1616. He died before completing the painting, and his former employee Jan Boeckhorst transformed the piece into a full portrait of King David by extending the “tronie" (facial expression), adding two boards. Boeckhorst chose not to add a crown to King David’s head or alter what Rubens painted. It remains as Rubens originally painted it – untouched. Notice the regal attire the king is wearing and the detail given to every inch of his clothing. Jan Boeckhorst completed the portrait in 1640.
The “sweet psalmist of Israel” wrote 73 of the 150 Psalms. In his lifetime, David composed 4,000 songs according to a recent discovery of an ancient document found at Qumran in Palestine.
God not only chose David to rule as king but also to establish congregational worship and develop artists to glorify God with their music and singing. 1st and 2nd Chronicles offer details on David’s efforts to establish a culture of worship. God commanded the people through David to honor the divine order of worship, which He revealed to him. Scriptures confirm that God had an intentional plan for all the participants. David organized and developed these principles, which set the standard for establishing worship ministries and recruiting musicians and singers today. He employed 4,000 full-time musicians, 288 singers, and 4,000 gatekeepers. The full-time staff to facilitate the worship services numbered about 10,000, which he financed. David personally financially supported singers so that they would be able to sing full-time.
The late psalmist, musician and composer Morris Chapman’s “The Psalmist” is a powerful song that tells the story of the man after God’s own heart:
Through the valley of the shadow
To the mountains of his faith
The shepherd boy of Judah loved to sing
In his words of adoration
In his simple songs of praise
He glorified Jehovah as his king
A giant slayer, psalm sayer
For the God of Jacob set apart
A joy-bringer, psalm singer
A man after God’s own heart
David’s music was a source of healing for King Saul, who was tormented by an evil spirit. Not only was he a musician and singer, but David was a writer, worship leader, a dancer, and a maker of harps. God’s gifts rested upon David for his entire life. Today, his psalms, prayers, songs, and other liturgies are standard practice for corporate and personal worship worldwide.
David’s last song is recorded in Second Samuel 23:1-7. Here is an excerpt:
Now, these are the last words of David.
David the son of Jesse declares,
The man who was raised on high declares,
The anointed of the God of Jacob,
And the sweet psalmist of Israel,
“The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me,
And His word was on my tongue.
“The God of Israel said,
The Rock of Israel spoke to me,
‘He who rules over men righteously,
Who rules in the fear of God,
Is as the light of the morning when the sun rises,
A morning without clouds..."
At the end of his life, the warrior artist was endued with a divine anointing to play skillfully.
King David’s last prayer in Psalm 72 ends with poetic words of praise, giving glory to God:
Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things. Blessed be his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory!
Amen and Amen!
The prayers of David, the son of Jesse, are ended.
Copyright 2020, William S. Barnett
King David Playing the Harp: Public Domain.