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Gentleness and greatness

You have given me the shield of your salvation. Your right hand supports me; your gentleness has made me great. — Psalm 18:35

In the long and illustrious history of the Jewish people, no man shines brighter than King David. His mighty victories against overwhelming enemies, his administration of the far-reaching kingdom, his concern for the true worship of Jehovah, his establishment and development of Jerusalem as the nation’s capital, not to mention his amazing spiritual legacy in the psalms—all these accomplishments point unerringly to his greatness, both as a king and as a man.

David was always ready to speak most warmly of the ways in which the Lord had intervened in his life. He wrote, “He delivered me from my powerful enemies, from those who hated me and were too strong for me. They attacked me at a moment when I was weakest, but the Lord upheld me” (Psalm 18:17-18).

Men who are in the process of celebrating great victories, as David was when he wrote this psalm, rarely speak about their weakest moments and how they were delivered from them! Men who win are more inclined to talk about what they did to accomplish their feats.

David never downplayed the significant role he had played in the victories he won, but he always returned to his main theme: giving God the credit for working in and through him. “You gave me victory over my accusers. You appointed me as the ruler over the nations; people I don’t even know now serve me” (18:43).

The secret of David’s success was in the way the Lord had worked in his life. But Psalm 18 has a surprise for us. In the midst of all the dramatic language speaking of war and victory, David said, “Your gentleness has made me great” (18:35).

Gentleness? Making him great?

That’s surprising! Yet David testified to the amazing fact that his own greatness was directly due to the Lord’s gentleness.

When we look at David’s life and the way God worked in it, gentleness is not the first thing that comes to mind. But perhaps David’s greatest moments were not when he was triumphant on the fields of battle.

It could be that the most influential moments in David’s experience of God were not when “the earth quaked and trembled,” or when “the foundations of mountains shook” (18:7). Perhaps David was at his greatest when he spared Saul’s life, not once but twice (1 Samuel 24 and 26). Or when he took Mephibosheth, the crippled survivor of Saul’s wrecked dynasty, into his own home (2 Samuel 9). Or when he protected the survivor of one of Saul’s senseless massacres with his own life (1 Samuel 22-23).

Yes, David, the great warrior king had a great gentleness. It was a gentleness he had learned from his great and gentle God.

Still to this day, great men are gentlemen. And gentle men are truly great!

For further study: Psalm 18

Content taken from The One Year Book of Devotions for Men by Stuart Briscoe. Copyright ©2000. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.