Israel My Glory In Depth: Interview with Steve Conover
The life of David, the “man after God’s own heart,” was filled with a vast range of experiences. Having been a lowly shepherd, a fierce warrior, a reflective musician, and an exalted king, David drew from his eclectic life to pen about half of the biblical psalms, which mean so much to so many of us who love God’s Word. Steve Conover, executive vice president and The Friends of Israel Today co-host, wrote about David’s artistic, theological psalms in Israel My Glory magazine, and he joins Chris this week to discuss his article “The Sweet Psalmist of Israel.”
Steve’s love for the psalms shines through in this interview. He discusses the recurring themes of safety, mercy, provision, and deliverance that permeate David’s writing. His insight will enhance your study of the beautiful Davidic psalms, strengthen your understanding of our loving God, and encourage you to rest in Him in every circumstance of your life. Catch this uplifting interview for a better understanding of David and his psalms!
Check out Steve’s recent Israel My Glory article: “The Sweet Psalmist of Israel.”
Steve Conover: Thank you so much for joining us for the Friends of Israel Today. I'm Steve Conover. With me, as always, is Chris Katulka. We want to remind you right up front to go to FOIradio.org when you have a chance, you can see all that's happening in Israel. Learn more about our ministry and also listen to nearly nine years of Friends of Israel radio teaching at our archives page. It's FOIradio.org.
Chris Katulka: And Steve, today is one of my most anticipated episodes, the one I love to highlight the most, which is our Israel My Glory in Depth episode where we look at our most recent issue of Israel My Glory. This is going to be fun too because actually I'm interviewing you for your article. The issue that we're going to be looking at is The Man After God's Own Heart, the Life of David, and Steve wrote a fantastic article called The Sweet Psalmist of Israel. So I'm going to be picking his brain on why he wrote all of these amazing things about the Sweet Psalmist of Israel, King David.
Steve Conover: I can't wait to share, but first, in the news, the Wall Street Journal reports that Israeli intelligence shared with the US that nearly 1200 UN agency workers for Palestinian refugees are part of Hamas or Islamic Jihad terror organizations. The report specified that a number of UN Relief and Works Agency, that's UNRWA, teachers, and staffers were involved in planning or carrying out the October 7th massacre. As a result, the US has paused funding to the UN agency.
Chris Katulka: Steve, here's my take. Those are your tax dollars at work. The Trump administration cut off funding to UNRWA in 2018, but since Biden took office, his administration restarted funding UNRWA. Nearly $730 million of US taxpayer money has been given to UNRWA since 2021, which has only enabled terrorism. I'm happy to hear that he's finally cut funding to UNRWA.
Chris Katulka: Before we turn to Steven and hear from him about his most recent article in Israel My Glory, I want to stop for a moment and say this is a video interview actually, so you can go to our website, foiradio.org, and there you can watch me and Steve as we do the interview as well. We hope that you again visit foiradio.org not only to watch the video but also if you've never subscribed to Israel My Glory, you can get a one-year free subscription to our award-winning Christian magazine. You can either get it in a print edition, mailed right to your house, or a digital edition, which includes nearly 40 years of Israel My Glory content. You can get all of that at foiradio.org.
Well, Steve, I have known you for a really long time. We do radio together and I know that whenever we talk about developing radio programs and we sit down and we have our team meetings, sometimes the topic of the Psalms comes up and it's something that definitely I can always see it on your face that you get excited about explaining the Psalms, teaching the Psalms, engaging with the Psalms, and I'm just interested, it seems like something that's near and dear to you. Why do you love the Psalms so much?
Steve Conover: I think partly because they're music and they're just the expression of our faith, and you see formal Psalms, you see these Psalms of adoration and thanksgiving, you see the songs of ascent and you also see, not only the royal Psalms, but you see these very raw Psalms with the lament Psalms and even the imprecatory Psalms where you're asking God to serve justice. So I think it's just the gamut of human emotion that you see in the Psalms. It's so fascinating.
Chris Katulka: I never thought about that with you because you are a musician, and so it makes sense. Now the Psalms, like you said, they are music and that's something that's really special to think... We read the lyrics normally from David or from the Psalmists, but they were designed to be sung, which is something special. Steve, in your article it's called the Sweetest Psalmist of Israel. You say about half of the 150 Psalms in the Bible are attributed to David and his heartfelt expressions are as varied as his life experiences. So Steve, David's life experiences range from shepherd to king. How did all that play into the way that you wrote this article with the Psalms to the Lord?
Steve Conover: Yeah, I think just like we see in the types of Psalms, we just see so much variety in David's life. We see him as the shepherd. We see him as a warrior. We see him as a refugee. We see him as a king. So just the types of Psalms and then his expression with coming from being a musician himself. We know from the Bible that he was a great musician and that he was a shepherd all the way to being the king. He just had such a diverse life and then we know that he was anointed by God. We see in the end of his life that he talks about being the anointed one and that the spirit had touched his tongue. So just so fascinating to look into his life, and I think it gives us so much insight into how we can express our adoration, the really difficult things we face in life, how we're supposed to pray. I think there's a lot to teach us there.
Chris Katulka: I like what you say about David. It's like he used both sides of his brain to serve the Lord. He was a warrior king like you said. It actually is the idea that he was a military strategist in the Hebrew. So he used that strategic side of the side of his brain, but then he also had that creative element to him as well where he desired to pour his heart out to the Lord in song and prayer. He was a talented lyre player, and King Saul said, "I need somebody to soothe this spiritual issue that I'm dealing with," and they called David in to play the lyre.
He was a talented... He used both sides of his brain to worship God, which I just think is amazing. Speaking of both sides, you divide the Psalms up through various expressions that you mentioned. The first one is this expression that you can see of safety, which comes from Psalms 3. How does the story of David's trust in God, in the face of daunting odds, inspire you in your daily life, especially considering his belief that salvation belongs to the Lord as it was mentioned in the Psalms?
Steve Conover: Psalms 3 is one of those lament Psalms, and here he is, his own son wants to usurp his kingship and he's on the run. He has lost the people. The people are with Absalom. He stole their hearts, the Bible says, and so he could have a lot of self-doubt. He could be really just scared for his physical safety. So he's dealing with all those things, but what we learned from that is we see what he does. He goes to God. He just brings it all out there. He tells us the source of his sorrow, and he does it in such a raw way. He's not sugarcoating anything when he talks to God in a lament psalm. He's saying that, "I can sleep at night though because I trust in you God." He said, "Although I'm surrounded by my enemies, it's up to you whether I wake up the next day or not."
It's just a great testimony of how he was open with God and how he trusted God. And I think that's something that's lost for a lot of us today. I think when we think of the lament Psalms as Christians, we often think of that, "Well, that's just complaining." And there's a lot more to it because it's getting to the source of our sorrow. That's what we see in the lament Psalms, but it's not left there. We see that it's coming to the Lord and saying, "This is the reality. I am scared. This is bad. It's really bad right now." However, it doesn't end there. He goes to reminding God of his promises, and then after he reminds God of his promises, he said, "I can trust you." So even in the midst of all this, I can still trust you because you are a perfect sovereign God and my shepherd and my king.
Chris Katulka: I love what you're saying here because it's the idea, like you said, of God's faithfulness. David was counting on God's faithfulness so that even in those moments of suffering, even in those moments of pain, even in those moments of being felt as though he was abandoned, he was able to always pivot those lament Psalms away from that moment of suffering or pain and relying on the Lord for his faithfulness. And that is something that David does so well as he pours his heart out, and it's a testimony, at least for me too, when I read the Psalms to think, "Lord, this is a moment where I know I'm suffering. There's anguish, maybe depression," whatever, that in those moments, I can turn to the Lord and be confidently reminded of his faithfulness no matter what.
Steve Conover: Amen.
Chris Katulka: Steve, I want to turn to a psalm that I'm sure everybody is familiar with because I feel like it's a psalm that could have been written yesterday. Psalm 51, a psalm of God's mercy and David's brokenness. Can you share how this psalm and how God's mercy is manifested in our brokenness when we turn to him?
Steve Conover: What a psalm, what a place in life he was, and here he is. He had adultery, an adulterous affair with Bathsheba. Then he murders her husband, and of course, he's confronted by Nathan the prophet. And what's so fascinating about this is we know he is a man after God's own heart, and I think we get insight into this because maybe the worst moment of his life as far as failure, he doesn't explain it away. He doesn't make excuses. He realizes that if there's a sacrifice I could make, I'd bring it to you. I can't, only you can make me clean. So he's transparent about his sin, how the depths of the sin, and he asks that, "Lord, you can make me clean." So I think it's the humility he shows that we can learn so much from because it's hard to imagine. I mean, there's murder in there, there's adultery in there. It's about as bad as you can get. And when he's confronted, he just faced it. And again, we see that he was increasing his dependence on God and decreasing his dependence on himself and what he could see.
Chris Katulka: You and I, we co-host the Friends of Israel Today radio program together, and we've talked about Psalm 51 quite a bit, and the one thing that always strikes me about that psalm too in relationship to the article that you wrote is that David in his brokenness fell on God's mercy like what you're talking about, but it was the fact that David read God's word because I always think it's amazing. In the very beginning of Psalm 51, David actually quotes God from Exodus chapter 34, and he's almost saying, "I know who you are because you tell me that you're a merciful, gracious, long-suffering, patient God who's forgiving." And so in knowing who God's character and nature is, David is able to, in his brokenness, beg and plead to God asking for forgiveness, knowing that only forgiveness can be found in him. And I just think that's amazing that in the Psalms, a lot of the Psalms are built on understanding God's word already.
David was already a long time ago reading the Torah. He was reading the law and he knew who God was and he knew he had sinned great, but God was able to forgive him because he knew who God was. That's an amazing thing to think about when you couple God's mercy with your brokenness that you can be confident in who God is, his character, and nature. Steve, King David had an unwavering belief in provision in his life. As you illustrate in Psalms 23 in the article, the provision was multifaceted. It was a provision of peace. It was a provision of guidance, physical and spiritual provisions as well as freedom. I love this freedom from fear. How does God's provision for King David change the way that you think about your own life?
Steve Conover: To think that David was a shepherd and he calls God his shepherd, David knew what it took to shepherd sheep. He knew that he needed to keep them safe, they needed water, they needed food, all that it took to keep a sheep alive and safe. David understood that, and here he understood, "I need a shepherd, that I would be wayward if I didn't have a shepherd of my own." And here he calls the sovereign God of the universe, his shepherd, which is just really incredible. I think the way it plays out in my life practically is when I think about how I pray, and it's very easy for me, and maybe some people can relate to this where my prayers are a little too sticky, like I'm putting it at God's feet, but it comes back with me and now I'm thinking about it.
Maybe I'm problem-solving, maybe I'm worrying about it, maybe I'm not sleeping and I'm just thinking about this and I'm not actually praying, I'm not actually trusting. And that kind of goes back to what we learned about lament that yes, bring that request or that concern to God, but then remind him of who he is and what he's promised me and then trust him. And that's where we get back to that other psalm in Psalm 3 where he could sleep at night because he knew who he trusted. So I think that's the practical way I think about that Psalm.
Chris Katulka: That's a really good thought too, especially as we pivot now to Psalm 18. David always seems to be in need of rescuing. Whenever you read the Psalms, you're always like, "This guy's always in trouble, King David." But when you stop and think about your own life, I always need rescuing. That's the way I started thinking about it as I was developing these questions and reading your article, physical rescuing. I need physical rescuing, I need spiritual rescuing. In your article, you use a better word, deliverance. How should a Christian understand God's desire to deliver us as David was delivered from his enemies over the years?
Steve Conover: Yeah, so in this psalm, it's the king himself who is after David. And David calls on God. So he calls God his rock, he calls him his fortress. So the king and his army is after him. So you think of what David's feeling is in that moment. He needed a rock, he needed a fortress, and he says that it was God that pulled him from the depths. So he's rescued from drowning in his own probably concern and fear and sorrow, and here God places him on a rock that's higher than him. He makes his feet like the deer's feet.
So the way I think about that is that what we see in that psalm is that when our hope is in God and not in what we see, that he can lift us up out of that range of emotions that can trouble us. And what's interesting in that psalm is that he tells God how great he is and just to see how he bursts into praise after he thinks about his situation, he says, "God, you're my rock and my refuge," and then he just adores God. It's a beautiful psalm.
Chris Katulka: We only have a few moments left, Steve, but what's one last word that you want to leave for our listeners and those who are watching on The Sweet Psalmist of Israel, King David?
Steve Conover: I would say that the one thing I've been discovering in the research of this article the most is twofold. The first part is related to that last Psalm where we see David said that "You take care of me, the anointed meaning David, but you are also taking care of my descendants." So his hope wasn't just for himself, it was that he would fulfill the promises to the nation. So I think here at the Friends of Israel, that's kind of a big picture, beautiful answer to prayer that David even back then saw and said, "Yeah, I trust God not just for today. For me, I know he's going to keep his promises to Israel." And then I think making it personal, I really think it has a lot to say. Studying David in the Psalms have a lot to say about our sanctification, if you want to call it spiritual formation, how our faith is formed, how the rubber meets the road, where I'm becoming more like Christ.
So I think when we look at David's life and we see it through the historical books and then his expression in the Psalms, we can start to put together that those things in our lives that concern us, we can come to him and we can say, "This is the situation. It's pretty rough. I'm actually frightened by it. I have no answers for it." However, I know you keep your promises. I know you love me Lord, and therefore I trust you. And then not make that prayer sticky. Now actually leave it at his feet, and then I can say, "Lord, I trust you" and then put my head on the pillow hopefully and have a good night's sleep because we trust one that is trustworthy.
Now, Apples of Gold, a dramatic reading from the life and ministry of Holocaust survivor, Zvi Kalisher.
Mike Kellogg: Recently I was in the orthodox section of Jerusalem when some young men recognized me and approached me. They were confident because their teachers were with him. "Tell us," one student said, "in which God do you believe?" "Why are you asking me such a foolish question?" I asked. Quickly, I read to them Deuteronomy 6:4, which they pray three times each day. "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one." They all were surprised because they thought, those of us who believe in Jesus, do not believe what the Bible says. "You call yourself religious," I said, "but you do not follow God. I follow God about whom it is written in the Bible."
The teachers disliked what I said. "How can you say this?" I replied, "Whom do you worship? In all of your synagogues, you have commentaries and books, but no bibles. Then you come to me and ask me such foolish questions." One man replied, "But you know, you obey this man about him. It is not written in the Bible." "I'm very thankful we have come so far and that you have given me this opportunity to show you where the Bible speaks about the Lord who came from Bethlehem." "Where is it written that this man came from Bethlehem?" Someone asked. These questions made me so happy.
I quickly read to them, Micah 5:2. They started to write down the Bible verses I showed them. Then I turned to the teacher, "Please, read this passage of Isaiah 53." "No, this I will not read." "You'll not read it because you're afraid of the truth. If you do not want to read it, I'll be happy to." But before I began, one of the Hasidic students said, "Give me the Bible and I will read it." With great joy, I handed him my Bible and he read the word slowly and carefully. When he came to verses five and six, the students began to ask questions, "What does this mean? ‘And the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.’ About whom is this written?" One asked. Instead of answering, their teacher asked them a question, "Can a virgin give birth to a child?" "No." The students replied, "Such a thing cannot be."
All of the teachers were confident they had backed me into a corner. And then one teacher said, "If you are so sure this man was born to a virgin, show these students where it is written in the Bible. If you can show that to them, I will eat my shoes." I replied, "Start eating. Isaiah 7:14 says, behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a son and shall call his name Emmanuel. Read it loudly so all of your pupils can hear," I said. But when he began, he stopped quickly. He was afraid to read the passage. Instead, he told the students, "We do not have time to continue. Let us go." But I would not let the students leave without hearing the truth. I handed the Bible to one of the young men that he read the verse aloud. As he read, everyone became still, they were so quiet. When he finished, I said to the teacher, "Good appetite."
Steve Conover: As we close, we want to thank all of you for joining us for today's episode of The Friends of Israel Today. Chris, where are we headed next week?
Chris Katulka: Well, we're going to start a new series on the promise, the covenant that God made to King David, and not only how that was something that was prophesied in the Old Testament, but also how it was fulfilled in Jesus, and then what the New Testament writers thought about the Davidic Covenant. So that's going to be a five-part series. I'm excited about doing it, but Steve, I also want to thank you for an amazing interview that you did. Excellent article. It was great.
Steve Conover: My joy. Thank you so much.
Chris Katulka: Well just FYI. A quick reminder, you can go to foiradio.org and there you can get your one-year free subscription to Israel My Glory magazine if you've never subscribed before. Again, that's foiIradio.org and you have options. Remember, you can get a print edition, which will get mailed right to your house, six free issues, or you can get the digital edition, which will give you not only our most current issue of Israel My Glory with Steve's article but also the last 40 years of Israel My Glory content right at your fingertips. Again, you can subscribe by going to foiradio.org.
Steve Conover: Our host and teacher is Chris Katulka. Today's program was produced by Tom Gallione, edited by Jeremy Strong, who also composed and performs our theme music. Mike Kellogg read Apples of Gold, and I'm Steve Conover, executive producer. Our mailing address is FOI Radio PO Box 914 Bellmawr, New Jersey 08099. Again, that's FOI Radio PO Box 914 Bellmawr, New Jersey 08099. Our web address is foiradio.org. Again, that's foiradio.org. You can call our listener line at (888) 343-6940. Again, that's (888) 343-6940. The Friends of Israel Today is a production of the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. We are a worldwide evangelical ministry, proclaiming biblical truth about Israel and the Messiah, while bringing physical and spiritual comfort to the Jewish people.
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Apples of Gold: “I Will Eat My Shoes”
One day as Zvi was walking in the Orthodox section of Jerusalem, a group of men approached him. He noticed their confidence and saw that their teachers (rabbis) were with them. Since the men were so confident in their superiority over Zvi, one teacher made a bet that if Zvi could prove where the Bible spoke of the virgin birth, he would eat his shoes! Listen to see if Zvi could make the rabbi eat his words — and his shoes!
The Friends of Israel Today and Apples of Gold theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong.
Your gifts help us to continue proclaiming biblical truth about Israel and the Messiah, while bringing physical and spiritual comfort to the Jewish people.