When we think of David – the biblical David – what comes to mind? Certainly shepherd, poet, warrior, giant-killer, and king. He was an accomplished musician who penned many of the Psalms, including the beloved Psalm 23. However, alongside this impressive list stands another: betrayer, liar, adulterer, murderer, and sinner. From David’s lineage and some 28 generations later came Jesus, with Mary and Joseph being direct descendants of David. He was known as the greatest king of Israel, publicly anointed after a lengthy period of waiting and preparation for his future responsibilities. Yet the Bible makes no effort to hide David’s failures and the dark times when he stumbled and fell into sin. Perhaps we can recognize ourselves sharing in his failures more so than in his triumphs. Putting anatomy aside, I am David, relating more to him than any other character in the Bible.
Picture David as a young boy, humbly tending his sheep with compassionate attentiveness to their provision, guidance, and safety. Sheep were vulnerable to all kinds of predators, and as David slept alongside them he would have been in constant vigilance to danger with only his shepherd’s staff as defense. David served in Saul’s court as a talented harp player, soothing Saul’s depression and fear. While King Saul was still on the throne, Samuel anointed young David as Israel’s second king. As Samuel states in 1 Samuel 13:14, “But now your (Saul’s) dynasty must end, for the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart.” Later, as a soldier, exchanging the heavy armor, bronze helmet, and sword for a few small stones and a sling, David courageously took on Goliath, the Philistine champion, whom he saw simply as a mere mortal giant of a man defying Almighty God. As recorded in 1 Samuel 17:37, “The Lord who saved me from the claws of the lion and the bear will save me from this Philistine.” David went on to establish one of the deepest and closest friendships ever recorded in the Bible with Jonathan, Saul’s son. He was given in marriage to Saul’s daughter Michal, becoming the king’s son-in-law. With everything, David enjoyed success and popularity, so much so that he was pursued by Saul and his jealousy, being forced on the run until Saul’s death. David was ultimately crowned not only king over Judah but also king over Israel. Under his kingship, he conquered the surrounding nations and gained victory in many battles as the Lord poured out His kindness on His people. When life is going well, don’t we relish our happiness, achievements, and great fortune?
In 2 Samuel Chapter 11, we begin to learn of David’s struggles, becoming entangled in sin with Bathsheba, covering it up by ordering the death of her husband Uriah, and later taking a census in order to glory in the strength of his nation (2 Samuel 24:1-25). The Bible tells us that David abandoned his purpose by staying home from war, focusing on his own desires, and turning toward temptation rather than away. Perhaps David felt he had earned his right, considering his past success and service, or maybe he hadn’t even considered how one lapse in character and good judgment could lead to a spiral of poor decisions and devastation in its wake. We know even great people who try to follow God are susceptible to temptation and sin; however, it is often pride that convinces us that we can be reliant in our own strength and accomplishment and impenetrable to the sins and evil and consequences to which weaker individuals succumb. And sin can lead us blindly down a path of self-absorption and insensitivity in which the pleasure of the moment is simply only a momentary pleasure.
How is David best and most often remembered? As one with a heart bent toward God. The Bible tells us how God saw David – as a “man after my heart, who will do all my will.” Acts 13:22. David, more than anything else, had an unchangeable belief in the faithful and forgiving nature of God. He understood that God was his provider. “I will not be in need,” he wrote in verse 1 of that most beloved Psalm 23.
He sinned and made mistakes but was quick to confess. His confessions were heartfelt, and his repentance was genuine. He experienced the joy and freedom of God’s forgiveness and never took that lightly or his blessings for granted. His fellowship and peace with God were restored; however, he wasn’t spared suffering. The consequences of his poor choices followed him throughout his life, as they often do, yet poor choices can often prove tangible reminders of our need for God. David sinned greatly, but he did not sin repeatedly. He pursued his Lord stumbling, struggling, and imperfectly, but with faithfulness, honesty, and courage.
David was an extraordinary man who led an extraordinary life. His journey resonates with the complexities of my faith, and maybe yours as well. I too have faced some giants – some I’ve taken down, some I’m still fighting. I have been enticed by the allure of temptation but in the process, exchanged pride for humility and experienced the blessing of undeserved grace. I have been forgiven and redeemed, and there are some mistakes I will not make again. From a child, to a young adult, a mother and wife, I have never lost my heart for God and like David, will continue to pursue Him all the days of my life until I dwell in the house of the Lord forever (Psalm 23: 6).
“He reached down from heaven and rescued me; he drew me out of deep waters.” 2 Samuel 22: 17 and “I will lie down in peace and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe.” Psalm 4: 8