God’s People, part 51: King David

Read 2 Samuel 4

“Then David called one of the young men and said, ‘Come here and strike him down.’ So he struck him down and he died.” (2 Samuel 1:15 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Weltchronik_Fulda_Aa88_286r_detailPart 51: King David. When people think of David, they think of shepherd boy, they think of a poet and a songwriter, they think of a giant killer, and they think of a “sweeping”, somewhat wrong, romantic affair between him and Bathsheba. Usually that latter one gets brushed over because, after all, the affair resulted in the eventual birth of Solomon the wise. Maybe I am overstating this a little bit; however, if so I am only overstating it A LITTLE BIT.

On the one hand, David was called “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14); yet, on the other hand, David was a man far removed from the heart of God. If you read the Bible closely, between the lines of the sometimes seemingly flowery accounts of David’s life and reign, you begin to piece together a starker, and more disturbing, portrait of the “great king”. In fact, some of David’s patterns and actions are downright loathsome.

First, while David claims to harbor no ill will toward Saul’s family following Saul’s death, family members start turning up dead left and right. The pattern is always the same, 1) David commands his men to do no harm to a specific person. To make this easier to follow, we’ll call said person “Bob”. 2) Someone from David’s men go rogue and kill Bob anyway. 3) The rogue agent returns to David all proud and happy that he did his king a favor. 4) David is infuriated with the rogue agent, is “grieved”, and has the rogue agent put to death.

This happens in nearly every case, including in the case of his eldest son, Absalom. Let’s pause and stop to consider this. As a king, David has absolute power over his army, over his subjects, and over his whole kingdom. That is a fact of monarchy. This means that one of the following is true: either 1) David is an incompetent leader who has absolutely no control over his own kingdom/army and, subsequently, commands no respect from his subordinates, or 2) David ordered his men to do things that he later covered up by acting outraged and having the assassin put to death.

While we would like to think the former, I think the pattern gives us a reason to suspect the latter. David was a skilled warrior, a top notch general, and a brilliant strategizer. He conquered and unified a divided kingdom, and he defeated all the enemies surrounding Israel. What is the likeliness that this leader, this king, would have no control over his men and would command no respect from them? Also, even if one or two did make the mistake of going rogue, wouldn’t the others have seen the consequences of that and not fallen into the same pitfall?

I think David deserves more credit than being labeled incompetent, and so do his men. Unfortunately, that also means that David comes out a lot less “a man after God’s own heart” than we would like him to, which makes perfect sense when we look at his sordid, scandalous affair with Bathsheba, an affair that ended with the loss of a child, causing a major division of his family and, ultimately, causing the destructive division that split the very kingdom he fought so hard to unite. But we will talk more about that major faux pas in the next devotion.

The point is, David was sometimes a great man, a great artist, a courageous leader, and a great king; however, there was a much darker side to him as well. Sometimes David was a despotic tyrant and a monster. What we see in David is, if we are honest, what we see in ourselves: great complexity. God created us good and fashioned us in God’s own image. God made us human beings after God’s own heart; however, our sinful nature has removed memory of that fact far from us and we often find the monsters (or demons) within us coming out with relish. The challenge today is to, like David did in Psalm 51, recognize our sinful nature and repent of it to our Lord Jesus Christ. Only through repentance can we find the gift of redemption that awaits us through Christ our Savior.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY Through David, the worldly messiah (messiah means “anointed one”), came tyranny, division, destruction and an end. Through Jesus, God’s Messiah and only begotten Son, comes reconciliation, redemption, salvation, sanctification and a Kingdom without end.

PRAYER Lord, clear the way to you in my heart that I may find my salvation and sanctification in you. Amen.

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