3 Kings & a Wiseman, Part II: David
His name is David. We named our son after him. It’s easy to love the David we meet in children’s Sunday School stories, but when you free his narrative from that sanitizing framework and read it as an adult challenge, you might wonder why I love him so much.
But, I do. And, far more important than how I think about David, the Biblical writers in both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament claim that God saw David’s heart (his core), and that God loved what God saw. (Obviously, if you read the narrative, not always.)
So, what is it that makes David so different than most world leaders, including his predecessor in Israel, Saul? Unlike the case with David, we have no record of Saul’s multiple marriages, wayward children, or affairs and cover-ups. Like David, in Saul we have a king through whom God wanted to create a permanent dynasty (1 Samuel 13:13-14). And, also like David, we have in Saul a leader who left Israel in much better political and economic status when he was done than it had been when he started.
I think most of us, with only a little more sophistication than the Sunday School-appropriate version of David’s life, really tend to think David must have been “a better person” than the rest of us. Of course, when we entertain this thought, most of us are ignoring the standards by which we currently judge “better.” Remember, David was a cold blooded killer at times, in a brutal and violent world. He was also a polygamist and never repented of being in multiple marriages. He was also apparently a negligent father to his children, on many levels.
I could, of course, list dozens of wonderful things about David and the good things he did, as well.
But, I would like to focus on one trait that may be a major part of why God loved—and loves—David so much. At his core, David seems to have known that the Big Story in history, and the Big Stage on which we live, are God’s Story and God’s Stage, not ours.
David tended to know this when he succeeded beyond belief. He tended to know this when he was tempted to do what almost all leaders do—grasp the power that God had given to someone else rather than wait and see how God would resolve the power dilemma. Believe me, waiting is always hard, and it is particularly difficult when it puts you at risk, and your waiting is disapproved by all your friends on whose support you depend.
And this is perhaps most amazing of all: Even though David is a man who has the power to “cover up” his sins, weaknesses, and brokenness, he instead allows them to be brought out into the open before God and the watching world. This, perhaps more than anything else, seems to keep him near to God, even when he is about to slide away.
David could easily have descended into the same darkness into which Saul slid. Psalm 51 and 32 are both acknowledgements of that reality as is the narrative of 2 Samuel 12. Yet, each time David is on the edge of the abyss to which the passionate grasping of what we want tends to lead us, David turns around and runs back into the hands of God. Whether it is his sins toward Bathsheba and Uriah, or his arrogance in numbering his people against all wise advise, or his broken heartedness at the rebellion and usurpation of the throne by his son Absalom, who was like David in so many ways—in all of these situations, David turns back to God and pleads for mercy for himself and others.
So, the next time you are tempted to grasp for what you want right now at all costs, or you find yourself having already gone down the road of grasping for what you wanted, no matter what it cost you and those around you, perhaps you might see David as a model after all. Because if you, like David, turn and passionately draw near to God, I am confident that God will be waiting and ready to passionately draw near to you.