1 & 2 Samuel
King David, a man whose heart is aligned with God (1 Sam 13:14), is often held up as a Biblical role model. Due to his military prowess, his reign was marked by numerous victories over Judah’s and Israel’s enemies, followed by a period of relative prosperity. But his accession to the throne was by no means smooth sailing from his very first encounter with his predecessor, King Saul. Perhaps seen side-by-side with Saul, his valour and reverence for Yahweh may have outshone the latter, but God’s regard for a man always included the chinks in his armour. And David had many!
God’s initial choice as king was not David, but Saul, the tallest and best looking man in Israel (1 Sam 9:2; 10:24). However, Saul fell short of the divine yardstick for simple disobedience to Samuel’s instructions and eventually lost his crown (1 Sam 13). God clearly wanted a meaningful relationship with His appointees, but Saul puts his trust in the formality of the sacrificial ritual and not in Yahweh Himself (1 Sam 15:22; 16:7). David, in comparison, was physically unimpressive but he recognized God’s authority through His appointed prophet, seeking assiduously for His instructions before launching military campaigns. David’s piety in governing God’s people by His principles was to figure large for a major part of his life: the Goliath encounter where as a young boy, he took Saul’s place, and trusted in his Lord to defeat the Philistine giant with a pebble (1 Sam 17); two opportunities arose where he could have done away with Saul, but he resisted, respecting God’s sovereignty (1 Sam 24, 26); and eventually uniting the fragmented kingdoms of Judah and Israel (2 Sam 1-10).
However, David’s adultery with Bathsheba and treacherous murder of Uriah, one of his commanders and the latter’s husband, stood out as we look at his faults (2 Sam 11). This heinous crime, which probably did not go unnoticed by his courtiers and family, was a stark betrayal of God’s grace to him, and although he was forgiven, its consequences remained, marking the commencement of his reign’s decline and the disintegration of his family. However, before it became full blown, this duplicitous trait in David surfaced much earlier: he coaxed Jonathan into lying to his father to fathom Saul’s intentions over him (1 Sam 20:4-10); at Nob, he lied to the priest Ahimelech on his refugee status, in order to secure needed provisions, which later aroused Saul’s suspicions, resulting in the massacre of the Nob priests (1 Sam 21-22); and he took refuge with the king of Gath and deceived him by attacking the Philistines instead of Judah, leaving no witnesses (1 Sam 27: 8-12). It is interesting to note that during these occasions of extreme adversities, David did not seek God.
Despite David’s predisposition for anxieties, deceptions, and homicide, he illustrated for us that the reality of life is such that God willingly works with imperfect men and women who despite their failings possessed genuine faith and had personal experiences in their dealings with Him. With Yahweh, the dichotomy between what is ‘sacred’ and ‘secular’ is non-existent, and therefore the gospel needs to inform everything we do. This is especially crucial as we look to those in leadership positions, where it is our responsibility to discern their character. We may not be in a position to hold them accountable to what they say or do (as in most cases that is the churches’ or organizations’ boards’ and God’s purview), but to follow blindly or suspend judgment altogether would be to condone any wrong doing. The critical elements that would involve us if we desire to walk closely with men and God are transparency and accountability – all under the watchful eyes of humility and mutual submission in God’s community. What happened to David ought to encourage as well as disturb us, and lead us to question our own attitudes, so that we do not mask our inward realities of weaknesses by our outward appearances that all is well. Finally, God’s faithfulness is always there for us when we seek Him with all our hearts.