Was David a failure?

King David-flattenedSometimes if you go to church, it’s like the verse that talks about, “choose the good and refuse the evil” (Isaiah 7:16), ha! I sure better explain that. The church I’ve gone to for the past months is pretty good and I’ve gotten a lot out of what I have heard there much of the time. And maybe I haven’t really heard anything that most folks would call “evil”.

Last Sunday was a good sermon and then the preacher started talking about King David. Immediately after mentioning King David the preacher started talking about David’s experience with Bathsheba and adultery. David sees Bath- Sheba Bathing James Tissot (1836-1902 French) Jewish Museum, New York, USAWell, that did happen. But it got me thinking about how many times I’ve heard King David mentioned and then in the next breath the conversion goes off on his relationship with Bathsheba.

In some ways that’s both sad, very imbalanced and a disservice to people who are trying to learn about the Lord. Essentially David is considered Israel’s greatest king. When Samuel told Saul the type of man who would replace him as the king of Israel, he said “the Lord has sought him a man after His own heart” (I Samuel 13:14). In other words, God called David a man after His own heart, a pretty strong commendation and very rare within the Bible.

davidPsalmsDavid was not just some kind of warrior hero, a brutish macho tribal leader. Have you ever read the Psalms in the Bible? They are mostly written by David and they contain some of the most intimate personal prayers and contact with God that can be found anywhere in the Bible. David’s prayers, and the sometimes immediate answers he would get, have been often the most read material in the Bible. David’s pouring out his heart to God, his expressions of love for and devotion to God are unsurpassed and indescribable in their tenderness, sincerity and humility. And the people of his times knew this about David and recognized his special relationship with God and his love for Him.

Davids-Mighty-Men3When David was getting old, he still wanted to go out to battle with his troops, as he had always done. But it got to where they told him that he needed to stay back from the battle, “that he quench not the light of Israel.” (II Samuel 21:17) His troops and officers literally called him “the light of Israel”, in his lifetime. I don’t know of any other person in the history of ancient Israel that this was said of. So for us modern folk to first think of adultery when we think of king David is just really far off from the way God’s Word depicts him. It might almost say something more about us and our ways of looking at things than it does about David. Usually most people are quicker to find fault than they are to value virtue, don’t you think?

“David, the adultery”? How about David, “the sweet psalmist of Israel“? (II Samuel 23:1) How about the fact that Jesus was called “the Son of David”? (Matthew 21:9) Which He was. Both Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Joseph, her husband traced their lineage directly back to King David.

I wonder what the results are of preachers who always immediately feel they have to dwell on David’s relationship with Bathsheba like that. Does it turn away people from reading the words of David? Does it make them think less of what are priceless words of admonishment and instruction in how to keep a clean heart and to worship the Lord? That would be devastating to influence the faithful to turn away from the words God gave King David and which are published in the Bible, simply because at one point in his life David made that major mistake and sin with Bathsheba.

To me, of all the characters in the Old Testament, King David is one of the ones I learn the most from. If there ever was a sinner saved by grace, it was David. If there ever was a man who loved God and who God used and loved and “made something out of nothing”, it was King David. Many if not most of us know we are a mess and are useless and hopeless without God. David is an example of God’s mercy, love, forgiveness and ability to “do above all that we can ask or think”. (Ephesians 3:20) It’s a real shame when preachers turn us away from the example of David and to think of him as a failure. I hope you have gotten to know the specific words of prayer and love that David gave us in the Psalms. They are almost certainly the best sample we will ever find of how to pray, how to worship and how to love and understand God.

3 thoughts on “Was David a failure?

  1. Not only David, but everyone who was ever saved was saved by grace, and everyone who ever will be saved will be by grace.

    David sinned greatly and seriously in his scheming in what he did to Uriah. But the most important thing here is…he acknowledged it all and also greatly repented of his sins. He pronounced the judgment himself, which was death (see 2. Sam. 12). But because of his repentance the Lord had mercy, and unless he had done so he would have been a failure. So he was saved from his sins, not in his sins. Still there was a price to pay.
    Therefore David is an example of the kind of repentance God expects.

    • Exactly. I just wish more preachers and teachers would teach what you are saying there, instead of demeaning a real Old Testament saint by dragging up and highlighting the sins he repented of.

  2. I have to disagree. David was a great warrior, a great poet and a great musician… However, he was a failure as a father, a husband and I may be alone in this, but also a king. And they’re failings that are too deep to overlook. These aren’t just slap on the wrist missteps, and let’s just move on. They’re deeply despicable pre-meditated acts, and it’s a shame that I’ve learned more of what not to do from David than what to do. His reign, like Saul’s before him, fits the saying “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”.

    The incident with Bathsheba was just the tip of the iceberg, and actually, I argue his infidelity with her was more than just adultery, but a form of non-violent rape. I mean, what else would you call abusing your power and influence to get what you want from a woman? What if she said no? One snap of his finger, and she’s either imprisoned or dead for defying him. It doesn’t end there either. He tries to manipulate one of his finest, most loyal soldiers into making it seem like the child he conceived with Bathsheba is his and when that doesn’t work, he murders him… only he once again abuses his power and trust as king and commander in chief to have his fighting men dirty their hands for him since he isn’t man enough to do it himself. It’s hard for me to blame Bathsheba entirely since she never asked for this, but it’s hard for me to have admiration for the relationship David formed with her considering it’s one built on the corpse of an innocent man.

    Once again, it doesn’t end there. Then there’s his political and parental failings. His daughter is raped by his son. Amnon should be guilty of both rape and incest. What does the king/father do? Nothing. His son Absalom takes matters into his own hands, murders Amnon and flees the kingdom as a fugitive. What does the king/father do? Nothing. Joab pulls some strings, gives Absalom the second chance he doesn’t deserve for the sake of David. What happens? David ignores his son, the rift between them deepens which eventually leads to Absalom’s insurrection and overthrow of his father’s kingdom. How does David respond once civil war breaks out? With an arrogant statement like “Be gentle with my son for my sake.” Sure would’ve been nice if Absalom was gentle with the countless other parents’ children who died defending David’s life against his brat son. Joab does the right thing – what should’ve been done long before it festered to this point – and kills Absalom and what does David do? He responds by resentfully firing Joab and replacing him with Absalom’s former general Amasa to lead against Sheba’s rebellion, a rebellion spurred on by David’s own actions. Not a smart move since not only was Joab David’s most skilled warrior, any idiot would know it’d be hard to trust a man who once sided against you. Then there’s the counting of his fighting men during peacetime, which was a big no no spiritually, legally and from a practical standpoint absolutely pointless.

    Yes, in the end, David had redemption after God punished him for the census (though I fiercely side against his final order to execute Joab, a man whose contributions he never appreciated and a man who David would be dead and arguably not even king if not for him), and he has accomplished great things that he deserves credit for. But greatest king of Israel? Certainly not (nor was his political opportunist son Solomon).

    When I think of a type of Christ I think of Joseph, Joshua, Job, Daniel, Esther and the disciple John. Yes, they were human and naturally imperfect, but they best fit the example of who Jesus was. David has some aspects that fit the mold, but overall his failings are too egregious to be considered a type of Christ, and if there’s any positive to him, it’s that I believe even he would admit that.

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