David Never Waited
For Special Dispensations
There are very good reasons David is one of the most popular figures in the Bible.
His story is long and spread out, which means you won’t read very far before bumping into him, but more to the point, it’s personal. We don’t have to wonder what David said or what he thought or how he felt. Many of those details are laid out for us.
It also never gets boring. It’s the stuff that inspires movies.
The history extends from 1 Samuel 16 to 1 Kings 2 (42 chapters) and much of it is repeated, with additional detail, in 1 Chronicles. All total, he is the focus of about 70 chapters and since God made timeless promises to David and his descendants, he is mentioned repeatedly throughout the Old and New Testaments afterward.
Additionally, large portions of the Bible were actually written by David and his son, Solomon.
- David is credited with 75 Psalms
- Solomon is credited with 2 Psalms (although he wrote over a thousand), much of Proverbs, Song of Solomon and Ecclesiastes.
These portions of the Bible are still read and embraced daily. Psalms and Proverbs are the starting points for many devotions. Saying David is influential is an understatement.
In short, David is the reference point for personal-relationship with God. If you want to know what that relationship feels/looks like, David’s your guy.
He’s easy to identify with. He’s spiritual without being super righteous and human (meaning sinful) without being committed to evil.
If we were to ask people which Bible personality they would like to emulate, David would probably top the list. Who wouldn’t want to be the little guy who takes on and defeats Goliath?
Major Events Of Davids Life
Before looking at the lessons, a summary of the high points in David’s life is necessary.
- He was born the youngest of 8 sons. He had two sisters, Zeruiah and Abigail, but they are rarely mentioned.
- Anointed by Samuel to be King (anywhere from 15 to 25 yrs old – probably closer to 15).
- Conscripted to play music in the court of King Saul.
- Defeats Goliath.
- Conscripted into military service and becomes a national hero.
- Marries Michal, King Saul’s daughter.
- Goes on the run from the King – who wants him dead – and gathers a band who follow him. (Takes on two additional wives during this time: Ahinoam and Abigail.)
- Following the death of Saul, he becomes king in Hebron (7 years).
- He is embraced by all Israel and becomes king over the entire nation (33 years).
- Makes Jerusalem the capital of Israel.
- David sets up the Tabernacle in Jerusalem.
- Commits adultery and murder, and is forgiven.
- David organizes Tabernacle worship (4000 member choir and orchestra and draws up designs for the Temple).
- Just before his death, David appoints his son, Solomon, the next king over Israel.
Summary Of David’s Skill Set
Everyone has ability, naturally. You get no credit for that.
Developing those abilities and using them, however, does say a lot about a person so knowing about David’s abilities and how he used them informs the topic. He was known for four things. He was:
- A shepherd
- A musician (he sang, played an instrument and wrote songs)
- A warrior (defeated Goliath, led armies and won battles)
What we learn is:
- His shepherding showed him to be patient, faithful and brave.
Shepherding is mind stiflingly boring. Performing the task faithfully with a good attitude – which David did – requires: patience, reliability and faithfulness. All desirable qualities.
It also required bravery. Sheep are vulnerable to predators and the shepherd is tasked with protecting them. According to David, he defended his flock from both lion and bear.
- His musical abilities showed him to be a reflective, thinking type.
He wrote songs and many were included in the Book of Psalms. This means he was a thinking and reflecting type, an exercise that to onlookers appears to be a waste.
Thinking and reflecting take time. Thinkers look like they’re doing nothing. David shows us that the outcome of deep reflection can be quite useful. We still read and are encouraged by the things he wrote.
David illustrates the fact that every big idea starts out as nothing more than a thought process.
- His skills as a warrior showed him to be a cautious man.
We think of warriors as people who walk into every situation sword first. Every conflict is a fighting matter, but David wasn’t like that, even when it appeared to be the best option.
David had the chance to kill King Saul on two occasions, and his associates encouraged him to do so but held back. He knew it was a short sighted solution.
This is noteworthy because Saul, for whom David served loyally and effectively in battle, was jealous of David and was trying to kill him. Saul had spread vicious rumors about David. Defending oneself against such treachery is understood.
David was quite proficient in the use of weapons but they were never his first choice when relationships got a little sticky.
- His humanness actually reflects his spirituality.
David was just as capable of sinning as anyone but is noteworthy because of his response. He admitted his guilt, accepted the consequences and never found excuses.
His sinfulness didn’t define or consume him. It humbled him and enabled him to be merciful and forgiving toward others.
But the way David managed his skills doesn’t represent the most important lessons.
David teaches us for example that:
The Diligent Use Of Your Brain Is Just As Important As Personal Instructions From God
A popular question today is, “How can I know God’s will?”
And generally, most people aren’t happy with the answer they get. Information isn’t what they want. A personal word from God – a special dispensation – is preferred. They’ll only be satisfied when God whispers His will in their ear.
This expectation, however, is not reasonable or rational. It might even be an expression of insecurity or lack of confidence or possibly even laziness.
Don’t misunderstand. It isn’t unreasonable to want to know God’s will. We all need that information.
But it is unreasonable to expect God to give you personalized, audible instructions to guide your life day by day, moment by moment. How would you even know it was God’s voice?
God’s will isn’t that difficult to ascertain.
God expects us to do the right thing and the right thing isn’t as mysterious as we like to think.
You don’t need personal instruction from God to know it’s wrong to lie, be lazy, commit murder or steal. Should we expect Him to whisper a reminder every time we have the option?
One of the most important lessons we learn from David speaks to this issue.
With David being so prominent in Scripture, and his story taking so many unexpected turns, you would expect him to have a running conversation with God.
Moses had that kind of instruction. Why not David?
When you investigate, you find that God spoke directly to David only 5 times during his entire life! How did he ever manage? Where did he get his information? The answer is obvious:
- David learned the proper way to rule by the process of elimination – don’t do what Saul did – and by reading the Bible.
- He learned the proper way to transport the ark from reading the Bible.
- He learned the correct design for the Temple by reading the Bible.
- He discovered it was wrong to multiply wives from his personal experience with many wives first and then by reading the Bible.
The point being we can learn a lot from experience – our own and others – and from reading the Bible. That approach worked well for David and he had very little Bible to work with.
The Diligent Use Of Your Abilities Is Just As Effective As Interceding Miracles
Everyone wants a miracle but how realistic is it to expect one every time we’re in a bind?
If you read through David’s entire story (1 Sam 16 through 1 Kings 2) you will find no conventional miracles. Even defeating Goliath involved no interventions from God.
Malcolm Gladwell has a great discussion on David’s defeat of Goliath, which demonstrates how much God employs human ability to accomplish His will.
Maybe God expects us to be like David and draw from our own abilities and the abilities of other humans when faced with difficulties. A miracle may not always be the best option. If God had defeated Goliath directly, with no human involvement, who would have led Israel in succeeding conflicts.
Genuinely Admitting Your Failure Is More Important Than Trying To Maintain Sinless Perfection
Which isn’t possible anyway!
David sinned badly and it wasn’t done in private. Amazingly he never denied it, acted like he was innocent or made excuses.
Most people like to put on the front, the facade of innocence. Not just,
“I didn’t do it!”
“I would never!”
It was repentance that made David a man after God’s own heart, in spite of his sinfulness. David teaches us that righteousness is embodied in admission.
Inhabiting The Space Between Trust And Distrust Is What We Do When Neither Forgiveness Nor Condemnation Are Clear
David witnessed wrongdoing on many occasions but he never responded personally or compulsively and he could have. As King he was the highest legal officer in the land, but instead of reacting, he gave the benefit of the doubt.
For example, Joab murdered Abner and claimed he was avenging the death of his brother Asahel. Though the law allowed for this, it was suspicious, since Abner represented a threat to Joab’s position.
Joab was probably counting on public sympathy too. Abner was a cousin to King Saul and commander in Saul’s army up until he made peace with David. Was he or was he not a bad guy.
Instead of making an absolute judgment against Joab, which would have been an extreme response, David made a public show of grieving the death of Abner even refusing to eat till the sun set. It was a reasonable response to a sticky situation.
David took the same cautious, middle-ground approach when Joab later murdered Amasa and when Shimei cursed the King. He invoked the principle of beyond-reasonable-doubt long before it became Common Law in the late 1700’s.
Faith Is Never Inactive
David’s faith possessed him, pushed him, moved him. It was compelling.
He couldn’t hear Goliath’s threat and not respond. He couldn’t think about God and truth without writing down his thoughts. He couldn’t consider what he had written without putting it into song. He couldn’t honor God and not bring the ark to Jerusalem.
For David, believing and acting were synonyms and the New Testament agrees. James said:
Show me your faith without works and I’ll show you mine by my works. James 2:18
David wasn’t the first or last to actively believe but he definitely was one of the best models.