This article was originally published in the October 2009 issue of The Lutheran Ambassador. I believe that David’s story can give all Christians hope and point us to the most important component of Christian leadership.
When you think about David what comes image comes into your mind first? The young shepherd whose faith in God empowered him to face the giant Goliath with only a slingshot? The King who was so unselfconscious he danced with joy before the Lord? The sensitive poet and musician who composed many of the Psalms still used in our worship services today? With God’s help, David was a leader who did great things. He was a saint.
But David also had a dark side. He lusted after another man’s wife and took her in adultery. When she became pregnant, he tried to trick her husband into believing the child was his own. When it became apparent that his deceit wasn’t going to work, David had him killed. God punished David by taking the life of the son who resulted from his adulterous liaison. David did some terrible things. He was a sinner.
David seemed to do everything in a big way. He was a fierce soldier–“Saul has killed his thousands and David his tens of thousands (1 Samuel 18:7)–and a charismatic king who united the Jewish nation, brought the ark to Jerusalem and built a palace there. His magnetic personality attracted both men and women. Brought to King Saul’s service as a young man, David quickly became a favorite who could calm the King’s terrible moods with his music. Saul’s son Jonathan loved David with a friendship that was “more wonderful than that of women” (II Samuel 1:26), and Saul’s daughter Michal also loved David and became his wife. In all David had at least eight wives and 14 children, but his family life was far from successful. The jealousies that arose between these children of different mothers resulted in so much dysfunction that one brother raped his half-sister, was then killed by another brother who subsequently led a rebellion against his father, David, and was killed himself.
How did this man, a liar, fornicator and murderer, a man who could control armies but not his own children, come to be considered by God, “a man after my heart, who will obey my will (Acts 15:22)? Why was his family chosen to be the human branch of Christ’s family tree? David’s story reminds me of a nursery rhyme I learned when I was small about the little girl with the curl down the middle of her forehead: when she was good, she was very, very good, but when she was bad she was horrid. Some of David’s sins were truly horrid. So why does God hold him up as an example, we should follow?
The reason is simple: God does not keep score. The most saintly among us are still sinners and we still need a savior. David’s good works did not earn him special credit with God and his sins did not preclude him from being Gods’ man. That slate was wiped clean by Christ’s sacrifice. It wasn’t anything David did that made God call him “a man after my own heart.” It must have been something else. I think the something else was his steadfast and life-long relationship with God.
To be continued tomorrow …..