King David is one of the most well-known characters of the bible. David and Goliath is a frequent topic for Vacation Bible School lessons. Many of the Psalms are attributed to him. He’s obviously an important character in a pivotal time of God’s work of salvation. I thought he was the most appropriate character to explore for the conclusion of our 1 & 2 Samuel series.
So David’s rather important. Many might even consider him to be one of the biggest heroes of scripture.
One temptation we have when reading the bible is to glorify so-called “heroes” without examining their brokenness. I think David is a perfect example of this temptation that Christians often struggle with. We love to imagine David conquering his foes and being an incredible leader. We don’t always think about all the times he messed up. We gloss over uncomfortable moments of the story in favor of overly positive interpretations.
I would argue that this “rose-colored glasses” temptation has practical, everyday implications for how we treat sinfulness now. Do we always call out sin? Or do we ignore it, especially if we have an affinity for the person who has sinned? Whether it is family members, close friends, political affiliations, favorite athletes, or community groups, chances are we idealize those allied with us rather than being honest about wrongdoing.
David and Bathsheba is an obvious example of David’s sinfulness that we briefly discussed during the sermon. In some readings and interpretations of this story, it is arguable that David actually raped Bathsheba, since she had utterly no voice or say in the story. She was a victim of a powerful man who demanded to have his way while refusing to face consequences for quite some time. This is certainly a dark story of scripture filled with lies, lust, violence, and a coverup.
David also clearly struggled with sinfulness in other chapters, too. We would like to think of David as the “good guy” in Israel’s civil war and Saul as the “bad guy.” But in the midst of fighting, David actually sides with the pagan Philistines to harm his fellow Israelites. He essentially acted as a traitor against his own people. Even though many assume that “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” and “All’s fair in love in war,” I am greatly troubled by David’s actions before taking the throne.
David’s last recorded words in 1 Kings 2:9 are actually a command of revenge to punish an old enemy: “But now, do not consider him innocent. You are a man of wisdom; you will know what to do to him. Bring his gray head down to the grave in blood.” This paints a dark picture for the kind of fellow David often was. Perhaps he also struggled with unforgiveness and holding onto grudges.
Now I don’t bring up this topic to “spoil” the stories of David for anyone. There are many great examples David gives us of what it means to be righteous. I hope I highlighted just a few for the sermon–Be a person after God’s own heart, be bold, and repent when you do wrong.
But in reading scripture, we have to be honest about how we view biblical characters. No matter how “good” we think them to be, they all still struggled with sin… even great King David.
If you ask me, there’s only one true “hero” in all of scripture: Jesus. He’s the perfect example of Godly character. He’s the best possible character to imitate in our life today. All other figures in scripture fall short. Never forget that as you read about people in the bible.
Yet despite his sinfulness, David still gives me hope. Even though we read about the many times he struggled and messed up, God was still faithful to a covenant with humanity. God had a plan for David. So if God could use someone like David, surely God can use us today, too.