Reaching into Redemption Meditations: 13. Recapping David
Isa 9:6,7 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom
A Necessary Recap: Because we have taken five studies to consider something of David’s life, if we are to get the most out what happened to him, I believe we need to scan back over these studies to see the key points that stand out in this study of God’s redemptive activity in our lives.
The Glory of David: The starting and finishing point of any study of David must be to note that there was so much good that he became a measuring stick for those kings who followed him – despite all the negative things we went on to consider about him. It was his heart, a heart after God, that was the crucial issue.
Facing Failures: The whole thing about redemption is the need to accept the starting place – our failures. God redeems us from those places of failures and takes us to a more glorious place. For David, our starting place was his fall in respect of Bathsheba and Uriah. However, amazingly we were able to note the Bible’s assessment that said David, had not failed to keep any of the Lord’s commands all the days of his life—except in the case of Uriah the Hittite.” (1 Kings 15:5) Now I have a feeling I did not make sufficiently clear in our studies something quite significant here. The word ‘sin’ was not used here, although we may imply it, but the assessment in this verse implies the measuring stick for righteousness, for that period, is keeping the commands of the Lord – the Law.
A Limiting Factor: However in the course of the ongoing studies we observed that there were two other things that put limitations, if we may put is as gently as that, on David. The first was that he had been a warrior for most of his life and that debarred him from being the one who would build the Temple. That did not detract from his heart after God because, in reality, a number of times he sought the Lord’s guidance (and got it!) for his warfare strategies, yet it did mean that it limited his role in life before God. We should understand that even in the process of redemption, although there may not be moral failures, there can be other limiting factors that inhibit the direction the Lord allows us to go.
Another form of failure: When we went on to consider David numbering his army, we found a failure that was NOT a failure to keep the Law, for there was no law that said, “Thou shalt not count your army numbers,” or “you shall not countenance pride”. Nevertheless pride detracts from the “Love the Lord your God with all your heart” (Deut 6:5) and is certainly an expression or act of self-glorification that detracts from the Lord being glorified. Giving way to that pride meant a whole other area requiring correction was revealed.
Process for Change: We noted that often it is as if the Lord pulls the rug away from under us to allow our folly to be brought to an end, so the work of redemption can be continued. If we see it as a path that involves sanctification (our being changed, cleansed in practical ways, and being more formed in the likeness of Jesus) it makes it easier to see some of these things as obstacles that hinder progress, things therefore that need dealing with if the process is to continue. It is not so much that our ultimate redemption is at risk (but it is if we give way to sin and eventually drift right away from God) so much as seeing something that needs addressing if we are to receive all that God has for us in His redemption package. The process that is so often used by God is one of discipline that brings change, if not transformation.
Change by Long-term Strategy: With the case of Bathsheba and Uriah, the Lord allowed (or set in motion) a series of events that can be seen either as Him lifting off His hand of protection from David and his circumstances, or of Him releasing Satan to stir up individuals in rebellion. The temporary loss of the throne and all that went with those events, would certainly have a disciplining effect on David. At the start he responded openly and truly, “I have sinned against the Lord,” (2 Sam 12:13), amazingly he names his second child with Bathsheba, “loved by the Lord,” (2 Sam 12:25) and he retook his responsibility as army commander (2 Sam 12:29-31). Although he failed to control Absalom, as he flees from Jerusalem and is cursed along the way, we find, “David then said to Abishai and all his officials, “My son, my own flesh and blood, is trying to kill me. How much more, then, this Benjamite! Leave him alone; let him curse, for the Lord has told him to. It may be that the Lord will look upon my misery and restore to me his covenant blessing instead of his curse today.” (2 Sam 16:11,12) Again and again, although having failed and being under discipline his heart is inclined in God’s direction.
Change by short, sharp shock: In the matter of being disciplined for his pride and counting his army the correction that comes is immediate and heart-breaking. He will never be the same again.
Ongoing: In subsequent years we see, when confronted by a famine (2 Sam 21:1), he seeks the Lord and puts right past wrongs. When his life was threatened in battle, his men thought so much of him they forbade him fighting any more (2 Sam 21:17). He continued writing songs of praise to God (2 Sam 22) and prophesied about his blessing (2 Sam 23:1-7). After his failure in counting his men he faced the truth: “I have sinned; I, the shepherd, have done wrong. These are but sheep. What have they done? Let your hand fall on me and my family.” (2 Sam 24:17) and went on to sacrifice, following the Law.
Near the End: As he hands the throne over to Solomon before he dies, he commands Solomon, “I am about to go the way of all the earth,” he said. “So be strong, act like a man, and observe what the Lord your God requires: Walk in obedience to him, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and regulations, as written in the Law of Moses. Do this so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go and that the Lord may keep his promise to me: ‘If your descendants watch how they live, and if they walk faithfully before me with all their heart and soul, you will never fail to have a successor on the throne of Israel.’ (1 Kings 2:2-4) Be obedient to God, keep His laws and be the blessing that God promised me. Faithful to the end. His failures had not made him jaded. He concludes his words to Solomon with wisdom as to how to deal with various people, some of whom he knows will be a problem to Solomon if he allows them to live. He himself had not been willing to execute punishment on them as they deserved, and possibly saw them as the Lord’s way of disciplining and changing him, but that need not be true of Solomon. A difficult balance between grace and wisdom from a godly man whose primary concern was the glory of God.
And after: In a dream Solomon encounters the Lord and asks of Him for wisdom to rule His people. The Lord replies, “I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honour—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.” (1 Kings 3:12-14) and thereafter comes this formula, “like David did.”
Later on, Isaiah would prophesy about the Messiah ruling over David’s kingdom (the people of God) as our starting verse showed, and the apostle Paul would refer to David as one who “had served God’s purpose in his own generation,” (Acts 13:36) and despite those failings that stand out in history, he did it to the end. If it had been us assessing his life, we might have terminated it after Uriah died, or when he counted Israel, might have let him be one of those who died by plague, but God takes no delight in bringing death (see Ezek 18:23,32) but looks for repentance so that the path of redemption can continue. In David He found that again and again. We are not to be casual about sin and should not use confession as an easy opt-out, but we can be assured that the Lord’s determination to pursue the path of redemption with us will continue, even if it does involve discipline!