Glory Out of Failure Meditations: 10. David taking the medicine
2 Sam 12:13 Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”
Glory? Our title of this series speaks of ‘glory’ meaning the wonder that God brings into human lives, delivering them failure to a place of splendour as the angelic world looks on (see Eph 3:10), but the truth is that when you look at mankind we are all different and therefore some of us encounter the Lord when we are young, others when we are older, some demonstrate gracefulness from an early age, some have it worked into them over decades. So not everyone starts from a place of obvious failure but may demonstrate failure as they proceed through life and so for them, the ‘glory’ is revealed in the way they respond to God’s correction. David is one such person.
David’s early days: We first encounter David when he is called to be anointed by Samuel and all we are initially told is that “He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features.” (1 Sam 16:12). We did get a hint about him earlier on when Samuel spoke about him prophetically, “the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart.” (1 Sam 13:14) When he is anointed by Samuel we read, “from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David.” (1 Sam 16:13) He has a good reputation for soon after we hear him described as, “a son of Jesse of Bethlehem who knows how to play the lyre. He is a brave man and a warrior. He speaks well and is a fine-looking man. And the Lord is with him.” (1 Sam 16:18) His own testimony is God focused and bold and full of faith (see (1 Sam 17:34-37) and killing Goliath is the first sign of his godly prowess and he is so successful as a warrior that he is promoted by Saul (1 Sam 18:5). His story is long and involved but eventually he becomes king over Judah and later over all Israel. His reign is one of triumph and splendour.
But then: But then comes the incident with Bathsheba and his lust leads to murder (see 2 Sam 11) but the Lord holds him accountable and Nathan challenges him over it (2 Sam 12:1-8). Now perhaps we take for granted his response but in the light of the situation it is a good response. He acknowledges his sin and acknowledges that it is against God. One of the lessons we have to learn along the path of the Christian life is that all sins are sins against God. Jesus conveyed it in the parable of the prodigal son who cried, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.” (Lk 15:18)
So Obvious? Is this lesson so obvious? It is certainly not one the surrounding world knows about and, indeed, there are many Christians who either are so insecure they dare not acknowledge their failures or even if they do they try to suppress their feelings about them and hope the guilt goes away. The apostle John’s teaching, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness,” (1 Jn 1:9) are merely words we skim over on the page and have not become real for many. Acknowledgment, confession, and repentance are crucial things for the believer to learn.
Slow Learners: From my own personal experience I suggest there are various stages that many of us go through, either because we are slow learners or because in our insecurity it takes a while to be able to confess the truth. I have had at least two occasions in the past where, as a pastor, I have been sinned against and, looking back, I think I handled neither of them as well as could have been. But I felt hurt in both cases and I withdrew. I blamed these two sets of people (for there were couples involved in both cases) for, indeed, they were guilty. That hurt stayed with me a long time, but I handled it – I thought. Having been taught we should not let such things blight us, I eventually forgave them (I thought). I came to a place of peace over both past situations. Time passed and when the Lord saw I had arrived at the place where He could speak and I would hear it, He began to show me that although in both cases I had shown some good traits, nevertheless as a leader the buck stops with me. The truth was in both cases when a crisis occurred, it happened because I had not had the grace to wisely and graciously get alongside these people and bring healing and help that they both needed. I had failed. Yes, there was sin on their part, but equally, although different, on my part. But here’s the thing, it took ten years to come to that recognition, ten years to come into a place of security where I could face the truth and get the grace! Glory comes in some strange ways sometimes!
David Again: David takes his medicine; he takes what is coming as God’s discipline. When his son by his sin with Bathsheba dies, he cleans up and worships God (2 Sam 12:20) and in comforting Bathsheba, Solomon is conceived and a whole new future for Israel is opened up. When he flees Absalom and Shimei curses him he refuses to see it as anything other than from the Lord (2 Sam 16:5-12). Later when David succumbed to pride and numbered his men and was given three choices of judgment for it, we see a wise decision: “Let me fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is very great; but do not let me fall into human hands.” (1 Chron 21:13) His trust in the mercy of God stands out. If he has to be disciplined let it be God who does it, for he trusts Him.
And Us? The lessons here are about maturity and about facing who we are, especially when we fail. The answer is not to wallow in guilt but to remember this is why Jesus died – for my sin. I am less than perfect (see 1 Jn 2:1) and maturity is owning up to that and accepting God’s correction, as long as it takes! This is also the glory of the working of God in His children.