David and God

David and God

Having considered many of the humans that played a significant part in the life and times of David, we turn to the one who is not human and yet is the most significant – YHWH God, for after all it His book which tells of His dealings with individuals and, especially in the OT, those belonging to His chosen nation, Israel.

While our earlier sections pointed to a number of instances when David fell short of what we might expect from a man of God, it is nevertheless written that “David did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, and turned not aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite” 1 Kings 15:5 and finding the historical account points to many instances why David was indeed a man after God’s own heart, who He blessed and enabled David to secure many victories against Israel’s enemies, even when the odds were strongly stacked against him, revealing Himself in remarkable ways.

One thing that strikes us about David, far beyond his warrior spirit and his dealings as king, father and husband, was his relationship with God, which was something of paramount importance throughout his life. Whether it was praying while looking after his fathers sheep, his righteous indignation at the one who insulted his God, his reliance on God to help, guide and deliver, as shown in many of the psalms he wrote, his seeking God’s mind in some of the difficult decisions he needed to make, his joy when the Ark of the Covenant came to Jerusalem, his attention to detail when it came to planning for the building of the Temple, his contrition when realising he had somehow displeased God, or the words of godly counsel and wisdom he spoke to Solomon, his son, when passing on to him the baton of kingship, we can see why David was indeed a man after God’s heart. Future kings of Israel would be compared with David. Looking beyond then we see the coming of the Messiah would be his descendant and identified with him such that even those at the bottom of the societal heap would refer to Jesus as the Son of David, the one they had been led to expect.

But it is to the Psalms we need to go to find out what David really thought about God and how this affected all what he did. The Psalms have had a monumental impact in a hugely positive way on men and women in all sections of society throughout the ages and half of them were written by David. Many were meant to be sung, as being addressed to “the director of music” and some, like Psalm 22 and 110, were profoundly prophetic. Many Psalms related to events in David’s life, and albeit based on what scholars say, including:

  • Psalm 3: When he fled from Absalom
  • Psalm 7: Concerning Cush, a Benjamite
  • Psalm 18: When the Lord delivered him from his enemies
  • Psalm 30: For the dedication of the Temple
  • Psalm 34: When he pretended to be insane
  • Psalm 51: When Nathan exposed his sin
  • Psalm 54: When the Ziphites went to Saul
  • Psalm 56: When Philistines seized him in Gath
  • Psalm 57: When he fled from Saul into a cave
  • Psalm 59: When Saul sent men to watch his house and kill him
  • Psalm 60: When he fought Aram
  • Psalm 63: When he was in the desert of Judah
  • Psalm 142: When he was in the cave       

It was Dr James Dobson of “Focus on the Family fame” who wrote a book: “When God doesn’t make sense” and, having gone through the biblical account, this author can think of a number of examples why this has been the case in the life and times of David, perhaps even surprising arch sceptic Richard Dawkins, who wrote “The God Delusion”. Three incidents spring to mind and there are no doubt others. Firstly, when on the run from Saul, David and his outlaw band managed to find favour with one of Israel’s biggest enemies, the Philistines. During that time he went on expeditions that included killing whole Philistine communities in order to cover his tracks. Secondly, years after the deed was done, Saul killing the Gibeonites, who had previously been granted amnesty, God sent a famine on Israel. On inquiring, David found it was due to His displeasure at what had happened and, in order to stop the famine, David gave up ten of Saul’s descendants for execution by the Gibeonites. Thirdly, as a result of David’s pride and foolishness in taking a census, God sent as punishment a plague of pestilence, when many Israelites died. While explanations on why all this was happened have been offered, as we look into the ugly, as well as good and bad, some things about the way God acted concerning His dealings with David remain difficult to understand.

Even so, many things in the life and times of David do make sense as we see God act according to His character: just and holy, compassionate and righteous, loving and merciful, mighty and kind. If we return to some of the main themes of the Bible, specifically in the Old Testament, we see God fulfilling promises to Abraham in David’s time, concerning His specially chosen people, Israel, not least in securing the land promised to Abraham’s descendants. This would eventually culminate in the coming (first and second) of the greater Son of David, Jesus, who Israel rejected but one day will recognize as the Promised One, not just for the Jews but for the Gentiles also. An important lesson from this author’s perspective, is learning what God can do with a man wholly dedicated to Him, which David, with all his faults, was a fine example.

One last thought – we first come across David, as a young teen, looking after his father’s sheep. He clearly was a good shepherd as he laid his life on the line to protect the sheep from wild animals. When he wrote “The Lord is my shepherd …” (Psalm 23), he not only did so out of his personal experience of God but he knew what was required of shepherds, having been one himself. When he became king, he became shepherd over all Israel and, unlike so many kings after him, was a good rather than a bad shepherd. Throughout human history, and today more than ever, many of the countries of the world have been and are now being led by bad shepherds, who harm the sheep. While we may find this an egregious state of affairs and would rather they be led by good shepherds in the David mold, we look forward to the day when Jesus, Son of David, returns to planet Earth and rules, albeit with a rod of iron if that is required, the people of the earth, doing so in righteousness and justice.


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