ST ANDREW’S OCCASIONAL PAPERS
DAVID, KING OF ISRAEL
- David’s Life Story
David’s story begins in the last few verses of the book of Ruth, where he is declared to be the great-grandson of Boaz and Ruth. David was the youngest of eight brothers and started life as a shepherd of his father’s sheep. During war between the Israelites and the Philistines, he was sent with supplies to his three eldest brothers who were fighting under King Saul. On one visit he heard Goliath’s challenge, accepted it and killed the Philistine champion. This brought him to the attention of Saul who rapidly became jealous of David’s successes and indeed Saul tried to kill David. David was befriended by Saul’s son Jonathan but had to flee from court and had many adventures while “on the run” from Saul. Twice David spared Saul’s life when he could have killed him. Eventually Saul and Jonathan were killed in continued conflict with the Philistines.
Long before, David had been anointed by Samuel as Saul’s successor as king and after Saul’s death he became King, first of Judah, and then, after civil conflict. of the whole of Israel. One of his first acts as King of Israel was to capture the city of Jerusalem and make it his capital. He then brought the Ark of God into the city. More wars with the surrounding nations followed and during one of these, David became involved with Bathsheba, had her husband, who was serving with the army, killed and married her. He was rebuked for this disgraceful episode by the prophet Nathan. David repented and was forgiven by God but trouble within his family followed. His son, Absalom led a major revolt against his father who had to flee from Jerusalem. The revolt failed, Absalom was killed, much to David’s sorrow. More wars followed.
David had wanted to build a temple for the worship of God in Jerusalem but this was not allowed by God because David was a man of war. He was told that Solomon, his son and successor, would actually build the temple, however in his last years David collected together many of the materials needed for the building.
David died around 970 B.C., having reigned for forty years, the first seven over Judah and the next thirty-three over the whole nation.
[The story of David is found in the second half of the first book of Samuel, runs through all of the second book of Samuel and briefly into the first book of Kings. Part is repeated in the first book of Chronicles (with a slightly different emphasis). In the above summary references have not been given because there would be just too many!]
- David the Musician
Many of the psalms are attributed to David. Look, for example, at the headings of the first forty or so. Nearly all of these refer to David. Some refer to specific events in his life which must have inspired him to write the psalm. However David was not just a writer of the verses, he was also an excellent harpist. 1 Samuel 16:14-23 tells of the time when King Saul was being tormented by an evil spirit and a search was made for a harpist who could ease the king’s distress by his playing. David was chosen and entered the king’s service and did indeed succeed in making the king “feel better.”
Later in his reign David organised the musical side of the worship of God by choosing a group of 288 musicians (1 Chronicles 25:7). These men could play on cymbals, lyres or harps and from their number a rota appears to have been arranged to assist in the worship of God.
Many folk today find music, in one form or another, a great help in their spiritual lives and so follow in David’s footsteps. Indeed, many find help from the very psalms attributed to him. Others (like myself) may not themselves be greatly helped by music but we must all acknowledge the place of music and musicians, like David, in the service of Almighty God (Colossians 3:16b).
- David the Warrior
The first signs of David’s strength and fighting spirit comes as he tells King Saul about his exploits as a shepherd in killing “both the lion and the bear” (1Samuel 17:36). He then proceeded to show skill as well as he killed Goliath with a stone from a sling, wisely avoiding close combat with the huge champion (1 Samuel 17:49). After this David was involved in many skirmishes and wars, first as an officer under Saul and then in his own right as King.
David cannot have been a hard-hearted warrior. Twice, when on the run from Saul, David spared the king’s life (1 Samuel 24:4; 26:9-11). Later, after Absalom’s rebellion was brought to its end by the death of Absalom, David wept for his son (2 Samuel 18:33). Yet he was a very successful warrior and a great leader of men. He gathered round him a group of Three Mighty Men (2 Samuel 23:8) and another band of thirty great warriors (2 Samuel 23:24-39).
David lived in turbulent times and could never have been the great king he was without being able to lead his men in battle. We may wish that it was different then as we wish it could be today with fighting constantly on our TV screens and in our newspapers. However we live in a world riddled with sin and evil, which shows itself in conflict at many levels.
- David the King
David was only the second king of Israel (Saul being the first). The chief men had come to the aged prophet Samuel and asked him to appoint a king to lead the people (1 Samuel 8:5). This was not God’s ideal plan for the nation (1 Samuel 8:7), but the people were given what they asked for after due warning. Although Saul was later rejected by God as king (1 Samuel 15:23) as he disobeyed God, it was many years before David took over the kingship. David was no perfect king – as we shall see later – but he came close; “For David had done what was right in the eyes of the Lord and 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). Indeed David the King was the standard to which some later kings of Israel and Judah were compared. We are told that the (good) King Josiah “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and walked in all the ways of his father (= ancestor) David, not turning aside to the right or to the left” (2 Kings 22:2).
A good king (or queen) is a great asset to any nation, as we in this country well know, and, in one sense, such a monarch follows in the footsteps of David, King of Israel.
- David the Religious Leader
The psalms that David wrote reveal that he had a very real knowledge and love of God. He must have been helped on his religious journey by his meeting with the great prophet Samuel when he was anointed as a future king in front of the whole family (1 Samuel 16:13). Indeed we are told that “from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power.)
When he had been crowned king and had captured Jerusalem and made it his capital, he decided to bring the Ark of God (The holy box made in Moses’ time and carried by the people on their journey to Canaan) into the city. Sadly the wrong procedure was followed at first because the Ark was placed on a new cart and this led to the death of Uzzah who touched the Ark. Later the Ark was carried on poles in accordance with God’s instructions (Exodus 25:14) and brought into the city amid much rejoicing (2 Samuel 6:1-19).
David was also a man of prayer. having received a message from God through Nathan the prophet, we are told that “King David went in and sat before the Lord” and his prayer is then set out for us to read (2 Samuel 7).
However, David’s plan, that he would build a great temple for the worship of God. was dashed. He was told that it would be the task of Solomon, David’s son, to oversee the building of the temple (1 Kings 5-8) which became the centre of religious worship for around three and a half centuries.
Nevertheless David did amass many of the materials and craftsmen needed for the project (1 Chronicles 22:14-16).
Even though David made mistakes he was, on the whole, a godly man who helped to lead his people in the worship of Almighty God.
- David the Sinner
As we have already noted, despite his many gifts David made serious mistakes. Possibly the greatest of these was his adultery with Bathsheba and the subsequent murder of her husband Uriah. David happened to catch sight of Bathsheba as she was bathing, lusted after her and then slept with her (2 Samuel 11:2-5).
In order to cover up the fact that Bathsheba became pregnant, David first recalled Uriah from the battlefield and tried, unsuccessfully, to get Uriah to be with Bathsheba. When this ploy failed he arranged for Uriah to be placed at the point of greatest danger in the battle where he was killed (2 Samuel 11:14-17).
“The thing that David had done displeased the Lord” (2 Samuel 11:27), and it fell to Nathan the prophet to rebuke his king. Cleverly he did this by way of a story (2 Samuel 12:1-6) which led David to condemn “the man who did this.” The next words of Nathan must have shocked David to the core: “You are the man” (2 Samuel 12:7), and led to David’s confession, “I have sinned against the Lord”(2 Samuel 12:13), and to the great penitential psalm 51.
On another occasion David demanded that a census be taken so that he could know the number of fighting men available to him. It is not clear why he did this, but it was incited by Satan (1 Chronicles 21:1) and even permitted by God (2 Samuel 24:1). Maybe it enabled David to take pride in his army and its power. Nevertheless it led to another confession of having “done a very foolish thing,” and an acknowledgement of his sin.
In both cases we see a pattern of foolishness, repentance and forgiveness yet the terrible consequences of the sins are not withheld so that David has to learn just how dreadful a thing sin is, a lesson we all need to learn.
- Jesus, Son of David
Bartimaeus, who was blind, used to sit by the roadside outside Jericho, begging. One day he heard that Jesus was coming along the road and he began to call out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mark 10:46,47). Why did he use that title? It seems that it was a title that was used for the expected Messiah. Obviously “Son” was not used literally but as meaning “descendent” and there is no doubt that Jesus was indeed a descendent of David (see Matthew 1:1). The expectation that the expected Messiah would be of Davidic descent was based on prophecies like Isaiah 11:1,2; Jeremiah 23:5,6 and Ezekiel 34:23,24.
Jesus did not usually claim to be the expected Messiah because popular feeling expected a Messiah that would free Israel from Roman domination and this was not what Jesus had come to do. However, occasionally, He did admit that He was the expected Messiah (e.g. to the woman at the well at Sychar (John 4:25,26)).
When we speak of Jesus Christ we always need to remember that Christ is not a “surname” but a title, i.e. Jesus the Christ (where Christ is from the Greek for “anointed one” which parallels the Hebrew “Messiah”). Jesus was the one who was anointed to fulfil the task of saving all who believe in Him.
- What can we learn from David?
David was a great king, a versatile and gifted musician and a brave warrior as well as a religious leader of his people, but perhaps the greatest message from this talented man is that he recognised that God loved him despite his terrible lapses (Psalm 51:1). In fact there is much to be learnt from that penitential psalm – as long as we remember that only because the love of God was manifest through Jesus (1 John 4:9) and what He did on the cross, is the cleansing mentioned in the psalm (verses 2,7,10) made possible.
God loved David and He loves you and He loves me and Jesus died and rose again to prove it. “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1).
Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version. © 1973,1978,1984, International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder and Stoughton, a member of the Hodder Headline Group. All rights reserved.