After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’ (Acts 13:22)
When you read about one of Israel’s greatest heroes, David, you can see his passion for God, but you also see his humanity. Despite David’s love for God, he still does things that go against God. He takes another man’s wife. He takes a census of his people, even though that denied God’s claim that Israel would become a nation so large, it could not be counted. He lives a life of such violence to secure the Israelite nation that God leaves the building of His temple to David’s son, Solomon, whom God promises will be able to live in a peaceful kingdom.
There are many lessons to learn from the story of David’s life. Here are three pointers that have stuck out for me in the previous weeks:
Lesson 1: Repent with everything you’ve got
When David returns the Ark to its home in Jerusalem, he rejoices in God’s glory with his whole self, dancing with such exuberance in front of all his people that one of his wives reprimands him for it because she finds his actions undignified. But God, who sees the heart, knows the truth of David’s love for God and actually punishes the woman for her attitude towards David.
When David messes up, he repents with the same kind of passion with which he rejoices. He wears burlap, he fasts, he begs for God to forgive him, he doesn’t try to blame anyone else or his circumstances for what he ultimately did. Most importantly, his repentance means something because he really intends not to mess up in the same way again. He wants to do what is right in God’s eyes.
David was conscience-stricken after he had counted the fighting men, and he said to the LORD, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. Now, LORD, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing.” (2 Samuel 24:10)
Lesson 2: Acknowledge God’s Sovereignty
David had plenty of opportunities to let his worldly successes go to his head. Even though he had to fight many, many battles during his lifetime, he won. As a young shepherd, he even took on a giant an entire army didn’t want to fight and killed Goliath! Women fell at his feet, men bowed to his will, and almost no one had a bad word to say about him. Think about how we Americans idolize the famous in our country and how few of them even believe in God, and you will begin to realize the real challenges David faced to not let his successes make him think he was close to being a god himself.
But, because David did have a heart for God, he didn’t fall into the trap of claiming his worldly successes for himself. As you read through David’s story, he always gives God the credit for any success he has. He asks for God’s permission before making battle plans. He begs for God’s help for every problem that he faces. In short, David understood that every step he took was under the protection and oversight of his heavenly Father.
I will extol the LORD at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. (of David, Psalm 34:1)
Lesson 3: Believe in God’s Love for YOU
No matter what bad things happen to David in his life, whether he felt he deserved them or not, he never doubted that God loved him and would see him through according to God’s ultimate plan. When David’s son born out of his sinful relations with Bathsheba ultimately dies, David rises from the fasting he had been doing to ask God to change His mind, cleans himself up and begins the hard task of living again. Because David accepts that God knows best and realizes that God loves him, he can continue to live by trying to follow God’s edicts and worship God for the One and Only God that He is.
Throughout the story of David, in even his most despairing Psalms, David always expresses the belief that God is good, God loves him, and God’s will being done is what is ultimately the best thing to happen–even when what happens really hurts. Ultimately, I think, it is David’s sincere commitment to believing in God’s love for us that makes David’s heart like God’s own.
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place. Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you. Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Savior, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. (Psalm 51:1-17)
The Next Step
Being like David, flawed but loving God with all your heart, is a really grand goal. You might consider it a first step toward the ultimate goal of being like Jesus, who had nothing to repent, but loved God, acknowledged His sovereignty and followed His will as an example for all of us.
Luckily for us Christians, we have Christ’s sacrifice so that the wrath we so deserve He took upon Himself on the cross. With the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we have a guide to help us be more Christ-like each day. Following David’s, and Christ’s, examples, we should find ourselves praying more, throwing our whole selves into our relationship with God, and growing our faith.
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)