Timely Lessons: From the Life of David

Sandra Heynen


How easy it is to quote the familiar passage, II Tim. 3:15: “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (NASB). At the same time, how easy it is to neglect some portions of that profitable Word. Sometimes it is the most famous Bible episodes that are quite neglected as far as real study of them is concerned. The life of King David may be just such a case.

Perhaps no other Old Testament person is better known in a superficial way. Every child who has attended Sunday School has heard the exciting story of David and Goliath. And countless “historical novels” and Hollywood-style films have exploited the sordid sin of David with Bathsheba. Many people realize that David wrote a large number of the Psalms, including perhaps the most popular passage in the Bible, Psalm 23.

Yet, too many Christians have overlooked in David's life and writings the essence of his greatness — his lifelong, all-encompassing commitment to, and dependence on Jehovah. He was “a man after God's own heart” (I Sam. 13:14). This was true, but not because he was sinless. He fell deeply into temptation. He was guilty of following some of the worldly customs of his day (polygamy). There were times when he acted impulsively from panic or passion. He experienced periods of discouragement and depression. Even though David loved his children deeply, he failed them in the important areas of example and discipline. Although David's life story had many dreary pages, throughout that dramatic life, one can detect a believer's heartbeat.

Look at the courageous youth, appalled by Goliath's disdainful insults of his Lord! The idealism and bravado of youth were incited to action by David's devotion to God. He knew the greatness, the power, the holiness of the God of Israel and would not stand by while a heathen voice defied and defiled “the name of the Lord Almighty” (I Sam. 17). Are young people today as willing and able to stand for the Lord if they must endure danger or ridicule to do so?

Look again, as David matures into a skillful warrior and becomes the object of hero worship, devoted friendship, and insane jealousy. (And remember, he has been anointed — he has a high calling.) Does all of this swell his head in the same manner that fame and position affected King Saul? No, instead David repeatedly displays a pervasive humility which issues from his spiritual condition. He is in close communion with God and sees his life and its purpose in relation to God's plan and Kingdom. He also sees his situation among men in the light of his position before God. Anyone with a clear vision of where he stands in relationship to God, and in dependence upon Him, can be nothing but humble. Thai person may stumble, doubt, be hurt, even fear, in moments of weakness — and David did all of these. Yet, the spiritual foundation of his life, though often tested and once nearly broken, remained intact. God's faithfulness preserved it time and again by way of David's humble trust in the Rock of his Salvation (See Matt. 5:3, Eph. 2:8).

Twentieth century man badly needs to learn this truth! As Peter urges in his first epistle (I Peter 5:5b-8): “Clothe yourselves with humility towards one another because God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore, under God's mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time.” (NIV).

David was perhaps the greatest type of Christ, and his quality of humility was one of his closest resemblances to that of the Son and Savior (Phil. 2:5-8). His humble spirit is revealed in his respect for Saul as God's anointed even when Saul's intense, hateful jealousy was making a shambles of David's life. It shows itself again as David patiently waits for God's timing to place him on the throne, shunning to force himself upon the people even when it seemed the logical course of action (II Sam. 3-5).

A striking example of David's humble attitude before God is brought out in II Samuel 6 and I Chronicles 13 and 15. At first, David stumbles. He acts out of pure motives but with a careless disregard for the revealed word of God concerning how to carry the Ark of the Covenant. (Since the Ark symbolized God's Presence with His people, the way it was treated reflected one's attitude towards God.) Here David is clearly seen as a sinner saved by grace, a sinner, like every Christian, prone to worship God in his own impure, unacceptable way, rather than as God has prescribed. And yet, he is a saved sinner, who by God's grace sees his error, is sorry for his sin and willing to be corrected by God's Word. Thus, he is enabled to offer acceptable worship to his Lord.

Even in the darkest chapter of David's life story (II Sam, 11 and 12), his ultimate godliness is confirmed. One is reminded of Paul's lament centuries later, in Romans 7:14-19: “. . . For what I do is not the good I want to do: no, the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing” (vs. 19). At that point the Christian wonders in horror, “How could David fall so low?” and confesses in sorrow, “How often my own heart reeks of foul depravity!” What is important in this tragedy — of overriding significance and immense comfort — is this: David repented, he confessed his sin, he humbly submitted to God's indictment. “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God,” but — There is a way out of that pit of condemnation. — “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (I Jn. 1:9), David showed that he was a redeemed soul by his repentance; he testified to God's forgiveness in Psalm 32. Alas, his sin had devastating consequences in his earthly life, as all sins do; but his eternal security and his relationship with God were preserved through God's grace and mercy.

His great desire to build a fitting House for the Lord, fulfilled by his son, Solomon, again indicates the motivating force of David's life. He wanted his life to bring glory to God. He wanted his actions to be obedient to God's will. His deepest desire was that his whole life would be a living sacrifice to God. This is the reason that his Psalms are such a comfort, inspiration and incentive to all believers. Only a man who loved God above all else could have written those words of petition, praise, and confession! As David beautifully summed it up in his last words (II Sam. 23:2 and 5): “The Spirit of the Lord spoke through me: His word was on my tongue. . . . Is not my house right with God? Has He not made with me an everlasting covenant. . . . Will He not bring to fruition my salvation and grant me my every desire?”

David has much to teach to the modern Christian. All Scripture is profitable. Like the noble Bereans of the first century A.D., let us receive it eagerly and examine it daily to know God's truth.


Mrs. Heynen lives in Sioux Center, Iowa. This article is taken from The Outlook, November, 1984.

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