Six Lessons From The Life Of David
David is one of the most outstanding characters in God’s Word. There are numerous references to him throughout Scripture. Portions of four books are devoted to his history. He is the man after God’s heart and the standard by which subsequent kings of Israel are evaluated. About half of the Psalms are ascribed to his productive pen. He is easily the most renowned progenitor of our Lord Jesus, who is often called “Son of David.” Since God has told us so much about David, let’s look at six lessons, four positive and two negative, that He teaches us from David’s life.
Walking With God From Early Youth
When Samuel came to Bethlehem to anoint one of Jesse’s sons to be king, the family did not think it important to include David, the youngest son. The Lord told Samuel that He did not “see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” The Lord thus did not choose any of David’s seven older brothers, but insisted that David be called. He had Samuel anoint David, telling him, “Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!” In this way the Lord testified to the fact that David’s heart was right. The passage goes on to tell us that “the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward.” 1
This good testimony was further shown in the commendation one of Saul’s servants gives David. He details a number of lovely characteristics, ending with “and the Lord is with him.” 2
David’s concern, when he heard Goliath roaring out his challenge to the men of Israel, was the reproach to Israel. Israel’s fear-stricken soldiers were “the armies of the living God” to him.3 In all simplicity he told Saul how he had killed a lion and a bear that had taken a lamb from his flock, ascribing the credit to the Lord. The Lord who had delivered him from these predators would also, he was confident, “deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” 4
The circumstances under which David wrote some of his psalms are given us in their headings. Several are written while on the run, persecuted by Saul, Absalom or others. In them we constantly find pictures that are applicable to the far greater sufferings of Christ, David’s greater Son. The circumstances behind other psalms are not indicated. But psalms like Psalm 23, Psalm 8, Psalm 19 and others strongly indicate that they may have been written during the years when David was still a shepherd.
Occupation With The Lord’s Testimony
Psalm 132 would seem to indicate that during those early years David often thought about God’s ark and wanted to give it a permanent resting place after it had been misused and long neglected. One of David’s first official acts as king of Israel was to begin to bring about this cherished dream to find a place for the ark.5 While he could not construct the magnificent temple he had desired to build, he prepared the builder for his task and brought together the materials that would be needed.6
In the latter part of his life when his outward strength and health were fading, he was occupied with the arrangements for worship in the temple that would be built. To him were entrusted the detailed plans for this earthly “palace” 7 for the Lord God. He was the one who divided the Levites, priests, singers, gatekeepers, and other officials into their courses and assigned them their duties. David communed with the Lord and got his directions for the organization of the temple service from Him. All would be done in the beauty of holiness the Lord so desired.
It’s good to find young people today, and older ones too, whose hearts are obviously the Lord’s, and who do not hesitate to speak up and take action accordingly. The Lord sees and will honor this. Others also will often recognize this quality. It is really special to find young believers occupied with the Lord and His interests on earth, and evidencing a deep interest in the details of His testimony today as taught in the New Testament.
Behaving Himself Wisely
Scripture emphasizes that David was young when he came to Saul’s attention after killing Goliath. But from that point on David’s life was lived in the public eye. He was never able to return to the obscurity of taking care of his father’s sheep. Saul’s son Jonathan loved and respected David, giving him clear evidence of his high regard.8 At first this young hero was “set … over the men of war,” though Saul in envious fear soon demoted him to be simply “his captain over a thousand.” 9
Wisdom is not ordinarily associated with youth. Not every teenager is capable of commanding an army or even a company of soldiers. He would be more apt to let such a position go to his head. But David had the trust and support of Israel’s army. He “behaved himself wisely,” a term that can also be translated “prospered.” Four times God emphasizes and embellishes this expression in 1 Samuel 18:1.10 And later we find abundant evidence of this same wise behavior that brought about prosperity in David’s life.
In Proverbs 4:3-9, David’s son, Solomon bears witness to the importance his father placed upon wisdom. David had personally taught Solomon, insisting that, “Wisdom is the principal thing: therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding.” And David’s last recorded words to his son recognize Solomon’s wisdom as a young man and the conduct and activities that must flow from it.11
Readiness To Confess His Sin
David seems to have had a tender conscience when it came to wrongdoing or anything that might be construed as such on his part. We see this when he spared Saul’s life, but cut off a corner of Saul’s robe in the cave.12 We see this again when he lets Abigail dissuade him from killing her husband, Nabal, as he had intended.13 It is further apparent when his heart condemned him after he had numbered the people and when he not only took the blame, but wanted to bear the punishment as well.14
However, the most outstanding example is found in the account of David’s sin with Bathsheba and her husband Uriah. Sadly, but so much like us, David first tried hard to cover up his iniquity. But when Nathan confronted him with his sin, David confessed: “I have sinned against the Lord.” The deep exercises of Psalms 51 and 32, and perhaps even phrases in other psalms, stem from this tragic incident. David’s repentance and confession stand in sharp contrast to Saul’s disobedience and the excuses he kept giving, and are, no doubt, a large factor in why God called David “a man after His own heart.” 15 How vital that we view sin the way God does.
Lack Of Full Truthfulness
There is quite a difference between being “wise as serpents and harmless as doves,” as the Lord instructs His servants to be,16 and working with half-truths as David did upon occasion. Dealing in half-truths always brought harm and even disaster to others. Such was the case when David, fleeing from Saul, asked Ahimelech the priest for bread and a sword. David’s deceptive answers to the priest’s questions brought him the help he was looking for,17 but also brought about the death of 85 of the Lord’s priests, their families and livestock when Doeg the Edomite, Saul’s chief herdsman, reported the conversation to his royal master.18
After years of fleeing from Saul and experiencing God’s direction, help and deliverance again and again, David got discouraged and took matters into his own hands. He and his 600 men and their families sought refuge with Achish, king of Gath, the city Goliath had come from. Achish let them live in the town of Ziklag, and David used this as a base from which to make raids on Israel’s enemies in the south. When asked, he told where he had made his raids (the land had been assigned to Judah in Joshua’s day, it is true) but in such a way as to make Achish think he had fought against his own people. He ruthlessly killed all who could have reported the true situation.19 Thus he won Achish’s confidence and was taken along to fight against Israel.20 While God delivered him from this dilemma, he and his men experienced the bitterness of having Ziklag burned and their wives and families taken captive by the Amalekites. David’s men even spoke of stoning David, a distressing experience indeed.21
Disorder In Family And Staff
Although God’s original plan to meet man’s need for loving help and companionship was, “I will make him a helper comparable to him,” 22 David was no exception to the many men in Old Testament times who took multiple wives and concubines. David’s indulgence of his children no doubt stemmed from his own self-indulgence. The Bible mentions eight wives and ten concubines of David. It is sad to see the shambles in David’s family life. His first wife, Michal, Saul’s daughter, despised her husband in her heart and openly and sarcastically criticized him when he brought the ark of God to Jerusalem, and he responded in a similar manner.23
Amnon, David’s oldest son, raped and abused his half-sister Tamar, and David, though “very angry,” did nothing about it. Absalom, her full brother, killed Amnon and fled to the court of his grandfather, the king of Geshur. Again David did nothing, but mourned and longed for his son and allowed him to return home unpunished. Absalom eventually “stole the hearts of the men of Israel,” rebelled against his father and tried to kill him, losing his life in the struggle that followed.24
The secret of David’s failure within his family is disclosed in a notation on Adonijah, David’s fourth son, who, regardless of God’s will that Solomon should inherit David’s throne, attempted to seize the kingdom for himself. “His father had not rebuked him at any time by saying, ‘Why have you done so?’ He was also very good-looking.” 25 David’s indulgence almost proved fatal.
Repeatedly one sees Joab – his nephew and commanding general, an opportunist and clever politician – taking advantage of David’s lack of firmness. At one point David complains of his weakness, adding, “these men, the sons of Zeruiah, are too harsh for me.” 26
Yet thankfully, as we have seen, in his latter years David devoted careful attention to bringing up Solomon and preparing him for the tremendous task God commissioned him to undertake.
All in all, God has far more positive than negative lessons for us from David’s life. May we benefit from them!
|1. 1 Sam. 16:1-13 NKJV
2. 1 Sam. 16:18
3. 1 Sam. 17:26,36
4. 1 Sam. 17:34-37
5. 1 Chr. 13:1-6
6. 1 Chr. 22:6-19, 28-29
7. 1 Chr. 28:11-19; 29:1 margin
8. 1 Sam. l8:1-4
9. 1 Sam. 18:5,12-13
|10. 1 Sam. 18:5,14-15,30
11. 1 Ki. 2:6,9
12. 1 Sam. 24:5-7
13. 1 Sam. 25:32-35
14. 2 Sam. 24:10,17
15. 1 Sam. 13:14
16. Mt. 10:16
17. 1 Sam. 21:1-9
18. 1 Sam. 22:6-19
|19. 1 Sam. 27
20. 1 Sam. 28:1-2; 29:1-11
21. 1 Sam. 30:1-6
22. Gen. 2:18
23. 2 Sam. 6:12-23
24. 2 Sam.13-18
25. 1 Ki. 1:6
26. 2 Sam. 3:39
By Eugene P. Vedder, Jr.
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA.