These last few chapters have been rough for David, and it doesn’t seem to be getting better. As I read through 2nd Samuel 21-24, I felt frustrated with the messes David continued to make and the violence he continued to involve himself with. It feels like David’s story just keeps going downhill.
At the beginning of Chapter 21, Israel is hungry. According to the first verse in chapter 22, “After the people had suffered from a famine for three successive years, David asked the Eternal One why the famine lingered.”
David decides to wait three whole years before he asks God to do something about the famine? Maybe David waited so long because he knew the answer to why Israel was experiencing the famine, and he didn’t want to hear it. Maybe he knew that his own actions were the cause of the prolonged famine. God tells David that David is responsible for the famine because he has not made amends with the Gibeonites whom Saul had tried to kill. So David calls together the leaders of the Gibeonites and asks what he can do to lift the guilt from Israel. The answer, as it has been often in our journey through 2nd Samuel, is more death and violence.
Lately, in these chapters we’ve been reading, it seems like things are getting worse and worse – and maybe they are. David has done a lot of problematic things, and now he is facing the natural consequences for some of those things. But he does as he is told, does what the Gibeonite leaders ask of him, and God answers the prayers of the Israelites and ends the famine.
And so David writes a song of praise to the Lord. If I’m honest, this song actually really bothered me. It’s mainly about how glad David is that God let him conquer all his enemies and win many wars. If I were David, or if I had done the things David had done, I think the last thing I would consider saying to God is, “He delivered me because of his delight in me.”
I almost want to say something to David like, “How could you possibly think God delights in you after all the problems you’ve caused?” If I were David, I think my prayer would be “How can you possibly delight in me after all that I have done?” In fact, that has been my prayer before. And when I feel like I have failed in some way, my reaction is usually to avoid God instead of running to him in prayer and praise.
The song David sings doesn’t mark the end of his problems or mistakes. He continues to experience the consequences of his actions, which usually involve more violence and death. But he also continues to run back God. Sometimes his songs are filled with mourning and regret, and sometimes his songs are full of praise. But he keeps speaking to God, and he keeps believing that God is listening.
I still can’t say I understand David, and I’m still frustrated with the way he often handled things, but if I use him as an “idea guide” as Derrick says, I can learn from him that God won’t stop listening. And if I want God to hear me, I have to keep speaking – even, and perhaps especially when, I feel like I’ve failed.