Going into this summer’s reading, I knew David had some rough moments. I knew I would struggle with the warfare images and have trouble redeeming the tragedy with Bathsheba. But I had hoped I would see moments of redemption – where David owns up to his mistakes and lives into the legend that is historically told about him. But the more I read, the more disappointed I became; even his last words to Solomon in 1 Kings 2 left me shaking my head. Whoever wrote these words did not think we needed a better ending to this story. And I find myself creating distance with the ‘prince of Israel’.
David was not as great as the highlight reel (the parts of his story I liked) made me believe. The forgotten shepherd boy, the accidental giant slayer, the king who had to wait for his throne – these are the highlights I love. Many of us relate to these images – humble beginnings, being at the right place at the right time, having to wait for our lives to begin – these are the markers of a good story right? These are the points where I’m happy to identify with David.
But David’s low-lights (if you will) are not that far from us. Yes, David lied and deceived many people. So have I. Yes, in moments when David should’ve exhibited moral courage and godly resolve, he settled for fake peace leaving victims to fend for themselves. If I’m honest, so have I. The last few scenes of his life are all about preservation of his own legacy and revenge. Left to myself, my last words may not be that different. I’m disappointed at David, but I’m not that far off from his mistakes.
I think David drifted because he thought life would get easier as you get older, but it doesn’t. Maybe Samuel could’ve told him that Goliath was the smallest giant he’d face; that personal pride, untamed lust, and crippling fear were gonna be much bigger giants that he would have to face if he wanted to save his family and his throne. The lesson of David’s life is its not enough to be chosen; being famous and adored will not cut it. Life will continue to ask more of you, and without continued personal development, the greatest of blessings can become the heaviest of burdens. David’s story does not have to be our story, but we’ll have to do many of the things David did not do.