There is no one in the Old Testament quite like King David. He is one of the most important people in the bible, and not just because he established the monarchy and united Israel, giving it a period of relative prosperity and prominence. But he is a pivotal figure in the Old Testament not so much because of what he did, rather for who he was: a man with a heart open to God.
- If we understand David, there is a good chance we shall understand much of the Old Testament; the contrary is also true -
Growing up - Hero
The phrase ‘David and Goliath’ is one that has entered into our language, and most people know that it’s about the little guy overcoming the giant oppressor. This is one of those stories we loved as children: the boy David slaying the giant warrior Goliath with a sling. But, wait a minute, wasn’t that, well, a little underhand?
It gets worse
David is the King who, rather than go to battle, lounges around and spies a beautiful woman whom he must have, Bathsheba, another man’s wife. And not just any man, but Uriah, one of his most trusted generals. When Bathsheba falls pregnant, David does everything to avoid taking responsibility, summoning Uriah back so that he can sleep with his wife. Uriah’s steadfast loyalty to his King and his duty is contrasted with David’s treachery, as eventually David would arrange to have Uriah put in the thick of the fighting and assure his death. He then takes Bathsheba as his own.
Nathan, the prophet, goes to David to confront him, but he does so in an interesting way. He tells the King a parable abut a rich man stealing from a poor man. He draws David in until David is, as they say, fit to be tied. David is going to sort this rich man out…that is until Nathan delivers the coup de grace… David is that man. This is about his adultery and treachery. David recognises himself and repents. But the story doesn’t end there. Read on 2 Samuel 12, 7 and following.
In the weekday mass readings, we have just heard of David’s death. Quite a career of ‘ups and downs.’ Why does the bible love this man so much, even though it tells his crimes in graphic detail? Because he kept on turning to God, continually asking for forgiveness and repenting, despite his still being at the end a man of blood.
I said, earlier, that if we understand David, we shall go some way to understanding the Old Testament. The Old Testament is a story, told in many different genres and ways, in poetry, prophecy, history, myth, drama…you name it…of the struggle God has to continually offer his people friendship and covenant.
The struggle to understand, to sin and repent, to find God even in the worst of situations, that is the story of the Old Testament and of David. Often, it is not pretty. It’s not ‘lovey dovey’ and kindly shepherd, and hug each other… but it’s life. It is often (hopefully in not such an extreme way) where people are. Struggling, sinning, fighting, cheating. God is not afraid of the muck.
If he can do it…
If David, the great King, the one whose descendant, Jesus of Nazareth, would be our Saviour, Jesus, Son of David, could find forgiveness and peace in the midst of all that he did, there is hope for us all.