Friday, June 3, 2011

How Could King David Be A Man after God’s Own Heart? - Part 4 of a series based on 2 Samuel 11 & 12

I’ve tried to find cause to excuse David’s sins; to find extenuating circumstances that would allow me to understand and forgive the almost unspeakable crimes he committed. I suppose we could excuse him because of the good things he did. He showed great courage and faith in his confrontation with Goliath. He is, after all, the sensitive spiritual man credited with giving us many uplifting Psalms – and some so brutal that we struggle to know what to do with them. He showed magnanimity at certain critical points in his career, forgiving enemies or refusing to seek retribution for offenses they had committed. His deep and genuine grief at the loss of his sons reveals a humanity hard not to sympathize with.

It is important to remember these things. David was, we are told, “a man after God’s own heart,” a status desired by all. But there are disturbing things about this man that make it hard to understand why God would take such pleasure in him; why He would lift him up as a forbearer of the coming King, who would truly and deservedly be a “man after God’s own heart.”

David lived and reigned in a brutal, precarious time, just a generation or two from the time of the Judges, a period of lawlessness when every man did what was right in his own eyes. Illustrative of the violence of the time was the incident when David’s general, Joab, accepted a challenge from Abner, the general opposing David’s forces, for a hand-to-hand contest between their “young men.” Twenty-four were selected, twelve from each side, and all died in a suicidal contest to provide entertainment for the armies. David himself, on an earlier occasion, was on his way to exact genocidal justice upon Nabal’s family and servants when he was turned away by the beauty and wisdom of Abigail. Even in his last days, from his death bed, he reminded his son, Solomon, of those still living who had offended him but had escaped retribution because David had lacked the political solidarity needed to deal with the probable repercussions. His words to young Solomon are chilling, “You are a man of wisdom, you will know what to do.” The record quickly shows that Solomon knew, indeed, what to do.

And then there is the betrayal of Uriah, a man whose loyalty to David spanned many years. He was listed among the “mighty men” of David, thirty plus warriors whose loyalty had been proven in the direst of times and circumstances. That David would scheme to have sexual relations with Uriah’s wife is sin enough. His attempt to cover the sin is understandable. To plot Uriah’s death in order to cover that sin puts David in the camp of the world’s most notorious traitors. But to cynically use Uriah’s unquestioned loyalty by giving him the letter, bearing the orders for his death, to unknowingly deliver to Joab, the man who would carry out the sentence, goes beyond all human decency. This is a man after God’s own heart?

Of course not. God detested David’s sins and sinfulness just as he detests mine, or those of all the rest of the human race. David won God’s heart, not because his sins were fewer, or less onerous to God, than those of others. It was David’s reaction to his sins that won the heart of God. When confronted with his sin, he quickly admitted them and sought restoration with God.

I know, that sounds too easy; just sin and then say, I’m sorry. It sounds unfair. David’s sins are certainly more serious than mine. I’ve not stolen anyone’s wife, nor engineered the death of anyone. David’s sins rank with those of modern day dictators, men who never, in a thousand lifetimes could be called, “men after God’s own heart.” We would never forgive their sins, nor those of King David. But God did forgive David, and God will forgive the sins of the worst of sinners today whose repentance is as sincere as David’s was. David truly wanted to be on “speaking terms” with God. He could not bear the thought that God was angry with him, that he might be banned from the presence of God. It was that, in David, which God loved.

We should be grateful that sinners like David can find forgiveness and restoration and we should rejoice when they do. That kind of forgiveness is our only hope.

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