Without having the statistics to back me up, I feel like most adults in Australia would have heard of King David in some way or another. We know about the incredible marble statue made by Michelangelo, have seen his battle with Goliath parodied in the Simpsons, have heard him referenced in the song ‘Hallelujah’ (even if only on the Shrek soundtrack), or have heard nearly every underdog sports match referred to as a ‘David and Goliath battle’.
He is an incredibly important figure then, with references to him part of our everyday vocabulary some 3,000 years after his life. Likewise, we see that he casts a long shadow over the Bible itself. God calls David a man after His own heart (1 Samuel chapter 13, verse 14), which the New Testament writers then echo after Jesus (Acts chapter 13, verse 22).
God makes a covenant with David, where his descendant would rule forever (that’s Jesus) (2 Samuel chapter 7). Subsequent kings are even measured against him—they are either good like David, or bad unlike David, and then Jesus Himself is known as the Son of David.
So this David character must be an unbelievably righteous, Godly, exemplary character, right? Well, no actually. The story of David is replete with examples of him really stuffing it all up. Perhaps the most famous or striking example of this is his interactions with a woman named Bathsheba (2 Samuel chapter 11).
David and Bathsheba
Essentially, the nation of Israel is at war, and it is expected that the king should be there leading from the front. David, however, decides to stay back and let the others fight for him. While there, he spots a beautiful woman bathing, and finds out that she is the wife of one of his soldiers named Uriah. David has her brought to him, and he sleeps with her (she did not really have much say in it all).
As if that was not bad enough, Bathsheba finds out she is pregnant and tells David. He tries to cover it up by having Uriah brought home, hoping that while there he would sleep with his wife and they could pretend that the baby was his. However, Uriah thinks it would be poor form for him to sleep with his wife while the soldiers are roughing it, so does not, even after David gets him drunk.
Therefore, to cover up his sin once and for all, David sends a message that Uriah is to be put in the fiercest part of the battle, and then abandoned to die. The men follow this order, and Uriah is killed.
I should not need to tell you; this is horrible stuff! As a military member, I can only imagine what would happen if one of our chiefs slept with a soldier’s wife, and then had the soldier killed to cover it up. David here is coveting his neighbour’s wife, bearing false witness, committing adultery, and committing murder—breaking a whole host of the Ten Commandments. How can such a man be viewed as good or a man after God’s own heart?
Growing up I was not a Christian, but I had seen enough TV and movies to know that being a Christian meant following all of the Christian rules—no swearing, sex, fighting, drinking, or smoking. Whenever a known ‘churchy’ broke a rule, we would always say “Oh I thought that person was meant to be a Christian, they’re not allowed to do that.”
I think that mindset is rather common in society. People see Christianity as a set of rules that divides those who are ‘in’, and those who are ‘out’—do the right things and you are good enough and get to go to heaven. However, if you do any of the wrong things, you get the flick and go to hell. In my role, I often get people asking if I am even allowed to have tattoos or drink beer, and are forever apologising for swearing in my presence.
So, in light of all that, David’s escapades seem entirely incongruent with Christianity. He should be rejected and forever remembered as a terrible, sinful, ungodly ruler (which does happen to other Old Testament kings). Yet he is not. I think the answer to it all lies in his response to his own sin. When David is confronted about it, his response is immediately; “I have sinned against the LORD”. The prophet Nathan replies, “The LORD has taken away your sin.” (2 Samuel chapter 12, verse 13).
David even wrote a whole Psalm about it in Psalm 51, where he acknowledges and repents of his horrible sin. Therefore, God forgives him.
Ultimately, we see that relationship with God is not simply based on rules and regulations, with adherents required to follow these things perfectly. It is not about being perfect or good enough for God, while avoiding all of the bad things for all of your life. The reality is we are all sinners before God, so would all fail. Our only hope is to acknowledge our sins, turn to Him and earnestly repent. Then, like David, we will find forgiveness, because Jesus Himself has borne the penalty of our sins for us.
Haydn Lea is an Ordained Minister, and is currently serving as an Air Force Chaplain in Adelaide. He is married to Shamsa Lea, and is the father of Amira and Ayla. He loves running, boxing and studying history and theology. After ten years as a Christian and two ministry/theology degrees, he still finds that much of his Christian knowledge comes from the Simpsons.
Haydn Lea is an Ordained Minister, and is currently serving as an Air Force Chaplain in Adelaide. He is married to Shamsa Lea, is the father of Amira, and loves running, boxing and studying history and theology. Haydn describes himself as a five-point Calvinist, but he recognises that many faithful Christians disagree. Thankfully he isn’t a cage-stage Calvinist about it all.