Re-reassessing David

When I was young, David was a larger-than-life character in the Bible– the killer of lion, bear, giant, and “his ten thousands.” He was a shepherd boy who became a king, and “the writer of the Psalms.”

But then came a time of reassessment. Much of the Biblical record of David’s later life was pretty bad— murder, adultery, and a frankly rotten husband and father. Even his early life was not without its flaws. While some like to point out that David would not lay his hand on the “Lord’s anointed,” much of his behavior would fit normal definitions of treason and racketeering. And then I learned that there was doubt as to whether David wrote all of the Psalms, or even some of the Psalms. (I would like to think that some were written by him.)

My dad, a Sunday school teacher and deacon of our church

Thumbnail image from the Davison Art Center, Wesleyan University
“King David the Penitent” by Albrecht Durer

gave an opinion that I had to share. He struggled to see why David was described as a man after God’s own heart.

Frankly, the Biblical record seems to put King Saul on a pretty even footing as David. Saul had moments of religious fervor that would remind one of David. Additionally, Saul’s fall from grace, not fully destroying the captured Amelekite booty, seems pretty minor to some of David’s indiscretions. Even Saul’s last great sin, seeking divination from the “witch of Endor,” while clearly wrong was actually motivated by an earnest attempt to get wisdom from Yahweh, and his mentor, the prophet Samuel.

My time of re-reassessment really began 4 or 5 years ago as I became more involved in pastoral care. As I looked at the life of David, his many flaws were clear, but there was something else. David was willing to humble himself and admit his failings to both God and man.

DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW RARE THIS IS?

I work with pastors… many who have fallen into sin. All to often, sins are minimized, and discipline avoided. This is not just a pastor thing. Men of power rarely admit their failings… much less, admit them with sincerity. The quality is almost without exception missing from other leaders in the Bible. Even Paul only seems able to admit failings in the abstract (in Romans) while possible concrete examples (his handling of John Mark in Acts, and Peter in Galatians) go unaddressed.

David could admit failings to all, and accept God’s grace, despite the pride that power breeds. To eschew pride as a king, repent, and accept God’s grace… well, that could indeed be a man after God’s own heart.

Living in a time of “Christian superstars” who have an allergic reaction to admitting failings about as intense of politicians, maybe we do indeed need a few more Davids living today… flawed but forgiven… real and repentant.

 

 

They Also Serve Who Only Stand and Wait

<For those who don’t know, the Title is from the last line of the sonnet by John Milton, “On His Blindness”>

The Book of the Judges in the Bible tells the story of Gideon and the Midianites. Anyone unfamiliar with the story is certainly invited to look it up. But in the story, God called Gideon to lead the army of Israel (at this time in its history, more of a tribal confederation) against the invading Midianites. 32,000 showed up to join Gideon. God tells him that there are too many men (God apparently wished to demonstrate that He was saving the people of Israel and did not want the men of Israel to be confused in this message. Yet He still chose to use people. Miracles always still utilize people). So those who were timid or afraid were invited to go home. 22,000 went home. 10,000 remained. That was too many so a test was done. All were invited to drink from a river and those who drank one way were told to go home while the others were told to stay. 300 was the final number who stayed. God used those 300 to bring terror on the Midianites who fled. (I remember hearing a sermon where the preacher suggested that they way they drank showed how vigilant or non-vigilant the men were. I think that is completely flawed. The key was to reduce the numbers. The final number was important, not the method of drinking water.)

So here is a multiple choice question.

HOW MANY ISRAELITES DID GOD USE?

A.  32,000       (“the Willing”)

B.  10,000       (“The Committed”)

C.  300           (“The Chosen”)

D.  1               (“The Called”)

There is no single right answer. I, personally, believe that “D” is clearly wrong. It smacks of the “Great Man” theory of history. God uses people. God does not use individuals who then use people. God does not separate Himself that way from His servants.

But choosing between “A”, “B”, or “C” is more difficult. Personally, I would choose “A” (32,000) as the correct answer. God uses the willing. God came up with those chosen to serve from those willing to serve. Those who were willing but afraid and those who are committed but not chosen are the people God draws from in the future for service.

The Bible is full of people God used who were willing (in a general sense to serve God) but lacked commitment (or were timid) at first. Moses (arguably hardly even willing), Jacob, Deborah, Saul, Jonah, John Mark,  and Timothy are a few. If some give the impression of willing to dive in from the very start, it is likely that the story is compressed.

Another story that brings up this idea involves the stones collected by David. The Bibles says David collected 5 stones when he went against Goliath. How many stones did David use? He used 5. One to strike down Goliath, and four to have as back-up if the first didn’t do its job. I also heard a sermon trying to say that the other four were for the other brothers of Goliath. It is amazing how much disrespect is given to someone or something being ready for service but not (at least for now) needed.

Regardless, it is from the pool of the willing that God develops those he chooses. In missions we seek the highly committed, and that is fine. But we cannot reject those who are willing but not committed, or the willing but timid. This is the pool that God is developing to serve. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday they will be called by God. In missions we can be part of God’s effort to prepare these people… or we can simply reject them. WHAT A WASTE! WHAT A MISTAKE!

We need to seek the willing… and gently help them be prepared long before they are ready to commit. and even longer before they are chosen. My life experience supports this.

  • I was willing to serve God LONG before I was willing to serve unconditionally.
  • I was interested in considering mission work SOMEDAY long before I was willing to consider it in the near future.
  • I was willing to prepare myself for missions long before I was willing to commit myself to missions

People development is not simply developing the highly motivated– it is recognizing the willing (in some sense) and helping them be prepared for when they are chosen.