Summary: David was a successful man - a warrior, poet and king. Yet he had one major flaw that was almost his undoing - his children. This message contrasts David’s great success with his great heartache.
One of my favourite Bible heroes is King David. I’m sure you’re all familiar with the story of David and Goliath, the boy who bested a giant. But there’s a lot more to David’s life than this story. In many ways he’s the kind of man that many of us guys would like to be.
David was marked out for greatness from a young age.
He was the youngest of 8 brothers. No one special, just the kid who looked after the family sheep.
So just imagine David’s out with the sheep one day, the sun’s hot and the wolves are hungry for a bit of lamb. Suddenly one of the family’s servants comes running over a hill and tells him to get back home quick smart, there’s something important happening. So David rolls up all sweaty and dirty from being out in the dusty Palestinian desert. The next thing he knows some old guy is pouring a flask of olive oil over his head and telling him he’s going to be the next king.
Kind of a lucky break, hey? How often do we envy the other guy because he got luck?
The reality is that things had to be kept a bit quiet. The reigning King, Saul, had plans for his own son to take the throne and wouldn’t hesitate to kill someone he saw as a threat, so David had to bide his time.
But even so, he took every opportunity to act like a king.
And one of the first things he does is kills a giant. When grown men were quaking in their sandals, David the nobody-in-particular kid who’s now heir-to-the-throne-incognito takes on this impossible opportunity, puts his trust in God and wins an argument with a 9 foot mountain of a man.
So naturally Saul promotes him. Soon David the shepherd becomes David the warrior and military commander. His is the unit every soldier wants to be in. The other officers respect him. He can do no wrong.
Saul’s starting to get a bit uncomfortable at this. Who is this guy? So he decides to give him the hardest missions hoping he’ll get killed in battle. Nope, he just gets better. And more popular.
In fact, he’s so successful the girls start to sing songs about him.
"Saul has slain his thousands and David his tens of thousands" (1Sam 18.7).
How’d you like to be remembered for that at your funeral?! Different times back then. Or maybe not so different?
And wouldn’t you know it, one girl in particular falls for him. Guess whose daughter? That’s right - Saul’s. So Saul asks for a particularly interesting bride price - and it gets a bit creepy here - 100 Philistine foreskins.
Now, I don’t know what exactly’s going on here. I don’t know if Saul has some kind of weird fetish or if he was trying to humiliate David. But David’s not phased, he’s so in love with Saul’s daughter, Michal, that the Bible says, "David took his men with him and went out and killed two hundred Philistines and brought back their foreskins. They counted out the full number to the king" (1Sam 18-.27). Killing Philistines is fun for these guys, but seriously… I just don’t want to go there.
The point is, this guy’s got it made. Successful career, girls all over him. Gotta be a bad move marrying your crazy boss’s daughter, but no-one’s perfect.
Even when things go down hill, he goes up hill
The crazy boss-cum-father-in-law has decided he’s not happy with the new family member and sets out to get rid of David, so David literally heads for the hills. The mountains in Israel are very rugged and there are plenty of hide outs. But David doesn’t stay alone for long. He’s a leader and soon he gathers a rag tag band of outlaws and malcontents about him.
And what does he do? Goes plundering the countryside? Well, kind of. He forms his rag tag band into a private army and starts waging war on Israel’s enemies, running covert operations. He’s so successful that their enemies don’t even realise what’s happening and at one stage they hire David and his army. They think he’s battling Saul when all along he’s battling Israel’s enemies.
And then David becomes king.
And what do you think happens then? Now he’s got control of the army and the whole nation’s behind him, and he starts to expand his empire. In fact, under David and his heir, Solomon, Israel’s borders will reach from the Euphrates river in modern day Syria, down to the border of Egypt. This is the golden age for Israel.
David’s at the top of his game. A fearless fighter, successful military commander, star of Israeli Idol. Seriously, he sings, plays the ancient equivalent of the guitar, and writes songs - you can still read them in the Bible. He has the physique of a warrior, the mind of a cunning strategist and the heart of a poet. He’s the perfect King. No doubt the Bible idealises him, but if there’s one person in the Bible I want to meet, apart from Jesus, it would be David.