It hasn’t gone unnoticed that some of the MPs criticising the Murdochs and News International have a dubious track record in terms of expenses, and might therefore not be in a position to criticise the morals of others. Likewise, Stephen Fry remarked on the inappropriateness of any journalist criticising anyone over expenses when he said, “anybody can talk about snouts in troughs…for journalists to do so is almost beyond belief. I know lots of journalists, I know more journalists than politicians, and I’ve never met a more venal and disgusting crowd of people when it comes to expenses and allowances.” I’m sure I could find someone criticising Stephen Fry if I’d been bothered to try hard enough. My point is that everyone’s a mixture of good and bad. We might well see more of the bad in journalists and MPs, and more of the good in Stephen Fry, but everyone’s a mixture of good and bad, to some extent. I’m sure we know that about ourselves.
This mixture of good and bad is seen very clearly indeed in King David. On the good side, he trusted God completely when he went out to fight the giant Goliath. He twice refrained from killing King Saul when the latter was in David's power, and he was kind to Saul's crippled son Me-phib-o-sheth. David united the twelve tribes under God, and won independence from their marauding neighbours. David wrote many beautiful psalms, redolent with faith and trust in God. On the bad side, King David had Uriah the Hittite killed in battle so that David could marry Uriah's wife Bathsheba. He killed many enemies in battle; but that was normal for the period. But his was a remarkable career. From being a mere shepherd boy, God had raised him to the throne of the kingdom of Israel. Yet he claimed none of the credit for himself; he prayed, “who am I, O Lord GOD, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far?”
The word “house” was used in those days to refer to the extended family, including past and future generations, nothing really to do with a dwelling. King David asked God to promise that his descendants would sit on the throne of Israel for ever. David obviously had a pretty hazy idea about what eternity means, but God made David a promise: there would always be a descendant of his to sit on the throne in Jerusalem. Now in fact the last King of Israel was Ze-rub-babel, who failed to re-establish the monarchy after the Jews returned from exile in Babylon. But Jesus was descended from King David; his family tree's laid out in the first chapter of St Matthew's Gospel and the third chapter of St Luke, showing that his father Joseph was a descendant of David. So Jesus was hailed as the “Son of David”; it was this which made him such a threat to King Herod and the High Priests, who foresaw their power draining away to the usurper. For this they killed him, and it appeared that once again there was no descendant of David on the throne of Israel. But, as we now know, Jesus rose again from the dead, and ascended into heaven. So David's prayer was answered after all, and his descendant rules in power for evermore, and millions of Christians around the world acknowledge him as their king. The rule of Jesus isn't limited to one ethnic group. He himself said, “I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.”
So, what might be the message of King David for today?
We recognise Good and bad in people - let us do our best to emphasise the good and the best, not the bad and the worst.
Let us pray that God's kingdom may come on earth as it is in heaven, as King David prayed for his own kingdom.
David thanked God for his undeserved mercies – so should we.
David thanked God for redeem¬ing his people – so should we.
David prayed that his kingdom might continue to grow and flourish – we too should pray for the spread of the gospel message and the growth of the God’s kingdom.
David prayed that God would drive out false gods, that his people's allegiance might be to the one true God and only to him. We should pray that idolising materialism, violence and injustice may be driven out of people's minds.
I’m going to end by reading the words of a hymn by Caryl Micklem that we often sing, which sums up so much of the relevance of King David for us today. In fact, we sing it so often that we might miss the force of the words:
Give to me, Lord, a thankful heart
And a discerning mind;
Give, as I play the Christian’s part,
The strength to finish what I start
And act on what I find.
When, in the rush of days, my will
Is habit bound and slow,
Help me to keep in vision, still,
What love and power and peace can fill
A life that trusts in you.
By your divine and urgent claim,
And by your human face,
Kindle our sinking hearts to flame,
And as you teach the world your name
Let it become your place.
Jesus, with all your church I long
To see your kingdom come:
Show me your way of righting wrong
And turning sorrow into song
Until you bring me home.