Following the life and death of Moses, Israel lived for generations without a king. Joshua brought them into the promised land, and for a time, they lived up to their end of the covenant. But, in a cycle that would repeat itself a dozen times, Israel would fall into sin and God would allow them to be conquered and sent into slavery. Israel would turn back to God, begging for Him to rescue them – which He would do, by sending one of the Judges (Samson is likely the most famous of these).
Israel grew tired of this, and began to beg for a king. In spite of Samuel’s protestations that a king is subject to corruption – God promised to do precisely this for them (1 Samuel 8:22).
The first King, anointed by Samuel, to rule over Israel was Saul. His story is a fascinating one – but since he is not the object of our study, you can read his story for yourself. In brief: Saul is anointed 1 Samuel 10:1-8; but by 1 Samuel 13, King Saul grew impatient of waiting on God’s time, took matters into his own hands (breaking a direct instruction from God). In doing so, he forsakes the Kingdom – so Samuel is sent to find his successor: David, the Son of Jesse. Though his story spans five decades (and three books in the Bible), there are four key stories from David’s life that bear our attention today:
1 Samuel 16:1, 4-7, 10-13: David is Anointed King
To complete the grace of Baptism, diocesan bishops travel from parish to parish anointing some of the young people (as young as 7 years old growing all the way through high school) in what we call the Sacrament of Confirmation. The Bishop (“overseer”) is an agent of the Lord, sent to anoint these Christians with oil as a sign of the gift of His Spirit. This moment of anointing is meant to mark the beginning of an adventure served as an agent of the Most High God. As a prophet (“mouthpiece”), Samuel was God’s instrument sent to anoint David as a sign of the gift of His Spirit – in a moment which marked the beginning of David’s adventure as an agent of the most high God. What’s fascinating is that among his family: David is not the biggest son or the eldest son, but the smallest. God looks beyond external when He chooses us for such missions.
1 Samuel 17: David battles Goliath
In perhaps the most famous of David’s stories, the young shepherd boy takes on the Philistine champion on a field of battle. The Philistines are often described as giants – whether this is literally giants the way we consider them – or a literary device meant to help us appreciate their superior size and strength – is beyond the point. David fought Goliath because no one else would (they were terrified), leaning on his faith in God and his experience of protecting the sheep from predators. Because of this faith, David was able to conquer that which came to conquer him.
The Lord, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine. (1 Samuel 17:37)
2 Samuel 5:1-5: David assumes the throne & God Makes a Covenant with him
David would reign for forty years, and would mostly be a good king… with a few exceptions (more on that later.) During his time as King, David wanted to build a temple for God, but God told him that instead it would be God who would build him a house… that one of his descendants would be King forever – this is the covenant that fulfills God’s second promise to Abraham:
I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. (2 Samuel 7:9)
David is to be royalty; to be the beginning of a dynasty – which foreshadows something further:
Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever. (2 Samuel 7:16)
A descendant of David is to rule over Israel forever – and since Jesus (King of Kings) is to be the descendant of David, this promise is one of the easiest we see fulfilled in all of scripture. It is through this line that God intends to fulfill the third promise He had first made to Abraham. Israel became a great nation under the leadership of Moses; the name of Abraham became a royal dynasty through the Kingship of David; and the universal blessing will come from their descendant, Jesus…
David is often remembered as the “man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14)- which means that he demonstrated a passion and dedication to God and His commandments which many had never seen before. However, this passion is also what would get him in trouble, leading us to our final passage for reflection…
2 Samuel 11: David and Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah
David’s other famous story is that of one of the greatest failures in all of scripture. Lazily, David stays home (when he should have gone to battle), and wandering on his roof he notices a beautiful woman bathing. On a good day, David would have respected her dignity and averted his gaze… but he’s bored and lonely, so he continues to watch. Then he sends for her, sleeps with her (conceiving a baby), and eventually tries to cover the whole affair up by bringing her husband – one of his loyal soldiers – home from battle. Uriah’s honor foils this plan of David’s… so David has him killed.
What we see here is a progression of sin: David didn’t begin with the intention to murder a man – he began feeling a bit lazy, which led him to lust, to commit adultery, to lie, and eventually to murder. This is not David being after God’s heart – and God would go to great lengths to correct him (2 Samuel 12:1-23).
David’s failure stands as a reminder to us of the ways in which any one of us might screw up: smaller sins can lead to bigger ones. Though we may pay a price (consequence) for our actions, God doesn’t abandon us either – but it shows that we need more than even a “man after God’s heart” to properly restore the house of faith ruined by sin. We’ll examine that Man in the last part of our study together.