David was a wild bundle of contradictions. When he was good, he was very, very, good, and when he was bad, he was terrible. He was a man of like passion as we are as he wrestled with the mercurial rise of King Saul, and the king’s increasing madness. When David heard of the death of Saul at the Battle of Gilboa, he was consumed with grace and grief. He comforted himself by composing a song.
The Song of the Bow
“And David lamented with this lamentation over Saul and over Jonathan his son: 18 (Also he bade them teach the children of Judah the use of the bow: behold, it is written in the book of Jasher.) 19 The beauty of Israel is slain upon thy high places: how are the mighty fallen! 20 Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon; lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph. 21 Ye mountains of Gilboa, let there be no dew, neither let there be rain, upon you, nor fields of offerings: for there the shield of the mighty is vilely cast away, the shield of Saul, as though he had not been anointed with oil. 22 From the blood of the slain, from the fat of the mighty, the bow of Jonathan turned not back, and the sword of Saul returned not empty. 23 Saul and Jonathan were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided: they were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions. 24 Ye daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, who clothed you in scarlet, with other delights, who put on ornaments of gold upon your apparel. 25 How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle! O Jonathan, thou was slain in thine high places. 26 I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast thou been unto me: thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women. 27 How are the mighty fallen, and the weapons of war perished! (2 Sam. 1:17-27).
These words of grace and glory were ascribed to a man who had tried to kill him on several occasions. David had been given several opportunities to kill Saul, but refused because Saul was the king, and Saul was the Lord’s anointed. In so doing, David revealed his personal greatness.
David was a great child prodigy. At an early age he achieved a high level of accomplishment in the area of warfare. David battled against animals, against a giant named Goliath, and against the Philistines.
David was a great poet and musician, reflected in the Psalms he wrote, and the music he sang to accompany them.
David was a great man of faith as he walked into the valley of death so many times. His soul panted after God as a deer pants after the water brooks.
David was a great king. He united the tribes of Israel, and ruled them in majesty and glory. His reign, along with the 40 year rule of Solomon is called The Golden Years of Hebrew History. For a brief moment in history, a tiny nation captures the attention of the world, and united Africa, Asia, and Europe.
David was a great political genius by establishing the seat of the monarchy in Jerusalem. Jerusalem was the city of peace. The city became the symbol of the presence of God. In Jerusalem, the Temple would be built. In Jerusalem, the Redeemer would come. In Jerusalem all the nations of the earth would come to worship. This is Mount Zion. This is the city about which Jews today, all over the world say, “Next year in Jerusalem.” This is the city that is contested for by Arabs and Jews as the world watches.
David was a great sinner. At one period in his life he became a blood thirsty marauding killer and bandit. At another time he was blinded by lust to the point that he used one of his faith soldiers to cover the scarlet sin of adultery.
“And the Lord sent Nathan unto David. And he came unto him, and said unto him, There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor. 2 The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds: 3 But the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and nourished up: and it grew up together with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter. 4 And there came a traveller unto the rich man, and he spared to take of his own flock and of his own herd, to dress for the wayfaring man that was come unto him; but took the poor man’s lamb, and dressed it for the man that was come to him. 5 And David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the Lord liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die: 6 And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity. 7 And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul; 8 And I gave thee thy master’s house, and thy master’s wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things. 9 Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon. 10 Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife. 11 Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun. 12 For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun” (2 Sam. 12:1-12).
David was great in his repentance, as recorded, when confronted by Nathan concerning his sin, David’s heart was broken. “And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord. And Nathan said unto David, The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die” (2 Sam. 12:13.
“To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone in to Bath-she’-ba. Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. 4 Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest. 5 Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. 6 Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom. 7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. 9 Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. 11 Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. 12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. 13 Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee. 14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness. 15 O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise. 16 For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. 18 Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem. 19 Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar” (Psalm 51:1-19).
David was great in his posterity. From his linage would come his Greater Son, the Messiah.
Despite his many failures, David, in the end, was called, a man after God’s own heart. David was not a perfect man, but he did have a heart that was concerned about what matters to God.
“But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the Lord hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the Lord commanded thee” (1 Sam. 13:14).
Great sinners make great saints.