By Kerwin Holmes, Jr.
[Part 1 of the David Life Series]
David was a man after God’s own heart…which is more like picturing a toddler running after a beach ball atop a sand dune. He’s gonna fall…a lot.
The Bible famously says that God loved King David because he was “a man after God’s own heart” according to Acts 13:22. This has famously become a religious trope for moral upstanding and purity, that shies away from the Bible, which shows the imagery as more of a toddler learning how to run on a dry sand dune on a windy beach in order to make it to his parents to get an ice cream cone. The kid’s a miracle worker if he makes it once to two consecutive steps. But at least the kid has the heart to keep on running.
We have much to learn from King David. In this series, I will begin focusing on the life of David bar Jesse (David bar Yishai), the king over Israel and Judah, and how just reading the Bible as it is intended, as a complete life text, can give us strategic insight into what God is doing and how we should perform as believers. And if you are not yet a believer, then I invite you along to see what it is in your life that you are missing out on.
1 Samuel 15
Before we begin with David, we must first start with the turmoil that he lived under as a subject of Israel’s king Saul.
After the time of Joshua and Moses, Israel came into a period of upheaval as the Israelites failed to subdue the immoral nations that lived in Canaan precisely because they began to engage in the very same actions that the nations did. God had not supernaturally driven away all of the people so that the Israelites would not be a weak nation and would be able to withstand the temptation to engage in the same evil that the other men and women of the land had fallen into. But apart from God, the Israelites were just as sinful as anyone else. They engaged in lewd immorality, oppressed the poor, engaged in ritual prostitution, relied upon their own moral compass instead of the righteousness of God, and they even practiced human sacrifices.
…Particularly for human sacrifices, we have one story where an Israelite named Jephthah, who was brought up in the pagan cultures that Israel adopted, actually thought that God was pleased by the same worship as the pagan gods and demons that he grew up worshiping…and he sacrificed his own daughter in an attempt to thank God for a massive military victory! This of course went directly against what God had commanded Israel not to do in the most explicit language. It even went against what God had shown to Abraham in Moriah, that God is far too loving and merciful to demand from mankind a sacrifice for our sins…but that God Himself will provide the Lamb, and that God is the God of the living who gives life even in the midst of death.
To sum it all up, everyone did whatever he or she decided was good for them. And this predictably led to chaos and prophetically to the God punishing Israel just like He punished the nations Israel was meant to punish. Sure, there were always a few Israelites did still worship God (Deborah, Gideon, and Shamgar come to mind), but they were only a constant remnant (or a minority leftover) from Moses and Joshua’s time.
During a brief period where God gave them peace under the prophet/judge Samuel, the people continued on rebelling and demanded a king. God chose for them a man named Saul— a rich, attractive, and vain man from Benjamin, to be their king. And God allowed them to have Saul although God knew that the Israelites were still internally rejecting God as their King.
Instead, God decided to show Israel that they could not do anything good without Him. God gave Saul simple commands to finish what Israel was supposed to have done: ridding the land of Canaan from the people who practiced inhumane religions and who hated God. Saul began well, but fell to the temptation to satisfy his vanity for popularity, until finally he failed completely.
In the last mission, God wanted Saul to punish the Amalekites who had witnessed Israel’s Red Sea crossing out of Egypt, but who attacked the Israelites and the peoples with them who had lagged behind as the people moved toward Canaan (see Deuteronomy 25:17-18). *Keep in mind that during that time, Israel were only recently liberated slaves. This is important in God’s call of judgment against the Amalekites.
Saul of course disobeyed, counting his continued popularity with the disobedient Israelites higher than his approval from God. Saul’s mistake for believing that he knew better than God did would almost cause the extinction of Israel in later generations (but that is in the life of Esther and the subject of Purim). For rebelling once again, God let Saul know that his kingdom was not to stand because it is God alone who rules over kings and all people, and Saul was no king.
And this is not only how David came into the picture, but it is more or less the environment that David was surrounded by during his entire early life.