(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)
Above is a painting by Guy Rowe, from the book, In Our Image, Oxford Press, 1949. Depicted are Nathan the prophet and David, when he confronted the king concerning David’s affair with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband Uriah to cover up his sin!
David is listed as a Hero of Faith in Hebrews 11:32 –“And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets.” Does this man deserve to be listed as a Hero?
I taught a seminary course a few years ago on David, and it took me three semesters to cover the life of this man! The Bible devotes 43 chapters in I and II Samuel and I Kings to David’s life and the events surrounding that life! So how do I distill it down to a single Gem? There are two outstanding happenings concerning David that give us a good idea of who he is:
- At the beginning of his Scripture record, David’s great faith in Jehovah God is the focus!
- Later on, when he was king over all Israel, David’s feet of clay became very apparent!
The first part of David’s story is his confrontation with the Philistine giant Goliath! We don’t know how old David was at the time, nor do we know how long Goliath had been a soldier in the Philistine army. But in I Samuel 17:33, King Saul told David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; you are but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.” Most Bible scholars think David was just a teenager – maybe as young as 15, and no more than 19! And Goliath had been a trained soldier for probably ten to 15 years! According to Numbers 1:45, an Israelite would not be considered of age for military service until he was 20 years old. And Saul calling David “…but a youth…,” plus the fact that only three of the eldest sons of Jesse the Bethlehemite were in Israel’s army, suggests David was too young to be considered a soldier!
But this young man surely had faith!
- I Samuel 17:26 – “Then David spoke to the men who stood by him, saying, ‘What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?’ ”
- I Samuel 17:32 – “Then David said to Saul, ‘Let no man’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.’ ”
- I Samuel 17:36 and 37 – “Your servant has killed both lion and bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God….The LORD, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”
- I Samuel 17:40 – “Then he took his staff in his hand; and he chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in a shepherd’s bag, in a pouch which he had, and his sling was in his hand. And he drew near to the Philistine.”
- I Samuel 17:45 through 47 – “Then David said to the Philistine, ‘You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of…the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. Then all this assembly shall know that the LORD does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the LORD’s, and He will give you into our hands.’ ”
What powerful words of faith this young David spoke! But, they say, “Actions speak louder than words!”
- I Samuel 17:48 and 49 – “…the Philistine…drew near to meet David….David hastened and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine. Then David…slung…a stone…and struck the Philistine in his forehead, so that the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the earth.”
- I Samuel 17:51 – “David ran and stood over the Philistine, took [Goliath’s] sword…and cut off his head with it. And when the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled.”
His actions backed up his words of faith! David won a contest that no one thought he could win………except David and God! Yes,, he deserves a place in the Hall of Heroes of Hebrews 11, as one of the heroes of faith!
…except his feet of clay became clearly visible!
It happened one afternoon when David was lounging around in the palace. He got up from a nap and glanced down from his high vantage point (his palace was built on a high point of the city), and, low and behold, there was a beautiful naked young woman bathing on the flat roof of her nearby home!
Someone once said, “It’s the third look that gets you!”
- The first look is a quick look, not expecting to see anything unusual.
- The second look is… “Did I just see what I think I saw? ”
- The third look is… “Oh, wow! Look at that!”
…and the third look is what gets you into trouble! It got David into trouble!
But let’s back up a bit. What was David doing lounging at the Jerusalem palace anyway? It says in II Samuel 11:1:
It happened in the spring of the year, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his ser- vants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the people of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.
A king was supposed to lead his troops into battle! He was not just to send his general to lead the army and fight the war!
Back to that ‘third look’ moment: “So David sent and enquired about the woman. And someone said, ‘Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?’ ” (II Samuel 11:3). This report should have been a big red flag to David!
- Uriah the Hittite was one of the king’s faithful prize soldiers! In II Samuel 23 is listed 37 outstanding warriors in the Israeli army of tens of thousands! Uriah the Hittite is listed as one of the 37! (see II Samuel 23:39; I Chronicles 11:41).
- Eliam was also one of the 37 prize soldiers! He was the father of Bathsheba, and according to his listing in II Samuel 23:34, he was the son of Ahithophel the Gilonite. And in II Samuel 15:12 we are told, Ahithophel the Gilonite was one of David’s trusted counselors! So, in having an affair with Bathsheba, David was also sinning against her father Uriah, his mighty soldier, and her grandfather Ahithophel, his faithful counselor! Well, Ahithophel was faithful…until the king dallied with his granddaughter! When David’s son Absalom later rebelled and tried to kill his father and take over the kingdom (see II Samuel 14:25-18:33), Ahithophel sided with Absalom, and against David ! (see II Samuel 15:31; 17:1-3).
A few weeks after their tryst, Bathsheba sent word to David that she was pregnant! So the king set a plan in motion to cover up his indiscretion!
- II Samuel 11:6 through 8 – “Then David sent to Joab…‘Send me Uriah the Hittite.’ …When Uriah had come…David asked…how the war prospered. And David said…‘Go down to your house and wash your feet.” It was understood that the king was giving Uriah the opportunity to sleep with his wife – which would cover David having sex with Bathsheba!
- II Samuel 11:9 and 11 – But Uriah didn’t go down to his house! He “…slept at the door of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord….” His reasoning? “The ark and Israel and Judah are…encamped in the open fields. Shall I then go to my house to eat and drink, and to lie with my wife?”
- II Samuel 11:12 and 13 – So David tried again! He said, “‘Wait here today and tomorrow….’ Now when David called him, he ate and drank before him; and he made him drunk…but he did not go down to his house.”
Well, that didn’t work! So the king came up with a more malevolent plan:
- II Samuel 11:14 and 15 – “…David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by…Uriah…saying, ‘Set Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retreat from him, that he may be struck down and die.’ ”
- II Samuel 11:16 and 17 – “So it happened…Joab…assigned Uriah to a place where he knew there were valiant men….And some of the people of…David fell, and Uriah the Hittite died also.”
“Victory!” David thought. Now no one would discover that it was David who impregnated Bathsheba! And no one would know that the king had Uriah murdered by the hand of the Ammonites! No one would know………except God!
After a period of respectable mourning for her husband, David sent for Bathsheba, and he married her! Eventually she had her baby, and presented the king with a son!
After about a year, the LORD sent Nathan the prophet to confront David: Why a year’s wait? I don’t know, but I do know God’s timing is always perfect! (see Galatians 4:4, 5).
- II Samuel 12:1 through 4 – Nathan told the king a story of a rich man who stole the pet lamb of a poor man to prepare a dinner for a visitor.
- II Samuel 12:5 and 6 – David was furious! He shouted, “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this shall surely die! And he shall restore fourfold for the lamb….”
- II Samuel 12:7 – Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!” (This is the moment represented by Guy Rowe’s painting).
- II Samuel 12:7 through 12 – Nathan continued:
Thus says the LORD God of Israel; ‘I anointed you as king over Israel, and I delivered you from...Saul. I gave you...[his] house and...wives...and gave you...Israel and Judah. And if that had been too little, I would have given you much more! ...You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you have taken his wife to be your wife....Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me.... Behold, I will raise up adversity...from your own house; and I will take your wives...and give them to your neighbor....For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel ....’”
- II Samuel 12:13 – “Then David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the LORD.’ ”
II Samuel 12;13 and 14 – “And Nathan said…‘The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die. However, because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child…who is born to you shall surely die.’ ”
The child did die! (see II Samuel 12:15-23); and David thereafter had continual trouble within his own family! (see II Samuel 13:1-I Kings 2:12).
“I have sinned against the LORD.” It really doesn’t sound like much of a confession for so great offenses that David committed. But if we also consider the Penitent Psalms, such as Psalm 51, written shortly after Nathan’s confrontation; and Psalm 32, as David later reflected back on this sinful time; we can see the heart of this man – David was a great sinner, but he was also a great repenter! As it says in Proverbs 28:13, “He who covers his sins shall not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.”
And so it is written in Acts 13:22, that God said, “I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.”
So, like the other heroes listed in Hebrews 11, David also is a hero with feet of clay! And if David can be so totally cleansed from such heinous crimes and then be used greatly of God…
…there is hope for you and me!