This record of God’s people is packed with example after example of apparent good guys gone bad, questionable people who remain questionable, individuals who opposed David turning to help David, and the king himself being incredibly ungodly – on more than the one well-known occasion.
- Jonathan pledged his undying support to David but died fighting along his father, Saul. (2 Samuel 1)
- Abner commanded Saul’s army but defected to David’s (2 Samuel 2-3)
- Saul tried to murder David multiple times, but when men reported they had killed Saul, David had them put to death and displayed in gruesome disgrace. (2 Samuel 4)
- Although from the beginning of creation God had said one man and one wife would become one flesh, David had many wives and concubines. (2 Samuel 5)
- The Lord had shown a millenia of mercy to the world and, yet, immediate killed a man for trying to prevent the ark of the covenant from falling into the dirt. (2 Samuel 6)
- Ziba, the servant of Saul’s grandson, initially seemed to be a simple servant (2 Samuel 9), then a valiant man (2 Samuel 16), then we’re not quite sure. (2 Samuel 19)
- Joab is presented as a godly champion for David (2 Samuel 2), then a murder (2 Samuel 3), then a mighty leader again (2 Samuel 10), then a co-conspirator in multiple cover-ups (2 Samuel 11), then a courageous adviser to the king (2 Samuel 14), then a murderer again (2 Samuel 17-18), then a valiant warrior and a murderer (2 Samuel 19-20), then a godly courageous adviser to the king again. (2 Samuel 24)
And, of course, David. The Lord had described him as “a man after My own heart.” Yet, he abdicated his responsibility to lead, as was expected of kings (2 Samuel 11:1); he committed adultery with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:3-4); he conspired to hide his sin from her husband, Uriah (2 Samuel 11:6-13), who was also one of his 30 mighty men (2 Samuel 23:39); he ordered Joab to put faithful and unsuspecting Uriah in the path of certain death (2 Samuel 11:14-27); he neglected to discipline his children even after the most incredible sins (2 Samuel 13:21-19:4); and, against good counsel, he ordered a census of his army to glory in the might of its size instead of glorying in God’s might as his help (2 Samuel 24).
How could the formerly clear righteousness of a godly king and a kingdom become so muddy so quickly? Of course, we can point to many contributing factors. But that’s not the main point. The main point is that even the best of us need Someone better. Someone perfect. Jesus.
At any point in God’s Word we may be inclined to think “See! If we try hard enough, we can be a good person, deserving of God’s blessings!” That’s one of the reasons the Holy Spirit inspired the recording of godly people falling from their glory. After all, the pursuit of any human being’s glory is already the beginning of foolishness, disappointment, and (at best) discipline of God’s servant, or (at worst) judgment of those who reject the Lord’s rule over them.
2 Samuel leaves us with a great note of hope and joy, too. We hear David’s song and praise to the Lord in chapter 22. And in chapter 23, he gives a separate statement of warning to any who would oppose the Lord or His anointed King. These are two sections are great reminders of the Lord’s goodness and strength for His people. But then David calls for a census of his army in chapter 24.
Why couldn’t he have stopped with the praises and rightful warning against rebellion? Why did David himself rebel again? And why did the Holy Spirit inspire the person who recorded the book of 2 Samuel to add one more grievous sin of David? I can think of at least two reasons.
First, it happened. David did it, and the Lord tells us the good news and the bad news. Which explains the second reason: the Lord wants us to remember that only He is our perfect King. David is still alive in the first part of 1 Kings, and he is still showing himself to be very imperfect: a passive father (1 Kings 1:6) and a conniving king (1 Kings 2:1-12).
David was certainly the greatest king of Israel…the greatest human king, that is. The very first verse of the New Testament shows us that Jesus is the perfect fulfillment of the promises of blessings through Abraham’s descendants by faith and leadership through the Son of David (Matthew 1:1).
If you’re interested in reading other posts from this series, “Satisfaction Sundays”, you can refer to the menu above. You can also click on the following links for Understanding and Applying the Bible, inductive Bible studies on Philippians, or devotional videos on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.