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Mar 15, 2010

David – Gentle Shepherd Boy or Mighty Warrior King?

What image do you have of King David of the Old Testament? Do you imagine him as a boy, holding a sheep in his lap while he quietly plays a harp? Or maybe you picture him squaring off against Goliath with only a sling and a few stones in his hand. Perhaps you think of him as a king, leading his armies or bringing back the Ark of the Covenant. If you’re more acquainted with modern cultural icons than Sunday school stories, you might picture Michelangelo’s great sculpture or Hollywood’s Gregory Peck or (Heaven forbid!) Richard Gere.

Most of us, however, don’t immediately picture David lusting after a naked woman, committing adultery, plotting murder, or watching as his family is torn apart. Yet, this is unfortunately part of his biography too.

As we’re trying to define Biblical manhood, it might be helpful to consider the life of David, as he was called by God “a man after His own heart.”  The question I pose is whether David was a gentle shepherd boy, the youngest of several brothers, a sensitive poet and musician; or whether he was a mighty soldier, leader of men, conquering king, and ancestor and archetype of Christ. The answer, of course, is yes, he was all of those and more.

However, I’ve noticed something when studying the life of David that reminds me of many men today, including myself. I believe that David, in some ways, was more of a man as a boy than he was as a full grown adult. Think about it for a minute. Many of David’s characteristics were evident throughout his whole life, including his love for God, his loyalty, his artistic abilities, and his bravery. However, other negative traits seemed to only appear as he got older. After a faithful and promising start as a boy and young man, David later fell into some of the oldest and most deadly temptations and sins facing men.

As a young man, David was already responsible, brave, and skilled. He claimed to have killed both a lion and a bear protecting his father’s sheep. But what strikes us most from his early life was his indignant attitude towards those who opposed God and his almost naïve bravery and boldness. We see this in the story of him facing Goliath. While other full-grown men, including his older brothers and even King Saul, feared the Philistines and their giant Goliath, David was shocked and disgusted at the way the Philistines mocked the God of Israel. Then, as if unaware of his apparent physical disadvantage, he boldly asked for a chance to face Goliath himself. Of course, he prevailed, but I’m sure his confidence and bold action shocked all who witnessed it.

It wasn’t until he was much older, after patiently waiting for God to replace Saul, after having the kingdom united under him, after marriage and children, in relative peace and prosperity, that David finally fell into great temptation and sin. We read in 2 Samuel 11, that “at the time when kings go out to battle”, that “David remained at Jerusalem.” Instead of leading his men into battle (his job as the king), he found himself idle and bored, restless in the lap of luxury with too much free time. In this time of his life, he finally found himself in temptation that he could not resist, and began a series of great sins which affected himself, another married couple, an innocent baby, his other children, and ultimately the nation under him.

How did the same brave, principled boy who would face a mighty giant to defend the name of God, become a man who could fall into such commonplace sin and depravity, even after seeing all that God had done for him for years? And if someone with the early promise of David could have such a great fall into sin, is it possible for even the godliest young men we know to fall as well? Of course it is, but how?

For every man, the temptations and life experiences we face will be different. But there may be a few typical temptations and dangers that we all face, which we will do our best to guard against if we are wise.

From David’s story we can see the danger of success and complacency. It seems that David may have been closest to God when he needed him most. When David was facing Goliath, or running from Saul, or betrayed by those he trusted, he relied on God and was close to him every minute. But as the years went by and David’s battles diminished, when he started to reap the rewards of success and wealth, he found himself bored and restless – and straying from God.

Of course, most men are naturally prone to sexual temptation. It’s interesting to note that David’s other sins of deceit, scheming, abuse of his power, and ultimately murder all started with just a lingering stare at a naked woman. How easy it is to fall into such a sin, but how powerful and dangerous that indulgence can be. Even a man after God’s own heart was not immune to such a temptation and we’d be foolish to assume we are.

Finally, I think we can learn from David that to stay close to God and out of trouble, we need a battle to fight. When David was fighting against evil, defending the name of God, he was never far from his presence. But when he laid back for a while and let others fight the battle, he lost his real purpose in life. Men, when we simply go through life without any real purpose, enjoying our domesticated lives, with no struggle or fight for good, the Enemy will find sinful distractions to occupy our idle time.

To the young men reading this, I urge you to maintain your enthusiasm for the Lord, to learn about him, obey him, and serve him with all your youthful energy and boldness. Never lose this, even after your life becomes filled with careers, marriage, children, and any number of other things as adults.

To my fellow middle-aged or older men, join me now in reclaiming the spirit we had in our youth, when there were great giants to face, when we had as much boldness as we now claim to have wisdom, when we had larger goals than just surviving until retirement, when we still believed we could make a difference for the Lord.

No matter what our age, we can learn from David’s example, both as a youth and as a man. Like him, we too can be men of God.
“The Lord has sought for Himself a man after His own heart…” (1 Sam 13:14)
Will you be that man today - and tomorrow?

1 comment:

  1. How true it is! I never felt closer to God than when I was working 20+ hrs/day; than when every waking moment was spent striving toward the goal He had intended for me. Thank you for this challenge and message of encouragement!
    Now for me to get busy!