Issues I Had to Work Through to Understand David

22300078_sEarlier this year I began to novelise my journey of discovering David through the eyes of a fictional character who was grappling with clinical depression. I got 7000 words in, then life got in the way. ‘Chasing David’ is a project I may get back to at some stage, but just now, there are practical reasons why I have chosen to lay it aside. In the meantime (?), here are the big issues I have been through while studying David’s life. If you are learning about him, but are still scratching your head over some areas, you may find some clues here which will help you get unstuck!

  • The topic areas I have battled with the hardest include:
    Slavery
    Abuse of power: Bathsheba and Census
    Rape allegations
    Lies and escapes to Gath
    Diplomatic manipulation
    Ammonites eye for an eye
    Empire mentality / warrior traits
    Treatment of women: polygamy and equality
    End of life instructions to Solomon
    Favouritism with tribes
    Undisciplined sons
    Allowing Joab to retain power.

I know that is an awful lot of negative drama and when I first stood back and looked at all of that, I walked away from David twice, thinking he was a complete jerk. Yet the Holy Spirit kept pulling me back and sending me to the Psalms. Those reflect David’s heart and life in his own words and are a very different picture of him than the books of Samuel and Chronicles, which are others looking in and only telling us what they think should be remembered.

Within the books of Samuel, 1 Kings and 1 Chronicles, there are 46 positive events which denote David as a righteous man, and 20 negative life events, of which only 3 list catastrophic sins (Gath, Bathsheba and the census). So if you get stuck judging David on his behaviour with BathSheba, you are ignoring the 46 times David got life right. That is not a balanced way to judge. I had to learn all this the hard way, and the points below are how I got there.

 

  • To stop treating him as just a legend, or muddied sermon illustration. In short, I needed to learn to respect him as if he was alive now and be as fair to the dead, as the Word expects me to be to the living. That taught me that the Word of God has no bounds and that many of us act as Internet trolls do towards people in the Bible. Faceless judging is not righteous, mature behaviour.

 

  • To realise that he went through a maturing and ageing process which affected his attitudes. It turned out that there is a natural curve, with all the usual setbacks and failures we all commonly experience in life. This strengthened my faith that David was not a man-made figure, and increased my security in the validity and genuine spiritual origins of the Bible.

 

  • l had to research the use and abuse of power in relation to what the Torah taught and what David would have been expected to do as a God-fearing servant of the Lord. I was stunned to find that in relation to many areas where he infringed modern International Law and human rights, for his time, he was just, right and righteous.

 

  • I needed to search through the Old Testament and find the references to the love and character of God, so I could understand Him and where He was coming from through the nasty parts of the Old Testament. I succeeded and came out far richer and more spiritually secure than I was before.

 

  • It was necessary to try and step into the shoes of others, such as Michal, Absalom and Joab, and try and understand why they acted the way they did as people. To do that, I went through a lot of psychology lectures to get my head in the right frame of mind and find the words I wanted to describe their experience.

 

  • I had to learn to read Scripture s.l.o.w.l.y. to take in the masses of details and to never believe anyone’s opinion without double checking it. The world is full of misinformation, and I was shocked at how much of the work written about David was supposition which could be debunked by a proper understanding of history, David’s culture and by stopping to look at the Hebrew behind the verse. It takes a lot of time, but any investment in God’s Word is worth it!

 

  • I needed to get deep into the cultural history of Israel and pre-Israel to understand as much as I could about how that culture became who they were and why they did what they did. I thoroughly enjoyed the journey, as I have always loved ancient history; but doing this gave my study a solid base, greater depth and many of the Levitical laws finally made sense! I found the answers to mysteries which I thought would become dead ends. Studying David requires theology, anthropology, psychology, political science, some economics and archaeology. Neither Israel or David can be treated as an island, because they were as affected by and immersed in their world as we are in ours. It is a dramatically divergent world from ours and that time invested bought forth gold. I am so glad I did it.

 

  • I had to come to grips with what humility really means and to not fan girl over anyone. David was a servant, not a superstar and I needed to treat him (and Moses) with respect, rather than bias and favouritism. I discovered just how kind, gentle and non-aggressive David was and that stunned me.

 

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My Personal Journey

  • Chasing David CoverI learned that I had to take breaks, especially when researching grief and abnormal psychology, (such as Absalom,) because confronting that level of suffering in real lives is emotionally draining. I have also found that balance enables me to come back refreshed. I am a creative person and to just study and write is frustrating. I need to be able to turn to other projects, and when I have, I come back to learning with a fresh joy and clearer perspective. I also learned to not set deadlines, but allow as much time as was needed and adopt a long-term, open-ended approach.

 

  • I had to learn to set aside writing and publicity approaches, attitudes and ideas that didn’t work (King David Tweets and Chasing David), or stall them for a better time. In any project, sometimes great article ideas don’t come together so well once you get into them, or you realise your limitations and have to stop or reschedule. I haven’t fully abandoned any ideas, as one day, a new approach to an old dead end may appear and be fruitful.

 

  • I had to learn to not lose my temper with secular theologians who critically molest the Word of God as an intellectual pursuit (etc.,) and with misinformed Christians who need patience and empathy. Mastering that will be a long-term struggle. I have had to learn to be careful who I listen to and again, double check every opinion no matter how highly qualified they are, how much I like them or how big their achievements are. I also have to be willing to be told I am wrong by someone who knows more than I do. (That last part I am OK with.)

 

  • Being patient with myself was essential as I have often have to go back and change things I have written after I’d discovered a new key piece of information further down the track. I had to take the stance that this is a learning process and it’s OK to say, “I’m wrong,” and be excited about finding something new out, rather than berating myself for not knowing everything instantly. I also had to give the Holy Spirit time to correct me before I published anything.

 

  • Because I have become very fond of David, I have had a personal need to delve into his areas of sin and properly understand why he did what he did, as the negatives irritate me. I prefer the perfect, squeaky clean hero, but a David like that would be impossible to relate to and would lose his value. I do call sin a sin, however, there is always room for empathy, and as I found with Bathsheba, a lot of room to realise I don’t know the whole story and should hold my tongue/pen/keyboard…

 

  • It was a conscious decision to focus on and write more about the more positive parts of David’s story, as there are plenty of others focussed on judging him. I get greater benefit from studying David’s life by focussing on the areas which build my faith, improve my personal habits and inspire me.

 


kdpcpyrght

Creative Commons License
The King David Project by Cate Russell-Cole is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://cateartios.wixsite.com/kingdavidproject.

Please note that this does NOT apply to any of the images on this site except for the free Psalm images which are marked as free. Most photos are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you.

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Judgement Versus Discernment: Reading the Bible Righteously

judging bathshebaIt is very rare that I ever hear a good word spoken about BathSheba, except by some Rabbis, who declare David and BathSheba’s association as the greatest love story in the Bible. That may be because King Solomon came from their union.

When pressed to answer what I think about her, the only response I have is, “I don’t know the lady. I have no idea what she was like, so I really don’t think it’s my place to judge her. She is someone’s wife and someone’s mother: so she was loved.” I honestly cannot say more than that. I try and relate to her as a fellow human, rather than a good or bad person.

David and BathSheba is the story of what happens when things get way out of hand… when you can no longer control the circumstances, then fall into shame and block out the need to repent. Both David and BathSheba could have lost their lives over their adultery. It’s a serious matter, but while I can learn a great deal from their mistakes, there is still no need for me to slide into any judgement of what they did. That’s only the Lord’s job. [See footnote about rape.]

There is a tendency to condemn and vilify those whose stories grace the pages of our Bibles. We have blurred the line between discerning a lesson and personal criticism, based on our own opinions. Jacob is another example of someone who is pulled to pieces. He is a controversial figure and we tend to remember the bad. We remember that Samson was strong… but weak when it came to women. Rahab is a heroine, despite that she was a prostitute, because she helped God’s chosen people. We look at small snapshots of long, complex lives, then we make a decision on whether that person was predominantly good or bad. As most of us fall prey to negativity biases, often the decision is damning.

Yet the Bible clearly labels Jacob and Samson as righteous and servants of the Lord. So why are we sticking the knife into their backs?

Another sobering question I was confronted by, when I was writing my Christian novels, was if I speak badly of these people or misrepresent them, when I get to heaven and actually meet them face to face, then what am I going to say? How am I going to feel when they stand there clean and forgiven, and I’ve previously assaulted them?

That issue made me think long and hard. If I behave in an insensitive and inhumane way towards BathSheba, what will I say to my beloved David when I see him, and hear how much he did love his wife; or that he wishes people had been willing to consider that perhaps the situation was much more complex and from this a brief account, we haven’t understood it?

What if I went up to him and said, “Absalom was such a rat! I don’t know how you put up with that kid, he must have driven you nuts!” Then I could be confronted with a father’s sadness over a lost son.

That would hurt. I never want to be in that situation.

img_1682Maybe we all need to reconsider the way we teach the Scriptures and talk about ‘dead’ people? As they are names on pages, we feel no connection to, or responsibility towards them. That is the exact same psychological phenomenon that drives bullying and trolls on the internet. We can’t see the faces of the real people, so what we do just doesn’t matter. Yet it does. The Bible says, don’t judge. It doesn’t make any distinction on whether or not that responsibility stops with someone’s death. Orthodox Jews call people who have died, “… of blessed memory.” The person, regardless of whether they are family or not, are treated with respect. That is excellent role modelling.

People who died in right relationship with the Lord are not with us, but it doesn’t mean they have been deleted from existence. It doesn’t mean we will never squirm when we realise how badly we treated them. It doesn’t mean the Lord won’t rebuke us for our unrighteousness, for wielding swords of justice which are only, rightfully His.

So I have striven to err on the side of mercy and fairness when studying and writing about David, and that is, at times, quite a challenge. I have no respect for Saul, Joab or Absalom, but I do not want to stand before the Lord and have to explain why I acted with such harshness when the Father has been so merciful and tender with me. So I try and state the facts about them without including my personal opinion, name calling, or other derogatory low blows.

I have found, that another benefit has sprung up from me being more aware of how I treat David and his family. Amending my attitude has led to a greater awareness of how I judge and speak about the people in my immediate, real life, vicinity. That involves my family, my problematic neighbours and the people I meet in every day life, some of who annoy me.

Learning not to judge is a life skill that is necessary. Scripture tells us directly not to do it. We know we should act with the fruit of the Spirit, we know the standards. Even if we see others pulling apart people, we must resist the impulse to do the same. Judging others in teaching been done through many generations, and it will take some serious work to change our habits. However, for the sake of our character, it’s worth doing.
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Footnotes:
a) Scriptures on Judging: Luke 6:37Matthew 7:2Hebrews 10:30
b) Did David Rape BathSheba?
No, he didn’t. Why? Well, the Bible calls rape, rape and that is not what we see here. It is more likely that as he was a king, she was flattered or awed by him and he may have offered her an incentive such as wealth, land, a promotion for her husband: anything that would enable him to fulfil his desire. Who wouldn’t want to be more popular with the King and attain a higher position in life? Many people would take an opportunity like that and she may have seen it as an honour. [Ref. 2 Samuel 11-12]

Why do I think that?
1. As I said above, the Bible calls rape, rape. It pulls no punches about where David went wrong, so why would it here?
2. When David and BathSheba’s first child dies, David is able to comfort her. There is no indication of a fractured relationship, such as the one he had with Michal. A raped woman would be traumatised. David and BathSheba went on to have four other sons together and she became Queen, which we know as the succession of all her sons is listed.
3. David is such an overtly honest person, he would have confessed it in the Psalms.
4. David was so guilt-ridden over what he had done, had he raped her, it is possible he would have arranged for her to live, well cared for and safe somewhere.
5. It did not appear to be within David’s nature to be so violent outside of war. One example is the number of times the head of his army, Joab, wanted to assassinate a direct threat to his life and kingship. Each time, David said no, even though his refusal flew in the face of common sense. Violence was not his first choice. He looked to the Lord for deliverance. [Ref. 2 Samuel 2 Samuel 15-18]


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Creative Commons License
The King David Project by Cate Russell-Cole is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://cateartios.wixsite.com/kingdavidproject.

Please note that this does NOT apply to any of the images on this site except for the free Psalm images which are marked as free. Most photos are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you.

Biblical Celebrity: the Hazard of Fame Based Thinking

celebrityA year ago, if you had asked me what I will say to King David when I meet him face to face, I would have had trouble finding an answer. I expected to be really nervous! It’s because he’s so famous. He’s a King and he’s… well, he’s David. I also have no idea what I am going to say to Jonathan, or Moses, or Esther, or Paul… and I kind of want to hide from the prophets, because I feel so inadequate beside them. Can you relate to that?

My instinctive reaction prods me into assessing about how much the worldly values of celebrity culture have crept into how I perceive Biblical heroes. The sad answer is, the secular image of fame has influenced my thinking far too much. Celebrity fills a spiritual void in the secular world. It gives lost people aspirational role models, regardless of whether they are saints or sinners. Who doesn’t want to be comfortably wealthy, good looking, healthy, happily married and successful? In moderation, I could take it.

For that matter, as Christians, who doesn’t want to be like David? Don’t we want to slay giants, rule nations and live a spiritually successful life? Of course we do! I own kosher salt with David’s name on it, and many secular and Christian movies and books have been written, using David as a symbol of success. God did promise David fame, but it has gotten way out of hand. [Ref. 2 Samuel 7:9] As with secular celebrities, we get caught up in all the glamour, excitement and intrigue of David’s life, and we can easily, unconsciously make the fleshly mistake of treating him like a famous person, not like the servant of the Lord that he is.

Fame has nasty connotations. We all know who Oprah Winfrey is, but as much as we may relate to her and want to be like her, we know that we cannot be her. That is the unconscious lesson we apply when we look at any celebrity. “If only we could… but we can’t.” David is of such a calibre that we look at him in awe. We see him as an impossible person to equal, let alone beat. This can stop us from trying to follow his lead in spiritual areas and that should never happen. David should motivate us to imitate him through prayer, praise, studying the Word, submission to God, obedience, fasting and adoring the Lord. That is the pivotal core of every area of David’s success; he didn’t win because he was brave and strong, it was because he daily practiced those things, thus the Lord was able to use him.

Please stop there and read those last seven words again: “the Lord was able to use him.” There is the real problem that Biblical celebrity causes: when we look at David and all he achieved, we stop looking at the simplest of facts: that GOD did it THROUGH David. As David submitted to God he became God’s channel and all the success he had, really was God’s… and David readily, publicly, often admitted that. (See The Anti-King: David and Humility link below.) But our culture teaches us to look at the man and not the boring, routine factors that shaped him, so we lose this humble perspective.

Ephesians 1:19-21 proves we can be like David: “I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead…” God’s power worked through David as it worked through Jesus and Paul and now, all of us. Think of how much more we could grow if we caught hold of that truth and stopped looking at the people in our Bible as elite celebrities that we cannot be like. We must focus on how they allowed God to work through them, as we CAN copy that successfully. If we imitate David’s spiritual habits, God can carry out His perfect Will through us, which is our ultimate goal. We need a God fixation, not a hero-seeking one. (Please also read The Habits That Built King David’s Faith, the link is below.)

David was a humble man. He would never want to be seen as a celebrity, as he delighted in placing his focus on the Lord. For our thinking to be swept away by the glory and glamour of kingship and success, is to to negate every precept that the Psalms teach us. David’s words through the Psalms always push us in the direction of the Lord as the answer, we need to go in that direction and stop being distracted by wanting to be a giant slayer, or a king ourselves. It makes me sad when I hear Christians say how much they want to rule and reign with Christ, over and above them telling me how much they love to pray or hear God’s voice. We’re aching for fame and big, visible success: the things that are most likely destroy us; and in wanting them, we ignore building our character and making ourselves usable by the Lord.

We need a reality check that pulls these worldly standards out of our heads! You have heard it before, Romans 12:2 “Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (New Living Translation)

Anything the Lord does in your life won’t look like it did in David’s and it shouldn’t. God’s love for you is so great, He will give you what is going to fit, bless and build you and the people around you. You don’t need to battle Philistines, when you can conquer your own fears and hurts. You don’t need to liberate a nation, when you can bless people around you and move them towards Jesus. We’re not judged on not being like David, we’re judged on whether or not we did what the Lord asked US to do. So let’s get our heads out of the bright lights and go about our work with our eyes fixed on Jesus. It’s exactly what David would also advise you to do.

“Trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
and He will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in Him and He will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
your vindication like the noonday sun.
Be still before the Lord
and wait patiently for Him…” Psalm 37:3-7a

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
– The Habits That Built King David’s Faith
http://articles.faithwriters.com/reprint-article-details.php?article=33033
– The Anti-King: David and Humility
http://articles.faithwriters.com/reprint-article-details.php?article=33025
– How to Kill Giants: Searching for the Deep Secrets Behind King David’s Success
http://articles.faithwriters.com/reprint-article-details.php?article=33547


Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Please note that this does NOT apply to any of the images on this site except for the free Psalm images which are marked as free. Most photos are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you.

Epic Fail: When Compassion and Fairness Seem Beyond Me

I always use this image to represent Joab. It's a negative bias, I know it.

I always use this image to represent Joab. It’s a negative bias, I know it. Plus the era is wrong…

I am an obvious King David fan – yes, I own it. However, I try and be fair. I spend a lot of my time debunking myths about his life and working to represent him in a balanced, positive manner, but I am aware that too much of that borders on favouritism. After writing about polygamy, my head is stuck solidly in the mode of “favouritism is bad.”

So I did something which has been on my heart to do for months, I wrote about Michal and what led her to become the bitter woman she is depicted as. Then the Lord challenged me. If I wanted to treat everyone as fairly as David, then what about Joab?

Joab – the villain – the heartless murderer – the bad guy – the one even David felt defeated by. [Ref. 2 Samuel 3:6 and especially verse 39] I needed to be fair to him?

OK, if God challenges, He challenges. Game on!

As I said in the article about Michal: “One of the biggest problems we have with understanding people in the Bible, is that we often only receive a quick, isolated snapshot of their lives. We are not presented with a well rounded image of their personality, spiritual views or life experience. Thus it becomes very easy to label people as entirely good or bad, based on what we see and without taking into account, possible reasons why they came to be at the place and attitude they have reached. If one of these snapshots is negative and it’s the first one we see, then that person is branded.”

So I tried to un-brand Joab. I looked at the fact that he had three brothers, all of who had joined David in the wilderness at a young age. They were all excessively aggressive perhaps they had been abused as kids? Maybe their father had died when they were too young to lose him? Somehow, something is obviously wrong there, my social worker instincts are screaming at me that this must be so. I have no Scriptural evidence, but for three kids to be that far off the rails, something has gone wrong.

So there is room for compassion there, right?

This is the point where I admit failure. I have struggled with this for weeks, talked to Christian friends and the take home message is, I just can’t feel sorry for Joab. Michal was kicked around like an old potato sack, and as a woman, I can feel bad for her, but Joab? He didn’t have a mental illness. If David had fired him, he would have created a serious enemy; and to kill him at the wrong time, would have made David an equally unrighteous criminal. It’s a sticky, nasty situation.

Joab was an uncontrollable, but sadly, useful menace. When harsh action had to be taken and fast, he was the right man for the job and Isra’el’s security did benefit from his presence. However, there is no excuse for an adult who committed the inappropriate murders, and acted in the unrighteous manner that he did. Joab’s life path was not beyond his control. He had a choice and at the point of realising that, my compassion began to walk away.

Actually, that is the root of Joab’s whole problem: a need for control. He wasn’t a man of faith, he just played the game. Joab had no respect for David’s position at all and could not comprehend David’s reliance on the Lord.

He would not even smother his dislike of David’s approach by saluting the rank, if not the man. “But just after David had sent Abner away in safety, Joab and some of David’s troops returned from a raid, bringing much plunder with them. When Joab arrived, he was told that Abner had just been there visiting the king and had been sent away in safety. Joab rushed to the king and demanded, “What have you done? What do you mean by letting Abner get away? You know perfectly well that he came to spy on you and find out everything you’re doing!” [2 Samuel 3:22-25]

Joab was a man of action, who leaned on his sword and his wits to get him through. I just can’t find something to feel empathy towards.

So I feel like I failed. I can write up an article about the problems with poor parenting at the developmental stages of a child’s life, but at the end of the day, I am relying on instinct, not the Word of God, so I don’t feel I can do that. I can only write an article on aggression and how it motivated Joab and that doesn’t feel like enough. It hasn’t produced mercy, just judgement and I am supposed to be laying very, very light on the judgement!

All I can do is say, “Lord, sorry, but this is an epic fail on my part.” I know that whatever there is to be compassionate about with Joab, the Lord knows what it is and He would have judged Joab in complete fairness. But I can’t.

This is like understanding BathSheba for me: I don’t know either her or Joab, so I can’t be either objective or righteously subjective. If I could sit down with them to talk, and hear their view and what they feel, I would definitely see them completely differently but this is impossible.

So that is my final word on Joab: I don’t have enough information. I wish I had more, but I don’t. I won’t make up facts when I have no proof and I have to accept that sometimes it’s fine just to say,”I don’t have the answers and it’s OK not to know everything.”Just as long as I don’t harden my heart against the possibility that he was a hurting, misled person, that is the best I can give. It is the best I can give anybody. I hope that one day I find a way to give more.

What would you do, in my place?


Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Please note that this does NOT apply to any of the images on this site except for the free Psalm images which are marked as free. Most photos are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you.