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.

 


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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).
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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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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.