Lessons in Faith From the Life of David

Updated on January 6, 2018
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Anna is a pastor, writer, and theologian who obtained her BA in religion in '06, Diploma of Ministry in '16, and Diploma of Divinity in '17.

The Lord Rejects Saul

In the entire history of the Israelites, was there anybody greater than David, son of Jesse? From shepherd boy, to warrior, to the greatest king that ancient Israel ever had, David lived a remarkable life. He did not necessarily live an easy life. He was often the victim of a jealous and mentally unbalanced king, once King Saul was no longer a threat, David still had to deal with Saul’s sons. When he wasn’t the enemy of the state or fleeing for his life from a despotic king, he was fighting neighboring Philistine. And when trouble wasn’t around, it seems as though he invited it in and offered it tea and coffee. He was guilty of making terrible mistakes, which he paid dearly for. Yet it is not his mistakes he is remembered for, neither is it his greatness, nor his military might. It’s his faith.

Very early on in his life David displayed great confidence in the goodness of the Lord. We first meet David in 1 Samuel 16 when he is anointed by Samuel. The current king, Saul, had by this point, been rejected by God and the Israelites needed a new king. King Saul had an auspicious start; he had the honor of being the first king in Israel’s history and his early faith was pleasing to the Lord. Unfortunately, he crumbled under pressure. Saul was willing to compromise God’s commands and bend the Lord’s rules, his lack of faith caused him to lose the support of God. Once God had left him, Saul deteriorated quite rapidly. Without the support of the Lord, Saul turned out to be a terrible leader; impulsive, jealous, paranoid, indecisive, unconfident, and fearful. As Saul’s mental condition declined, Israel declined with him.

Very early on in his life David displayed great confidence in the goodness of the Lord.

God Anoints David

By the time we meet David, God was fed up. “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel?” God had asked Samuel in 1 Samuel 16:1 “Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem, I have chosen one of his sons to be king.” So Samuel traveled to Bethlehem and anointed David, verse 13 says that from that day on, the Spirit of the Lord was with David in power. The next time we see David he is employed by King Saul as his armor bearer. Saul’s mental illness, which the Bible calls an “evil spirit,” was often soothed by the musical skills of David. David also proved himself to be a skilled warrior, defeating the fearsome Goliath with a few large stones and a sling. Both of those things should have endeared him to Saul, but the king grew jealous, and in his envy he became unpredictable, angry, and dangerous. Many, many times Saul tried, unsuccessfully, to kill David.

Through it all, David remained loyal to King Saul. In 1 Samuel 24:6, David acknowledged that Saul was the Lord’s anointed, and while David knew that he had secretly been anointed to replace Saul, he still refused to wrong Saul in any way. David spent his time on the run from the murderous and unbalanced king, but he refused to kill him despite many opportunities to do so. He felt that it would violate God’s will to kill Saul, and it’s possible that he felt some loyalty to Saul’s children; his best friend Jonathan, and Michal, one of his wives. David also had the knowledge that God was on his side. Through His promise, David was able to patiently await God’s timing.

Saul never managed to kill David, he died in battle against the Philistines and David mourned, wept, and fasted over the death of God’s anointed. Saul left Israel in worse shape than he found it, his madness driving him to make terrible decisions that hurt the country and would lead to its eventual demise. Nevertheless, David himself was a mighty king, he was successful because of his faith. He sought God’s wisdom, and guidance, and for this he was rewarded with many victories against multiple neighboring tribes. Ancient Israel was never at peace, yet under David, they were safe. His relationship with God was a deeply personal and practical one which allowed him to rule with mercy, temperance, and justice. David ruled over Israel for forty years; seven years in Hebron, and thirty three in Jerusalem. He died a peaceful death, a luxury for such a mighty warrior.

David knew that he had secretly been anointed to replace Saul, he still refused to wrong Saul in any way. David spent his time on the run from the murderous and unbalanced king, but he refused to kill him despite many opportunities to do so.

The Righteous Live By Faith

While he was a beloved king, he is remembered for his faith. It was through faith that a young David fought the mighty giant Goliath, famed killer and warrior. It was to this mammoth that David courageously said “You come against me with the sword and the spear and the javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.” (1 Samuel 17:45) It was by faith that David hurled stones at an enemy who came at him with armor, swords, javelin, and a spear. And it was faith that killed the mighty Goliath.

It was through faith that David ran from Saul, eking out an existence in the harsh desert. It was faith that allowed David to rest, knowing that one day he himself would be king. By faith, David refused to kill the maniacal Saul, even though his own life was in the hands of the despotic tyrant. Through faith, David remained secure in the knowledge that no matter how bad things were, no matter how powerful the enemy, through God’s timing, his tribulations would one day be over.

Through faith David fought the Philistines, the Ammonites, and Saul’s remaining family in a years long battle for the throne. By faith, he easily defeated them all with his military might. It was faith that strengthened him when he had to flee his son, Absalom. It was faith that enabled David to cope with the death of his sons. By faith, David wrote numerous psalms and songs to the Lord. Through faith, David built altars to the Lord and offered to build a temple to him. It was by faith that David passed the honor down to his own son, in acknowledgement that the blood that he himself had shed, had made him unsuitable for the job.

It is this faith that made David righteous before the Lord. David was a human being, and like all humans he sinned. Through his powerful position, his sins had a greater impact than the sins of most people. Yet unlike most people, David recognized his own faults. Other Biblical heroes; from Adam to David’s predecessor Saul, denied their guilt or tried to pass the blame. Not so for David, though he was a fallible human, he was righteous enough to admit his own guilt and atone for his sins. This pleased the Lord. It was David’s faith that allowed him to repent and choose correct and godly choices.

David had faith in God that never wavered. This, above all else, kept him in God’s favor. God knew that David would sin, just like all humans sin, but he wants us to turn to him when we do. David did that. David kept his faith no matter what. Hebrews 11 tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God. Because of his faith, David remained righteous in the sight of the Lord. And he always remembered God’s promise to him, a promise that his name would remain great (2 Samuel 7:9). God fulfilled that promise when David’s descendant gave birth to the holy and blameless son of God.

David was a human being, and like all humans he sinned. Through his powerful position, his sins had a greater impact than the sins of most people. Yet unlike most people, David recognized his own faults.

© 2018 Anna Watson

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