Life was never easy for David. He came from the large family of Jesse and he had the misfortune of being the youngest of eight boys. In a time and place where children were needed to help with the daily grind of survival, being young didn’t come with any special benefits. It only meant that you were often overlooked. But things were about to change for young David.
Having received instructions from God, the renowned prophet Samuel came to Jesse looking for the next king. Somewhat nervous and excited, Jesse called out all his boys, especially the first-born, the tall and handsome Eliab. One look at Eliab and Samuel exclaimed “Surely, this is the Lord’s anointed!” Uh, not so fast Samuel. God wasn’t interested in Eliab. So, son after son came parading before the great prophet only to be told that God had someone else in mind. With each rejection, Samuel must have thought that maybe he got the wrong address. Perhaps there was another Jesse in the small town of Bethlehem that God wanted him to visit. Finally, Jesse brought out his seventh son, only to be told “no” from God. Frustrated, Samuel asks Jesse if there is anybody else. Has Jesse missed someone? Surely, Jesse knew his own kids!
He’s the Man
But wait! There was someone. It was David. Everyone always forgot about the little boy out in the fields looking after a ragtag herd of sheep. When they finally fetched David and brought him before Samuel, God said, “He’s the man.” From his mother’s womb, the hand of God was always with David. And David, in turn, stayed obedient to God. Though he was far from perfect, David loved God and he desperately longed to be close to Him.
David’s story after his initial anointing as king is one of endless struggle. Still a young boy, in the battle against the rival Philistines, he is ridiculed for thinking he could defeat the giant Goliath. As he grew in years, his battles intensified along with his daily struggle for survival as he is chased for years by an increasingly jealous and mad king who drives him out into the wilderness. The comfort we get today from so many of the beautiful psalms that he wrote come out of his painful sense of being seemingly forgotten by man and by God.
David turned out be victorious not only as a fugitive but also as a king. His reign over the people of Israel would eventually be marked with one of the longest periods of peace and prosperity they had ever known. Sadly, his success would also be his downfall.
Life is Good
David was never a stranger to battle. War followed him like a shadow. He was a brave and fearless leader who never backed down from a fight. But time and success have a way of changing even the most hardened warrior.
During David’s extended reign of peace, his muscles became soft. Palace food was too good to ever say no to. It became harder and harder to give up the comfort of silk bed sheets for the muddy straw beds of battlefields. And so, David didn’t venture out anymore to join his men to fight for God and country. It was too hard now; especially when it meant giving up the pleasures of eight wives and several concubines. Life was good.
David would often spend his afternoons out on his expansive porch, taking in the splendour of his kingdom. He enjoyed peering down and seeing his subjects end their day. Women would begin lighting fires to prepare the dinner meals; while men closed shops or headed home from the fields.
It was a clear afternoon and David breathed in the crisp cool air. After everything that he had been through in his life, David finally felt at ease. Things were going his way and he was enjoying life. But something happened that day that would forever change his life. As David looked out he saw the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. Bathsheba was stunningly beautiful. It isn’t often the Bible tells us that someone is beautiful, but when it does, you can be sure they are gorgeous. Bathsheba must have been quite a sight to see. David thought so too. There she was, bathing in the privacy of her courtyard. David should have turned the other away. Instead he ran right to her.
David quickly dispatched his servants to bring Bathsheba to the palace. How much of a choice she had in the matter, we’ll never know. What is clear is that she was a married woman who was now sleeping with the King of Israel.
David eventually had Bathsheba’s husband killed in battle. I guess he figured it would make stealing someone else’s wife more palatable. It didn’t matter anymore. David had gone off the track. He could no longer see clearly. His slippery slide down the path of sin was now complete.
Sin is Blindness
Every time I read this story, I always wonder how such a great, godly man could descend to such lows. I mean, this is David we’re talking about. He always had God on his side. He knew right from wrong. Loyalty and justice meant everything to him. Besides he already had a whole bunch of wives, more money than he could ever spend, and God would have given him even more. So why did he knowingly steal another man’s wife? How could he betray a friend’s trust? Why did he murder? Bathsheba wasn’t the first stunning woman he ever saw and most likely wasn’t the last one either. So how could he be so blind?!
I don’t know what it is about human nature, but it seems the more comfortable and easier our lives become the more we forget about God. You’d think that as we are blessed by God, we would become more grateful. Maybe even try harder to please Him with holy lives that are obedient to His will. But we don’t. We end up doing the opposite, straying even further away than before. We forget so easily that no matter how self-reliant we may feel during the good times, we’re really just jars of clay. We can break when we least expect it. It’s what happened to David. And it’s what happens to us.
Christian lives are never brought down in a blowout. Sin always creeps into our lives slowly. We toy with thoughts we should be running from. We don’t avert our eyes any longer when temptation swaggers in front of us. We allow more and more sin to filter in our lives and before we know it, we’re dangerously close to blowing it all away.
Like David, we too can fall so easily. I think this is why Scripture is chalk full of battle imagery. David slowly let his guard down. He should have gone to battle on that fateful day he stayed back. There was forgiveness in the end, but the pain never left.
Our Christian lives are constant battles. They never end because our enemy is relentless. We have no choice in the matter. We either go fight or we lose. Our choice could be fatal.
John Kapsalis is a graduate of Holy Cross Seminary.