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David, A Man After God’s Own Heart


A series of sermons preached at

St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Trenton, Ontario

January and February 2004

by Rev Dr A Donald MacLeod, Pastor


January 11, 2004

The Person God Uses

I Samuel 16:1 – 13

Page 2


January 18

Living With Jealousy

I Samuel 18:6 – 30

Page 6


January 25

Surviving A Churlish Spouse

I Samuel 25:1b – 44

Page 9


February 1

The Covenant of David

II Samuel 5:1 – 5

Page 13


February 8

Lust: Every Man’s Battle

II Samuel 11:1 – 27

Page 16

February 15

Accepting Responsibility, Establishing Accountability

II Samuel 12:1 – 15a

Page 19


February 22

A Parent In Pain

II Samuel 18:19 – 33

Page 23


Page 26

David: A Man After God’s Own Heart

(1) The Person God Uses

(I Samuel 16:1 – 13)

          For most of my ministry between Epiphany and the beginning of Lent I have taken an Old Testament story, usually one of those Biblical narratives that helps us to focus on an individual, seeing their doubts and struggles, the their strength and weaknesses. In 2004 we’re going to focus on David as his story unfolds in I and II Samuel.


David receives more attention than any other character in the Old Testament. Abraham has fourteen chapters, Joseph thirteen, Jacob eleven, Moses forty. But there are sixty-six chapters devoted to the life of David. And, what is more, in the New Testament there are fifty-seven references to him. He has an immediate appeal to all ages: my three-year old grandson a few weeks ago was trying to delay sleep as granny was putting him down. “Granny,” he pleaded just at the moment when it seemed story-time was over, “read me a Bible story. You know, the one about David and Goliath.” David is described by Paul1 when he preached at Pisidian Antioch as “a man after God’s own heart.”

Yet David is a striking study in contradictions: musical, sensitive, he is also an aggressive man of combat. He wants to “lie down beside the still waters” but his temperament is restless, anxious. He experiences sexual temptation, fails miserably as a parent, and is frequently discouraged. Yet his poetry has drawn all of us closer to God and spoke to us in our darkest moments. Perhaps because he experienced the up’s and down’s of life he communicates so well.


How is that David remains constant and secure throughout his lifetime in his faith and endurance? The secret of David’s walk with God is to be found in its beginning. He was a man who knew that God had called him, chosen him, anointed him. We watch some people who seem to be spiritually minded, who talk about Jesus as if they knew Him, and yet suddenly it’s all over and they end their days without faith, without hope, without love. The thing that keeps a person true to the end is the security of knowing that I met God, that I have known God and that He has known me. You and I need a personal encounter with the Lord if we are going to remain true and firm to the end. David’s beginning in the faith puts the rest of his life in perspective. So I ask you this morning: have you begun with God? If you have that certainty then nothing should shake you – even, as with David, your own sin and disobedience. And if you don’t have that security you can indeed have it this morning. That’s the lesson of I Samuel 16 and David’s call.




          As chapter 16 opens Israel is in a desperate situation. The country is slipping into political chaos, religious decline, and spiritual anarchy. Saul, who seemed to be the right person when the people had demanded a king “like the other nations,” has made a mess of things. The final affront to God came when he disobeyed God in not killing all of the Amalekites. “I want obedience and not sacrifice,” God had told him. So Saul is rejected as king because of his disobedience.2


To the aged Samuel this is a tragedy. First his own sons, spoiled rotten, had been rejected for leadership Then, with the tribes assembled before him, he had winnowed the choice of king down to Benjamin, the clan of Matri, and finally had flushed Saul out from behind the baggage as he was told by God “That’s the one I want.” Had God made a mistake? We ask the inevitable – and unanswered – question. Samuel, now even older, is sent again. No regrets are allowed. “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel?”


The task Samuel is given – choosing a replacement for a sitting monarch – is a dangerous one. He fears for his life, knowing the mindless rage, the unpredictable anger, the sudden vindictiveness of Saul. But unlike the leader God has rejected, Samuel is obedient and does what He demands. He takes the horn of oil and sets out once again to follow divine instructions.


“I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none.”3 Ezekiel’s words come to mind in this day when leadership seems so rare – in the nation, in business, in politics, and particularly in the church.


“Ten little Christians standing in line,
one disliked the pastor and then there were nine.

Nine little Christians stayed up very late,
One slept too late on Sundays, then there were eight.

Eight little Christians on their way to Heaven,
One took the low road, then there were seven.

Seven little Christians chirping like some chicks,
One disliked the music then there were six.

Six little Christians seemed very much alive,
But one lost his interest then there were five.

Five little Christians pulling for heaven’s shore,
But one stopped to rest, then there were only four.
Four Christians, each busy as a bee…
One got their feelings hurt, then there were three.

Three little Christians knew not what to do,
One joined the sporting crowd, then there were two.

Two little Christians, our rhyme is nearly done,
differed with each other, then there was one.

One little Christian can do much tis’ true…
Brought his friend to Bible Study, then there was two.

Two earnest Christians, each won one more,
that doubled the number, so then there were four.

Four sincere Christians worked early and late,
Each won another, then there were eight.

Eight splendid Christians, if they doubled as before,
In just a few short weeks we’d have 1,024.”4


          There is another parade: Jesse and his sons come to sacrifice and Samuel awaits God’s instructions to make the choice of a new leader. “Surely God, it’s Eliab?” Jesse’s son is handsome and tall, just as Saul had been. But these are not considerations with God. Michael Card says in one of his songs that people who see “with and not through the eye” will always believe a lie.


So God teaches Samuel a memorable lesson: “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart.” God’s standards are so different from ours. Most of the great men of the Bible would have been rejected had they filled in an application for admission to a theological college or been scrutinized by a Vacancy Committee. Moses murdered a man and was a terrible public speaker. Paul hounded the early church and was an accomplice in the death of one of its first deacons. Yet as he says: “Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.”5


One by one the other six brothers who are present are paraded before Samuel. One by one they are rejected. “Is this all your family, Jesse?” They’d forgotten about the youngest: he’s away in the field shepherding. We don’t know how long they have to wait but young David – 15 or so at the time – is brought in from the fields, smelling of sheep, “ruddy, with a fine appearance and handsome features.” And God says to Samuel: “He’s the one. Go and anoint him.”



          The oil is placed on the head of the teenager. He is God’s choice and is set aside for  kingship. The Psalmist later reflects on this sacred rite6”I have found David, my servant, with sacred oil I have anointed him. My hand will sustain him; surely my arm will strengthen him.” The servant ruler is anointed for leadership. Through all the circumstances of his life – the denials, the betrayals, the immoralities, the anguish of a parent, the adulteries, David will never forget that day. God will be with him through it all. He is indeed a servant, an anointed servant. He anticipates, prepares for, “great David’s greater Son”7. Jesus the Messiah, the Christ – which means literally “the anointed one” – will be a Servant. “Meekness and majesty” will be His, as it was for David.


When, at the age of 37, I was invited to take on a major national responsibility, a friend who taught at Huron College, University of Western Ontario, presented me with a powerful 1703 lithograph of David being anointed. It’s by the Augsburg, Germany, engraver and lexicographer Johann Ulrich Kraus and you see the brothers all lined up in their Seventeenth Century finery and little David is kneeling in front of the old man, barely visible under the spreading trees and surrounded by a lordly retinue. It’s a reminder as I wake up to it each morning that God does have a sense of humor in the people He chooses: the runt of the litter, the unpretentious, the uneducated, the ill-equipped.


God’s strength is always made perfect in our  weakness – as Paul tells us. What task is God calling you to do today? It is only as we venture out in obedience, as David did, that God can use us. What did David do after his anointing? He went back to tending sheep. And by those quiet waters and cool streams he learned lessons that would last a life-time about the Shepherd who invites our response, the response of the obedient, those alone who at the end of their days can say:

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life that I may dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”



David: A Man After God’s Own Heart

(2) Living With Jealousy

I Samuel 18:6 – 30

            Let me begin today with an old Greek legend. Two runners competed in a race. The one who came in second couldn’t stand the praise that was heaped on the winner. His deep resentment made  him determined to destroy the statute of the one who had won the laurels. Night after night he angrily chiseled away at the foundation of the statue, weakening its foundation. One evening, when so engaged, the heavy marble statue started to topple and fell over, crushing number two. He was killed by the sheer weight of the one whom he had determined to destroy.


“Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming; but who can stand before jealousy?” The proverb has it right8. Billy Graham is correct when he says: “Envy can ruin reputations, split churches, and cause murders. Envy can shrink our circle of friends, ruin our business, and dwarf our souls … I have seen hundreds cursed by it.”

Samuel has anointed David to succeed the rejected Saul as King of Israel. David has slain the giant Goliath, refusing to accept the armor Saul offered him and choosing instead smooth stones from the creek and his sling shot. He is rewarded with high rank in the army and the accolades of the people. The women greet the returning soldiers with a new song:

“Saul has slain his thousands,

and David his tens of thousands.”


The king’s reaction is predictable: “They have credited David with tens of thousands but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?” And from that moment Saul kept a jealous eye on David.




            As chapter 18 unfolds, Saul defines jealousy: he is very angry (verse 8) “This refrain galled him,” we read. Initially he keeps his feelings to himself. He is too embarrassed perhaps to admit how he is feeling to anyone but himself. But not for long: the next day he provides a shocking public demonstration of his feelings: he makes a lunge for David. Anger turns to violence. How many murders have been occasioned by jealousy. Jealousy by the religious leaders of his time led Jesus to a cruel cross, and it has killed thousands if not millions. But it is also self-destructive. As with Saul it ruins a person’s pride and sense of self-worth. The king of Israel – a mature and powerful individual – completely twisted into rage by a popular teenager.


The picture becomes more intense: “Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with David but had left Saul.”(verse 12) Like all people corroded by jealousy Saul becomes angry.  Am I beginning to lose it, he asks. Perhaps I am over the hill. This young man is going to usurp my position. I no longer have the physical power or mental agility that he has: what am I going to become? “When Saul saw how successful he was, he was afraid of him.”


And it is also fear of his loss of spiritual vitality. Earlier in his life, like many of us, Saul had known the presence, blessing and power of the Lord. But the passing of the years had sapped his spiritual energy. Power had corrupted him. He thought he could go it alone. The vision of his youthful enthusiasms had faded and he sees in David what he has lost..


There is nothing that a jealous person will not do when that demon comes on them. Murder leads to blatant injustice as David is denied the hand of Saul’s first daughter and then settles for the second. Increasingly Saul is aware that David leads a charmed life. He will stop at no lengths  to destroy the man whom he now regards as his enemy. Jealousy has led to deception and murder.


            It takes so little initially to begin the unraveling of the human heart. Envy creeps up on a person and seems so insignificant, so minor. But it has a cumulative effect, snowballing in its intensity as it sets so many other emotions in action and reaction. No wonder jealousy has destroyed homes, ruined reputations, and caused tremendous unhappiness and sorrow.




            So what had caused Saul to be seized by jealousy? Was it David or was it what David represented?


The root of Saul’s jealousy is to be found in the women’s chorus. Comparisons are always odious and to have the thousands that he has killed compared to the tens of thousands that David has slain? Who among us can bear hearing good said of someone else without comparing it to ourselves? We hear a compliment paid someone else and immediately we take it personally: I’m as good as that person, why don’t they say something nice about me?


I suspect that our reaction to comparisons that don’t favour us is rooted in our childhood. Parents have a great responsibility in this matter. It’s easy to single out one of your offspring for particular praise and then – intentionally or unintentionally – to create a sense of inadequacy or failure on the part of another sibling not similarly blessed. Brothers and sisters are always being analyzed in terms of who they most resemble or what traits they possess in comparison with someone else in the family.


Unconditional love is what is needed in families, as in the church. God doesn’t accept us because we can “perform.” He loves is just the way we are. Saul didn’t have to be a David to win God’s favour. He lost the blessing before David came on the scene and David became his scapegoat, the one on whom focused all his feelings of inadequacy and failure. David got the can for something he didn’t have anything to do with. Saul’s jealousy reflected the fact that he had made a mess of his life, of his kingship and David had youth – and God’s presence and blessing – on his side.


A jealous person is profoundly insecure and unsure of themselves. They cannot accept grace because they feel somehow they have to earn it. They struggle as they look in the mirror, desiring “this man’s art and that man’s scope” (to quote Shakespeare9) and as the bard goes on “with what I most enjoy contented least.” So, my friend, root out jealousy whenever it rears its ugly head in your conscious or unconscious moments: the result can be deadly, as Saul discovered, to his sorrow and damnation.



            How do you survive a jealous person without being corrupted or destroyed by it yourself? David exemplifies someone who, in spite of all the aggravations he received from Saul, still managed to sing, to praise God, to worship. There seems to be a gentle toughness with him, who amid the ferocious anger and the terrifying injustice of Saul, nevertheless maintains a sweet and positive outlook. The Psalms that he wrote when fleeing from Saul – particularly 57 and 59 – express something of this attitude.     “… in the shadow of your wings will I take refuge

until this time of trouble has gone by.

I will call upon you, O Most High God

the God who maintains my cause.”10


The secret of the un-jealous person is contentment: “godliness with contentment is great gain.”11 Paul has a great deal to say about contentment, particularly as he grows older. As he writes from prison to the Philippian church he speaks of the interplay of contentment with peace and joy as special gifts of the Spirit. For it was when the Spirit departed from Saul that he experienced all those negative reactions.


Avoid a critical spirit. It has been stated that “Criticism is often nothing more than low-grade envy.”12 Replace fear with love. Rejoice in your brother or sister’s attainments, encourage them with the thought that they are indeed appreciated. May the mind of Christ, who made Himself of no reputation, be yours as well. And prayer is a great antidote to jealousy. You cannot pray for a person and be jealous of that individual at the same time.


Jesus experienced jealousy, the cruel rage that drove Him to a cross. He died there on Calvary that our sins of envy, rage and jealousy, might not only be forgiven but in His very death He showed the power of love and forgiveness as He prayed for those who despitefully used Him. It is the mind of Christ that alone can overcome jealousy and replace it with love.



David: A Man After God’s Own Heart

(3) Surviving a Churlish Spouse

I Samuel 25:1b – 44

Why did she ever marry him? How did they get together? What did he see in her? Can you imagine what life must be like around their place? Why doesn’t she just get up and leave?


I Samuel 25 is a chapter for anyone who has asked questions like these. It’s a brilliant character analysis of two very different kinds of person: a February 14 woman married to an April 1st kind of guy. It raises a whole set of interesting issues about people who are mismatched, about how far you have to give in a marriage before you bail out? What happens when your relationship is all give and no get.


The scene is straight out of Bonanza.  Some of you will remember that TV program of the 1960s. It’s shearing time at the ranch: and what a ranch: three thousand sheep, a thousand goats. The ranch is located in the wilderness in the south end of Palestine, near Hebron, not far from the Sinai Peninsula. It’s a wild, lawless area where David and his 600 followers have been holed up. David is hiding from Saul, king of Israel, his former father-in-law, who has a fatwa out against him. Saul sees David rightly as a rival to his throne. David and his men have spent their time well: they have been usefully employed guarding the flocks of the rancher Nabal, ensuring that his wealth is preserved from danger and that his flocks are allowed to safely graze.


Roundup time at the ranch is an opportunity to celebrate and David understandably regards the feast as payback time. They approach Nabal and ask for an invitation to the party. But Nabal is no Ben Cartwright. The Bible describes him as “churlish.” His name means “Fool” or “Jerk.” His wife, on the other hand – well that’s another story. Abigail is not only a beauty, she’s beautiful on the inside. And so the story unfolds as we see a failed marriage come unraveled.




            Nabal is described as a member of the family of Caleb, who had brought back with Joshua a positive response to taking the Promised Land, and had been given Hebron in which to live. Nabal was wealthy, but his name gave away his character. Literally (as we’re told) Nabal means “Fool.” Was that the name his parents gave him or was it a nickname that he earned, a reference that everyone understood, to a man whose character it aptly described? We see details of this “churlish” man as the story unfolds in I Samuel 25.


“Surly and mean in all his dealings” is the summary of this man’s personality in verse 4. Wealth had made him arrogant, temperamental, callous in his dealings. Money has a way of doing that to people, particularly inherited wealth. Did you see that reality show over the holidays about those two bimbo’s, Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie, on FOX TV’s “The Simple Life”? They were flown from Beverley Hills in a private jet to Altus, Arkansas, population 867. You see them milking cows in full makeup and at the farmhouse dinner table asking ingenuously: “What is Wal-Mart? Is that where they sell, like, wall stuff?” I had to turn the TV off as the first advertisements broke the orgy of self-indulgence by two ignorant but wealthy (ignorant because wealthy?) spoiled brats.


But Nabal is a man, a husband, and his meanness of character boasts some strongly male features. David’s emissaries wait for a response to their suggestion that they be allowed to crash the party in return for all their services rendered. Then the response comes: Nabal bellowing out “Who is this David? Who is this son of Jesse? Many servants are breaking away from their masters these days. Why should I take my bread and water, and the meat I have slaughtered for my shearers, and give it to men coming from who knows where?”


A legitimate and understandable request is met with dripping sarcasm. Nabal demeans the Lord’s anointed. He’s probably drunk by this time, unaware of the effect that he is having.  But alcohol alone doesn’t excuse his insensitivity: his servants (verse 17) explain his Achilles heel. Not only is Nabal “a wicked man,” he is unable to listen, “no one can talk to him.”


Do you know men – husbands, perhaps – like Nabal? “I can’t talk to him, he just turns to the boob tube when I ask a question.” “He refuses to discuss the things that bother me.” “He told me: ‘That topic is off limits.’” More marriages break up for lack of communication than for any other reason. Chuck Swindoll says that in order to “strike the original match”you have to know your wife’s “deep fears and cares. Her disappointments as well as her expectations. Her scars and secrets and also her thoughts and dreams. That’s knowing your wife. It calls for a sensitive spirit, a willingness to be involved, to listen, to communicate, to care. Husbands – if your marriage is eroding, this is one of the most important things you can give yourself to. It will do as much to heal her hurts and calm the storm as anything I could suggest. Your wife longs to be understood and to know you desire that.”13 Do it before it’s too late – you may not have another opportunity.




In contrast with her husband, Abigail is prepared to listen. What she hears disturbs her. She  acts promptly to save her husband who will not save himself, losing no time. Many women would have said: “My husband is a fool. Let him receive the reward of his folly.” She doesn’t mope, speak to her girlfriends, complain to her mother. As a woman of considerable ability and organizational skill, she prepares a shopping list: 200 loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five dressed sheep, five bushels of grain, a hundred cakes of raisons and 200 of pressed figs. She then  loads them on donkeys. The servant set out with these offerings for David and his men as she follows


There’s something very significant about her relationship with her husband mentioned almost in passing at the end of verse 19: “She did not tell her husband Nabal.” She didn’t argue, wheedle, manipulate, cajole. As David’s son Solomon would say: “Do not speak to a fool, for he will scorn the wisdom of your words.”14 There are some times in a marriage when silence is golden. There would have been no point in talking to Nabal – he’s busy partying, he’s drunk and besides he never listened even when he was sober. Abigail has him pretty well sized up.


On seeing David she dismounts and bows to him – not just fearfully, not just with deference, but (as she will go on to say) because she knows that David has a royal destiny. And then, as wives have done down through the millennia, she rescues her husband from David’s wrath. She does so not by defending him but telling the honest truth. “My husband is living up to his name – ‘Fool’.”


When her speech is over David is clearly swept off his feet. “What a woman!” you can hear him saying to himself. She just kept me from being a jerk like her husband. She has indeed been as God to me, restraining me from returning violence for violence. She is a woman who has restrained evil and kept David from doing something that he would have regretted the rest of his life. And she knows clearly what God has in store for him. “The Lord will certainly make a lasting dynasty for my master.” She is a prophet “Even though someone is pursuing you to take your life, the life of my master will be bound securely in the bundle of the living by the Lord your God.” She brings a word from God to her man: a word of encouragement, of hope, of promise. In this dark hour of exile, of wandering, of betrayal, she is the steady voice of reassurance. Wives, you can do that for your husband. If they will listen.




            So the quick-on-the-trigger young man David learns a valuable lesson. God will give the kingdom to the man who waits, who is obedient. In this, of course, II Samuel 25 deliberately compares David with his nemesis Saul. The chapter is a study in contrasts.


Through Abigail David is being prepared for a lifetime of service. Do you know that in the psalms David uses no less than four of the five Hebrew words15 for “wait.” In the Old Testament such waiting was at the core of the believer’s relationship to God. There is the waiting in silence16 of Psalm 62: “Truly my soul waits on God, my deliverance comes from him.” There is also the waiting of intense longing as in Psalm 27 “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”17  (The Prayer Book has it “tarry the Lord’s leisure”); the waiting patiently18 of Psalm 37, verse 7 “Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him.”and then, finally, the waiting of hope amid despair: “my eyes fail while I wait for my God.”19


It was Abigail that God taught David something Saul had never learned: that waiting on God is something that particularly type A young men like David – but I suspect all of us in one way or another – finds difficult. “Teach me Lord to wait” is a good prayer for everyone.  Abigail learned it in her loveless marriage to a Fool. That may be the lesson you need to learn today: waiting on the Lord who alone can renew your strength. David had to discover that faith is for the long haul. Abigail discovered it through the long and lonely years of her marriage to a fool.


There may be situations in your life which you are powerless to change, men in your life who will not alter their patterns of behavior. Waiting may be hard, as Abigail had learned, and as David was to discover, but in God’s time there will be an answer. That is not to excuse inactivity: Abigail knew when the situation was desperate and needed an immediate response. You do not have to continue in an abusive relationship, nor should you. But there is also the patience that comes from waiting on the Lord, trusting his mercy, believing in His promises for you, for your spouse, for your marriage, for your children.


God had something better for her as well as for David. He worked the situation out as only He knows best. Nabal, with a massive hangover, suddenly realized his folly and what Abigail had protected him from. Within ten days he was dead. Then Abigail is taken by David as his wife. Though  married to the man after God’s own heart who would be king, she continued to be known as “Abigail the wife of Nabal.”20 And when the time came for David to be anointed king it was to her home, supported by her clan, that he went for the coronation21. God had it all figured out and David was prepared to wait.


How about you this morning? Can you trust God for your marriage, for your family, for your home. As David was to say: “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  A righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him (or her) from them all.”


Thanks be to God.





David: A Man After God’s Own Heart

(4) The Covenant of David

II Samuel 5:1 – 5; 7


            My sermon this morning has nine headings. The first starts with an “S.” the second with a “U,” the third with a “P,” the fourth with an “E,” the fifth with an “R.” Do I have to tell you what the final four spell out?


Just kidding.


This afternoon, in Houston, at the Reliant Stadium the 38th Superbowl will be find the Carolina Panthers pitted against the New England Patriots. Over half the population of the United States (and presumably a lot of Canadians) will be glued to their television screens. The lucky 70,000 in the stands will have paid out $500 for a ticket – and scalpers will charge you a lot more. A thirty-second TV commercial costs $1.7 to 2.4 million. The half-time sponsor is AOL, and who knows what they paid. And players on the winning team will get a payout of $68,000 as contrasted with $36,500 for the ones that lost.


Each of the players have their own stories of course. What isn’t always known is that a lot of them are members of an organization called Athletes in Action, a branch of Campus Crusade for Christ22. For many of them sports is a way of acting out the lessons they’ve learned in life. This weekend down in Houston – Friday evening at the Reliant Stadium with a Gospel Concert, and yesterday morning with an Athletes in Action breakfast – many of them have had a chance to tell about how Jesus Christ entered their lives and why their faith is so important to them.


Listen to Mike Minter – he’ll be #30 for the Panthers, his team for the past seven seasons: “I grew up always loving sports and began to play football and basketball in the third grade. Playing in the NFL has been a dream come true. I was raised by a single mom and grew up in a home with two sisters and a brother. We always went to church, yet I never quite understood why. I just figured that if I was good I would get into heaven. The birth of my first son, Michael, drew me into a closer relationship with Jesus Christ. I knew that if I was going to be a great teacher for him I must look to the greatest teacher of all time. I also realized that to get to heaven I would need Jesus Christ to come into my life and forgive my sin. With Christ, my outlook on life has changed. I now know that life is about God and not about me, because I am a child of His, I live with greater purpose … always wanting to help others and talk with people about Jesus Christ.”


We’ve been following David through the ups and downs of his experience from the day when he was fifteen that God asked Samuel to risk his life and anoint him for a lifetime of leadership. We’ve watched David live with jealousy, be restrained by a godly and beautiful woman from revenge on her churlish spouse. And now, as we come to II Samuel 6 and 7 the waiting game is over. Saul has died – not at David’s hand but in battle as he fell on his own sword. Now, 5:1 – 6, the tribes go out to Hebron (the home of the clan of Caleb of which Abigail was a member) and at the age of 30 David is once more anointed, this time publicly. He will reign in Hebron for seven and a half years and then in Judah for thirty-three.


Ten days ago Judy and I spent an afternoon at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Hull. There, at a special exhibit titled “Ancient Treasures and the Dead Sea Scrolls,” the first thing we saw was an ancient piece of stone that had the name of David on it. That inscription is exciting because it’s the first confirmation outside the Bible that David was indeed an historical figure. It’s actually a century and a half after we believe David reigned and designates one of his successors. But it has been an object of veneration for Jew and Christian alike who have found inspiration in the life and poetry of David.


Why are these stories we’ve been studying so important to us as Christians. Don Davis – #51 of the Patriots (this is his first year) shares how his faith became real.“ When growing up I considered myself very religious. I attended church every Sunday and even taught a Sunday school class. I was baptized at the age of 10. I knew all the old testament stories. I would have to say my life was pretty good … so I thought.” He goes on to describe how he signed as a free agent with the NY Jets, got bumped after three weeks, and ended up selling shoes. “God was really teaching me about humility and misplaced priorities.” In ‘95 he went on to the Saints for three years: but, he says,“still hadn’t rededicated my life to Christ. Then he did time with the Rams and last year ironically played against the very team he joined this past season and today he will be playing for. “I’m now committed to the reality of Matthew 16:24. ‘If anyone wants to be my disciple he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.’ That’s true Christianity.”


What brings the Old Testament and the New Testament together is a single word: “covenant.” It’s the contract that God made first with Noah, then with Abraham, then Moses, and now in this chapter he is making it with David. And the covenant of David is important because it prepares for the coming of Jesus Christ, “of the house and lineage of David his father.”It’s in Psalm 89 that God is quoted as saying

“I have made a covenant with my chosen one,

I have sworn to David my servant,

I will establish your line forever

and make your throne for all generations.”


There are two important things to note about this covenant God made with David and which includes us as the children by rebirth of David, heirs of great David’s greater Son


(1) The covenant is when God takes the initiative


            A covenant is usually an agreement between two equal partners. A marriage covenant, a business deal, a mortgage – they are all contracts in which both parties assume certain obligations.  In the Bible the word is quite difference. It’s important for you to know that “covenant” as it’s used here and elsewhere is a unilateral declaration on the part of God that He is committing Himself to do things for us that we could never do for ourselves. Nathan the prophet speaks the word of the Lord to David: “I took you from the pasture and from following the flock to be ruler … I have been with you wherever you have gone and I have cut off your enemies from before … I will make your name great … I will provide a place for my people Israel.” And then finally: My love will never be taken away … your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me, your throne will be established forever.”

(2) The covenant is something we accept from God as a gift


            David has taken a long time to learn the lesson of “waiting” on God. For fifteen years he has been on the run. Now, in God’s time the kingdom is handed over to him. And David now acknowledges God’s goodness and mercy: “What more can David say to you? For you know your servant, O sovereign Lord … How great you are! There is no one like you and there is no God … Do as you promised so that your name will be great forever.”


Listen to Anthony Pleasant – #98 with the Patriots, with whom he has been for three years says: “I always attended church and thought I knew Christ, but I was only acquainted with Him. I knew about Him, yet I didn’t know Him. During my second year in the NFL I needed some help service and tithed – did good works – things would go more my way and God would be pleased. I didn’t realize that Ephesians 2:8 – 9 teaches I can’t work my way into heaven and relationship with God …I lost my joy and as a starter and moved away from God. A year later I visited my uncle, a minister in Florida. He said I have to be saved to spend eternity with God. I began to realize that money or success didn’t mean that I was right with God. I needed to put my security in Christ. I had to confess with my mouth and believe in my heart that God raised Jesus from the dead. Now I know Christ.” So —


(3) We have to respond to God’s covenant in self-surrender


            So, at the end of his prayer, David surrenders to God, abandoning his own desire to build God a place of worship. “O sovereign Lord! Your words are trustworthy, and you have promised good things to your servant.” A covenant extended in terms such as those offered David – and through Jesus, the Son of David, extended to us, must have a response.


John Kasay, #4 with the Panthers (a nine year veteran) – was invited to a so-called “Week of Champions” with other NFL players back in ‘91 when he was with Seattle. The speaker asked him to describe his relationship with Christ. “In an attempt to answer, I discovered I really didn’t know Christ in a personal way. As the week progressed, I noticed others had a peace and joy I lacked. It didn’t come from money, fame, prestige, or pleasure. It came from their relationship with Christ. Former NFL pro Wallace Francis raised some profound questions: Was my life filled with meaning? Was I experiencing real peace? Did I know I would go to heaven? I couldn’t answer ‘yes’ and recognized my need to trust in Christ .. to direct my life and fill me with peace. Upon establishing a relationship with him my priorities began to change. Instead of playing for selfish gain, I wanted to honor the Lord by giving my best effort, conducting myself in a manner worth of Him – win or lose.”


To which team-mate Mike Rucker – #93 – would add “Everything has changed because of Christ. I now realize that I’d been bought with a price, and that price was Jesus Christ. So, my aim is to be pleasing to Him in everything I do.”


Or, in the words of David: “you, O Sovereign Lord, have spoken and with your blessing the house of your servant will be blessed forever.”



David: A Man After God’s Own Heart

(5) Lust: Every Man’s Battle

II Samuel 11:1 – 27

            All of us know anecdotal evidence of the terrible cost of marital unfaithfulness: we can speak of it in our homes, our families, our community. There are some of you who bear the stain and the stigma of sins that you had nothing to do with.

David, the man after God’s own heart, was an adulterer. And the story here in II Samuel 11 is one of the most searing accounts of one individual’s destruction and the unspeakable cost that he had to pay for one afternoon’s quick glance at a naked woman.


(1) How did David get there?


            David had it all: wealth, power and fame. He’s popular, surrounded by adoring subjects. He can do no wrong. He had arrived. But he’s also very vulnerable.


            The beginning of chapter 11 sets the stage for what happens later. He is fifty years old. He’s open for adventure, excitement. Kings go off to war in the spring but David, we are told, decided to stay in Jerusalem while his men went off to battle. And he’s depressed: he’s asleep some time in the cool of the late afternoon. He wants a diversion.


            The story reminds us that adultery – or for that matter any sin – doesn’t just happen. The stage has to be set up. You’re not pure at 3 in the afternoon and then strike out at 4.You see there’s a background to sin. It’s so easy to turn on that computer and go to the internet and there’s so much on offer these days. Drive down to the video store and get an x-rated movie. Who will know? And one thing leads to another. It’s out there, it’s available. What difference will it make.


(2) What did David do?


Some people like to blame Bathsheba for that fatal glance. We men can pin the rap on the woman every time. She shouldn’t have been taking that bath out on the roof. But it was the time of day when the men were away, the cistern’s water is warm, and the servants are available. Sure women have to take responsibility for what men do. Certainly men are turned on by the visual. But ultimately, David, you have to take responsibility for your own actions.


Adultery is one thing. Then David panics. Bathsheba is pregnant. You see the spiraling down of sin. Sexual sins are not the worst. The church is not obsessed by sex as some claim. But sexual sins are never solitary. It takes two to tango. And a child is on the way. A man has been cuckolded.


So David schemes and plots. He calls Uriah back but Uriah doesn’t oblige him by sleeping with his wife so David can claim he’s the father. No, faithful commander Uriah sleeps by the door of his commander-in-chief. So after he goes back to the war front, David involves another in his crimes. He faithful lackey Joab is implicated as Uriah is murdered. Sexual sins are never solitary.


But what if no one knows? Surely you can get away with it, you tell me. And then the awkward question I am some times asked: should I tell my wife? What we discover from Psalm 32 is that David knew no rest. He had dug such a deep hole for himself that he couldn’t get out of it. “For day and night you hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped, as in the heat of summer.” The inescapable reality that will pursue David to his dying day. The child dies. David’s moral leadership is destroyed and his family pays a terrible cost: disfunctionality prevails as brother rapes sister and brother kills brother. And his old age is ruined. When it comes, death is almost a release.


All because of what he triggered that afternoon as took one glance. But it had started a long time earlier.


(3) What should David have done?


            He should have fixed some strong ethical boundaries. The Ten Commandments are not ten suggestions. They are moral absolutes, the way God wants us to live as we follow His directions for happy – and holy – living. And if you want expansion on the seventh commandment, read the book of Proverbs. Thirty-one chapters for thirty-one days of the month. It’s a good book, and beats Dr. Phil or anyone else for that matter.


Indeed Jesus is even more explicit: “I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.”23


Contrary to what everyone is telling you these days, adultery is always wrong. You can’t justify it ever. I’ve had people come to me and say “My spouse has Alzheimer’s, or terminal cancer, and he or she’s really dead. Why can’t I?”  And I say – lovingly and tenderly – “til death do us part” still holds.


Run away from sin, as Joseph did from Potiphar’s wife24. “Flee sexual immorality” is Paul’s advice25, and again to the young man Timothy he says “flee youthful lusts”26.  Run instead to Jesus. There is one verse that always comes back to me when I experience temptation: “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out.”27


And remember that when you fall there is help if you immediately call out for rescue – from Jesus, from His friends fellow Christians. And, as Lynn Anderson says, “Every Christian walks with a limp. Each of us has at least one area of vulnerability. All of us have dark chapters we hope God can forget, because we surely can’t. We operate each day only on the grace and goodness of God. We all need him so badly.”28


And he goes on to quote Don Francisco. It may be the Lord Himself speaking to you this morning:


I loved you long before the time

your eyes first saw the day.

And everything I’ve done has been

to help you on your way.

But you took all you wanted,

then at last you took your leave.

And traded off your kingdom

for the lies that you believed.

Even though my name’s been splattered

by the mire in which you lie,

I’d take you back this instant

if you’d come to me and cry.

I don’t care where you’ve been sleepin’,

I don’t care who made your bed,

I already gave my life to set you free.

There’s not one sin you can imagine

that is stronger than my love,

And it’s all yours

if you’ll come home again with me.29



David: A Man After God’s Own Heart

(6) Accepting Responsibility, Establishing Accountability

II Samuel 12:1 – 15a


A minister I know well received an email from an elder in a previous congregation he had served. Eleven years earlier he had done something that deeply offended this woman. She felt he was guilty of lying but had never said anything to him about it. Now, with a new minister, she wanted to tell the former pastor just how difficult she had found his behavior in order to be able to connect with his successor. As the email went on, however, it became apparent that almost everyone she knew in the church had been told about the incident shortly after it had happened. She had never gone directly to her minister to help clear up the misunderstanding.


There are three ways of dealing with someone’s behavior that you don’t think is right. You can keep your feelings inside  yourself, bottling it up, allowing it to erode a relationship, and then some day perhaps it all comes out, after years of silent hurt and anger. The second method is probably much more common: you tell a close friend – confidentially, of course – about the issue you have with the person and swear them to secrecy. That never works. Sooner or later the word spreads. “Do you know what I heard so and so did?” And then it’s no longer a secret. You know what the Sunday School child did with the memory verse assigned that week. He came back the next week and recited it to his teacher: “Go into all the world and preach ‘the gossip’ to every creature.”




And then there’s the way Nathan took here in II Samuel 12. Nathan the prophet. Nathan the man of God. Nathan cares for David. He loves David, as God did. David the man after God’s own heart. So he goes to David and confronts him, personally, directly, individually. You see, if you care for a person, and want them to love your God, and grow into the likeness of His Son Jesus, then your concern may sometimes lead you to care-frontation as someone has called it. Love is caring enough to confront.


It’s so easy to let it go. We’re not called on to be judges. We’re not the ones who can tell someone else what they’ve done wrong. God knows I’ve done enough bad things myself. “Who do you think you are?” understandably will be the first thing that comes to their mind. So we chicken out.

Not everyone chickens out. There are people who love confrontations. They’re “in your face” kind of people. They will take on anyone. They love to argue. They are full of self-righteousness, better able to give than to get in any conflict. They are critical, bitter, angry and when someone has committed a sin – particularly a grievous sin like David – they want to jump in there on all fours and make a person feel as miserable and cheap as they possibly can.


Nathan’s procedure with David has a lot to say to us about how to care-front someone.


First, he waits for a word from the Lord. Look at the first verse here: “The Lord sent Nathan to David.” He’s not out there on his own. He waits for thirteen months until a word comes from God. It isn’t easy to be a prophet and Nathan is a man under constraint. Can you imagine confronting the most powerful man in the kingdom – an absolute monarch – and telling his point-blank “You messed up, David.” Probably everyone else thought he’s done a wonderful thing taking a widow and providing a home for her. Nathan knew better. But he waited for God’s word, in God’s time.


You can’t go to a person and tell them that they’re wrong until you have first gotten on your knees before God and made sure that He’s the one who is sending you to that person. You can only go only after a great deal of prayer has been made on your part. You must approach that person with a quaver in your voice and a tear in your eye. You need to have the Spirit of the living God go with you. And God will give you the strength to face the consequences if any.


Second, Nathan is very careful how he presents this unpopular word. He doesn’t come up to David and tell him “You’re a sinner. God’s going to get you. Hell’s too good a place for you.” Rather he starts by telling a story. And everyone loves a story. It gets David involved, and assures an immediate reaction. David is emotional and he can’t blow it his actions away, justifying, excusing, ignoring the message. “That man needs to be punished four times for what he’s done.” David is hooked.


Third, Nathan doesn’t shrink from the direct accusation. Can you see him summoning up the courage to say: “You are the man.” He makes it personal, something that we preachers are sometimes reluctant to do. “You need Jesus Christ.” “You need to make that relationship right because the whole cause of Christ is suffering.” “You are making a big mistake.” It’s not easy. I recall one time in Boston telling a woman she was marrying the wrong man and I wouldn’t perform the ceremony. She is grateful to this day that not only did she follow God’s word but that God, in His time, brought the right person into her life and today they have three wonderful kids.




So how does David respond? “Off with his head”? No. David listens to the terrible words of the prophet. And they are God’s words: “I anointed you king ,,, I delivered you ,,, I gave your Master’s house to you … and if it had been too little, I would have given you even more.” And then that question of all questions: “Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his sight?”The pronouncement of judgment that follows seems almost anticlimactic, a deserved punishment, the terrible cost of adultery: “I am going to bring calamity upon you.”


David stands there and takes it all in. He simply says: “I have sinned against the Lord.” What a tribute both to Nathan as the messenger and to David for understanding the message. “Against you, you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.” Psalm 51 rings with the affirmation that it is God that David has offended. He is not going to shoot the messenger. He has understood the message. “Surely you deserve truth in the inner parts, you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.”


It’s hard to face the truth about oneself. To look in the mirror one day and discover that it’s not someone else who’s responsible for your mistakes, your failures, the carnage of your pride and self-will that has destroyed so much that was good and beautiful in your family. David had guts. At fifty, at the peak of his power, he faced the reality that nothing would ever erase the consequence of one moment’s lust, the deceit, the lies, the murder.


The consequences were incalculable: the cost to his family, the destruction of any moral claim to exemplary leadership that he might have made previously. But it was more than that. Do you see the point here that Nathan is making: David has caused the name of Yahweh the Lord God of Israel to smell among the Gentiles. Uriah may be a Hittite but he’s better man than David. And it was the Ammonites that David got to do his dirty work, committing murder.


Sin is never solitary. The church of Jesus Christ forgets that to its peril. There is essentially one reason why the gospel is in such discredit today and that is that God’s people are not committed to living holy lives. We have fudged the issues, blurred the lines, moved the boundaries. No wonder the non-believer shakes her head and says: “How can I believe what they say when their deeds deny the very gospel they proclaim.”




            Nathan leaves. The child of his adultery sickens. David, the anxious father, watches as the child finally succumbs. Then he realizes that it over and that life goes on. And David then goes in to Bathsheba and they have a second child, Solomon “The Lord loved him,” we are told, so he has a new name, Jedidiah, which means “loved by the Lord.”


And David pleads with God: “Do not cast me from your presence, or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me.” Psalm 51 is one of those great hymns of the forgiven sinner, a man who realizes that there is indeed a second chance.


But David experiences grace only because one man cared enough about his soul, and his relationship with God, to care-front him. You see, if a person really loves you, if a minister is really anxious for your eternal destiny, if someone near to you wants your relationship to God restored into something beautiful and fruitful, then they need to know that you will listen. And when they have done that they have done the most wonderful thing that anyone can do for you.


God’s grace and goodness is never cheap. It sent Jesus to a cruel cross. There is mercy and pardon. Our Lord went to Calvary in order that your sins and mine, our waywardness, our backslidings, could all be cleansed and purified. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”


And God will indeed make Zion to prosper. He will rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. And our worship, our sacrifices of praise, will once more be acceptable to Him.


“But none of the ransomed ever knew,

How deep were the waters crossed;

Nor how dark was the night that the Lord passed through,

Ere He found His sheep that was lost.”30




David: A Man After God’s Own Heart

(7) A Parent In Pain

II Samuel 18:19 – 33


“O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you – O Absalom, my son, my son!”


The heart-rending cry of the father, David, echoes over the generations. Many of us as parents have had cause to say “My son, my daughter!” when things have not worked out as we had hoped, as we had planned, as we had prayed.


Thing of all the possible scenarios when you may have said that:

“Your child’s on drugs.”

“There’s a young man here that says you’re his parent. Come to the police station, please, and post bail for him or we can’t release him tonight.”

“Dad, I’m pregnant.”

“The coroner’s verdict is that your son committed suicide.”


(1) What kind of a son would do that to his dad?


            We learn quite a lot about Absalom in the preceding chapters. David’s family is now deeply dysfunctional. One of his sons, Amnon rapes his half-sister Tamar. Absalom murders Amnon. He runs away from the wrath of his father, But, in his absence, “David mourned for his son every day.” So Absalom returns to Jerusalem, though for two years he does not see his father. Finally there is reconciliation. But Absalom, having come back into the king’s favour, “stole the hearts of the sons of Israel,” conspiring against his father, usurping his rights, winning the favour of the nation. And finally David flees because “The hearts of the men of Israel are with Absalom.”


Absalom had committed treason. He was angry against his father, furious at his punishment, nursing his grievance. It had all started when he was trying to restore the honour of his sister: “Didn’t dad realize what I was doing?” You can see the spiral going downward from chapter 13 as wrong feeds on wrong in the family.


“My father was a lousy parent!” Have you ever said that? I am sure that Absalom said it often. It was his excuse for his inexcusable failure. He was angry, resentful, and quick to blame – not himself but the terrible job that David had done in rearing him. “If my father had only” – we hear it often.


David’s family life would never have spiralled out of control if Absalom, at age 30, had finally accepted responsibility for his own life. It’s an important lesson that many of us need to learn. Absalom was unwilling to accept the truth. He was stubborn, self-willed, vain, and power-grabbing. Growing up – maturity – means seeing yourself not as a victim but as someone who is responsible for our own action. So I say to all of us: “Grow up!”


(2) The role of the bystander


            Absalom is not alone in his rebellion. There are people who aid and abet him. There’s Ahithophel, David’s erstwhile friend, who goes over to Absalom. David says “May the Lord turn Ahithophel’s counsel into foolishness.” Sometimes your friends can take sides with your children and turn against you. It’s so easy to second guess parenting, to know better, to attribute blame.


Then there’s what remains of the family of Saul: at Bahuim they pelt the fleeing David with stones, taunting him: “The Lord has handed the kingdom over to your son Absalom. You have come to ruin because your are a man of blood!” Some of us stand and criticize. A parent in pain doesn’t need to have any more guilt heaped upon them.


Somehow, when I first preached this sermon – just before the birth of my first child – parenting seemed so easy, so straight forward. There was a right way and a wrong way. Ten commandments for raising children became ten suggestions and then I threw away all those glib and easy answers.


And there is Joab, who stays with David through thick and thin. He’s the one who finally orders the sword to be thrust through Absalom, something that the grieving father would never do. He’s the kind of friend who quietly supports, and loving cares for a grieving parent. There is no simple answer when our kids lose the way. We just need a friend like Joab to be there for us and to know what’s best in the end. There is no larger pain than to lose a child – for our children are always our children no matter how old they are – and we need to know, through friendship, that God is there with us in the dark night of the parent.


(3) The grieving father


            The terrible news comes. Joab realizes that the news of Absalom’s death must be told with great sensitivity. Ahimaaz is not the one to do it. Rather, the Cushite, a black man, is to tell the news that Absalom is dead. Ahimaaz, a great runner, gets there first. But it is the Ethiopian that says to David: “May the enemies of my lord the king and all who rise up to harm you be like that young man.”


David goes up into his chamber. Mounting the steps he cries out “O my son, Absalom!” The piteous wail can be heard as the returning troops celebrate a victory over the one who would have snatched the kingdom from God’s anointed.


The love a parent is a strange love. No matter how our children disappoint us, destroy our self-respect, challenge our beliefs, mock our faith, we still love them. Is there not something about the grief of David that the son of David knows. “A man of sorrows, he, and acquainted with grief,” as Isaiah says.31 Jesus alone understands.


Our Lord wants to heal our families. Do you remember when the official came to Jesus as he was visiting Cana.32 His son, in the neighboring town of Capernaum, was ill. He begged Jesus to heal his son, who was close to death. Jesus tests him: “Unless your son is healed you won’t believe..” And still the man pleads for Jesus to visit his home. And then Jesus turns to him and says: “You may go. Your son will live.” And when he got home he discovered from his servants at the very moment Jesus spoke those words his child was healed. “And he and all his household believed.”

Jesus wants to come into your family life. He wants to heal the hurts, wipe away the tears, remove any guilt or shame you may feel. He is there with love because He has heard a father’s cry, “My son, my son!”  It is as David wrote while he was running away from Absalom, his boy:

“You are a shield around me, O Lord;

you bestow glory on me and lift up my head.

To the Lord I cry aloud,

and he answers me from his holy hill.

I lie down and sleep,

I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.”33










4. Sent in an email from Rev. Miles Macdonald, Port Charlotte, Florida, via Rev. Tyler Johnson, Middletown, Rhode Island, January 10, 2004.

7. Line two, first verse of “Hail to the Lord’s Anointed” by James Montgomery (1771 – 1854).

12.Morgan, Robert J.; Stories, Illustrations & Quotes (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2000), page 270.

13. Strike The Original Match (Minneapolis: World Wide Publications, 1980), page 52.

15. The fifth one, the Hebrew ‘tsaba,’ implies struggle and is to be found in Numbers 8:24 and 25

18. Hebrew “havah.”

28. Lynn Anderson, Finding the Heart to Go On (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1991), p. 133.

29. Don Francisco “I Don’t Care Where You’ve Been Sleeping” from the album Live Concert (Benson, Zondervan Music Group, 1978).

30. Verse 3 of “There were ninety and nine” by Elizabeth Clephane (1830 – 69).

31. Isaiah 53:3. Cf the hymn: “In every sorrow that rends the heart

The man of sorrows had a part.”

32. John 4:43 – 54.

33. Psalm 3:3 – 5.