David: A Man in and out of God’s Spirit
Samuel had the unpleasant task to inform King Saul that David, his armor bearer, was replacing Saul, by God’s choice. “But now your kingdom shall not continue; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart; and the Lord appointed him to be the prince over his people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you” (I Samuel 13:14). David’s analysis of himself was revealed in his prayer in Psalms:
Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy steadfast love; according to thy abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee alone, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in they sight, so that thou art justified in thy sentence and blameless in thy judgment. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Fill me with joy and gladness; let the bones which thou hast broken rejoice. Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence, and take not thy holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of thy salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.
Then I will teach transgressors thy ways, and sinners will return to thee. Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of they deliverance. O Lord, open thou my lips, and my mouth shall show forth thy praise (Psalms 51:1-15).
David did not always live up to his belief, in an ever-presence of the Spirit of the Lord. He knew exactly what it meant to live outside of God’s Spirit. David represented two sides of himself: when he lived under the guidance of the Spirit of the Lord and he did well (I Samuel 16-II; Samuel 10). And when David lived without the Holy Spirit, he lived in constant turmoil (II Samuel 11-I Kings 2). After David’s escapade with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah her husband, David’s household was divided between father and sons, between sons and sons, incest between brother and sister, murder between brothers, betrayal and exile. King David, himself, had to flee from his son Absalom. And Bathsheba decided who was to be the successor to David. While king David was dying, he had forgotten that he had promised the kingdom to Bathsheba’s son Solomon. David’s son Adonijah was the legitimate heir and to the throne. Adonijah was being endorsed by Joab, the commander of the army and by Abiathar the highest priest. However, Bathsheba went to the dying king and reminded him of his promise, “My lord, you swore to your maidservant by the Lord your God, saying, ‘Solomon your son shall reign after me, and he shall sit upon my throne.’ And now, behold, Adonijah is king, although you, my lord the king, do not know it” (I Kings 1:17-18).
King David was not unaware of what had taken place regarding his oldest son Adonijah because he had assumed the throne, according to the tradition of the oldest son’s role. It is interesting that the prophet Nathan, who had opposed David’s adultery with Bathsheba, consented with Zadok the priest. They supported the king and his general Benaiah to anoint Solomon king over Israel; therefore, they announced it with trumpets as the king’s orders. They had Solomon sit on the king’s mule riding through Jerusalem. Adonijah did not contest his father’s decision and Solomon temporarily spared his life. According to king David’s confession in Psalm 51:1-2, he never lived down his indiscretion with Bathsheba. “Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy steadfast love; according to thy abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse from me from my sin!”
It is amazing how much secret David has left for us to ponder? David was not the man who was dead sure about his relationship with God, and with his own salvation, or with the presence of the Spirit of the Lord in his life. David’s mistakes had obliterated that view, which he so desperately needed to feel close to God, and even to his own family. As a boy, David was not allowed to sit at the table with his seven legitimate brothers because his father apparently had loved another woman. When his father and his mother had not fully accepted him, the Lord had taken him in; but he angered the Lord by making a similar mistake as his father had done (Psalms 27:10). The memory of errors did not go away and David did not have Jesus, like we do, who helps us cover what we cannot forget or what we, ourselves, cannot remit. For David, no one was there to bridge the gap between man and God. No one was there to wash and cleanse him from his mental agony of what he had done. In contrast, we have “One” called Jesus the Christ, who has stepped into the void, we ourselves cannot overcome. John, the beloved disciple of Jesus, well understood our predicament and left us this vital message:
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth; but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. My little children, I am writing this to you so that you may not sin; but if any one does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world (I John 1:5-2:2).
The personal relationship man can have with the Son of God, with the Spirit of God, and with the Father in heaven was not entirely clear to David. David was more or less a messenger, like a prophet, through whom God spoke in a spirit way or form. Before he died, he passed on these words: “The Spirit of the Lord speaks by me, and His word is on my tongue. The God of Israel has spoken, the Rock of Israel has said to me: ‘When one rules justly over men ruling in the fear of God, he dawns on them like the morning light, like the sun shining forth upon a cloudless morning, like rain that makes grass to sprout from the earth” (II Samuel 23:2-4).
Jesus believed that the Holy Spirit inspired David, when he identified the Christ as his Lord, rather than as his son. When Jesus taught in the temple, he said, “How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David? David himself, inspired by the Holy Spirit, declared, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, till I put thy enemies under thy feet.’ David himself calls him Lord; so how is he his son?” (Mark 12:35-37; Psalms 110:1). The Lord Christ is not his redeemer! The Lord Christ is David’s defender and who will subdue his enemies forever. It is the soldier, in need of victory speaking, and not the sinner in need of a Savior. The Spirit of the Lord did not live in David! But, the Spirit of the Lord used David to demonstrate the power of Yahweh to the world. For David, it was the Lord that fought the battles and even handed Goliath over to David. That imagery was constantly reinforced and maintained at all cost by David, as well as by his successors. David, like Moses and Samuel before him, was profoundly aware of what the impact of such an image had on Israel’s survival. The “fear of the Lord” was far more than the beginning of wisdom; the “fear of the Lord” was the key of respect by Israel’s enemies.
Young Solomon did get the message of the fear of the Lord from his father. And the first thing Solomon did when he was made king was to ask for wisdom to elevate the “fear of God” in a visible and in a concrete way to his nation and to his neighbors. Solomon did not ask for the “Spirit of the Lord” like his father David did, but Solomon asked for “greater human wisdom.” God appeared twice to Solomon in a dream, before he built the temple and after the temple was finished (I Kings 3:5 and 9:2). Solomon did acknowledged that he had fulfilled the wishes of his father. Then Solomon felt free to pursue his own interest, his own endeavor, and he moved away from his father’s wishes. Solomon had spent seven years on giving the people the temple, where they could meet God and where they could honor God with sacrifices and with memorials for their delivery from their enemies. That concept “that God was in charge” faded with Solomon. And God did issue a warning to Solomon in a dream:
But if you turn aside from following me, you and your children, and do not keep my commandments and my statutes which I have set before you, but go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land which I have given them; and the house which I have consecrated for my name I will cast out of my sight; and Israel will become a proverb and a byword among all peoples. And this house will become a heap of ruins; everyone passing by it will be astonished, and will hiss; and they will say, ‘Why has the Lord done thus to this land and this house?’ Then they will say, ‘Because they forsook the Lord their God who brought their fathers out of the land of Egypt, and laid hold on other gods, and worshiped them and served them; therefore the Lord has brought all this evil upon them’ (I Kings 9:6-9).
The second dream had no impact on Solomon. Solomon began to enjoy being recognized, not as a follower of Yahweh, but as a wise and successful rich king. Solomon took thirteen years to build his own palaces for himself, for his children, for five hundred trusted official to supervise the thousands of foreigners, for the slaves to manage and to enlarge Solomon’s holdings. Solomon’s stables alone housed twelve thousand horses. To pay for his projects, Solomon gave away twenty cities. Solomon also had made promises to his seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines. And in addition to their castles, shrines, and temples for their gods, they wanted to sacrifice children for their gods like Chemosh. It was staggering for some of his own ministers, like Jeroboam who warned the king that his extravagance would destroy the nation. To save his life, Jeroboam had to flee to Egypt. Yet, before Jeroboam fled, God’s prophet Ahijah met Jeroboam, took his own new mantel, tore it into twelve pieces. Ahijah told Jeroboam, the fugitive, to take the ten pieces, which represented the ten tribes of Israel. God was handing the pieces over to Jeroboam and God declared that Jeroboam would be the next king over Israel. God also said that Solomon’s son would only keep Judah and part of the Benjamin’s tribe (I Kings 9:10-11:43). Solomon reigned for forty years. During this time, Solomon spent seven years for God, thirteen for himself and twenty years on his wives and on their gods. The historian, who admired Solomon’s mental and material success, had to conclude, “So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done” (I Kings 11:6). The difference between father and son was monumental. David desired to be led by the Spirit of the Lord, and Solomon wanted to be led by the wisdom of his mind. When did Solomon write the wonderful Proverbs and Ecclesiastes? It certainly was not at the beginning of his reign, but it was towards the end when Solomon realized how vain he had become (Ecclesiastes 1:1). Vanity is sin! And the wages of sin, even for a nation, is death! God put that condition into effect when Adam and Eve disobeyed His Commandment, and that Principle has been at work in all the kings in the Bible, in history, and in us (Genesis 2:17; Romans 6:23).