Commentary on 1 Samuel 16:1-13; Psalm 51:10-14
God’s call comes in many forms. God’s call to Moses came as a bush that did not burn. For Samuel, God’s call was a voice in the night. God’s call to David came in the form of anointings by both Samuel and the people he would serve. Like Samuel, David neither resists nor asks questions about his anointing. Perhaps a sensitivity born of time spent outdoors as a shepherd, his love for music, and the bullying he had to endure from his brothers made him open to God and God’s call on his life.
David the King
Other than Jesus, the Bible says more about the life of David than any other biblical character. A two-sided character if ever there was one, David’s life exemplifies the best and worst of what life looks like when a person does and does not follow God. He is the epitome of God and Samuel’s warning that Israel should not have a king.
Unlike Saul who was chosen simply because of his outer appearance, his height and good looks, David was chosen because of his inner self, a heart tuned to God. Even his repentant response to his sins shows him to be a man after God’s own heart. He represents Israel’s/God’s second attempt at a successful monarchy.
David’s accomplishments tell the story of a man who was living large. A skilled musician, he was the one called on to soothe Saul’s anxious spirit. Lover of music and words, he wrote the lyrics for many of the Psalms. His honesty before God endeared him to God and to many.
Expert with a slingshot, David refused Saul’s armament and felled Goliath with a single shot to the forehead. His skills as a warrior not only captured the attention of the women, they roused Saul’s jealousy as well. A gifted administrator, he organized Israel’s army, worship, and governing systems. His military feats extended Israel’s borders from the Nile to the Euphrates.
David wisely chose Jerusalem as his capital since it lay in a neutral location between Northern Israel and Southern Judah. As a worshipper he successfully brought the ark to Jerusalem. He longed to build a house for God. Though not permitted to build the temple, he gathered materials and left instructions for his son, Solomon.
In a day when new regimes were known to kill any potential rivals, David refused to lay a hand on Saul, God’s anointed, or on his family. His stance is remarkable especially since Saul, directly or indirectly, tried to kill David on five occasions. 1
Despite all his success in his public life, David’s private life was a dismal failure. In addition to issues surrounding his relationship with Bathsheba, he married Saul’s daughter, Michal. She loved him, helped him escape from Saul, even lied to her father about it. Yet when the two argued over his unabashed worship, it put a wedge in their relationship that was never healed. She became just another woman in his life.
If that wasn’t enough, David’s failures as a father add to the tragedy of his life. He was silent and took no action to protect Tamar or punish Amnon for raping her. He was satisfied, it seems, leaving the job to her brother Absalom who carried out the penalty for incest by arranging to have Amnon killed.
David then failed to manage his relationship with fugitive Absalom, at first refusing to see him once he permitted him to return to Jerusalem. David, in turn, became a fugitive and had to flee Jerusalem when Absalom built a following, had himself declared king, even multiplied the family’s incest2 by publicly raping ten of David’s concubines. Despite Absalom’s obvious disdain for his father, David wept bitterly when Absalom was killed. Perhaps he wept because he finally realized his failures as a father.
David also failed to deal with his son, Adonijah who, unknown to the ailing David, had himself declared king. When Nathan and Bathsheba advised him of the attempted coup, David named Solomon as king and left the task of dealing with Adonijah to Solomon.
Whether prompted by the satan3 or God (2 Samuel 24, 1 Chronicles 21), David’s census affected the entire nation. Seventy thousand people died as punishment. To stop the plague, at the prophet Gad’s command, David purchased the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite, so he could build an altar. This is the place where Abraham nearly sacrificed Isaac, where Solomon would build the temple.
David Lives Out His Call
In the midst of all his accomplishments and failures, David lived out his call from God, so much so that in Acts 13:22 Paul says of him:
When he had removed him, he made David their king. In his testimony about him he said, ‘I have found David, son of Jesse, to be a man after my heart, who will carry out all my wishes.’
David answered God’s call. The question is: how is God calling you? To what is God calling you? What are you doing about it?
- Twice in 1 Samuel 18:10-15, once in 19:9-10 and twice in 19:11-17.
- Bible Hub, The Second Book,” https://biblehub.com/library/salvian/on_the_government_of_god/the_second_book.htm (accessed June 1, 2021).
- In the Samuel text, God prompts David to call for a census. In the Chronicles text it is the satan (often mistranslated Satan in English translations of the Old Testament) who prompts it.
PRAYER OF THE DAY
God of strength,
In David you chose a king with a big heart. Create clean and willing hearts in us, and choose us to do your work. Amen.
Create in me, Paul Christiansen