A couple days ago, something I was working on with a friend reminded me of this story.
When my girls were younger (our oldest, Rebecca, was between her junior and senior years of high school), we visited Italy. Rebecca asked her friends what she could bring back to them, and one of them said, “Find me the perfect Italian man, and convince him to come back to me.” We kidded the whole time about guys that we passed and how we would fit them into our suitcases; but when we went to the Academia and Rebecca saw Michelangelo’s David and heard of how the artist painstakingly worked on the marble wonder, making every muscle, tendon, and appendage absolutely perfect, she was entranced. She went right outside and bought two little statues from a street vendor, one for her friend and one for herself. When we got home, all her girlfriends went crazy over it and thought it was the funniest thing ever–that Rebecca had found the perfect man in Italy. Since then, I have never been able to gaze at that statue without thinking of David as the perfect male specimen!
Alas, David was far from perfect.
When my friend heard this story, she laughed and then said, “I’ve often wondered at his heavy inclusion in the Bible. Sometimes he’s great, but then other times he really messes things up. I guess it’s not for me to judge who God calls!”
Of course, she was right in her short assessment of David. He wasn’t the most upstanding man in the Bible, yet he is still considered the greatest king of Israel by the Jewish people and known to be the predecessor of the Messiah by Christians. Despite the fact that David lied, cheated, killed, covered his crime, and took his victim’s wife as his own, he became a king, role model, and father of the line of descent that led to Jesus.
But there’s much more to David than his iniquities.
David is one of us. He was a sinner. He was a user. He was selfish and self-indulgent and self-serving. He was what the “Son of David,” Jesus, was not. He was fully human and not at all divine.
St. Luke tells us that God chose David to lead His people because David was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). How can this be? After all that David did, what does this say about God? Why would David be a man after God’s own heart?
Instead of jumping into my own explanation, I’ll let David explain because, you see, David knew he messed up. He knew that he had gone against the Commandments. He knew that he had let down God and the people. He knew that he was not living the life God intended for him to live, so he repented. He poured out his heart and soul, telling God and the world just how much he screwed up and how sorry he was.
“I will rejoice and be glad in your mercy, once you have seen my misery, gotten to know the distress of my soul. You will not abandon me into enemy hands, but will set my feet in a free and open space.”(Psalm 31:8-9)
“Have mercy on me, God, in accord with your merciful love; in your abundant compassion blot out my transgressions. Thoroughly wash away my guilt; and from my sin cleanse me. For I know my transgressions; my sin is always before me. Against you, you alone have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your eyes So that you are just in your word, and without reproach in your judgment.”(Psalm 51:3-6)
“For the sake of your name, O Lord, forgive my iniquity, though it is great.”(Psalm 25:11)
“Do not reprove me in your anger, LORD, nor punish me in your wrath. Have pity on me, LORD, for I am weak; heal me, LORD, for my bones are shuddering. My soul too is shuddering greatly—but you, LORD, how long? Turn back, LORD, rescue my soul; save me because of your mercy. For in death there is no remembrance of you. Who praises you in Sheol? I am wearied with sighing; all night long I drench my bed with tears; I soak my couch with weeping. My eyes are dimmed with sorrow, worn out because of all my foes. Away from me, all who do evil! The LORD has heard the sound of my weeping. The LORD has heard my plea; the LORD will receive my prayer. My foes will all be disgraced and will shudder greatly; they will turn back in sudden disgrace.”(Psalm 6)
And they go on and on–David, pouring out his soul, his regret, his sorrow, begging for forgiveness and absolution.
David was a mighty warrior, fighting the enemies of Israel. God, especially in the image of Jesus, is a mighty warrior, fighting the enemy of all mankind.
David was just a poor, young boy when he was chosen by God. Jesus was born a babe in a stable.
David was compassionate as God is compassionate, but like us, David had to learn compassion through his own grievous faults. He had to learn forgiveness by being forgiven. He had to learn to accept repentance by repenting. He had to fall to his knees and turn from sin after being confronted by Nathan the Prophet who warned of God’s anger over David’s wrongdoings.
Each one of us is like David the shameless, selfish king. Each one of us has fallen from grace many times, and each one of us has had to seek redemption and restoration of grace.
But here’s the most beautiful part. Each one of us has the ability to be like David the good and just king. David unified Israel, and we, too, can work to unify God’s people. David overcame the enemies of his people, and we, too, have the ability to overcome sin and death. David brought the Ark of the Covenant–the vessel of God’s Word–to the Holy City, and we, too, can bring God’s word to others. David’s lineage brought us the true King, and we, too, can bring the true King to others.
We are not immune to sin, but we do have the ability to ask for forgiveness, to move past our sins, to sing out with joy to the Lord, and to make our lives mean something in the eyes of God.
David was not perfect, and neither am I, but David has a lot to teach me about humility, reverence, respect, trust, love, devotion, faithfulness, obedience, and repentance. David’s life might not have been the lovely story we expect from a man after God’s own heart, but the examples he set in his later life and especially in his many writings are ones we should always heed. “I will praise you, LORD, with all my heart; I will declare all your wondrous deeds” (Psalm 9:2).
And when we want to criticize the sins of others, it would do all of us well to remember that none of us is sinless, but as the old adage goes, Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.
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Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me, Whispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s book is The Greatest Gift. The suspense novel, Summer’s Squall, and all of Amy’s books, can be found online and in stores. Her latest novel, Island of Promise, was recently awarded First Prize by the Oklahoma Romance Writer’s Association as the best Inspirational Romance of 2018 and was awarded a Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2019 for Inspirational Fiction. It is the 2019 winner for Best Inspirational Fiction in the RWA Golden Quill Contest, Best Romance in the American Book Awards, and a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award of Fiction. Amy’s 2019 work, The Devil’s Fortune, a finalist in the Writer’s Digest Self-Publishing Awards and winner of an Illumination Award, is based, in part, on Amy’s family history. The third book of Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Hope, was released in August of 2019. Amy’s book, Desert Fire, Mountain Rain begins her new Buffalo Springs series. Book two will be out in early 2022. The Good Wine, the sequel to Whispering Vines, is now available in all formats.
Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018), The Devil’s Fortune (2019), Island of Hope (2019), A Devotional Alphabet (2019), Desert Fire, Mountain Rain(2020), The Good Wine (2021).