The life of David has left us many lessons, with the Spirit of God drawing our attention to his early life (2Chron 17:3), as well as his last words (2Sam 23:1). The first years are filled with exploits for God, such as encounters with the lion and the bear, and the victory over Goliath in the valley. These portray David as a young, idealistic man of God. Following his association with Bathsheba, his life is more troubled, and it appears that, although God had forgiven him, the hand of God was still dealing with him in discipline, as he lost four sons (2Sam 12:6). Fortunately, David did not rebel, and has left us an example of the wisdom of bowing to God’s will. Four categories of God’s grace or enablement are clear, as we look at the latter years of David.
The Grace of Forgiveness
David was possibly 48-years-old when he sinned with Bathsheba. Psalm 51 shows David’s exercise of soul to know the forgiveness of God, as he cast himself upon His mercy, since presumptuous sins were not atoned for under law. Ironically, though, David had difficulty in forgiving Absalom, who essentially committed the same sin, killing his brother Amnon because he had forced his sister Tamar (2Sam 13). Absalom was in Geshur for three years before Joab arranged a truce and brought him to Jerusalem, but, even then, David would not see Absalom for two years (2Sam 14:28). Consequently, the alienation continued for five years. The king kissed Absalom, indicating that forgiveness was granted, but no reconciliation occured. Absalom showed no repentance, and the estrangement was not resolved. Sadly, this occurs even today, when difficulties arise and real confession and forgiveness do not take place.
Soon after, Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel and set up a rival throne in Hebron. When issues between brethren are not scripturally dealt with, and true reconciliation does not transpire, lingering thoughts that have festered begin to surface. Absalom remembered what he had resolved in Geshur (2Sam 15:8), and acted it out in his rebellion. When Absalom was finally killed, all Israel observed that David truly loved Absalom and had forgiven him, as he wept saying, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom would God that I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son.” This was a true statement of forgiveness, but David learned the virtue of forgiveness too late. True forgiveness grants relief from payment and accountability for the debt incurred. May we have the wisdom of David, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven us (Eph 4:32).
The Grace of Acceptance
The rebellion of Absalom occurred when David was about 56 years old. As he fled from Absalom, a man called Shimei came alongside David and began cursing him and casting stones at David’s servants. Abishai, David’s nephew, wanted to take off his head because of the insults, but David forbade him, saying that the Lord had allowed him to curse. Compounding David’s misery, Ahithophel joined Absalom and gave counsel against David that broke his heart. Psalm 55:12-14 tells us of David’s grief at this betrayal. David simply prayed that God would turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness. Also, Zadok and the Levites had brought the Ark of the Covenant, but David sent them back to the city saying that, if he found favor with the Lord, he would return to see it and His habitation. David had learned that God’s way is perfect. He is a shield to all who trust in Him. David was willing to accept the circumstances because he knew that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose. Paul had a similar experience toward the end of his life as well (2Tim 4:10,11). How wonderfully sincere and simple was the trust that both David and Paul had in the Lord, accepting their lot without a murmur.
The Grace of Appreciation
In 2 Samuel 22, David composes a Psalm acknowledging the way by which God had led, protected, and caused him to be successful. In 2 Samuel 23, David says by the Spirit, “He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.” This caused him to acknowledge the superior victories of Adino the Eznite and of Eleazar the Ahohite, but to also acknowledge Shammah the Hararite who stood in the midst of a piece of ground, full of lentils, and defended it. He acknowledged the three who hazarded their lives to bring water from the well of Bethlehem. Benaiah the son of Jehoiada is commended for slaying two lion-like men of Moab, a lion in the midst of a pit in a time of snow, and an Egyptian with his own spear. David marked the devotion and loyalty of these men. As we grow older, we often appreciate more fully the contributions of believers, and know that their full reward will be seen at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
The Grace of Worship
David’s indiscretion in numbering Israel at Satan’s instigation incurred punishment from God, for which he received three options. David chose to fall into the Lord’s hands rather than the hands of men. When he saw the angel of the Lord with a drawn sword over Jerusalem, he confessed his sin and pleaded the innocence of God’s people in the matter. The angel of the Lord then commanded him to erect an altar on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. Ornan offered to give him not only the threshing floor, but also oxen for offerings and wood for burning. David refused, insisting on paying the full price. He then offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. David’s worship was costly, and came from a willing heart.
David also accepted God’s will for Solomon to build the house of God, which he himself desired to build. David provided the pattern (1Chron 28:11), the materials, and the gold and silver for adornment. He even prepared his own special treasure of gold and silver, expressing his thoughts by saying, “But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort? for all things come of thee, and of thine own have we given Thee” (1Chron 29:14). This spirit was also expressed in Psalm 29:2: “Give unto the Lord the glory due unto His Name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.” The wealth that David contributed for the house of God was worth many millions of dollars, and gives meaning to the New Testament teaching of worship. “By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His Name,” and “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (Heb 13:15, 1Peter 2:5).
The wisdom of David displayed in his later years fits well with James’ description. “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace” (James 3:17-18).