By Steve Wyatt
My favorite teaching style is biographical. I love to take the full story (not just the highlights but also the lowlights) of God’s truly greats—and break them down from birth to the grave. What I invariably find is that even God’s finest struggled with the same stuff with which I struggle.
When I was a kid, our family had a big, three-inch thick hardcover tome called, Egermeier’s Bible Story Book. And Mom would read it to me till I could read it myself. Which I did because I loved peeking under the covers of Daniel’s life, just trying to imagine what it’d be like to trust God with lions preparing to have me for breakfast! Or Moses, sticking his hairy toe in the Sea, trusting God to do something amazing to save his people from Pharaoh. Or Samson, who had failed famously yet wanted his final act to be for God—so he used his bulging biceps to bring a temple down.
But my favorite Bible hero was David.
After God’s Own Heart
To me, it’d be hard to find anyone in the Bible (outside of Jesus) more universally loved and generally well liked than that ‘lil shepherd boy. One reason is that we know more about him than others from the Old Testament. Abraham’s life? Covered in 14 chapters. Elijah’s story? Told in 10. But David—62 chapters!
I came across something I find profound about him that has caused me to think of goodness in ways I never considered before. Remember the high praise God gave David when he removed Saul as king and made David king instead? God said: “I have found David . . . a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do’” (Acts 13:22).
Meaning—if you want to know the kind of person God likes, David is exhibit #1. Talk about impressive! A
charismatic leader, a military genius, a skilled poet, a professional musician, the architect of the Temple. Which is also why we should dislike David. Or at least feel intimidated by him. Although we don’t. Why? Because David was equally a mess! A complete, utter disaster!
He had sex with a woman, then killed her hubby to cover it up. He competed in an ancient version of The Hunger Games to see who could kill more people—which he won. He was a train wreck as both husband and father. He beheaded a guy and bragged about it. He would’ve angered PETA by crippling some horses he had captured. And even when he was “old and well advanced in years” (and should’ve known better) David hired a beautiful virgin to “attend” to him and “keep (him) warm” (1 Kings 1:1-4).
That’s why a slow roll through Scripture is so important. Because God wants us to see all of a good man’s story—not just the sanitized parts.
Intentions Were Good
A man after God’s own heart? Really? But what God saw when he looked into David’s young heart is that David’s greatest desire was to do God’s will—even though he clearly didn’t always do his greatest desire. He had the right passions. His intentions were good. But there were many times when David’s lesser desires dominated his greatest desire.
So I came across one of David’s lesser songs and found what I believe best captures what a man after God’s own heart means. Key to this discovery is this part of his lyric:
“I said to the lord, ‘You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing’” (Psalm 16:2).
There are two ways to interpret that—and both are helpful.
First, it could be that David is saying, “God is the only good in me.” Which is clearly what David believed because how often does he say stuff like, “Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory . . . for everything in heaven and earth is yours!” (1 Chronicles 29:11).
Even after he defeated Goliath, David said: “[This] battle is the Lord’s” (1 Samuel 17:47).
David was real about who he wasn’t. You’ll see that over and again in his story—how David quickly admitted his sizeable faults and confessed them without excuse.
Because David knew he wasn’t good. In fact, he often broke his own heart by his many lapses in judgment. If David was struggling, he said so. If he was happy, he danced. If he felt troubled, he wept.
He had no false bravado and was quite raw when it came time for repentance. His heart beat hard for God—because what was important to God was just as important to him. So David was godly, in spite of acting so godless. I don’t know about you, but just knowing that makes me want to be godly too.
Nothing Makes Sense
But this verse has a second meaning, one that has really spoken to me. Maybe David is also saying: “without [God], nothing makes sense” (Psalm 16:2, The Message).
Understand this is the same man whose father didn’t even remember he’d been born. And after being anointed king, he lived in caves instead of a palace. He defeated the giant, but was hated by the man he had saved in the process. He sang to Saul to soothe that same man—and got a spear chucked at him in the process!
David was the poster child for life not being fair. But sometimes, it’s true: nothing in life makes sense.
What’s this got to do with David’s strong, awesomely good heart? you wonder. It’s those first two words: “Without you.” Meaning? With God life does make sense—even the crazy, chaotic, and carnal parts of us make sense.
That’s the essence of David’s “good thing” and the thread that ties together his biography. It’s precisely because David had a godly, strong heart that he was humble enough to embrace the nonsense of his life.
David also learned that even the high and mighty still need a friend. That obstacles actually aren’t always obstacles. And the very thing you think is going to stop you? It won’t.
So David, with God’s heart empowering him, dove into deep waters precisely because he knew that’s what God wanted him to do. Sense or nonsense—it didn’t matter.
But every single time God “reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters” (2 Samuel 22:17).
Sing it, Davey!
“He rescued me from my powerful enemy, my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me” (2 Samuel 22:18-20).
David learned that a life makes total sense if it’s lived for the delight of God. But you will never get fully good until you put yourself out into deep waters.
Not Holding Back
I love my mom a lot. But she was always a tad OCD when it came to the couch in our living room. Nobody was allowed to actually sit on mom’s couch. Except at Christmas and Easter—or if an insurance salesman stopped by to sign papers.
Even on those rare occasions when you could actually use the couch as a couch? Don’t even think of putting your feet (especially barefoot ones) on it or lie down on it.
Through the years, mom would occasionally beam with delight and say, “You know, that couch is 20 years old. But look at it. Still as good as the day we first got it!”
I never did say it, because I love Mom, but I always wanted to blurt out: “But what good is it? Mom, what are we saving it for?”
David wasn’t saving his life for anything. He held nothing in reserve. Though most of his life didn’t make sense, he kept leaning into a connection with God as his Lord.
To me, that’s the essence of goodness. That’s why I’m trying really hard to track with David. Even when life makes no sense—instead of dropping out, I’m leaning in.
Steve Wyatt is a minister and freelance writer in New River, Arizona.