Was David good…or bad?

We are beginning a new sermon series at church this week, on David the King. I am excited because David...

by Jeff Kilmartin

Pastor, Wiesenthal Baptist Church

We are beginning a new sermon series at church this week, on David the King. I am excited because David is such a fascinating figure, with so many facets and ambiguities in him. He is not a black and white stick figure, with no real personality. His character has depth and shadows, and the biblical record does not fudge in this regard: it shows him warts and all (as it does with most of its heroes). In fact, you might say the idea of the “anti-hero” is first found in the Bible.

David has many good qualities. He is loyal to his friends, courageous in the face of danger, and has a wonderful faith in God, whom he trusts in the face of doubt-inducing trials.

On the other hand, we discover that he has a whole series of bad qualities that undermine our good opinion of him. He (in)famously committed adultery with the beautiful Bathsheba, seeking to cover it up with murder and political corruption. He could be a hypocrite when it suited his purposes. While he loved his children, he was in fact a terrible father literally letting them get away with murder, and a series of other crimes. His family also got in the way of him being the worthy king that he ought to have been, and when he had to choose between the two, he often chose his family with disastrous results.

So, was he a good king or a bad one? Was he a bad man or a good one? Trying to stack his “pros” over against his “cons” is a recipe for moral frustration. We cannot somehow balance King David out to figure out what he was on some kind of moral scale. David is, in fact, exactly like you and me in that regard.

Sometimes people like to engage in moral arithmetic, trying to figure out if they are in God’s good books or not based on the good they have done, over against the less than great things they have done. David’s life and interactions with God show us that this is impossible and futile.

While we might do moral arithmetic, God does not. Holy as he is, one “little” sin is all it takes to sink us with him. In the end, David was in God’s good books not because of any balancing act, but because of his trust in God’s faithfulness to his promises, which all foreshadow the coming of Jesus.

This is how it will work with us as well. While one little bad thing might be enough to sink us, we can be kept afloat by the grace of God found in Jesus. Because when we have Jesus we are what David was a man or woman after God’s own heart.

The Pipestone Flyer has invited pastors and reverends from local churches to write a regular column for the paper.