Faith is always directed God-ward.
“32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised, who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.” (Hebrews 11:32-34).
David’s story, in contrast to some of the other men of faith mentioned in Hebrews 11, covers a sizeable chunk of the Old Testament. To cover everything in David’s faith life would, and has, taken many volumes—we will only hit a few of the highlights. The Scriptures say of David: “For David had done what was right in the eyes of the Lord and had not failed to keep any of the Lord’s commands all the days of his life—except in the case of Uriah the Hittite.”
What catches my attention here—though it might not be relevant to the faith study (perhaps a lack of faith is more easily demonstrated in the story of Uriah) is that this particular comment is based not on David’s sin with Bathsheba, but David’s premeditated murder of Uriah and then appropriating the widow for his wife. Though the adultery was punished—David was to suffer seeing his own wives violated by one close to him and in public (2 Samuel 12:11-12) David might have saved himself a whole lot of grief if he had simply confessed the first sin rather than adding to it with others.
“Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.” (2 Samuel 12:9, 10)
A life (Uriah’s) was paid for by a life (the child conceived). This was the Old Testament law.
But now to the acts of faithfulness rather than the acts of faithlessness!
David’s faith when faced with impossible odds (1 Samuel 17:1-58)
Our first example skips David’s experience as a shepherd in his father’s house but cares the example of faith exercised in those experience to the battlefield as his older brothers serve with Saul’s army against the Philistines. David is no stranger to the king. Apparently, he moved back and forth from his home to the royal household whenever the king needed someone to play for him and to calm his evil humours through music. But on this occasion, David is sent by his father to deliver supplies to his brothers and he lingers in the camp. He arrives just when Goliath, the Philistines’ not-so-secret giant weapon comes out to challenge the Israelites. Like most boys, fighting is fascinating to David, but mostly because he can’t believe that God’s army could be intimidated by a pagan enemy. He says: “Who is this Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God.” David was considered to be “just a kid and an arrogant one at that” by his older brothers. What David said was repeated to the king. Any option is a good option when there don’t seem to be other options so Saul sent for the boy. He was less brutal in his assessment than David’s brothers had been, but just as direct. “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth.” David’s past experience with God’s faithfulness to him in protecting him and the sheep under his care comes into the story as David tells the king how God enabled him to overcome both a lion and a bear that threatened his flock. He believes that what God has done He can, and will, continue to do.
There is a big difference between a lion and a bear and a fully-armed, armored and trained giant. Goliath was approximately 9 feet, 9 inches tall or about 3 meters. His armour weighed about 125 pounds or 58 kilograms. His spear weighed in at 15 pounds or 6.9 kilograms. And to top it all off the shield bearer stood in front of him to cover his entire body.
But the experiences David has had with the attacks on his sheep have proven God’s faithfulness to him. He exercises faith in believing that the God who was faithful in earlier experiences will continue to be faithful in the present one. He also believes that God is just as capable in the bigger issues as in the smaller ones. David repeats to Saul that the Philistine has defied [taunted, jeered, scorned] the armies of “the living God.” The size, strength or ability of the army is not the important part of the equation, but who the God of that particular army is.
It speaks to David’s faith in God, and his call from God to deal with Goliath, when he resists the temptation to be dissuaded by the accusations of his older brother. Eliab calls him conceited and wicked and yet David does not doubt for a moment. A boy might be cowed, or bullied, by a man, and a soldier at that. But David demonstrated total confidence in God. He knows who he is and who his God is.
“The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”
It’s easy to boast about your bravery when you aren’t actually in the battle but sometimes a different matter when that battle must be fought. Facing a giant, virtually untouchable, David shows only confidence in His God.
But he is not a fool—David makes his attack from a distance, outside of the range of the giant’s sword if not his spear!
“Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.”
Goliath saw what David’s brothers and Saul had seen and reacted in a similar way, mocking the boy who was approaching him apparently unarmed. David’s faith expressed in his response to the Philistine champion reveals that he saw himself not as the champion of the forces of Israel as Goliath would see himself as the champion of the forces of Philistia, but as God’s instrument to show both nations who the real champion was.
“David said to the Philistine, ‘You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied…Today…the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s…’”
It is as though David is totally unconscious of the disparity between himself and Goliath. His weapons, or lack of them, make no difference because it will not be his weapons or his skill that win the battle. And it was necessary that not only the Philistines learn that there was a God in Israel but that the Israelites also learn that it would never be their prowess or the size of their army or their battle techniques that would defeat their enemies—it would always be the Lord.
David picked up five stones but only needed one to kill Goliath. Some speculate that David was simply being prepared in case the Philistines went back on their promise to surrender if their champion was defeated and instead, attacked David. Some also believe that David was aware of four other giants and was ready to meet them as well if they were part of the Philistine forces.
If nothing else, the truth that the battle and its results belong to the Lord ought to be the hook upon which we hang our lives. It is important to remember that the result of the battle with our “giants” has as much to do, if not more, with God’s glory and His reputation than it does with our own personal victory. His bottom line was “the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel” That should be our mantra as well—as a result of our victory over our “giants” our world will know that God is Who He says He is.
David’s faith when tempted to take shortcuts (1 Samuel 24:1-22 cf. 1 Samuel 26:1-25)
David’s fame and fortune as a giant-killer didn’t last. It was known that David would one day become king of Israel—something that didn’t sit well with Saul. David was to spent much of the early part of his life on the run from the king. God, through Samuel, had promised David the kingdom, but it didn’t come easily. During his life running from the king, David had at least two opportunities to kill Saul and claim what he already knew was to be his. What David did with these opportunities demonstrates his faith.
On one occasion Saul pursued David into the wilderness of En Gedi. David and his men were hiding in a cave. Saul entered the cave alone to relieve himself, unaware of how close David was. David’s men encouraged him to kill Saul. It would have been easy. Instead David snuck up behind Saul and cut off a piece of his robe and crept away again. Saul’s robe was a symbol of his kingship. To cut a piece of it off could have been symbolic of the prophecy that the kingdom was going to be “cut off” from Saul and his family.
David actually feels badly about what he had done and after Saul leaves the cave David confronts him: “Then David went out of the cave and called out to Saul, ‘My lord the king!’ When Saul looked behind him, David bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground…”
David resists taking the shortcut. He calls Saul “my master,” “the Lord’s anointed,” and “my father,” demonstrating the regard in which he holds even Saul who has so wronged him. However, David is not overlooking the wrongs done to him by Saul but demonstrates his faith that God will look after whatever has to happen to make things right. What he says is a warning to Saul.
“May the Lord judge between you and me. And may the Lord avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you. As the old saying goes, ‘From evildoers come evil deeds,’ so my hand will not touch you…As surely as the Lord lives…the Lord himself will strike him, or his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish. But the Lord forbid that I should lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed”
Taking shortcuts is a temptation. David had a second opportunity to kill Saul, and was again urged to do so by his men, but resisted that temptation as well because of his faith that God would bring him to the throne at the right time and in the right way.
It is a tribute to David’s faith that he refused to commit regicide because he believed that God would do what He promised to do in giving him the kingdom without stooping to kill someone who had been lawful anointed God. He believed that God would not want him to dirty his hands and sully his kingship through such an act. When he became king it would be because God had orchestrated it, not because David had manipulated the timeline. I am reminded of a professor of mine who, when he was a pastor had been troubled by some difficult elders. Rather than fight with them, he asked God to look after the situation. Within months the difficult elders had all died of natural causes. In this way, as in the case of David, God was exalted by the actions of His children. That needs always to be the bottom line in our actions.
David’s faith when faced with an unnecessary death (2 Samuel 12:15-23)
The incident with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband, Uriah, is a blot on an otherwise stellar story of a God-follower and a man of faith. Even the best of men has cracks in his character. And so it was with David. But it is what happens in the aftermath of the adultery, the murder, and the act of repentance that gives us insight into an important aspect of David’s faith. The price for David’s sin in killing Uriah and taking his wife was the death of the son conceived in the adulterous act. The death of a child could never be an easy thing to bear. David mourns before the child dies as though he were already gone. He fasts, prostrating himself in sackcloth. It is written that “David pleaded with God for the child” even knowing that God was going to take him.
But when the child died, David did not mourn any longer. Instead he does the incredible, an act of faith: “…he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped…’While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live. But now that he is dead, why should I go on fasting. Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.’”
We might wonder at this odd expression but David is convinced, has faith, that 1. The child is with the Lord, and 2. That one day he will be reunited with that child.
This is the only Scripture that gives us a hint of what happens to children who die before the age of accountability. While it is not a good idea to base a doctrine on one verse alone, this episode in David’s life brings comfort to us.
David’s experience becomes a reminder that while God is just, He is also merciful. David’s normally intimate connection with God, and what he has learned about God from his days as a shepherd boy looking after his father’s flock, from his experience with Goliath, his years of running from Saul, has brought him to the conclusion that God is just, but not cruel.
David’s faith when faced with family dysfunction (2 Samuel 16:5-14)
In this episode in David’s life we discover that family dysfunction is not a modern phenomenon. David’s son Absalom was ambitious, and looked for means to oust his father from his position as king. He managed to get himself declared king and garnered considerable support, enough that when it was reported to David that “The hearts of the people of Israel are with Absalom” David fled. Those of his enemies who had kept their silence while he was securely on the throne of Israel, now took advantage to reveal their true feelings about him. One such was a man by the name of Shimei, a relative of Saul’s, who came out to greet David with stones and taunts, convinced that David is now “getting his” for being responsible for Saul’s death (which he wasn’t). David certainly has a lot of experience with persecution. He was on the run from Saul for many years, hiding out often among enemies who, given an excuse, would have happily finished off what Saul had started.
Of course, those travelling with David wanted to defend their master and cut Shimei down to size. David’s response to the cruelty of Shimei shows incredible restraint and incredible faith. “What does this have to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? If he is cursing because the Lord said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who can ask, ‘Why do you do this?’…Leave him alone, let him curse, for the Lord has told him to. It may be that the Lord will look upon my misery and restore to me his covenant blessing instead of his curse today.’ So David and his men continued along the road while Shimei was going along the hillside opposite him, cursing as he went and throwing stones at him and showering him with dirt.”
It seems incredible to think of this response as one of faith. It sounds like despair,
discouragement, depression and perhaps some kind of guilt—false or not. His own children have rallied against him and he feels awful. And he hopes that God will have mercy on him. But it is in the phrase “…for the Lord has told him to” that David demonstrates his belief that God is sovereign, even over the wrongs committed against him. He may not understand the “why” behind all these events, but he believes in the “Who” behind them all.
David’s faith when it comes to forgiveness (Psalm 51)
Compare this psalm, written after Nathan confronted David with his sin against Uriah, with his song written right after his victory over Saul, found in 2 Samuel 22. In the first psalm David declares, among other things, his righteousness.
“The Lord has dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me. For I have kept the ways of the Lord; I am not guilty of turning from my God. All his laws are before me; I have not turned away from his decrees. I have been blameless before him and have kept myself from sin.” But even the greatest of the warriors of faith struggles and sometimes falls. But the beauty of faith is that it can be applied even in the worst circumstances because God is merciful.
David’s response to God as recorded in Psalm 51 is a model for all of us.
David hides nothing from God once confronted by Nathan. Why he did not confess before this we don’t know. Sometimes we are deceived into thinking that the sins we have committed have taken us beyond forgiveness. David had refused to kill Saul even though he had “motive and opportunity” but didn’t. He had no reason to kill Uriah except to cover up his own sin. Perhaps he thought he had gone too far or hoped that the good he had done would outweigh the bad. We are not told. But now, he lets it all out.
“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love, according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge... Cleanse me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit with me. Do not cast me away from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me…My sacrifice, O god, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, O God, will not despise.”
The word “compassion” is a word used in reference to the womb, connoting the tenderest demonstrated to a child in its most vulnerable state. David believes God will be merciful to the truly repentant.
Sin has a terrible effect on the people around us, but even the worst that can happen in those situations is not as terrible as the damage done to our relationship with God. David acknowledges that when he confesses that his sin is against God. And God as judge makes no mistakes and judges righteously. He acknowledges that the sinful nature was inherited from his conception. David alludes to the suffering he has endured because he did not clear up this matter between him and God earlier. He had lost his joy, had felt no happiness and had suffered torment equal to the crushing of bones—mentioned in other psalms.
He acknowledges as well that only God can create in him a heart and a spirit that seeks to please God only and always.
David’s assurance that God could, and would, forgive and his certainty that God could, and would, change his heart is an example to all of us. The gravity of sin does not negate God’s ability, or His disposition to forgive. True confession and repentance restore the broken relationship between us and God.
CONVERSATIONS AND CONSIDERATIONS
1. What are the “goliaths,” those impossibilities in your life against which you need to exercise the same boldness and faith that David exercised against Goliath? How will you do that?
2. Revenge feels good—at least in the moment. What can you learn from David about how to handle those people and situations who may have created havoc in your life?
3. Read Psalm 51 again. Do you need to pray David’s psalm of faith and forgiveness in your own life? If so, do not hesitate. God forgives the repentant heart.
4. Report on how you are doing in strengthening your relationship with God as a vital part of your faith journey.
 1 Samuel 16:14-23
 1 Samuel 17:26
 1 Samuel 17:33
 1 Samuel 17:37
 I Samuel 17:40
 1 Samuel 17:45-47
 1 Samuel 24:12, 13; 26:10, 11
 2 Samuel 12:14, 16
 2 Samuel 12:20, 22, 23
 2 Samuel 22:21-24
 Psalms 6:2; 22:14, 17; 31:10; 32:3; 34:20; 38:3; 42:10