By Daniel Baker

In Team of Rivals, Doris Kearns Goodwin wrote that Abraham Lincoln "has unequalled power to captivate the imagination and to inspire emotion." For me, King David is the Bible's Abraham Lincoln equivalent in his power to capture imaginations and inspire emotions. His family tragedies and national triumphs, his unparalleled fear of God combined with moral failure, the obvious ways that God works in his life combined with his manly courage, all make King David one of the great studies in a biblical figure. This past Sunday we looked at five lessons from his life to wrap up our series in 1-2 Samuel. Our text was 2 Samuel 23:1-7, "the last words of David."

Lesson 1: A Heart for God Prepares Us to Be Used by God

David is chosen to be king because he has what Saul does not: a heart for God. 1 Samuel 13:14 says the Lord “sought out a man after his own heart" to be king, and Saul simply was not this man. When Samuel goes to anoint the new king of Israel, he assumes David’s strong and noble oldest brother must be the chosen one. However, God tells Samuel not to focus on physical prowess: "Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have I rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart" (16:7). David’s heart for God prepares him to be used by God. Our impressive resumes aren’t what make us useful in God’s kingdom. The first lesson we learn from David’s life is the importance of cultivating a heart for God above all else.

Lesson 2: The Spirit of God Equips Us to Do the Will of God

The lives of David and Saul make it crystal clear that if we want to do God’s will, we must be filled with the Spirit. Although Saul is filled with the Spirit and actually prophesies early in his public life, his disobedience causes the Spirit to depart from him and instead “rush upon David” (1 Sam. 16:13-14). Without the Spirit, we are powerless to fulfill the role to which God has called us as Christians. The Spirit enables us to obey God. The Bible assures us that if we "walk by the Spirit", we won’t "gratify the desires of the flesh" (Gal. 5:16). And the Spirit’s presence in us results in fruit which makes us effective in ministry: "love, joy, peace, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Gal. 5:22-23). That is why we must pray to be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18).

Lesson 3: It's Better to Fear God than to Be Nine Feet Tall

David’s defeat of Goliath is one of the most vivid examples of what fear of God can accomplish. David feared God more than he feared Goliath, so he was not intimidated by this nine-foot giant before him. David believed the promises of God more than he feared Goliath. The Lord had promised the Israelites that they would conquer the Philistines, and David trusted him. God wants this same kind of fear to be a part of our lives. If we fear God more than anyone or anything else, we will be able to obey and please him in powerful ways.

Of course, David is really a picture of the Greater Champion Jesus Christ. David defeated the enemy and delivered a nation—in one battle for a short time. Jesus Christ defeated the enemy—the devil, sin, and death—and delivered his people for all time. That leads us to the next lesson we learn from David.

Lesson 4: The Glory of David is not David At All—It's Jesus Christ

David's life is one example of the many pointers and prophecies that speak of Jesus Christ throughout the Old Testament. In David's "last words" in 2 Samuel 23:1-7, he alludes to Jesus several times. He first calls himself "the anointed of the God of Jacob" (v. 1). David was the "anointed" because Samuel anointed him with oil and because God anointed him with the Holy Spirit (1 Sam. 16:13). But "anointed" in Hebrew is Messiah, and in Greek it is Christ. David is pointing to the Greater Christ. This is the significance of Peter's answer to Jesus in Matthew 16:15-16: "He said to them, 'But who do you say that I am?' Simon Peter replied, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.'"

Jesus is also the fulfillment of what David calls "the everlasting covenant" (2 Sam. 23:5):

When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 2 Sam. 7:12-13

This is no human figure. Solomon, Hezekiah, Josiah - the greatest kings of Israel lived at best 70 or 80 years. None of them had an eternal kingdom. This is Jesus Christ, the Son of David, who is the King above all kings who will live and reign forever.

Less 5: Sin Can Bring Horrible Consequences, but Sin Can Be Forgiven

1-2 Samuel show that sin can result in horrible consequences: Eli the priest fails to fear God and his two sons are killed because of it. Saul fails to obey and honor God, and the kingdom is given to another man. But David's sin against Bathsheba shows this most vividly of all. When David takes Bathsheba and kills her husband Uriah, he sins in so many ways, and the Lord is not silent or indifferent to them. In fact, he promises to bring "the sword" upon David's house, and that sword takes four of his sons. Such sobering consequences for sin are meant to cause us to fear falling into sin.

But there is forgiveness in the life of David as well. After Nathan the prophet confronts David for his sin, David confesses. Nathan then speaks the forgiveness of God: "The LORD has put away your sin; you shall not die" (2 Sam. 12:13). David's true repentance is matched by the Lord's forgiveness. And in the end, God’s forgiveness far surpasses any consequences we might experience. Consequences can only last for a lifetime, but forgiveness lasts forever. When we stand before God in the new heavens and new earth, our sins and their aftermath will be behind us and only life and joy in the presence of a merciful savior will be ahead. Such forgiveness is ours when we believe in Jesus Christ, the one who forever and completely takes our sins away (Heb. 10:1-18). David’s life teaches us not to take the glorious reality of God’s mercy for granted.

The End of It All: Be Thou My Vision

We probably could have picked 105 lessons from David’s life, but we chose these five to close our sermon series. Let these inspire our hearts to keep God first above all things. Let him be our highest priority, our greatest passion, our first allegiance, our center and source and foundation and goal.

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.


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