King David’s life is a complex riddle that defies easy classification. He was the greatest king of Israel, yet he and his family abused their royal authority. He was a friend of God yet capable of great sin. In the book of II Samuel (during David’s reign as king) there are seven murders, ten executions, twelve rapes, and a suicide. Yet in spite of this personal violence, God’s presence and power permeates the book.
A clear example is after King David has raped Bathsheba and killed her husband, the warrior Uriah (II Samuel 11). At first, David seemed able to cover up his crimes and to carry on business as usual. Then in II Samuel 12:1-2
But the thing David had done displeased the Lord, and the Lord sent Nathan to David.
Nathan was the court prophet, one who spoke for God. Nathan told David a parable in which a rich man with many sheep steals the only ewe lamb of a poor neighbor so that the rich man can prepare a meal for a guest. Hearing the story, David became angry against the rich man and said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die!”
Nathan said to David, “You are the man!”
Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: I anointed you king over Israel, and I rescued you from the hand of Saul; I gave you your master’s house, and your master’s wives into your bosom, and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have added as much more. Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and have taken his wife to be your wife. (II Samuel 12:7-9)
David’s only response was simple and direct: “I have sinned against the Lord.” No excuses. David had abused his power.
David deserved death, yet God was merciful with him. We may not be as blatant in our abuse of power or authority, yet each of us has sinned against the Lord. We have not loved the Lord God with all our heart, mind and strength. We have not loved our neighbor as ourselves. Do we recognize our need for God’s mercy and forgiveness? Are we not a riddle in our own behavior?
Lord Jesus, have mercy on me.