June 30, 2014 Broadcast


A Message by R.C. Sproul

David captures the imagination like few other biblical characters. A humble shepherd-turned-king, a warrior, a poet, an adulterer and murderer, David was also a man after God’s own heart. In this lesson, Dr. R.C. Sproul explains how David fits into the story of the Bible as a whole.

From the series: Dust to Glory

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    David the Great

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    The Heart Restored

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    What Made David Great?

David the Great

In Friday’s study, we came face to face with one of the giants of Scripture—David, the young shepherd boy who is destined to become Israel’s greatest king. With his introduction, the focus of the book of 1 Samuel is beginning to shift once again, from Saul to David, just as it already has shifted from Samuel to Saul. We will be studying, the events of David’s life and reign throughout the remainder of this year as we journey through the books of Samuel. But because of David’s importance not just to these books but to redemptive history itself, it would seem worthwhile to focus on David the man for a brief time. Over the next several days, therefore, we will shift gears to engage in a character study with the help of Dr. R.C. Sproul’s audio teaching series The Life of David.

In the ancient world, one of the most celebrated figures was a young student of Aristotle, the son of King Philip of Macedonia—Alexander. He is known to history as Alexander the Great because of his perhaps unprecedented level of achievement. He made great military conquests, aided scientific advancement, and promoted cultural unity. But as great as Alexander was, David may deserve the title “the Great” even more. David is seen as the king of Israel, whose reign was so exemplary that the very kingdom of God is associated with it and Christ’s kingdom is seen as its consummation. David actually ushered in the golden age of Israel. He was distinguished as a warrior, defeating the giant Goliath as a youth and expanding Israel’s borders to their widest point as a man. David was also Israel’s “poet laureate”; if only for his psalms, he would justly be famous. And David was a musician, a harpist and composer—his psalms were designed for choral use. Of all Israel’s kings, David was most scrupulous in obeying God. And yet, he fell spectacularly. When he did sin, however, he was great in repentance, as Psalm 51 shows. David seemed to do everything in great proportions.

The one thing that surely set David apart from Alexander and other great men, however, is that God was with him. His spectacular gifts and talents were endowments from the God of Israel, who raised David from obscurity to the heights of achievement. David was great because God made him so.

The Heart Restored

Burk Parsons

As we consider the history of God’s people in the Old Testament, we do not observe a people who served the Lord faithfully. The people of Israel did not demonstrate their love for God with all their hearts. Even some of the great heroes of Israel manifested the depths of depravity in their lives.

Nevertheless, it is through our careful study of Israel’s past that we find great comfort. With spiritually discerning minds, we have been given the ability to understand the way in which God’s redemption of His people has been displayed throughout history. As such, we possess insight into the unfolding drama of redemption, from the beginning of life itself to the very end when death itself is conquered.

It is for no small reason that God’s record of His people is replete with stories of failure and renewal. For it is in the history of redemption that the patient God of Israel restores His people time after time, demonstrating His enduring love and faithfulness. Despite their lawlessness and rebellion, the people of God in the Old Testament were repeatedly brought to repentance by the kindness of God and were always renewed in their sweet communion with Him. This common theme of restoration is perhaps best illustrated in the life of David who was the son of Jesse, the shepherd of Bethlehem, the defender of the kingdom of God, the king of Israel, the adulterer, the deceiver, and the murderer. In the biblical portrait of David, we observe a man whose heart was broken by his sin and healed by his Lord.

Upon the occasion of David’s anointing, we recall the words of God to Samuel concerning David’s older brother Eliab: “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7). The boldness and sheer magnificence of these words demand that we hearken to the words of Samuel when he proclaimed to Saul that “the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart…to be prince over his people” (1 Sam. 13:14). David was a man after God’s own heart, not because the heart of David was pure. Rather, he was a man after God’s own heart precisely because he understood that his heart was not pure, and for that reason he hid the Word of God in his heart so that he might not sin against the Lord and so that he might love the Lord with all his heart, coram Deo.

What Made David Great?

Kevin DeYoung

Everyone who knows the Bible knows that King David was a great man. And yet everyone familiar with the Bible also recognizes that David did a lot of not-so-great things. Of course, there was the sin with Bathsheba, the murder of her husband Uriah, and the subsequent cover-up. That was not exactly delighting in the law of the Lord (Ps. 1:2). But there was also the ill-advised census motivated by David’s pride, not to mention a series of lessons in how not to manage your household well. For being a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22), David managed to follow his own heart quite a bit.

So with all these flaws, what made David great? One could easily mention David’s courage, his loyalty, his faith, and his success as a leader, musician, and warrior. But he was great in other, lesser-known ways as well. In particular, David was a great man because he was willing to overlook others’ sins but unwilling to overlook his own.

David was a gracious man, bearing with the failings of others, eager to give his enemies a second chance. Twice, while his friends advised him to strike down their enemy, David spared Saul’s life (1 Sam. 24; 26). Though Saul opposed him at every turn, David did not rejoice at his death, but he wept for the king and his son Jonathan (2 Sam. 1:17–27). David welcomed Abner when he defected from the phony king Ish-bosheth and mourned for him when distrusting Joab stuck him down (chap. 3). David was unnecessarily kind to Mephibosheth (chap. 9) and uncommonly patient with Shimei’s spiteful cursing (16:5–14). Later, David would pardon those who rebelled against him during Absalom’s insurrection (19:16–23). Time after time, David showed himself to be unlike the sons of Zeruiah who lived to hold grudges and settle scores. David knew how to forgive. More than anyone prior to Jesus, David loved his enemies. Like no other Old Testament king, David was willing to welcome rebels back to the fold and overlook the sins of those who had opposed him.

But amazingly, David’s kindhearted attitude toward his enemies did not translate into a soft attitude toward his own sins. Usually, people who are soft with others are soft with themselves, and those hardest on themselves are even harder on others. But David was different. He was gracious with others and honest with himself. I believe David’s greatness was simply this: as much as he sinned, he never failed to own up to his sin. I can’t find a single instance where David was rightly rebuked for his failings and then failed to heed the rebuke. When Nathan confronted David for his adultery and murder, David, after he saw what Nathan was up to, quickly lamented, “I have sinned against the Lord” (12:13). When Joab sent the woman of Tekoa to change David’s mind about Absalom, he listened (chap. 14). When Joab rebuked David for loving his treacherous son more than his loyal servants, David did what Joab told him to do (19:1–8). Joab was often wrong in his advice to David, but when he was right David saw it and changed course. Likewise, after his foolish census, David’s heart struck him and he confessed, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done” (24:10).

David knew how to forgive, and he knew how to repent, too. He never blamed others for his mistakes. He did not make excuses based on family history, peer pressure, or the demands of leadership. He did not use passive language, referring to his sin as a dysfunction or a growth edge. He did not lament over his sins simply because of the negative effects they could have on his kingdom and his relationships. He saw his transgressions primarily in their vertical dimension, as an offense against almighty God (Ps. 51:4). He never ran from the light when it exposed his darkness. Instead, he squinted hard, admitted his iniquity, and worked to make things right. When we consider how rare it is in our day for athletes, movie stars, and politicians to candidly and clearly take responsibility for their public sins, we should be all the more amazed that the king of Israel, arguably the most famous man in the history of God’s old covenant people, was humble enough to listen to the chastisement of those who were beneath him and change accordingly.

David was a man after God’s own heart because he hated sin but loved to forgive it. What better example of God could there be? God doesn’t just welcome His enemies in, He dies in their stead (Rom. 5:6–11). He is always eager to show mercy, always willing to give traitors a second chance. And yet, God is not soft on sin. He exposes it and calls on us to exterminate it (John 16:8–11; Col. 3:5). But of course, God, unlike David, is never guilty of His own sin. God showed His condescension not by humbling Himself before a needed rebuke, but by humbling Himself to take on human flesh and take up a cross (Phil. 2:5–8). David was great, but not nearly as great as his greater son.

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