I’ve been re-reading a book by Lynn Anderson, called The Shepherd’s Song. In this book, Anderson approaches the difficult situations David was in that are recorded in scripture. He is not soft on David’s failures, nor is he too fluffy with compliments during his good times. Anderson deeply admires David, and as such he holds him to a high standard of behavior.
The chapter on David’s slaying of Goliath is particularly inspiring, primarily because he addresses the deep devotion to God that David MUST have already in his life at the time of his calling to the valley of Elah (valley of blood). A young man who is a shepherd, whom the scripture describes as “full of health and handsome”, is focused on God in the days of his youth. When the bear attacks, or the lion, both of which David slays with his skills as a sling shooter, and a shepherd who takes his job very seriously. Of course he takes a bag lunch to his brothers at the battle-front, and while there he rises to glory by slaying a man who was close to twice his height. Over 9 feet tall.
But the chapter that has most caught my attention so far has been the 4th chapter of the book. A man who has risen to the top of the world, and literally has slain his giants, has gotten to a point where his security blankets are being ripped away one after the next. What happened to the glory of his years just a few years ago? After all, the man who slew the Philistine champion would be given the daughter of the King, Mychal. He becomes a deep brother to Jonathan, the son of Saul. He was anointed by Samuel and Samuel remains a deep mentor. Then it begins to unravel. Doubt, depression, and distance from God consume him.
Saul is obsessed with killing his son-in-law. David evades his assault on several occasions. Later, he would cut a piece of cloth from Saul’s garment to prove he could have killed him, but in stead, he could not possibly harm “the Lord’s anointed.” But Saul removes all solid ground for David. David runs for his life. After going to the Philistines – the very people who were arch enemies of Israel – he runs again and finally lands in the Cave of Adullam, where the caves open up for hundreds of acres inside. Anderson describes the place as a snake-ridden, den for rodents, hermits, and runaways… just like David. He continues and goes back TO the Philistines – why would he do that? Loses his dignity, and says to himself, “if I let my saliva dribble down my beard they will think I’m insane.” Flee for comfort to the camp of the enemy? He must be crazy… but he has allowed it to happen. Let’s recap what has occurred in the life of this young man who WAS on top of the world. He slays a giant. He is anointed as the future king. He married the King’s daughter, she betrays him, and her father (the King) tries repeatedly to kill him out of feverish jealousy. Jonathan stays as long as he can in his deep brotherhood with David, until he has to stay with family. David loses his best friend, and never sees him again. Samuel soon dies, and another mentor is taken from him. He loses his first love, loses his best friend, loses his mentor – not Samuel yet, but his father-in-law, and still never takes vengeance on “the Lord’s Anointed.” Soon he loses Samuel, the deepest, strongest oaken pillar in his life. He runs amuck and runs to the place he knows he can find a weapon… the sword of Goliath and the priests of Nob. Saul chases him and kills the priests; now the blood of innocent men is all over David’s hands because David knew Saul would chase him, and still went to the men at Nob. How is he going to deal with that?
David lost trust in God. Where was the champion of deep courage and holiness that slew the giant!?!? His failure was not trusting God, and it consumed his character, destroyed his dignity, and ate a pit inside of him. With his doubt and security being jerked away repeatedly, no doubt it continued to send him deeper in to confusion, and farther from God because he didn’t remain in communion with him. I love the statement by Anderson in the closing paragraphs of the chapter; “When a man has truly faces his mistakes and knows the forgiveness of God, he is secure in God – but only in God. Then something about him often attracts the loyalty, admiration, and love of courageous and distressed and penitent people. There is no need to wallow in our mire of all of our days nor to rob the world of our gifts because of past failures.” (p. 38) We know through Jesus, that our trust is in one who never will leave us nor forsake us. David knew this too when he was younger. And look… these adversities are only PART of the crap he went through later on in life… I can’t wait to read more about this great man of faith, and how his failures gave way to great success, and though he may have died a man full of pain, he would be forever recorded as a “man after God’s own heart.” He did come back to center… always. For the text of these situations in the life of David, see 1 Samuel 17-22.