How much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets.Hebrews 11:32
Indeed, how much more do I need to say? It would take too long to retell the story of David. You have seen many of these people listed in this verse have numerous chapters dedicated to their story. David is the one who has without doubt the most chapters written about him. Charles (Chuck) Swindoll calculated that there are fourteen chapters used to cover Abraham’s story, ten chapters for Elijah, eleven chapters for Joseph. When it comes to David there are 66 chapters set aside for his story, including the Davidic psalms. There are also 59 references in the New Testament which add to David’s story or use him as an example in some way. Yes. I concur with the writer of Hebrews when he said he didn’t have time to recount all the stories. I certainly don’t have time to tell all of David’s story in detail. But I must admit I am struck but the similarity in the stories of these six people. I am beginning to see why the writer of Hebrews chose these six as examples of people operating by faith. Not only that, I have noted that once again the writer has reversed the natural order of Samuel and David and deals with David first.
Allow me to gather together the features of David’s story which demonstrate that he was an example of faith. David appeared on the scene at a time when Israel had drifted far from God. The nation had been through the time of the Judges and the people themselves had cried out for a king. Samuel told them you don’t need a king, God is your King. But the people protested and said they wanted a king like the other nations had. We will pick up the wider story related to that in the next Gem when I cover Samuel. Remember, the writer has reversed these two characters. Here then is the evidence from David’s story which demonstrates he was a man who operated by faith. Note there is no birth narrative, neither are there repeated occasions when we are told of angelic visitations or that God was with David.
Evidence of David’s Faith
The selection of David was an interesting process. A large block of the text is given over to it. David was the least likely candidate, like Gideon, he was the runt of the litter. Samuel was told,
. . . fill your flask with olive oil and go to Bethlehem. Find a man named Jesse who lives there, for I have selected one of his sons to be my king. . .1 Samuel 16:1
To highlight the fact the text takes us laboriously through each son of Jesse until we come to the one Jesse himself had forgotten. God made it clear this is the one he had chosen.
The Spirit came powerfully on David from the day of his anointing onward (1 Samuel 16:13).
David could play away the tormenting spirit from Saul; he had to have a connection with God to be able to do that. (1 Samuel 16:23)
David’s training was similar to Samson’s, fighting lions and bears to protect the sheep. (1 Samuel 17:36)
David’s encounter with Goliath was strong indication that this man had a different spirit on him (like Caleb).
The size of Goliath would have been enough to make most men quake in fear. In fact Saul was the best candidate as he was so tall and strong, yet he was hiding with the baggage. David’s attitude was “bring it on”. It’s estimated that Goliath’s armour weighed up to 90 kg and the head of his spear likely weighed 11 kg. Saul offers David his armour. Just stop and consider the word picture that conjures up; it’s ridiculous.
Look at the jibes David received:
But when David’s oldest brother, Eliab, heard David talking to the men, he was angry. “What are you doing around here anyway?” he demanded. “What about those few sheep you’re supposed to be taking care of? I know about your pride and deceit. You just want to see the battle!”1 Samuel 17:28
“Don’t be ridiculous!” Saul replied. “There’s no way you can fight this Philistine and possibly win! You’re only a boy, and he’s been a man of war since his youth.”1 Samuel 17:33
David picked up five smooth stones from a stream and put them into his shepherd’s bag. Then, armed only with his shepherd’s staff and sling, he started across the valley to fight the Philistine. . . “Come over here, and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and wild animals!” Goliath yelled.1 Samuel 17:40, 44
David’s response was conditioned by his jealousy for the honour of God’s name:
I have done this to both lions and bears, and I’ll do it to this pagan Philistine, too, for he has defied the armies of the living God!1 Samuel 17:36
David replied to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies—the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.1 Samuel 17:45
It is clear isn’t it that David was operating by faith. That conclusion is inescapable after reading the above excerpts from David’s encounter with Goliath. Allow me to add the note that there were times in those days of the Ancient Near East that battles were fought via a representative. Calculations were made as to how many warriors each tribe or nation had and often the strongest warrior of one side was pitted against the strongest warrior of the other side. That was what was going on in 1 Samuel 17:8-9. Goliath had taunted the Israelites for 40 days with the same words.
The last characteristic of David I wish to draw your attention to is what David did after being anointed as king (1 Sam 16:13). Nothing. After being anointed David went back to the sheep. He only went to the frontlines of the battle because he was sent to take gifts to his brothers. He did nothing to take the kingship for himself, despite knowing God had given it to him. I am not going to spell out all the detail, you can read the rest of the story for yourself. Saul gets jealous and tries to do away with David, still David refuses to take the kingship by force despite being pursued, even when his men urged him to kill Saul.
He said to his men, “The LORD forbid that I should do this to my lord the king. I shouldn’t attack the LORD’s anointed one, for the LORD himself has chosen him.”1 Samuel 24:6
Furthermore, David restrained his men from doing anything to precipitate staging a coup. (24:7) The normal practice in the Ancient Near East was to stage a coup in order to seize the kingship. Once the victory was gained you made sure you killed all of the previous king’s offspring (24:21-22). As I have told you already, David was a man with a different spirit on him; the Spirit of God. Where the judges had defeated single attacks from one nation or tribe, David fought on multiple fronts against the Moabites, Arameans, Syrians, Edomites, Ammonites, Amalekites and Philistines. Not only that but he was the king who unified all of Israel and gain the victory for the whole nation.
However, I have also told you the writer of Hebrews appears to be making clear to us the fact that these heroes of faith had clay feet. In each of the examples I have already examined we have been told of weaknesses of the men who operated by faith. It was no different in the case of David. God seems to be making it clear to us in His Word that He doesn’t choose men who descended from the gods. He chooses ordinary everyday people with foibles and failures; he takes ‘nobodies‘ in order to demonstrate the strength comes from Him, not from human strength or wisdom.
I am not going to give you a run down of every one of David’s weaknesses. Suffice to remind you of some of them.
- Seeing Bathsheba bathing at a time when the king was at home while the men went to war.
- He then took her and had a child with her.
- He had Uriah killed in an effort to cover up his wrong doing.
- In the end David resorted to taking a census of the troops he had, turning to his strength in numbers rather than in God.
Nathan exposed David’s sin and told him what would happen as a result. From that point on what Nathan had told David prophetically came to pass (2 Samuel 12:7-14). David’s family began to fall apart and what David had done began to manifest itself in his family. We are told that David was a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 8:14). What does that mean in the light of all I have outlined above? We will explore that in the following Gem as we close this section of Hebrews with a look at Samuel as a man of faith.
Faith is that strength, that secret weapon of the soul, which allows us to persevere even when facts seem damning and the truth unbearable.T D Jakes
Without Expectation Of God’s Promises, Faith Has Nothing To Act On.Robb Thompson
Faith is not belief without proof, but trust without reservation.Elton Trueblood
Be thankful for the challenges and the threats to your faith. It is during those difficult times that you grow the most.Ian