September 6th, 2015 – What is the Good Life?
Reverend Lisa Day
Seems to me David is defined more by his flaws than by his greatness. I learned something about him when he killed Goliath; but I learn much more from episodes like these, in which he commits adultery and murder. In other passages, David dances naked before the ark in Jerusalem (says he is a “fool for God”); shows too much leniency for his son Amnon who raped his sister Tamar, turning Absalom against him; sides with the Philistines against Israel; and these are just episodes from memory and I know there are more.
I get a portrait of a man who is fatally flawed, whose flaws are literally fatal to those around him, yet who maintains a relationship with God in spite of all. And God loves and maintains him, seemingly in spite of himself. David gave it all to God. Then he took it back. Then he returned. What is the take away, what do we learn?
He was not guided by the law, clearly, at several critical junctures of his life. He committed murder and adultery when it suited him to do so. He ate the bread of the presence. He seemed to show mercy at strange times and to unlikely people: to Saul, whose life he spared at least twice; to Absalom. Both these men tried to kill him. All in all a picture of a man who is driven by self, who is not guided by the formal code, the Torah. But here we are 3000 years later, remembering his name and reading his story. Why is that?
Here’s another way to put the question: is David the image of God, the image God has been looking for since creating humans? Arbitrary, vicious, spiteful, as well as loving, forgiving, pious; yet his imperfections seem somehow perfect within him, they define who he is, as if to say this is the way he is supposed to be. His holy nature does not seem to be defined by what is good and what is evil, only by his acknowledgement of God’s supreme, final judgement and authority.