The Character of David
1 Samuel 13:13-14
And Samuel said to Saul, You have done foolishly: you have not kept the commandment of the LORD your God, which he commanded you…

Men are apt to give their chief attention to certain moral blemishes which disfigured the life of this extraordinary servant of God; and either they deduce from them an excuse for their own intemperances, or they assume that God does not hate sin so vehemently as Scripture elsewhere represents; or else they fairly own themselves unable to reconcile the several wicked acts of David's life with that election and special favour which God was pleased to bestow upon him. Now, the conclusion that the crimes of David can ever justify similar acts of wickedness in others must be utterly delusive, if we find that David never justified them in himself. I shall, therefore, endeavour to examine the character of this very eminent person, and to account, from a general view of the subject, for that title of affectionate preference — "a man after God's own heart" — by which the prophet was commissioned to speak of him. In re. viewing, therefore, these facts, and comparing them with the privileges their author enjoyed, you may feel disposed to assume that God makes an irrespective choice of His servants, and that their moral worth does not weigh against His predetermined election. If such be the judgment you are disposed to give, from a consideration of David's career it is very certain that you have very imperfectly studied his character, and that you would strangely misinterpret the ways of our heavenly Father. For, without reckoning many extenuating circumstances in our consideration of David's evil deeds — for instance, his power and temptations as a king — his ignorance of that perfect morality which was unknown until the Gospel was preached — that disregard, too, of human life and female virtue which has always obtained in eastern countries — without, I say, reckoning any of these things in our final estimate of David's character, we may safely assert that neither in the Old or the New Testament can be found repentance so deep, humility so sincere, faith so unwavering, or generosity so noble, as the records of David's life show; and if these excellent virtues, united in the character of one person, are not sufficient to account for the Divine preference, then indeed David's privileges ate a mystery, and God's love for him is wholly unintelligible. Let us, however, consider the several qualities which I have attributed to David, and, if possible, trace in them the workings of that Spirit who alone can rescue our nature from the dominion of evil.

1. First, his repentance. This we naturally look for after his fall with Bathsheba, and the attendant conspiracy against her husband's life. Immersed for a time in guilty indulgence, David seems to have been in that common state which sensuality produces, literally unaware of the extent of his crime. Suddenly, and in the midst of this fancied security, the Prophet Nathan stood before him, and, by a parable almost, unequalled for its truth and tenderness, recalled the king to his senses. Now, if any one of you wish to express his own repentance, or to test its reality, let him use such language as this, and try how far his feelings accord with it. If you can repent in this spirit, you know indeed what repentance is. In fact, the Bible affords no language for the broken and contrite heart equal to this, and other penitential Psalms by David.

2. Now, with regard to David's unwavering faith in God, I may say at once that it was the ruling principle of his life. Everything he deliberately undertook was in simple reliance upon Divine support. Faith with David really was "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen:" it supported him through all the vicissitudes of a strangely chequered life, and spread a halo of hope around his departing spirit. After making allowance for the minute record of his human failings — a publicity which most men happily escape — and for the partial revelations which visited the times in which he lived, we find no character in Scripture so full, perhaps, of unwavering faith in the goodness and promises of God as David!

3. The last point which I shall notice in the character of this extraordinary person is his generous and noble feelings; and most, strikingly were these displayed in David's connections both with Saul and his son Jonathan. The former regarded David as his deadliest enemy; the latter loved him as his bosom friend. In the study of the life of David the lesson which has struck me, and which I would inculcate upon you, is the extraordinary difference betwixt David and mankind in general, in all the good points for which he was eminent; for it would appear that, though we can imitate him in his crimes, in his faith and humility we widely differ from him: and thus we have a sort of prurient interest about all his weaknesses, fancying we see in them some justification for our own; whilst with his excellencies we are comparatively unacquainted, because they rebuke and cry shame to us at every step in life. Why David was the favourite of God rather than any of us, is, therefore, very clear: we partake the condemning sinfulness of his fallen nature; but we do not join him in penitence, in humility, and in faith. Our repentance is commonly mere shame and worldly discomfiture; no real change of mind, and therefore requiring to be repented of, our trust we give to the world and its trifles rather than to God. In business we are lively, earnest, and active; but in prayer we are cold and doubting. The records of David's piety are before us in the Psalms — compare with these the remembrance of your best devotional exercises, and you will see how we differ from him. If there be this difference betwixt you and David which I have attempted to show you, still delude not yourselves with the fancy that a higher standard of excellence was demanded from him than is expected from you. As to this matter there is but one rule — "Be ye perfect as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect," and for this every one of you must strive. The standard for all men is the highest possible. Finally, remember one other thing, which the example of David has taught us, with regard to progression upon the heavenly road: whatever be your peculiar temptations, or your besetting sins, you must commence a spiritual reformation — you must seek the renewing of your minds by prayer and spiritual exercises, or you will seek to grow better in vain. Our Lord enjoined the Pharisees to cleanse first the inside of the cup and the platter; and David, with the same conviction, prayed — "Create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me." This, believe me, is the only way to become a Christian here, or to inherit glory, immortality, and icy hereafter.

(A. Gatty, M. A.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the LORD thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the LORD have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever.

WEB: Samuel said to Saul, "You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of Yahweh your God, which he commanded you; for now Yahweh would have established your kingdom on Israel forever.

Severe Punishment for Seemingly Small Sins
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