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David's Violent Life - The Price He Paid

Old King David

By Dennis Pollock

Old age is a unique season in the lives of men and women. Even though there are clearly some disadvantages involved in our final years, it can also be a beautiful and fruitful time for those who abide in Jesus. Inevitably our lifestyles, our schedules, and many of our attitudes will be significantly different from what they were in our twenties and thirties. Like it or not, over the years so much about us has changed that if we could return in a time machine and talk to the person we once were when first starting out in adult life, we could probably hand out some pretty good advice and save ourselves a great deal of problems and pain.

Some people see old age as a time to sit back, take it easy, watch television, and live as stress-free as possible, considering their deteriorating bodies and health. But this is hardly a Biblical perspective on the winter season of our lives. Typically, God’s people who have been most productive and fruitful in their early and middle years will find a way to continue to be productive and fruitful in their final years.

David was a good example of this. While a young man David’s utter fearlessness and skill as a warrior propelled him to fame in Israel. He killed lions and bears while protecting his sheep, and when he discovered the giant Goliath challenging the armies of Israel, it seemed no big deal for him to take on the giant in the name of the LORD. God was with him and the young shepherd became the talk of Israel. Soon he was one of the commanders in Israel’s army, and eventually became king.

Natural Warrior

David was a born warrior. His sharp eyes, steady hands, and near-perfect hand-eye coordination made him highly effective with a slingshot, a sword, a bow, or any other weapon he chose to take up. But David, although a warrior’s warrior, a “tough guy” who was fearless in the face of danger, also had a sensitive and tender soul, especially when it came to the God of Israel. The man who killed his enemies with zest on the battlefield also had an artistic temperament. David was a poet. He loved to compose psalms about God, about his life experiences, his struggles and his triumphs. David was as skilled with a pen as he was with a sword.

As he reached his latter years, the day came when he wisely recognized that he could no longer take his place in Israel’s battles. But the elderly king became restless. It was not in him to retire or while his days away idly. Over time a thought arose in his heart, a thought which became more pressing and more exciting with each passing day. It occurred to the king that God and Israel needed a temple, a spiritual base of operations. And who better to build it than himself! Soon his sharp mind began to envision how glorious it would be to build a beautiful edifice with which to honor the Lord and serve as central headquarters for the inscrutable, invisible God of Israel.

He told his favorite prophet, Nathan, what was on his mind. David must have really poured it on, because it sounded pretty good to the tough, old prophet, and he told the king, “Do all that is in your heart, for God is with you” (1 Chronicles 17:2). But sometimes what sounds good to us, and seems like a perfectly obvious thing to do, will be vetoed by the Lord.  That night Nathan had a dream that threw cold water over the whole plan. The next day he had to go back to David and tell him God was not in this. But God had given David a wonderful promise in that dream – a promise that He would build him (David) a house and establish His throne through David’s descendants forever. From our perspective we know that God was talking about Jesus Christ, who was a descendant of David, and has been made Lord over all forever and ever. David didn’t know this, of course, but it was incredibly encouraging and this helped him get over the fact that his idea of building a temple for God had been nixed.

“You Have Shed Blood”

Later in the story David gives us a little more information about exactly why God did not allow him to build a temple. David frankly admits in a speech to his leaders that God told him:

You shall not build a house for My name, because you have been a man of war and have shed blood (1 Chronicles 28:3).

I think this is fascinating. As a king of a nation in his time, David had not done anything unusual by being involved in frequent wars. Kings in those days were constantly going to war with other kings and nations or defending themselves from attacks from without. It was, you might say, a part of their job description. When the Israelites first demanded that Samuel provide them a king, they told the prophet:

…we will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles. (1 Samuel 8:19, 20).

But David was no ordinary king and Israel was no ordinary nation. The truth was, David had a lot of blood on his hands. Even in his days while leading a band of 600 men, hiding from King Saul, David had shed much blood. A group of that many men, plus their wives and children, required a lot of food to sustain them. David solved this problem in the ordinary way, for his times. He crossed the borders of the surrounding nations, (never Israel,) and raided small villages, taking everything he could get his hands on. At that time he was living with the Philistines, and to try to make himself look good to the king, he would lie and tell the king that they were raiding various Israelite villages. This made the king feel very good about David, knowing that the slaughter of his own people made it impossible for him to ever defect and go back to Israel.

Total Annihilation

But for David to keep up this ruse, he had to insure there were no survivors from these village raids – every man, woman, and presumably even the children must be killed. And that is exactly what he did. The Bible reports:

Whenever David attacked the land, he left neither man nor woman alive, but took away the sheep, the oxen, the donkeys, the camels, and the apparel, and returned and came to Achish. Then Achish would say, “Where have you made a raid today?” And David would say, “Against the southern area of Judah, or against the southern area of the Jerahmeelites, or against the southern area of the Kenites.” David would save neither man nor woman alive, to bring news to Gath, saying, “Lest they should inform on us, saying, ‘Thus David did.’” And thus was his behavior all the time he dwelt in the country of the Philistines. So Achish believed David, saying, “He has made his people Israel utterly abhor him; therefore he will be my servant forever.” (1 Samuel 27:11, 12).

If a man were to engage in these kinds of murderous raids today, going frequently into a neighboring country and slaughtering every single person in small villages, we would consider him a monster, someone to be hunted down, brought to trial for war crimes, and executed. Yet here was David, called a man after God’s own heart, doing this exact thing. Old women, young women, teenage girls, old men, young men, teenage boys – all were put to death by David’s sword and the swords of his men. God seems never to have said anything to him in rebuke – until now in his old age, when he is told that all his bloodshed has disqualified him from building the temple.

God’s Silence

As king of Israel, David continued to be ruthless in killing his enemies. Once, when he defeated Moab, he forced his prisoners to lie down on the ground. He measured them off with a rope. All the men who lay under every two lengths of rope were killed. The lucky men under the third length of rope were allowed to live and become slaves in Israel. The same David who worshiped God and experienced such inspiring and rapturous moments with the Holy Spirit could be cold and deadly when it came to his enemies. It made him an effective leader/warrior to be sure, but somehow seems out of place for a worshiper of God.

Again, God kept quiet and allowed his servant to do what kings in those days did, and David was truly a man of his times. But when he began having thoughts about building a temple for the God he really did love, the Almighty spoke and revealed that his bloody ways had been just too much. David’s son, Solomon, would prove to be a man of diplomacy and peace, and he would be the one to build the temple.

David accepted the rebuke well and gave up his plans of building a great and glorious temple. Instead he did the next best thing; he began making preparations for the building of the temple, which would be entrusted to his son Solomon. He gave enormous amounts of gold and silver into the treasury to be used when the time came. He encouraged the whole nation to give to the project, and there was an outpouring of supplies given and set aside. But David did more than give toward this “temple fund.” He began sensing his old friend, the Holy Spirit, moving on his heart and giving him God’s prescribed design for the structure. David, who had been poet, warrior, and king, now began to operate in the office of an architect. The Bible says:

Then David gave his son Solomon the plans for the vestibule, its houses, its treasuries, its upper chambers, its inner chambers, and the place of the mercy seat; and the plans for all that he had by the Spirit… (1 Chronicles 28:11, 12).

Although God had finally rebuked His servant for his violence and bloodshed, He mercifully allowed him to have a vital role in providing all the preparations for the building of the temple. And once Solomon became king, he was soon at work. He had the materials necessary; he had the plans, and he had in his heart the strict instructions from his father about the priority of this project. Soon the walls of the temple were going up and the great passion of his father, which had consumed his heart in his old age, became a reality.

Lessons for Us

This story is both poignant and encouraging at the same time. It speaks powerfully to us today. One of its profound lessons is that, just because we live according to the normal customs and morals of our times does not by any means indicate that God is pleased with every aspect of our lives. Every culture has its own morality and socially approved mores, but we must not swallow them whole, simply because this is how nearly everybody lives, thinks, and believes.

Secondly, we see that what a man or woman does today is either qualifying or disqualifying them for privileges in future days. David’s sword had shed gallons of human blood, but only in his latter years did he discover that God was not happy with all that slaughter and bloodshed. Some killing, like the killing of the giant Goliath, was necessary and right, but many of the massacres David participated in could and should have been avoided. Could you and I be doing things today that displease the Lord and are disqualifying us for future blessings and opportunities? We should search our hearts!

Despite all the killing David had done, and the violent nature of much of his life, he was truly a man who loved and worshiped God. He was a man of his times, and he did what all kings did in those days. And God did not give up on him. He was granted the privilege of being the architect of the greatest structure in the history of the world. He declared: “All this the LORD made me understand in writing, by His hand upon me, all the works of these plans.” More importantly, through his lineage, many centuries later, a little Jewish baby was born who would be the Savior of the world, the Lord Jesus Christ. He would be a man of peace and love, who came “to save men’s lives and not to destroy them.”



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