David Illidge is one of several young men I’m privileged to mentor. I often give my guys homework each time we meet and David’s recent assignment was to do a brief character study on – who else? – David of the Bible.
Not gonna lie, he blew the old professor away. Naturally, I asked if I could post it because I thought you might be encouraged by another up-and-comer from the next generation.
My name is David.
I guess my parents had high hopes for me. There has never been anyone quite like the king of Israel and I pale in comparison. He was the slayer of ten thousands, and I get nervous when I talk to girls. But I could never be jealous of him. If I were born in an earlier time and in a different part of the world, I would gladly serve under a man like David. I would study him every time he was in the room and pray, “God, teach me to be like him.”
As a matter of fact, I pray it anyway.
Here’s why. David took down a lion and bear with just his hands before anyone heard of him. Then there was the time he killed a giant with a slingshot. And he just kept on going being unstoppable. Consider this. David had three monstrous men directly under him in his military. The first, Joshebbasshebeth, once killed 800 men in a single battle. Eleazer fought one battle for so long that his sword became attached to his hand. And Shammah once stayed on the battlefield after all his men left and won the battle himself. But these men stopped and listened whenever David spoke. He was one bad dude.
On top of being unconquerable, David was God’s anointed. It’d be easy to let it go to his head. Saul chased David out of the kingdom for fear he would take it by force. David does the unthinkable and bowed his head to Saul when he was caught. David was the “better man” by any measure. He asked Saul why he would chase after a “dead dog, a flea.” Could you bow your face to the literal dirt and talk about yourself like that? Could you do it knowing God had chosen you to replace a man like Saul? I couldn’t.
Speaking of being on the run from Saul, there’s a story about David that doesn’t get talked about enough. David and his men were running for so long that they couldn’t go on any farther. David began to look for food. He found the priest and did something outrageous. He asked for the only food around, the Bread of the Presence. Only priests could eat that bread, and people died for violations of God’s temple. This was equivalent to what Esther did by entering the king’s chamber unannounced. But David knew Yahweh better than anyone else. He took the bread and fed his men. They lived, and Jesus even commends David for his actions. David knew that God’s rules were meant to sustain men, not to tear them down.
But as great a fighter he was, sometimes he chose not to. One day David was forced from his throne by Absalom, his son. On the way out, a member of Saul’s family began to curse David and throw rocks at him like he was on the playground. David’s men were ready to end the man’s life, but David said no. “If he is cursing because the Lord has said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who then shall say, ‘Why have you done so?’” David trusted God enough to bear the humiliation and let him handle the situation instead of his very capable men.
David was astoundingly ready to forgive, too. Absalom eventually caught up to David. He was ready to take his father’s life. David’s men are ready to spill the young upstart’s blood. They’re gearing up for the battle when David says to deal gently with Absalom for David’s sake. I can see their shoulders slump. “Deal gently? Are you kidding me?” One of his less faithful men does end up killing Absalom, though. David is distraught when he hears the news. He cries, “Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!”
David was more man than anyone I’ve personally met. But he would challenge our idea of being man, too. He wrote poetry, and he was good at it. He didn’t see it as a waste of his time or something that “those artsy types” do. His poems are still around, filling up the Psalms.
He could dance, too. David was the king of Israel and the king of dancing like nobody was watching – even if the whole nation was. When the Ark of the Covenant was returned to Jerusalem, David danced with so much exuberance that he embarrassed his wife. She told him to stop and David spoke the immortal line, “I will become even more undignified than this.” If we’re honest, most guys don’t like to dance ‘cause they’re afraid they’ll look bad, no matter what excuse they give you. Not David. He knew no fear on the battlefield or the dance floor.
I could go on. But lowercase ‘d’ david has written enough. King David knew no fear because he knew Yahweh was on his side. People like to make him a kind of underdog. God never saw him that way. God has his eye on him the fields with the sheep long before he took down Goliath. He brought David up to be king of Israel because he knew who David’s heart followed. David was faithful with his sheep and a worshipper of God through writing and song. I pray that God teaches me to be the kind of man my namesake was and trust that if I’m faithful here God sees me too. I invite you to do the same.