For the past seven years I’ve been systematically integrating the Conflict of the Ages series via the Ellen G. White iPhone app with my digital Bible.
So far I’ve read The Desire of Ages, The Acts of the Apostles, and Patriarchs and Prophets. The last 12 chapters of Patriarchs and Prophets cover the life of David.
As I wrapped up my study, a thought began to percolate: How did David go from a man whose conscience was bothered by cutting off a piece of King Saul’s robe (1 Sam. 24:5) to someone who consciously slept with one of his soldier’s wives, then one-upped himself by murdering this righteous man (see 2 Sam. 11)?
Odder yet, on the surface David didn’t have a falling away from God that would normally precede such acts. In fact, at the end of 2 Samuel 10, David and Israel had ascended to the height of their power, apparently reaping the blessings of faithfulness.
How did this happen?
I reread 1 Samuel 24 to 2 Samuel 11. This time I read with much more purpose, filtering for the text’s specific instances that suggested cracks in David’s seemingly noble character. It was the find function on my Excel spreadsheet.
Given how much I found, it seems I should have been reading more closely all along. In the 18 chapters between these stunning accounts, many signs indicated subtle yet significant compromises, a progressive deterioration of David’s moral judgment. Here are a few examples:
In 1 Samuel 29, while running from Saul, David lived among the Philistines. To keep his hosts unaware of his true loyalty, he made a show of accompanying the Philistines into battle against Israel. During his pretense away from Ziklag all the group’s women and children were taken captive by his enemies. Although they were reclaimed, it was David’s pretense with the Philistine king that caused their loss in the first place.
At the end of 1 Samuel 25 David proposed to Abigail, the former wife of Nabal. However, the text makes clear that he was already married. He went on to take numerous wives and concubines, opening the door of his mind to act on the lust he felt for Bathsheba.
In 2 Samuel 1:15 David quickly pronounced the death sentence on the man who claimed to have helped Saul commit suicide. The youth died for his lies, part of his outrageous attempt to ingratiate himself with David. Yet the death sentence he received illustrated David’s readiness to shed blood, the reason God did not permit him to build the Temple. Devaluing human life makes it easier to murder, Uriah’s lot when other cover-ups failed.
While David’s life provides many applicable life lessons—both good and bad—these examples give a taste for what can happen when we study with purpose. As we read, let’s allow the Holy Spirit to raise questions in our minds. Then before moving on, go back and apply a filter that answers those questions. We never know what we might find, and with whom God might call us to share it.
Jimmy Phillips is regional marketing director for Adventist Health Southern California.