To few men have been granted the privileges that were enjoyed by David. Few have risen to such heights of spiritual apprehension and prophetic revelation of the sufferings of Christ and the glories that should follow, or of the protecting, preserving, and providing care of the Lord – as his shepherd. But such attainments are no guarantee of immunity against temptation and failure. Rather are they, reasons why the enemy makes such individuals, a, special target for his venomous hatred, so as to bring, them down from, heir high estate. Hence few have, displayed more than David that, the best of men are only men at the best. The greatest failures, are the failures of the greatest and the corruption of the best is the worst. But it is, with no morbid desire , to dwell on the sins of David that we venture to draw attention to them, but rather to see in them the hidden shoals, the sunken rocks, or the cross currents and undercurrents whereby it is possible for all to make shipwreck. If the man after God’s own heart was capable of such, so is everyone. The knowledge of the truth that is the heritage of the saints in the assemblies and which, thank God, is still largely enjoyed by them, does not render them any more immune than David was. They happened for our ensamples and have been written for our admonition.
Moreover, against this dark and sombre background there is beautifully displayed: the multi-coloured Grace of God that characterises His ways of government. With these we should become more and more acquainted. If even such gross, failures are possible, thank God restoration and recovery are possible also. We shall consider them in, their historical order;
(1) THE NEW CART (2 Sam. 6) – THE WORLD.
By employing Philistinian methods to bring back the ark, David committed a breach of the Levitical law. It was failure in the matter of procedure. It led to the death of Uzzah and the unnecessary delay of three months in getting the ark back. During; these three months the ark was in, the house of Obed-Edom who was specially blessed because of it. So the failure of David led to the blessing of another and is an illustration of what is taught in Romans 11. 11-13 – “Through their fall (Israel) salvation is; come unto the Gentiles for to provoke them to jealousy.” The desire to, bring back the ark was a most commendable one, but his zeal was not according to knowledge. It is easy to do the right thing in a wrong way. Motive is not everything though highly important. Of this experience David said later, “The Lord made, a breach upon us for that we sought Him not after the due order.” Just before, David, after enquiring of the Lord, had smitten the, Philistines at Baal-Perazim of which he said, “The Lord hath broken forth upon mine enemies before, me as the breach of waters.” Therefore he called the place Baal-Perazim. But this was followed by Perez-Uzzah – victory followed by defeat. He had defeated the Philistines but now he adopted their methods. Let us beware lest in our desire to restore the ark to its place, or in our desire to do the Lord’s’ work and to secure His presence we lean on the arm of flesh and copy carnal methods. It is sometimes said, that as long as the message is unchanged methods matter little! But this is only partially true. The adoption of any carnal method cannot but weaken the power of the message as is evident from the study of 1 Cor. 1 to 4. It is unfortunate when at a tent mission an hour or so is taken for preliminaries, many of them, unnecessary and savouring of entertainment, while the preacher is left 25 minutes to declare the Gospel! Why the necessity in Gospel campaigns, to, spend 10 to 15 minutes in appeal after appeal? While such may be an evidence of the sincere desire of the evangelist to see results is it not also an evidence of the lack of power? In apostolic days the appeal came from the hearers (Acts 2. 37). Can it be said that such high pressure methods have produced satisfactory results? Then again, why in young peoples’ rallies is so much time given to many choruses, and the time for the ministry of the Word of God curtailed? Is there not a need to be on our guard lest we too, like David, seek Him not “after the due order,” by making new carts after a Philistinian pattern, and thereby delay the very blessing we so much desire?
(2) BETHSHEBA AND URIAH – (2 Sam. 11. 12-25) – THE FLESH.
The second sin was a violation of the moral law and a gross failure in practice. The penalty according to the law was death to both parties (Lev. 20. 10; Deut. 22. 22). Hence the first message to the penitent monarch was “The Lord also hath put away thy sin: thou shalt not die” (2 Sam. 12. 13). Whereas it is too true that by this sin he had given occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, yet out of this sad episode has come the Psalm of confession (51), the Psalm of Remission (32), and the Psalm of Adoration (103). A company whom no man can number have learnt the truth of God’s Grace through these Psalms. When wishing to illustrate the truth of justification by faith independent of works the Apostle quotes from Psalm 32 (Romans 4. 7).
Whereas the death penalty was cancelled David suffered under the governmental hand of God through the death of his sons (2 Sam. 12. 6-18; 13. 28, 29; 18. 14, 15; 1 Kings 2. 24, 25) and by the disruption in his family and kingdom. When the days of persecution were passed and David was made king over Israel somehow it led to a lowering of the moral standard. We read that David perceived that the Lord had established him king … and David took more concubines and wives (2 Sam. 5. 12, 13). This departure paved the way for the later lapse. Popularity brought with it its own undercurrent of temptation. As then, so now; when the stigma of being associated with a rejected Lord “outside the camp” ceases and a certain amount Of popularity takes its place, too often the tendency is to lower the moral and spiritual standards. The path of ease leads to the lack of vigil, only to allow the enemy to come in as a flood!
(3) NUMBERING ISRAEL – (2 Sam. 24) – THE DEVIL.
The third sin, that of numbering Israel, was a breach of the constitutional law and a failure in the matter of principle. David’s desire to number Israel was the result of being provoked by the “adversary.” Hence in his three sins we have illustrated the three inveterate foes of the Christian and the Church: the world, the flesh and the devil. He imitated the world, he succumbed to the flesh, and fell victim to the subtle wiles of the great adversary. This was for our ensample and has been recorded for our admonition. However, even in this the enemy over-reached himself. It was through it that the threshing floor of Oman the Jebusite was acquired and thereby the site of the temple secured. In the over-ruling of God this proved to be the place or near the place which Abraham named “Jehovah-Jireh” (Gen. 22. 14; 2 Chron. 3. 1).
It was possibly the desire to assess his military might and strength that led David to number Israel. For the moment he seemed to forget that they were the people of the Lord. Even the unprincipled Joab did not wish to carry out the injunction! What a price David paid! 70,000 men died. His military might was thereby considerably weakened and through a bitter experience he learned the danger and disaster of making flesh his arm.
The danger of measuring the possibilities for further conflicts and the temptation to take a census has not ceased. On the day of Pentecost we read that 3,000 were added and later we read of 5,000. At Corinth the Lord said to Paul, “I have much people in this city,” but this is far removed from the custom of counting as converts those who have raised their hand, or passed through the enquiry room, or come forward to shake the evangelist by the hand! In one place nearly 100 such professions were recorded, but three weeks later only three could be found. One would be happy if the record was of those who had proved their profession by taking their places with the saints. The other is a delusion to all and a snare to the evangelist. It caters to pride, which was the root of David’s sin, in numbering Israel,
At these times of serious and solemn failure David was blessed in that there were prophets who were faithful. Nathan and Gad were men of God and in the fear of God delivered their messages. David, a prophet himself, thus owed much to the prophetic ministry of others. If God had not spoken to him he would have become like them that go down to the pit. Happy will be our position if likewise in days of crisis and failure in the government of the House of God, there are those who, in the fear of God, will be instrumental in delivering the word that will bring home conviction and thereby be effective in restoration.