Last week, I wrote two posts tracing the slow decline of King Saul (The Pathway to Slow Decline part 1 | part 2). In one way, those posts seemed to convey inevitability in Saul’s life that could be depressing. Today, I wanted to offer a contrast to Saul’s decline by looking at David’s rise focusing on 2 Samuel 7.
By the time we meet David in 2 Samuel 7, he is installed as the king of Judah and Israel and “was settled in his place and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him” (2 Samuel 7:1). He is at peace after a tumultuous number of years through Saul’s reign and immediately after Saul’s death.
Realization of God’s Grace
The first thing we notice about David is that he attributes his accomplishments and status as king to the hand of God. David does not credit his own daring in battle, wisdom in strategy, or perseverance in trouble. Instead, David looks to the Lord and His grace as the source of all the good he enjoys. His perspective is God-centered instead of self-centered, and that is a huge difference from Saul.
First Response to God’s Grace
Secondarily, David’s first response to the gracious hand of God is to consider how he might best honor God (7:2-3). The ark of God’s covenant, which was the physical symbol of God’s presence and power, is still in a tent while David resides in a splendorous home. David wants to build a splendorous house for the Lord, and so he sets his mind to that noble task. In light of God’s grace, David wants to honor God beyond the honor he himself has received. His goal is the higher glory of God.
Gracious Corrective to Human Plans
Surprisingly, God does not want David to implement the building plan he has developed. For His own reasons, God stops David via the prophet Nathan before the plan is set into motion (7:4-17). God wants David to set aside this good, God-honoring initiative so that someone else may do it later. At the same time, the Lord affirms that David and his line will be divinely established for years to come. David encounters both a corrective and an affirmation from God. There were times in Saul’s life when God offered a corrective to Saul’s plan. Unfortunately, Saul usually responded with his own plans, impatience, or by ignoring what God had in mind. David, instead, responds with a humble obedience that is amazing to observe.
Second Response to God’s Grace
When David hears the words of God from Nathan the prophet, he draws away to talk with God. I am captured by this short phrase: “then King David went in and sat before the Lord” (7:18). David comes before the Lord and his prayer is marked by four movements:
- Humble thanks: David verbalizes that God is the One who has brought about all the good David is experiencing
- Awe-inspired adoration: David expresses wonder and awe before God for who He is
- Honest requests: Finally, David asks God to truly keep the promises He has made about blessing David and his descendants
Imperfect but Graced
When we read the story of David, it becomes very clear that he is anything but perfect. David fails in his decisions as a king, his sexual appetites, and his ability to direct his children in the right ways. David is visibly imperfect. So was Saul before him. The difference between these two men is not their perfection but their response to God. David experiences God’s grace, recognizes it as such, and turns back to God constantly, even in his failures. Saul continues on the pathway to slow decline.
We are not altogether different. All of us are imperfect people. One defining factor in our lives is whether we respond to God like David or like Saul.