Although my house be not so; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he made it not to grow.
In examining the spiritual life of David there is one great problem that finally confronts a person, a problem of sanctification. As David became older he seemed to slip backward instead of progressing; he seemed to become more sinful rather than less. One begins to wonder whether or not something didn’t go wrong, and, if so, what.
There can be little question but that David was a man who lived very closely with God. All of the Psalms give testimony to this. Here are the outpourings of a heart that was very closely attuned to the Lord of heaven and earth. Moreover, they also testify to the closeness with which God looked upon David, such as in Psalm 89, “I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant, Thy seed will I establish for ever, and build up thy throne in all generations. Selah.” From that day forth the people of God were often identified as the children of David. And the real importance of David within the over-all covenant purpose was brought when Jesus was introduced as the Son of David. This remained one of His chief designations, giving an honor to David completely beyond all compare.
With this position of honor accredited to David we have very little difficulty as long as we remain with our general impressions of him. We remember David as the young shepherd boy faithfully caring for his sheep regardless of what danger confronted him in their behalf; we remember him as the simple young man valiant in battle against a warrior like Goliath and many others too because he trusted in God to keep him; we remember him as the guileless young leader who would not lift his hand against the Lord’s anointed even when he was unjustly hunted and persecuted by him; we remember David as the great king who waited to take his throne until the Lord had prepared the way for him because he would not pursue his own personal ambitions; and then we remember the many songs which he wrote and sang, songs which even yet today quicken the hearts of the people of God and serve to draw them closer into that secret walk with God that David knew so very well. But that is not the whole story. There is that other part too, the closing portion of king David’s life, tainted with. all kinds of terrible sins. How could it be that one who had lived so close to God could fall so low, and remain there it seems without ever being restored to the innocence of his youth again? It is a troublesome thing.
When we come to the close of the record of David’s life in II Samuel, there are two Psalms of David which bring out very vividly the contrast in his life.
The first of these is found in II Samuel 22 and is called a song of thanksgiving. Although it appears at the close of the record of David’s life, it evidently was not written then but much earlier, possibly at the time when he had completed his conquest of the heathen nations and immediately before the sin with Bathsheba. Certainly the exuberant and confident tone of the Psalm would seem to bear this out.
The first portion of the Psalm, verses 2-4, forms a beautiful introduction basing David’s faith and confidence upon God, “The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; the God of my rock; in him will I trust: he is my shield, and the born of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my Saviour; thou savest me from violence. I will call on the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.”
The second portion, verses 5-19, is a joyful look backward at the danger which had confronted David in his life and the wondrous deliverances which God had wrought in answer to his prayers. “When the waves of death compassed me, the floods of ungodly men made me afraid; the sorrows of hell compassed me about; the snares of death prevented me; in my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried to my God: and he did hear my voice out of his temple, and my cry did enter into his ears . . . He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters. He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them that hated me: for they were too strong for me. They prevented me in the day of my calamity: but the LORD was my stay.”
The third portion, vv. 20-30, gives expression to the basis upon which David’s confidence rested. He put it thus, “The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness: according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed. For I have kept the ways of the LORD, and have not wickedly departed from my God. . . . Therefore the LORD hath recompensed me according to my righteousness; according to my cleanness in his eye sight.”
Finally, the last part of the Psalm, verses 21-51; cites many instances of the way in which the Lord had been with him, as this, “Thou hast enlarged my steps under me; so that my feet did not slip. I have pursued mine enemies, and destroyed them; and turned not again until I had consumed them. And I have consumed them, and wounded them, that they could not arise: yea, they are fallen under my feet . . . .”
Taking this Psalm as a whole, the one portion of it which is of greatest interest is the third. At first thought it might seem that this part of the Psalm is much too presumptuous and boastful, much too self-righteous throughout. But on further thought, we can surely be much more charitable in our judgment of David than this. Surely he did not intend to say with this that he was free from all sin and completely without guilt in the sight of God. What he was simply doing was affirming the fact that thus far in his life he had followed in the way that a believing child of God ought to walk and there was no gross transgression which any could accuse him of. The appeal of David here was not greatly different than that of old Samuel some years before when he stood before the people and challenged them, I Samuel 12:3, “Behold, here I am: witness against me before the LORD, and before his anointed: whose ox have I taken? or whose ass have I taken? or whom have I defrauded? whom have I oppressed? or of whose hand have I received any bribe to blind mine eyes therewith? and I will restore it to you. . . . The LORD is witness against you and his anointed is witness this day, that ye have not found ought in my hand.”
When, therefore, David set forth the principle, “With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful, and with the upright man thou will shew thyself upright. With the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt shew thyself unsavory,” as he does here in this portion of the Psalm, he is not claiming for himself any perfection or freedom from all taint of sin; he is merely recognizing the principle that those who walk in love and faithfulness before God are those who shall know His fellowship and blessing in his life.
The thing to note, however, is that this was the last time during his life that David could write such a Psalm. Soon thereafter his life was to change so radically that David would never be able to claim again that righteousness of which he so freely speaks here. Henceforth he would become the Psalmist who would write, as he did in Psalm 51, “I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. . . . Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. . . . Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”
This complete change in attitude comes out further in the second Psalm recorded toward the close of II Samuel. It is introduced as “the last words of David” and may well have been the last thought that he was able to express when the weakness of death was beginning to close in on him. The shortness of the Psalm would seem to indicate this; but it did not mean that the thoughts within it were not rich and deep. Surely it is one of the most moving Psalms of his life:
The Spirit of the LORD spake by me, and his word was in my tongue.
The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me,
He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.
And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds;
As the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain.
Although my house be not so with God; yet he hath made me an everlasting covenant,
Ordered in all things, and sure:
For this is all my salvation, and all my desire,
Shall he not make it to grow?
The striking thing in this Psalm is the sudden reversal of thought which takes place in the middle of its thought. David begins by drawing out the beauty of the kingly office, comparing it to the light of the morning with all of its beauty. But then suddenly he stops in the realization that this has no longer been true of his reign, “My house is not so with God.” He had sinned and corrupted his reign again and again over many years. He was no longer the successful ruler that he had once been, and in which he had once made his boast. It left him but one thing to plead, “Yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire. Shall he not make it to grow?” All that David has left upon which to rest his confidence is the faithfulness of the covenant of God. It was that covenant which gave to him the assurance that some day a son would be born unto him who would fulfill the beauty of the office which he had not been able to realize himself.
Here also is the significance of the latter part of David’s life: Surely it is a disappointment when we evaluate it according to his works. In our love for this man of God we could wish that he had kept himself from the taint of all that sin, we might wish that he would have gone on to greater and more wonderful works; but the will of God was other. In David’s youth he had learned much of the wonder and faithfulness of God. He had lived in this love and been blest. But one thing David did not fully appreciate, and that was his depravity and sinfulness. Thus it was that God guided his way into deeper and more difficult trials before I which at times he could not stand. He whose life had shone so beautifully with childlike innocence and righteousness became one of history’s chief examples as to how far a child of God can fall into sin.
Before David’s sins of his latter days we grieve, for sin is always sad to God’s people; but we can also appreciate the wisdom of God even in this. Furthermore, even in his sin David did not go down in defeat. He turned unto the Lord in repentance, he cried upon his mercy, he rested his confidence upon His covenant faithfulness. In very fact, this latter beauty, the beauty of humble repentance and dependence, is far greater than that which shone forth in his youth.