In this semester’s series through First and Second Samuel we will be exploring the grace of God primarily through the life of David, a man who defied all appearances and expectations, who also defied the Mosaic Law and its prescribed punishments, who indeed defied God himself, but also a man through whom God reveals the freedom of his grace. King David was a man of bold contradictions, a worship leader and warrior king, a hero of an army and traitor of a soldier, a rescuer of the Ark and betrayer of its Covenant, a disturbed sinner with deep anxieties of his guilt and a shameless beggar with audacious claims of God’s grace—a man of passions.
For all that can be gleaned from the life of David and the story in which we find it, a few things are certain: God’s grace has far more power than human guilt, far more freedom than religious formulae, and far more hope to offer than anything less than boundless hope. The saga of David’s life puts flesh and bones on the extent to which the claim of 1 John 1:9 is true: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (cf. Ps. 51), even the most unforgiveable sins of all (cf. 2 Sam. 11).
But while the story of David and Israel’s monarchy is decidedly about God, we would be remiss not to explore what it was that seemed to endear David to God, why it was God “took pleasure in [him] above his brothers” (1 Chron. 28:4), why he was said to be a “man after [God’s] own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14; cf. Acts. 13:22), what qualities, entangled in sin though they were, can be identified in the only person in the Bible ever to address the Creator of the universe directly and say to him, “I love you, Lord!” (Ps. 18:1).
The truth is, many of us can relate to the dark side of David’s passions, but perhaps most of us have yet to know anything like the impassioned side of David’s faith. In fact, it is precisely a lack of passion that Kenda Creasy Dean, Professor of Youth, Church and Culture at Princeton University, has pinpointed as the most common variable associated with college students walking away from their faith or dissolving it into a purely inward belief system that has no bearing on everyday life (see Almost Christian, pp. 3-25, Dean), which both Dean and Christian Smith, who led the largest study on youth and religion in America out of UNC Chapel Hill, suggest is a mere projection of the compromised faith of their parents’ generation.
So my prayer is that this semester we—students and parents—will be begin to explore the heart of David in hopes of discovering the heart of God; exploring what it might look like to unfetter our passions so as to find the true Object of their longing; seeking a freedom like that of the man who danced before the Lord as a fool, who took hold of God’s grace with unforgiveable hands, who knew how to weep for his sin and rejoice in his salvation, the freedom of a man who knew how to say, “I love you, Lord,” because he knew that the Lord loved him (1 Kgs. 15:4)—a man of passionate faith in and intimate affection for his God.
“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me” (Ps. 63:1-8).