Righteous, David-Style

These are the last words
of David the son of Jesse.
The God of Jacob chose David
and made him a great king.
The Mighty God of Israel
loved him.
When God told him to speak,
David said:
The Spirit of the LORD
has told me what to say.
Our Mighty Rock,
the God of Jacob, told me,
“A ruler who obeys God
and does right
is like the sunrise
on a cloudless day,
or like rain that sparkles
on the grass.”
I have ruled this way,
and God will never break
his promise to me.
God’s promise is complete
and unchanging;
he will always help me
and give me what I hope for.
But evil people are pulled up
like thornbushes.
They are not dug up by hand,
but with a sharp spear
and are burned on the spot. (2 Samuel 23:1-)

God doesn’t love us because we’re good. David was good at killing Philistines, but he was not good at raising his children: Amnon raped his sister Tamar; Absalom killed Amnon. Then Absalom rebelled against David, precipitated a civil war, and both he and many Israelites on both sides of the issue died in battle. David committed adultery with Bathsheba and then saw to it that her husband was killed in battle. Just before he died, like a mob boss, he told his son, Solomon—the crown prince born to the woman he had committed adultery with—to settle accounts—old grudges—with everyone who had ever wronged him. But at the end of his life, David looked back on it all and said that he had been a king who obeyed God and did what was right.

How can we reconcile David’s life with his claim to righteousness? By remembering that all human righteousness is nothing but filthy rags and that salvation is by grace: the consequence of Jesus’ death on the cross. David did not need to fear the wrath of God because God’s wrath had been—or in David’s case—would be directed at the ultimate sacrifice. David was forgiven and declared righteous by God. That’s how David could know he was a good man: his goodness was in Jesus, not in himself. It’s the same way we know we’re righteous today.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm a deacon at Quartz Hill Community Church. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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