I can't help loving David, the second Israelite king and man after God's own heart. I just finished reading the book of First Samuel, and there are multiple lessons in it, but I think basically it is the tale of two kings. Both made good starts, both were humble men and unlikely choices for king according to their lineage (Saul was a Benjamite, a tribe that was almost destroyed in the book of Judges because of their gross immorality, and David had Moabite blood in his line). But there the comparison ends. Saul is a man I think anyone could identify with. He was the king of half-measures and self-protectionism. He did not carry out all God told him to do through Samuel the prophet. He did ok, but ok didn't cut it. Saul basically got two chances to do the right thing, and when the people began turning against him, he took matters into his own hands. The judgment for his disobedience was that the kingdom would be handed over to another person who would obey. The worst of it was that the Spirit of God left him and a tormenting spirit then haunted him.
So along comes David. David was not unknown to Saul at first-his brothers were in Saul's army, and after Goliath David became Saul's servant-he played music to soothe the torment he was in. But David's constant presence and obedience were the real torment to Saul. Because of him Saul tried to kill his own son, Jonathan, who was David's closest friend. Saul's reasoning powers left him repeatedly the more he tried to hold on to what was taken away from him and refused to accept that he was being replaced. All of First Samuel records Saul's downward slide until the witch at Endor. Samuel had died, and the Lord was not guiding Saul in any way. So Saul again took matters into his own hands and insisted a medium bring Samuel's spirit back from the dead to advise him. Saul disguised himself, and when the woman realized who it was, she was terrified. Samuel simply told Saul from death what had become true in life-the Lord had departed from him. The end of the chapter shows Saul and his sons slain in battle. Saul was beheaded by his enemies-the final lose of identity.
David was a man who did many bizarre things to preserve himself and his life, but the one thread travels through the narrative of David is that God is his focus. You cannot read about David and get away from that. David feigned madness, had his wife put a goat's hair dummy in his bed to escape his enemies at the palace, hid out in caves, hid out with the Philistines and even pretended to serve Achish, the king of Gath, his people's enemy (but actually he slew the enemies of Israel and brough Achish back the spoil without saying where he got it). Yet he never strayed from the knowledge and responsibility that he would one day be king, and took everything Saul dished out without killing the Lord's anointed. David recognized Saul's authority more than Saul did. Twice David could have easily killed HIS tormentor-once while the king relieved himself in a cave where David was hiding, and again when Saul was asleep in his own camp surrounded by his own men. In the first instance David cut off a piece of Saul's robe and the second time he stole Saul's spear and water bottle. Then he shouted from a distant hill to ask the king "Why are you trying to kill me?" And the answer would always come after Saul recovered his mind, "David, my son, is that you? Surely I have played the fool".
The thing is, if we deny who we are, what we were born to be, don't trust, run from the opportunities to show our true selves, we lose it all. Last night I was at a meeting with other believers from the prison ministry Providing Hope. We were in a public restaurant discussing business, but of course part of that was to open and close the meeting in prayer, and in between share truthfully about our desires for the group and to know what God wants from it. Out of the corner of my eye I recognized a man that I knew, an artist, and knew he must have seen and heard me. The thought crossed my mind, "my life is always on display". Just as Saul revealed his true heart in unguarded moments by deep regret, and David by deep reverence for his king, I hope that I will be a David.