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Lessons for Today From the Old Testament: David

Updated on September 15, 2020
Johan Smulders profile image

Johan Smulders has a . B.A, B.ED and M.A in Education, Theology and Counselling. Works as an evangelist and counsellor.

Light for today from the past

Lessons for Today from the Old Testament: David

“A man after God’s own heart” is how David is described in Samuel.(1 Samuel 13:14) The people demanded a king and they got Saul, a tall and imposing figure, who however, turned out to be a disaster. So Samuel was sent to anoint David, the youngest son of Jesse of Bethlehem, as the new king. “The Lord said to Samuel. Do not consider his appearance or his height, .... The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7 - NIV translation used with permission).

It is interesting to note that several leaders that God called over the years were often not the first choice by human standards and were sometimes even reluctant, but always turned out to be a good choice. Moses, Gideon, David and the Apostle Paul were some examples. Even Jesus “had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him” according to the prophecy in Isaiah 53:2.

David however proved to have many good characteristics that are really worth following.

  1. He was brave and trusted in God in difficult situations. The well known story of the defeat of Goliath, in 1st Samuel, bears reading again. Here, when God’s people are hiding and trembling in their tents, the young boy faces the Philistine giant and wins the battle. His words to Goliath ring through the ages and should be our words when we face the battles in our lives: “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty......” (1 Samuel 17:45).
  2. He was loyal and trustworthy. In his own description to Saul when the king questioned his ability, he simply stated his experience as a shepherd: “When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and killed it” (17:35). Later when the king was trying to kill him, David had the opportunity to kill Saul but refused to do so (24:1-10). His devotion and loyalty to his job as a shepherd and also to Saul illustrates his general attitude. It is especially his loyalty to his friend Jonathan that remains a shining example of friendship.
  3. David used his talents to serve the Lord. The Psalms of David are some of the best known parts of the Old Testament if not of the whole Bible and are testimony to his love and devotion. He served in Saul’s court by playing the harp to calm the king down when Saul was having one of his fits of despair. As a great warrior he brought peace to the nation as he defeated the enemies if Israel.
  4. He showed great emotion and love towards others. When his son Absalom led a rebellion against his father and was eventually killed by Joab, the words of David recorded in 2 Samuel 18:33 are testimony to his love: “The king was shaken. He went to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: O Absalom my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you – O Absalom, my son, my son!” When his fellow soldiers wanted to exclude the soldiers who were too tired to go into battle from sharing in the spoils of war he refused, "and this became a statue and ordinance for Israel from that day to this." (1 Samuel 30:25).
  5. He learned from his mistakes. After repentance came a change in behavior and this showed a contrite heart and soul.
  6. But in the final analysis he was also very human. The well known account of his affair with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband Uriah is a sad story of lust and of one bad decision that led to another. Then, as the prophet Nathan comes to point out his sin with the parable of the rich man who steals the poor man’s sheep, David repents and shows a heart that God requires. No one is perfect, that is the sad story of the human race. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:9, 10) That is why God sent his own beloved son to die in our place. David repented and was restored to God and we have the same opportunity.


David really stands out as a person who listened to God’s voice and followed the path that God had set out for him. He was undoubtedly hugely talented but it was really his heart that was important. God even today looks at humans in a different way than we do. We tend to look at the outward appearance but God searches our hearts and so we need to keep them pure. At times we may need to fight battles with great courage like David did. At other times we need to cry out like he did: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.......”

Scriptures taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, Copyright 1973,1978,1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

The "NIV" and "New International Version" trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by International Bible Society. Use of either trademark requires the permission of International Bible Society.

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