One thing about me is that I love a good argument about the Bible. Bible controversy makes me giddy. There are many different flavors, but they all hit.
Two of my favorite flavors of Bible argument are the Hot Take and the Old Time Religion. Allow me to explain with examples.
One time I came across a Twitter thread making the Hot Take argument that sex before marriage was not really a sin. The original poster argued that people like Abraham and David and Solomon had sex with women they weren’t married to, thus we could all do the same.
A totally different time, I found myself embroiled in an Old Time Religion argument with a family member over a TV show. The TV show was about Jesus and the disciples, and it portrayed the disciple Simon Peter as a rough and tumble sort of guy, gambling and breaking the Sabbath. This was scandalous. The Simon of the Bible would never do something like that! He was clearly a good man and we shouldn’t reinterpret his story.
A conservative argument and a liberal one. A Hot Take and an Old Time Religion.
Do you know what both of these arguments had in common?
They can do wrong
Whether we were little children in church class or adults in a church pew when we first learned about the Bible, we learned about the Bible characters as if they were, well, characters.
We listened to straightforward, black and white tales of the heroic acts that made them good guys or the slimy evil that made them bad guys. We obviously couldn’t hear their voices or touch them. If we did see them, it was as 2D drawings of strangers in foreign garb.
So it’s not surprising when we paint them with broad brushes. The bad guys were all bad. The good guys could do no wrong. We forget that they were real, live people with contradictions and flaws and ambiguities and issues.
1 Samuel 27 is a good reminder of that fact. We have traveled with David from the king’s palace in Gibeah to the dry and dusty wilderness. We have seen him trust God. We have seen him refuse to take revenge on King Saul even after he tried multiple times to take David’s life.
But in this chapter, we see David stop trusting God. We see him take matters into his own hands. We see him resort to lying and deception to get by.
What do we do with this? What does this mean?
Since David is good, should we skip over this story? Brush it under the rug? Pretend it didn’t happen?
Or, since David can do no wrong, should we conclude that what he did in this chapter isn’t all that bad? That we can imitate his example, including the lying and the self-reliance?
“I love, heal, strengthen and transform real people.”
Maybe there’s a third option.
Maybe what David did is wrong. Maybe it’s in the Bible not so we can do the same thing, but so we can have hope.
Because comparing our addictions and sins to the stellar faith and unwavering righteousness of the Bible characters is discouraging.
But realizing that the men and women of ancient Israel were problematic and messed up and in need of a Savior—and then seeing them meet that Savior and be transformed by Him? Well, that’s a reminder that that can be us, too.
Abraham shouldn’t have slept with Hagar.
Simon was impulsive and had a violent temper.
David lied and deceived instead of having faith.
But God loved them. He convicted them. He changed them.
And then they went on to lead lives that we look up to today.
What do you think? Why did David make the decisions he did in this chapter?