"As I mused, the fire burned"

Reflection on life as a person of faith.

Success through Failure: King David’s Human Side

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“So Solomon sat on the throne of his father David; and his kingdom was firmly established” 1 Kings 2:12

In his book, “Success through Failure” engineer Henry Petroski asserts that, “failure, not success…is the true touchstone of design.” Petroski is speaking of bridges but this thought is as true for we people of faith as it is for structural steel. It is the times we do not do God’s will that teach us the most about our faith.

The transition of David’s dynasty to his son Solomon is one filled with intrigue and spilled blood. Yet too often David and Solomon are seen as almost saintly figures whose perfection is held up for Christians to emulate. In his dream speech to God, Solomon continues this pretence by saying that his father was blessed because he, “walked before God in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward God…”. (1 Kgs 3:6)

Wait a minute. Is this the same David who stole another man’s wife, ordered his murder (and others), and refused to serve justice over the rape of Tamar? We are witnessing some royal gilding of the lily by Solomon, who stands with a straight face before the Almighty and witnesses to David’s greatness.

Solomon himself has secured the throne with three murders, a banishment, and intermarriage with an Egyptian princess, all actions that don’t receive a high approval rating in the Old Testament. Yet Solomon continues his oration calling himself, “…only a little child…” and humbly asking for wisdom.

We reduce these nuanced and complex figures to 2-dimensional flannel-graph images with a simple moralistic story to back up the felt. David was a good king and God blessed him so if you’re a good person God will bless you as well. These men are far too complex to be reduced to any simple moralistic story that we can package up and pass on as a kind of “chicken soup for the new king” story on how to live a Godly life. Our reality is a little more nuanced.

Solomon is residing on the throne not as a result of David’s somewhat variable, “faithfulness, righteousness, and uprightness of heart”, and certainly not as a result of his own great humility. Solomon resides on his father’s throne because God has placed him there in spite of all he has done.

This distinction is an essential one for us to understand. Rather than high and mighty figures that present us with unattainable levels of holiness, David and Solomon are very human figures who continually go astray from the righteous path. They are of far more use to us this way than the sanitized images of our Sunday School flannel-graph presentations, for as powerful people who struggle to do right, but still do wrong, David and Solomon are models of each of us.

David and Solomon, in this clear light, help us to understand Paul’s words when he says, “For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.” (Romans 7:18-19) In understanding their struggles following God we find help and solace in our own struggles, as we live in this troubling world and work to “understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17b).

What is even more important than grasping the image of these two flawed men is God’s response. God does not reject their failing attempts to follow His law but rather says that David was a man after His own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). This is not because David was perfect but because he kept trying to be perfect, even though he failed. The response of God to that effort is to bless, to encourage and to remain in relationship.

This is great news for us. It doesn’t matter what you have done for the blessing of God is there because you keep on trying and not only if you achieve some level of perfection. Like designing bridges, it is in our failures that we learn what it truly means to be a follower of Christ. Like David and Solomon even when we fail and especially when we fail, that forgiveness will be there to encourage us to keep on struggling, and to keep on seeking God.


Written by sameo416

June 17, 2013 at 8:02 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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