David was nothing if not brave. He was a fighter from the very beginning. But before he killed a giant or led armies into battle, he was a shepherd. He killed the lions and bears that threatened his flock.
When the prophet Samuel visited his family on a mission to identify and anoint the future king of Israel, David’s father Jesse did not even think to call him in from the pastures. He was sure Samuel had one of his older sons in mind. What could the prophet possibly want with the young shepherd boy?
But David was special right from the start and Samuel insisted on meeting him. When he met the young man, he anointed his head with oil—a confirmation that this boy was destined for great things.
One particular fight earned David his place in history. A Philistine giant, Goliath, had been mercilessly taunting the Israelite troops for days when the young man turned up with food for his older brothers who had been enlisted as soldiers.
As David listened to Goliath hurl insults at Israel, he was incensed and offered to take up the giant's challenge for an Israelite soldier to come and fight him.
When King Saul heard of David's desire to fight Goliath, he was reluctant to let him go. But David was determined. He declined the offer of wearing the king's armor and sword, choosing rather to face Goliath with just a sling and five stones.
The youth swung his sling, taking aim at the enemy's forehead. It only took one stone and the giant fell down. David rushed forward, grabbing Goliath's own sword and cutting off his head. The horrified Philistine forces fled with a newly confident Israelite army in hot pursuit.
You're probably thinking that this amazing victory would result in David becoming King Saul’s best friend. Well, not really, although he did give David his own daughter as a wife (in return for a rather gruesome load of foreskins from the Philistines killed in one of David's many battles against the enemy). Saul soon grew to hate the attention that David was receiving in his new position as head of the Israelite army. This young man's popularity and natural leadership abilities easily earned him hero status in Israel, which threatened the king.
News of David spread like wildfire after his victory over Goliath. As he was enjoying continued military success, Israel's women began singing, "Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands." The jealous Saul became even more infuriated. One day, as the young man was playing harp to sooth the king’s temper, Saul hurled his javelin at him, attempting to kill him.
With the help of Saul's son and David's best friend Jonathan, the young man learned that the king's anger toward him was not going to subside so he went hiding.
King Saul spent years trying to hunt down David. On one occasion, the king was resting inside the very cave where the young man was hiding. He crept up on the sleeping king and cut a slice off his garment.
The unsuspecting Saul eventually awoke but as he was leaving the cave, David called out and showed him the piece of cloth. The king was moved by the fact that the young man had not harmed him and instead called for a truce. Peace was never really achieved.
Many people were loyal to David and supported him while he was on the run from Saul. Nabal, a rich and influential man, wasn't one, however. This rich man insulted the young man by refusing to give him any provisions when asked.
David was furious and prepared four hundred of his men for battle against Nabal. But he was intercepted by Nabal’s wife, Abigail, who, together with her servants, presented him with a generous load of provisions without her husband’s knowledge. She begged the Israelite leader to accept her gifts and not shed any blood.
David was impressed by Abigail's tactful gesture. She had shown him the respect due to a future king. Because of this, she decided not to attack Nabal after all and sent her home in peace. When Abigail told Nabal what had happened, he was struck with terror and died. This was seen as a punishment from God. David then asked her to be his wife and they were married.
After Saul’s death in battle, David was anointed his successor. This new king then went on to conquer Jerusalem. He brought back the ark of the covenant and established his kingdom, having finally risen to the throne.
While on the roof of his palace one day, King David spotted a beautiful woman bathing. Instantly attracted, he had the woman, Bathsheba, brought to his palace. He then slept with her.
Soon afterwards, Bathsheba, who was already married, sent word to David that she was pregnant. In an attempt to cover up the affair, David recalled her husband, Uriah the Hittite, who used to serve in his army.
Despite showing Uriah all-out hospitality and even getting him drunk, David was unable to persuade him to return home to sleep with his wife. This loyal military man felt duty-bound not to indulge in such a luxury while his fellow soldiers were risking their lives on the battlefield.
David then switched gears and instead sent Uriah back to the battlefield with orders that he be placed in a vulnerable battle position. As a result, Uriah was killed.
David’s adultery, deception, and murder would come back to haunt him when, upon Uriah's death, he took Bathsheba to be his own wife.
God was displeased with David's actions and so He sent the prophet Nathan to confront the king. The prophet told David a story about a rich man who took the only lamb of a poor man to serve as a meal for one of his guests. David was infuriated by Nathan’s story and said that the rich man should die for what he had done. Nathan then rebuked him for his actions against Uriah, telling him that he represented the rich man in the story.
As a punishment for his sin, the baby born to David and Bathsheba died after an illness. In addition, God denied him the opportunity to build a temple in Jerusalem.
To add salt to an already painful wound, David's own son, Absalom, attempted to unseat his father from the throne. David fled Jerusalem to escape from his son. But he was unable to return to Jerusalem until after Absalom had been brutally killed in battle.
David returned to Jerusalem with a heavy heart. He continued to rule Israel and chose his son Solomon to succeed him as king before he died peacefully at the age of seventy after reigning as king for forty years.
Despite his shortcomings, David was known as "a man after God's own heart." After every mistake, he repented of his sin and turned back to God. He recorded many of the highs and lows of his walk with Him in the Book of Psalms. The Bible speaks of him as an ideal king and Jesus Himself came from his bloodline.