This is a revised and abbreviated version of the funeral message for David Pierce. If you’d like to read the entire message the link is posted at the end of this blog.
I have been thinking a lot over these last few days about David, King David, that mighty man of valor, 2nd king of Israel. Truthfully it has been prompted by the loss of my brother-in-law last week. His name was David.
King David was a musician. He played the harp and sang the psalms. He was a writer, a poet really writing most of those Psalms that he sang. King David was a warrior. He fought Goliath and the Philistines and the Amalekites. He was a builder. He built Jerusalem and though he never actually built it he amassed the resources to build the temple. His life was public, the good, the bad and the ugly. He had Nathan the prophet to make sure of that. He messed up big time with another man’s wife. There was a huge cover-up, murder, scandal. King David had some family stuff. What family doesn’t?
But here’s the thing along with that God said about King David, “He is a man after my own heart.” So I’ve been thinking. Why did God say that? And when did he say it? And did He still think it at the end, after the public stuff and the battles and all of that? So I started looking at the end of King David. In 2 Samuel 23 there is a passage that is titled The Last Words of King David but they really don’t seem to be his last words. A couple of chapters later in I Kings, chapter 2 David is giving this message to his son (well, really grandson) Solomon. And in this last message I found some things that made me think, “This is why God called David a man after my own heart.”
I Kings 2:1 “The time came near for David to die. So he gave orders to his son Solomon. He said 2 “I’m about to die, just as everyone else on earth does. So be strong. Show how brave you are. 3 Do everything the Lord your God requires. Live the way he wants you to. Obey his orders and commands. Keep his laws and rules. Do everything that is written in the Law of Moses. Then you will have success in everything you do. You will succeed everywhere you go. 4 “The Lord will keep the promise he made to me. God said, ‘Your sons must be careful about how they live. They must be faithful to me with all their heart and soul. Then you will always have a man sitting on the throne of Israel.”
Listen to the first part again. “Be strong. Show how brave you are.” One translation simply says, “Be a man.” I think God called King David a man after His own heart because he was a man. Now don’t get upset ladies. I don’t mean a man versus a woman. He could have said, be a man, be a woman. Be fully the person I made you to be. And David was a man.
He apparently never backed down from a fight. He told the 1st king, King Saul. “I killed a lion and a bear.” When he was a young whipper-snapper he took a slingshot and 5 rocks and went after the giant, Goliath. He stood toe-to-toe with that same King Saul when Saul wasn’t doing right. And he battled his own demons to the very end of his life, never quitting the fight. He was man.
A man (or a woman) doesn’t quit, doesn’t stop, doesn’t run from the struggles of life. And there will be struggles. Whether its addiction or attitude, a man, a woman fights the good fight, doing the next right thing, making the next hard choice, to the very end. We may not always get it right. (In fact most of us get more wrong than right.) But we keep trying and don’t give in. And I think God loves that. So King David says to his son, BE A MAN. Don’t give up. Don’t stop fighting. And God says, “That’s a man after my own heart.
Now the second thing King David says to Solomon is BE A GOOD MAN, don’t just be a man, be a good man. Here’s verse 3, “Do everything the Lord your God requires. Live the way he wants you to. Obey his orders and commands. Keep his laws and rules. Do everything that is written in the Law of Moses.”
It’s one thing to always fight your way out of the messes you get yourself into but at some point a man (or woman) grows up and stops getting in those messes. I sit in 12 Step meetings a lot and hear men say, I’ve been in this program for 15 years and I have 11 months sobriety.” Or I counsel with couples that say, “Yea, we’ve been to a half-dozen counselors over the last 20 years but we still hate each other.” Listen, good for people who don’t quit trying, who are willing to pick themselves up and start over. They are true men, true women. But at some point God wants us to start paying attention to how we are living and start doing the right thing.
This may sound a little old fashion but there is a RIGHT way to live. God wrote a book about it. And the way to really make God happy is to seek, as best we can, to follow the book. David says, “Live the way God wants you to live.”
I believe in grace. I am all about being forgiven and knowing that my sins are nailed to the Cross. I, more than most, am grateful that God doesn’t see me based on my behavior but on the blood of Christ. But to be a good man is to work as hard as I can to not repeat those sins and to live a holy and Godly life. This may not be the most popular counseling but…if drinking is causing you problems, STOP DRINKING. If you are upsetting your wife everyday but flying off the handles, STOP IT. If pornography keeps creeping back in to your life, QUIT DOING THAT. A good man, a good woman, at some point says, “I am going to keep the laws of God and that’s all there is to it. Remember another good man, Joshua, standing in from of the whole nation of Israel and saying, “You choose today who you are going to serve. As for me and my house, we are going to serve the Lord.” That’s good man stuff right there.
So King David says to Solomon. Be a man. And while you’re at it, be a GOOD man. And God loves him for that. Live right. Quit doing the wrong thing. Make better choices. Follow “The Book.” And that makes him a man after God’s own heart.
Well, that brings me to the last thing King David says. He says, “Then you will have success in everything you do. You will succeed everywhere you go.” I need you to think with me a little bit here. David, King David’s desire was for his sons and his daughters, and the kids of his sons and daughters, to be successes. What is he talking about? He says “If you are a good man then you will have success.” Let me be blunt. If your daddy is the king, the most powerful king in the world at that time, you can fall off a horse and you are still going to be a success. I mean you have your pick of palaces. You have more land than you could visit in your lifetime. You have more money than God. What more can you do? You, baby, are a great success before you ever hit a tap. Just ask Paris Hilton or Hank Williams, Jr. or Prince Charles, those rich kids that inherited a fortune. Well, maybe those aren’t the best examples.
So I get it now. Success must be about something other than big houses, lots of cash and a hot car. Success is about character and integrity and genuineness, fighting the good fight, doing the right thing, and being honest about who we really are.
I am a part of a fellowship that meets on a regular basis. You can find us in the phone book at the beginning of the A’s. I love the wisdoms of my 12 Step family. Like, “I’m not much but I’m all I think about.” Or, “It was my very best thinking that got me into this room.” But maybe my favorite is as good a definition of true success as I can imagine, “Nothing to prove and nothing to hide.” In other words, I think the success that King David desired for his family and that he lived was a life that is simply real. So I would say BE A MAN. BE A GOOD MAN. BE A REAL GOOD MAN.
Now because my brother-in-law David was my go to English guy, he is cringing right now saying, “Mike that isn’t right. Real is an adjective and it can only modify a noun. You mean to say “Be a really good man because really is an adverb and it modifies the adjective good, so “King David was a really good man means a very, very good man.” To which I would respectfully say, “No David, I meant real.” Although he was a really good man his success was about him being real, genuine, honest. King David was a man. He was a good man. And even when he wasn’t, he was real.
Think back to King David for a minute. That guy was real. I mean, have you read the Psalms? He says, “I praise you O God. I exalt your name forever.” He says, “You hedge me about and make my enemies a footstool.” And “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Then in the very next breath he says, “How long, O Lord will you desert me.” And “From the depths of despair I cry for your help.” One thing about King David, you knew where he stood. He was real.
There is one scene in his life when he is bringing the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem. It has been in the hands of the Philistines for a number of years and David goes to get it back, It’s not an easy deal. At one point a guy named Ahio reaches out and touches the Ark to steady it when the ox cart jostles and God strikes him dead. (God said, “Don’t touch the ark.” I refer you back to point number 2. Start doing what God says.) David gets upset with God and parks the Ark in the garage of Obed-Edom. But after a while he goes after it again and brings it to Jerusalem. It is an exciting day. There is a marching band, a bunch of religious ceremonies. There people are lining the street. And David is so excited he dances, with all of his might, before the Lord.
Apparently David is a man, a good man, a real good man. But he’s not much of a dancer. His wife laughs at him in front of everybody. I feel his pain. The few times I have tried to dance Doris has laughed out loud at me. But David just dances all the more. He is more interested in what God thinks about him than what other people think. He is keeping it real.
Another time Nathan the prophet confronts David for his sin. He tells him a story about a rich man that stole a poor man’s sheep and then points his finger at King David and says, “You are that rich man.” (Speaking of being real, old Nathan had some gumption.)
King David could have had Nathan thrown into prison. He could have had him beaten or even killed. But it his credit he said, “Yes, I am.” He repented before God and everyone else. He was honest, transparent, real. And God loved him for that. I believe that God wants us to follow His laws, keep His commandments, do His will. I also believe that He knows we will not get it perfect. But when we don’t His desire for us is that we just ‘fess’ up, tell the truth, be honest about it. God wants is to be real.
I have found out in my own life that if I ever help anybody it is usually because I am honest about my sin rather than bragging about my successes. The Apostle Paul said, “God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness.” In other words, letting people know the real me, and letting them see how God is working on me, carries far more weight than putting on this false, holier-than-thou façade. God wants me to live right but He also wants me to live real. David did and it made him a man after God’s own heart.
Well, that answers the question of why God said that about David. But what about the when and more importantly was it still true at the end? Did God still think that after David had fallen? Well those words first appear in I Samuel 13:14 when David is still a very young man and Saul is the King. God says to Saul, “You’re done. I have found a man after my own heart.” So they come at the beginning of King David’s story. What about at the end? After the mess-ups and the murders and the mayhem of his life? Did God still think that about King David?
Way over in the New Testament in Acts 13:22 God is giving words to the Apostle Paul to preach to the leaders in Antioch. And Paul says this, “God said ‘David, son of Jesse, is a man after my own heart.’” This is not at the end of King David’s life. It is not at the end of his generation. It’s not even at the end of the line of Davidic kings over Israel. This is about a thousand years later, a thousand years after David is gone that God STILL says, “Hey, that David guy, he is a man after my own heart.” Notice God doesn’t say was. He says is. Why is that? What did David do to make God so impressed with him? Well, a part of that is in the last verse we read, “The Lord will keep the promise he made to me. God said, ‘Your sons must be careful about how they live. They must be faithful to me with all their heart and soul. Then you will always have a man sitting on the throne of Israel.”
So the legacy of King David was not just in his own life but it was in the hands of his children and his children’s children. For years and years to come his story was still being written by those who came after him and God loved him for that. Not only was King David a man. Not only was he a good man. Not only was he a real, good man. But David lived all of that in front of his kids. He let them in on the truth. He taught them from his victories and he taught them from his defeats. They learned how to do a life that pleases God by reading his story and for that, a thousand years later, God says, “He STILL is a man after my own heart. I read a great quote a while back. A reporter son was writing about his father’s death. He said, “My father didn’t tell me how to live. He just lived in front of me and let me watch.” For the sake of your kids, for the sake of their kids, BE A MAN, BE A WOMAN. God will love you for that.
In memory of my brother-in-law David who was a real, good man.
David Wayne Pierce May 1, 1960-July 22, 2014.