Like most of us, David’s life is filled with contradictions as he struggles to serve the Lord.
Note in chapter five that as the people accept David as king, they remind him of what God’s anointed should do: “shepherd” God’s people Israel. This point is significant because it is presented as a previously given message of the Lord. When it was given previously we are not told, but all Israel seems to know about it. It is presented here as a theme marker. David is to be a shepherd. In doing so, he will become Israel’s ruler.
God is often pictured in the Old Testament, especially the Psalms, as a shepherd. The work of shepherding is to care for the sheep, protect them, and lead them in a way that is secure and healthy.
The story of his reign begins with great promise. He conquers the Jebusite city of Jerusalem and it will become Israel’s capital city. He is honored by other kings – like Hiram, king of Tyre and he conquers Israel’s perpetual enemy, the Philistines.
But before long, David is marrying lots of wives – an ailment of the rich and powerful (especially kings), and while David inquires of the Lord twice in chapter 5, it isn’t long before he is acting on his own – and making mistakes.
It happens to us all: A few successes, an absence of difficulty, and we think “I’ve got it from here.” But we don’t, and like David, tragic mistakes bring disorder to our lives. The old hymn goes: “I need thee every hour most gracious Lord.” It’s when we forget that fact that trouble inevitably comes.