"But He Did It First!"
It is amazing how often children, when being chided or reprimanded, will point to the actions or the errors of another child for justification of their behavior. Somehow, in their mind, their guilt is lessened by someone else doing something just as bad or worse. Perhaps this shouldn’t be a surprise to us, as we so often do the same.
David was certainly a man after God’s own heart (I Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22), and he was the standard by which all subsequent kings of Judah were compared (I Kings 3:3; 15:3; II Kings 22:2; II Chronicles 34:2), but he was far from perfect. (II Samuel 16:7-8; I Chronicles 28:3; Psalm 32) As great of an example as David was in some areas, in others, he was an abject failure. However, that does not stop many people from looking to David as justification for their sins.
People who seek to remain in marriage situations that directly violate Jesus’ teaching (Matthew 5:32; Luke 16:18) will point to David’s marriage situation, as if that was anything other than a complete dumpster fire. (II Samuel 12:7-14) There are many great lessons we can take from David’s life, but because he was a human and therefore imperfect, we should not see all of his actions as exemplary.
If we applied the same kind of logic to another person, who is even called faithful (Hebrews 11:32), but was a moral and ethical failure, we would see the argument break down immediately. Samson was an agent of God’s own choosing (Judges 13:2-7), but was involved in marrying a Philistine (Judges 14:1-4), murder (Judges 14:19), prostitution (Judges 16:1), lying (Judges 16:4-14), and rampant vandalism (Judges 16:3). None of Samson’s actions were good examples to us, despite his place as God’s chosen savior for the people of Israel during a tumultuous time in their history.
How then are we supposed to navigate the narratives in the bible, so that we may be ethically and morally right? The answer is to take the commands that God gave, and then match them up with the lives of the people in His historical narratives. Thus, next to God’s direct commands, each person must stand or fall, whether modern or ancient.
How can God use the failures of His people to teach truth? Paul answers this in Romans 3. “What then? If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it? May it never be! Rather, let God be found true, though every man be [found] a liar, as it is written, ‘That You may be justified in Your words, And prevail when You are judged.’” (Romans 3:3-4)
The bible is completely about God’s goodness, His righteousness, our failure, and need for His salvation. Let God remain the hero of the bible, and only seek His justification through Jesus. He will never lead us to justifying our own sin.