Chapter 20 begs an important Bible study question, “What is the author doing with this passage?” Why is it included? And, specifically for chapter 20, why are other parts of the story omitted?
1st Chronicles is very kind to King David. He made a lot of mistakes, as a man and as a king. 2nd Samuel is tragic in it’s telling of his story. If you know your Bible and the story of King David, 1 Chronicles 20:1 sounds very familiar, “In the spring, at the time when the kings go off to war…” Where this phrase appears in 2 Samuel 11 is the beginning of David’s decline. It was in this particular season that David stayed home and happened to see a beautiful woman bathing. We all know the story: David took Bathsheba into his bed. She got pregnant. David recalled his fighting man, Uriah the Hittite (aka, not a Jew), home from war so that everyone would think he was the father. Yet, because of Uriah’s faithfulness to his king and his brothers at arms, he would not go home. For Uriah’s faithfulness, David sent him back to war with a note ordering his death. This non-Jewish man showed more covenant loyalty than the King who was supposed to uphold it.
The story of David and Bathsheba is scandalous enough that every reader would know it. The Chronicler wasn’t hiding anything, he just didn’t mention it. But why? The answer is that his re-telling of David’s story isn’t intended to be chronological or exhaustive. Instead, he’s telling a theological story that ultimately points people to God’s Messiah and the construction of God’s Temple. As one commentator wrote, “Though David’s personal life was in turmoil, God continued to use his faltering servant to bless the nation.”
1st Chronicles 18:6 said, “the Lord gave David victory everywhere he went.” That’s good because there was a lot of instability in the region. Despite multiple attempts, it was ultimately David that put an end to the troubles with Israel’s neighbors. However, 1 Chronicles 22:8 tells us that, although David wanted to build a house for the Lord, he was forbidden to do so because of the blood he had shed in his many years at war.
1 Chronicles 20 is illustrating both of those points. David was victorious, but David was a king of war. Because of this, God’s temple would be built by his successor. That’s what the Chronicler is doing with this passage. But what does that mean for us?
I think one take away from this passage is that no matter the ups and downs, God has a plan and God is in control. Verses 1–3 finish the story of David’s fight with the Ammonites from chapter 19. The author gives a nod to 2 Samuel 11 and the story with Bathsheba in verse 1 saying that David was in Jerusalem. Then, all of a sudden, in verse 2 he appears in the Ammonite capitol city, Rabbah, leading the final charge and taking the crown in victory. Then, seemingly, right after he and his soldiers got back home, they go back to war with the Philistines in verses 4–8.
Despite his failings, David is victorious because God cannot be thwarted. Let that encourage you today. Just because you feel like a failure in some parts of your life doesn’t mean God can’t use you or that He’s not at work in other areas. You aren’t perfect and nobody expects you to be. If you think you have to be perfect to be at our church, you missed the point. God is at work. He is doing great things. And, amazingly, He uses imperfect people like me and other CPC folks to accomplish His purposes.
By: Tyler Short — Connections Ministry Associate