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Bonus Episode: King David, with Dr. Michael Lawson

Today we welcome Dr. Michael Lawson back to talk about God’s chosen king: David.

Have a biblical or theological question? Ask Dr. E! Call us at 615-281-9694 and leave a voicemail with your question. Michael will answer it on an upcoming episode!


Dr. Easley
Well, welcome back to Michael Easley in context. This is The Big Book – Cover to Cover, a new study we have been enjoying going through each book of the Bible each week and as we have Approach the, what I call the ‘firsts and seconds,’ first and second Kings, Samuel, and Chronicles.

These books are complicated, they can be too detailed, they can be a little bit cumbersome. But there’s so much in our history, especially when it comes to the king David.

And again, it’s my delight to reintroduce Dr. Michael Lawson. He is the senior professor of educational ministries and leadership at Dallas Theological Seminary since 1986. Prior to that, he spent 17 years in pastoral ministry and Christian education and churches in Oklahoma. He has not only been a friend over the years, he was my doctoral ministry advisor, and helped me, finally kicked me out with a degree in hand, that third degree, as John Hannah says, I am now three degrees above zero. Welcome back, Dr. Lawson.

Dr. Lawson
Thank you very much. It’s a delight to be with you, Michael.

Dr. Easley
Now you have got an interesting take on a passage And development. First of all, I love the fact that King Saul does not represent the monarchy. It always begins with King David.

Dr. Lawson
I know it. I know it. Isn’t that amazing. It’s fascinating-

Dr. Easley
Because the man’s choice to have a king, to be like other nations – God showed them, “Well, this is what that’s going to look like. Now, let me choose and I’ll show you how I choose. I won’t choose the oldest. I’ll wait till you go find a little teenager out tending sheep. And you bring him here and he’s the one that Samuel is going to anoint.”

Now, fast forward. Where does this guy come from? Because you’ve got an interesting insight.

Dr. Lawson
Well, you know, I, we had a mentor, you and me. We had a man by the name of Dr. Howard Hendricks, who taught us to read the Bible carefully, to allow it to cause our minds to wonder about the greatness of God and about the specifics when we read it that’s telling us something. It’s trying to communicate to us. And so when you read it, you ought to be thinking, not just kind of passing over the words.

I was developing a series on the life of David, and I came to this passage where David is anointed by the great Old Testament saint, Samuel. And as I read through it again, and looking at it carefully, there were things that really bothered me. And I couldn’t make sense of them.

And I kept wondering about it and kept wondering about, read commentaries, read commentaries and commentaries and commentaries, and nobody’s talking about it. And I’m thinking, something is wrong.

(1 Samuel 16:4) For example, in chapter 16, verse four, Samuel comes to this little tiny village, Bethlehem and he comes to this village and there’s this great man this is, this is the biggest man in Israel. Right, then he comes to Bethlehem, and the elders trembled.

And they asked him, Do you come in peace? And I’m thinking, what did he bring with him? Did he bring an army? He bring a bunch of police. And he didn’t bring any of that. He brings a big bull, he’s going to offer a sacrifice. How much damage can he and the bull do?

I’m not figuring it out. I mean, what are some options? Well, they could be surprised. Well, gosh, we would have been ready if you had we had known you were coming, or they could be humble: We’re so humbled to have you here and, wow. We consider ourselves unworthy. They could be excited. They could be honored.

But no, they’re, they’re trembling. They’re afraid. Something’s going on.

So that was kind of the first thing that alerted me that may be saying weren’t right in Bethlehem. And I didn’t know what that might mean. But when you come down to the anointing itself, David isn’t there. Now there was time to get him there. I mean, Samuel asks Jesse to consecrate his sons, so there was time. I mean, it seems like, Okay, everybody wash your face, wash your hands. You know, the great Samuel is here, and he’s going to offer a sacrifice. And he’s asked that to consecrate ourselves. So we want to be ready because we’re going to be in the presence of this great man. So he gets them all ready but he doesn’t go send anybody out for David.

And, and course, Samuel goes through each of the men, these young men that are there, and God is rejecting them. That’s not the one, that’s not the one, that’s not the one, that’s not the one. And finally, Samuel is lost. He doesn’t know what to do. He thought the first one was the guy himself. And, He says no.

So he looks at Jesse says, is this everybody?
Well, there’s one more but he’s tending sheep.

Dr. Easley
Let me read that verse. Yes is, this is 1 Samuel 16:11: The Lord has not chosen these and Samuel said to Jesse, are these all the children? And he said, there remains yet the youngest and behold, he is tending the sheep. And Samuel said to Jesse, send and bring him, for we will not sit down until he comes. So isn’t it interesting to like, yeah, you’d have all your boys there if the Prophet came to town and wanted to see your sons.

Dr. Lawson
Wouldn’t you? And especially your youngest. I mean, in all Asian societies, all Asian societies, the youngest, well, it’s kind of a joke. The youngest is the family pet. You know, it’s like everybody spoils their youngest, of course you do. The father’s older now he’s mellowed out and he’s not as harsh, and so the youngest is kind of a treasured gift, and and it’s throughout Asia. We don’t have the same thing in in Western society, but boy they do in Asia. So what’s he doing tending sheep? Now I get it if you know, Okay, we all have jobs. But when Samuel comes to town? And we know that Jesse had servants so why isn’t a servant watching the sheep?

Dr. Easley
Well and And to your point even today in Bedouin culture when you and I go to Israel and lead tours, you will often see children and sometimes we would say, quote, “throwaway children” who are the ones actually herding sheep. That’s not that’s not the prestigious job that’s not cut grass and cleaning pools, it’s below that.

Dr. Lawson
So I mean, that was that that kind of had me just looked at it and I thought, again, Something’s not right. I didn’t know what it was at the time. So I but I kept wondering about it. And then you start looking at other passages. You know, I started looking at Well, where’s his mom?

If you look through first Chronicles chapter two, the mess it’s two through nine actually, where we have this, this huge genealogy, 37 different women are mentioned in that section but never David’s mother. It’s not mentioned anywhere. That’s curious. The greatest king in Israel’s history, everybody knows him better than Solomon. A lot better than Solomon. Where is she? I don’t know where she went. We’ve got a Canaanite mentioned there. We’ve got David’s sisters mentioned there. Several concubines are mentioned there. Where’s David’s Mom? So, I don’t know that, that one kind of was stacking up on me.

When you read Psalm 86. This is as close as we get to his mother. Her name is not there. But she is called in a generous translation, the Lord’s handmade. What that really mean, as you know, is a home-born slave, meaning her parents were slaves and she is a born a slave. So you’re thinking, Wait, wait, so that’s not Jesse’s wife. That’s a home-born slave. What was Jesse doing with the home-born slave?

Dr. Easley
Let me let me read that Psalm 86:16. Turn to me and be gracious to me. Or grant your strength to your servant and save the son of your handmade Yeah. referred to as father.

Dr. Lawson
Exactly although, you know Jesse is mentioned 14 times in the Old Testament and two times in the New Testament as the son of Jesse, and and his name comes up 40 times, but never his mother. My goodness, it’s to me they the one that finally got me. I went back to look at Psalm 51. And, and as you know, Psalm 51 has been theologically interpreted forever.

For example, this particular translation, says, surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Or, in other translations, conceived in sin, and that, that is used often to document original sin. But I looked at it and I asked myself, okay, before we had people debating whether or not we had Original Sin, how was this understood?

I mean, if I just read this, as though I were, you know, the thing has just been finished. Psalm 51 is just finished, the ink is not dry. And I’m looking at it to figure out what is David all about and why is he going through this experience?

He is talking about himself, and he is talking about his mother, “my mother, from the time my mother conceived me, I was sinful.”

Dr. Easley
In verse five in the NASB, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity and in sin my mother conceived me.”

Dr. Lawson
Yeah. Okay, now what is, you know, you and I both know that Psalm 51 is is great confession, correct for his his sin with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah.

So what is he What is he saying to his Lord? He’s coming to the Lord and pleading his case. He’s pleading his case saying, Hey, what did you expect from me? I was conceived in sin. I am a sinner from birth. There’s, there’s, there’s nothing that I have, that I can offer you other than my own iniquity. And I’m pleading for forgiveness. So you know, from the beginning, this is just a continuation of my terrible history.

So he’s pleading his case pleading for mercy. And of course, a wonderful God that we worship provides mercy even for an adulterer and a murderer.

And it tells us that we have hope.

We have hope, whatever your sin is, you can come to the Lord God, you can confess it, and he will forgive it because of the atonement that was provided with Jesus Christ.

So okay, so but to take it back to his his natural circumstances. I’m looking at that and I’m thinking Holy smokes, what is the deal? So I’m thinking maybe, maybe Jesse had an illicit relationship with this slave girl.

Now, I’m going to expand that just a little bit. I’m looking back at why was this village – why were the village elders trembling when Samuel came? I’m wondering if the guys in that village were doing things to the girls that they should not be doing. And as a result of one of those incidences, David is born. He’s the product of a slave girl and an illicit relationship with her owner. Something she probably did not necessarily consent to, I don’t know. But other men were doing similar things.

And so they’re wondering, you know, it’s kind of like you would know this, all boys know this. You have a group of boys and they’re doing things they shouldn’t be doing, and all of a sudden an adult shows up and says, “What do you boys doing?”

“Oh, nothing. We’re not, not, we’re not. Not anything, but not anything really, really, really. We’re not doing anything.” Well,

Dr. Easley
Me thinks you protest too loudly.

Dr. Lawson
Yeah, exactly. Exactly. There were things going on. And I don’t know if that was what it was going on, or there were other things going on.

But whatever it was, these men were trembling. So drawing from all of that, my sense is that David’s mother was not someone that he could write up about, and I’m wondering, also, if in the things that he wrote, he protected her name.

He protected her name because he was cast upon his mother. She was the only one, his dad didn’t care anything about him if what I’m suggesting is true.

Dr. Easley
Now, let me let me ask a fast forward question. Because when Mary is visited by Gabriel, does she not use the word handmade? Now, that, of course, was a Greek term, but I wonder if the Hebrew equivalent is brought into Greek and nevertheless, what she means by that is, I’m a servant of the Lord.

Dr. Lawson

Dr. Easley
I guess that’s a tangential question, is handmade ever used in a sense where that person was a wife?

Dr. Lawson
Well, you know, she wasn’t a wife. She was a single girl.

Dr. Easley
But in our use of the term and again, I don’t have it in front of me, but it’d be an interesting rabbit trail. Because the way he uses it in Psalm 51. And the way the New Testament and how it would be used in outside the Bible, is, you probably did not refer to your spouse as a handmade.

Dr. Lawson
No, I would I would say you probably shouldn’t.

Dr. Easley
Even if it was a culturally okay word, it’s your wife. We have very clear language for women, for single women, for young women. Interesting.

Dr. Lawson
You know the difference, I would say between her and say, Mary, Mary is self described, you know, I’m the Lord’s hand servant, I’ll do whatever he says. That has a different feel to it than a home born slave.

Dr. Easley
Okay, let’s go to help our our friends. Give me some takeaways from it, you and I can go down this hole and we would dig this til you know, 40 hours, and still be happy.

Let’s give our folks some application. What do we take away?

If your thesis is right, if the fact that she was not Jesse’s bonafide wife. We have the king who, by the way, 2 Samuel 7, one of the more important passages in the Old Testament about the Messianic Kingdom being eternal, is fixed on David’s kingdom. And David’s throne, the throwaway child, the younger, not the older. He’s made King, he’s the man after God’s own heart. Take us forward.

Dr. Lawson
Well, I think that that that last phrase that you have is the is the key to it.

No matter what your what your beginning places are, whether you are a product of an illicit relationship, do you seek God’s heart?

Or do you become that person who seeks after God? Who wants to know God, who loves God? That is more important as a defining feature of you than where you came from.

And as you know, in this society that we’re in, we got all kinds of kids being born. And many of them don’t know their dads. But if you find yourself in a situation and you say, “Well, I can’t possibly be used by God, look at look at where I started from.”

No, that says nothing about you. It’s where you are in your relationship with God and your love for God. You need to pursue God. And as you do that, then that marks you as somebody special.

Now God may not choose you to be king of some nation, but you can be known as someone who was a man after God’s own heart or a woman after God’s own heart, and you can be so useful to him in that role, because others need to know God in that same way.

Dr. Easley
The striking part to me about Psalm 51. And, again, you and I, perhaps know this too well, to some degree, we miss emphasizing it, but Psalm 51 is written from a man who has no recourse. There is no offering for sacrifice.

He knows he deserves to be killed under God’s Law, and yet he appeals to him according to His loving kindness, which, by your compassion will you blot out my transgressions and wash me from my iniquity?

And you know not not that you or I or anyone else is going to become the next king or elected official or CEO of a corporation, but it’s the brokenhearted who comes humbly repentant that God loves.

Dr. Lawson
That’s what makes you a person after God’s own heart is the person who comes brokenhearted to him.

And then confession of of the terrible things that we do, and we do them, and lays themself in the presence of God and asks for mercy. That’s all we’ve got it.

It’s brought forward in the New Testament. And the Lord Jesus tells his story of the man who’s pounding his chest and asking only for God’s mercy, and he has nothing to plead.

So it’s when we come in that way that that God is pleased to forgive us. He wants to forgive us. That’s why he sent his son: to make it possible to forgive us. If Jesus hadn’t died on the cross, as a as a substitutionary atonement for our sin. He could not forgive us. It would be no basis for it.

Dr. Easley
So where have we gotten off-course as pastors and teachers and educators and disciple makers, not to help all of us as believers to begin the baseline is not, you know, it’s great that I’m saved and forgiven, but you and I live a life of utter humility.

Why would you love me? Why would you forgive me? And as our friend Larry Moyer says, your life and mine should be a thank you back to Christ.

Dr. Lawson
I think it’s that we don’t really understand grace. That the sovereign grace of God that comes to us, he was looking for us when we were not looking for him.

I mean, that’s David’s experience. Samuel came looking for him. He wasn’t looking for Samuel.

God was looking for David. David wasn’t looking for God in that particular way to be anointed as a king.

What I love about the story of David is that, you know, he starts as a humble, throwaway child. A child, not loved by his father, not proud. His father was not proud of him. And then he comes along and he does so well. He just does these amazing things. God’s hand is on him and I mean, he was the most unbelievable person. I mean, he was a musician. He’s a theologian, he was a poet. He was a warrior. It was a diplomat, he was a vocalist. You know, he was a politician he killed a lion and a bear for pity’s sake without a bazooka. And I would never go lion hunting or bear hunting without a bazooka.

So he’s done all these magnificent things. And yet in the midst of his successes, he blows everything. By murdering Uriah and having an immoral relationship with Bathsheba.

Where do we go from there? Does that end everything? Well, if you if you come before God like he did and humble yourself and plead your case, ask for mercy. Please God, forgive me, I acknowledge my sin. Forgive me.

And of course, that’s 1 John 1:9, for those that are in this age of the church. We confess our sins, He’s faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all in righteousness. What an awesome promise.

But in order for that promise to be true, you have to come. And you have to lay yourself in the presence of God, acknowledging His grace to you, and it’s been driving force in my own life. It was one of the things that woke me up at seminary.

Reading Dr. Chafer’s book on grace just alerted me to what a terrible condition I was in and, and how blessed I was that God came looking for me and, and forgive me of my sin, and still continues to cleanse me. What a blessing.

Dr. Easley
And that is a good place for us to say thanks to Dr. Lawson for his time and a good reminder for all of us. I forget who said it, but the grounding Calvary is level.

No sin too great, no sin too slight. We all come as sinners, none better than the other. And it is but by grace we have been saved through faith not as a result of works.

It is a gift of God that no one can boast.

Michael Lawson, thank you for your time, for your ongoing ministry for your friendship and encouragement in my life and pray you press on and keep helping all those seminary students fill in the blanks.

You can read the book Dr. Lawson mentions, Dr. Chafer’s book on grace, Online Here.

Michael Easley

About Michael Easley

Michael is husband to one, dad to four, and host of Michael Easley inContext.

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