The desert warrior and his 600 loyal men rapidly made their way along the steep mountain slope. They knew that in the valley on the opposite side of its rugged peak were 3,000 of the king’s finest soldiers—handpicked to catch their little rebel group. But the desert nomads, much like Middle Eastern insurgents today, knew the mountains well. They were intimately familiar with the elaborate cave systems that pockmarked the hills.
Presently, they came upon a sheep pen that pressed against the side of the mountain. On the far side was a small opening that led into a cave that was large enough for the desert warrior’s 600 men to burrow their way into the depths of the mountain.
A few hours later, a scout reported that the king and his 3,000 men were nearing their hideout. However, the king would never look for them here. The cave’s deceptively small opening placed it beyond suspicion.
The desert warrior and three of his men made their way from deep within the cave toward the entrance. Peering into the sunlight, they saw the sparkling shields and spears. The enemy was close. The soldiers had fallen out of rank and were resting in the shade of the mountain.
One man, a good head taller than the rest and clothed in splendid armor, set out toward the cave. The rebel leader and his men quickly ran back around the first bend in the cave. Then they watched the tall man enter. Alone.
The rebel leader and his men nodded their heads. There was no question—it was the king! “Now is the time!” whispered one of the men. “God promised you would have this chance. Get rid of him!”
The desert warrior stole quietly toward the king. The only sound was that of the king grunting, relieving himself. He thought he had found a solitary place for his private act. How wrong he was! Slowly the rebel leader drew a knife from its scabbard. He knelt beside the king, grasped the king’s robe, and cut it with a deft swipe. Then he crept back to his men.
The men attending their leader stared at him incredulously. “You missed?”
The warrior showed them the piece of fabric. “No, I didn’t miss,” he replied, his voice a whispered chuckle. “I did a little tailoring of his suit, and he didn’t even notice!”
The three trained killers glared at their comic champion. They were livid. How could he waste such a chance! “We will kill him ourselves if you are too scared!” The men moved forward.
“No!” the rebel leader whispered. “He is God’s anointed king.” Then he looked down at the scrap of fabric in his hand, and the full import of what he had just said and done hit him in the heart. He had just mocked the Lord by making a joke of His chosen leader.
He suddenly saw the sin at the core of his action. He was a God mocker, the king’s jester. His pride had overwhelmed his commitment to God, and he had sinned.
The king turned and left the cave. The desert warrior followed a short distance behind him. By the time he had reached the entrance to the cave, the king was approaching his army. So the rebel leader shouted, “My lord the king!”
The king turned with a start and stared at his nemesis. The rebel leader emerged from the dark cave, knelt in the sunlight, and pressed his forehead to the ground for a long moment, then stood to his feet. “Why are you convinced that I am hell-bent on killing you?” he asked “You are anointed from Heaven. I will never harm you. And yet, you hunt me like a wild dog. I am a flea. Nothing more!”
The rebel leader held up the bit of fabric that now tore at his heart. “Look at the hem of your robe,” he said. “You will see that a piece is missing—the piece I hold in my hand, which I cut out with my knife and left you unharmed. As the old saying goes, ‘From evildoers come evil deeds,’ so my hand will not touch you.”
King Saul’s eyes filled with tears. He had once been as passionate for God as David was. He envied this young idealist. Envied him with a passion! “Is that your voice, David, my son?” The king’s voice choked on the last words, and his body began to convulse in sorrowful conviction. “I am unrighteous and unfit to rule. I’ve lost touch with the God of my youth.” He stifled his sobs and raised his voice. “You are more righteous than I. You have shown mercy to an unmerciful old king. God will bless you one day when you become king. Promise me that you won’t cut off my descendants as easily as you severed the hem of my cloak!”
David, the desert warrior, bowed his head. “I promise!” he shouted. “I promise that your children and their children’s children will walk unharmed all the days of their lives.” And he meant it.
This was neither the first nor the last time that David’s pride caused him to lose track of his primary focus. As a teen, he had confronted a giant. God was with him—and King Saul could tell it. The king placed the weight of the kingdom’s freedom on the shoulders of a young shepherd because it was evident that the Lord blessed his actions.
A few hours later, it was clear that the king had made the right decision. The giant fell; the Israelite soldiers chased down every Philistine; and David, the giant-killer, reveled in his first bout with pride. He had killed Goliath with a single stone from his sling and cut off the giant’s head with his own sword. He brought the head back to the king as a trophy.
But then David did something odd. He kept the giant’s head and weapons in his tent and took them on a slow procession to Jerusalem. People came to see this hero and his plunder. Soon, the decapitated head of the giant was far outsized by the head of the young shepherd boy.
The stories and songs about David moved toward the Holy City faster than he did, so when he arrived in town, the young girls began a refrain: “Saul killed his thousands, and David his tens of thousands!” They continued singing David’s praises as King Saul passed by, and thus began the jealousy that turned into hatred and finally madness. David, not so much in his success but in how he dealt with it, became the bane of King Saul’s existence.
Had David quietly surrendered the weapons and Goliath’s head to the king on the battlefield instead of making his prideful procession to Jerusalem, the story would have been different. But the story as told in the Bible reveals a king who slowly slipped into depression and then plummeted into an insane, jealous rage that lasted until his death. In the eyes of King Saul, David was enemy number one—the usurper of the throne. Every girlish refrain and boyish apology served to fuel his deep resentment.
Years later, when David was king, his pride got the better of him again. He desired Bathsheba. He sent for her and slept with her. When she became pregnant while her husband was off in battle for weeks, a solution had to be found.
David called for Uriah, her husband, and tried—but failed—to get him to sleep with his wife. Uriah was unwilling to disrespect his God or his king by taking personal pleasure while a battle was raging. David should have been reminded of his own idealistic past. But too many years as the sovereign king had severed him from his righteous youth, and once again, his pride got in the way of his better judgment.
David signed and sealed Uriah’s death warrant, and with the same sarcasm he had displayed when cutting the hem of Saul’s garment, he gave the letter to Uriah to deliver to his general. Uriah galloped to his death with integrity and resolve, unaware of his impending doom.
Uriah died. Bathsheba mourned. David waited. As quickly as was appropriate, the king and Uriah’s wife were wed.
David was confronted with this sin in a most unusual way. Nathan the prophet visited him with a tale to tell. David listened to the story of a poor man’s plight, a rich man’s greed, and a beloved lamb’s death. David called down retribution on the rich man, but his own shaking finger of judgment was bent backward to point directly at himself when Nathan uttered the chilling words, “You are that man!”
David wept. He wept for his sin. He wept for the baby that was dying. David refused to eat, bathe, or sleep. For seven days, he wept. Then the baby died. David had tried.
He knew he had been forgiven—Nathan had said so. But he thought maybe—just maybe—the baby could be spared. But the infant’s sickness ended in death. David accepted God’s judgment. Later, he and Bathsheba were blessed with another baby boy, whom they named Solomon.
After all we have just explored, it seems ludicrous that the Bible states that God said David was “a man after my own heart” (Acts 13:22). How could this be?
Pride goeth before a fall. The phrase is well known. It comes from Proverbs 16:18 “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”
When he was only a teen, David was anointed “future king” by God’s prophet. David didn’t have visions of grandeur—he had realities of grandeur! It was just a matter of time. His humble beginnings as a shepherd boy were eroded as people flocked to follow him. He was a great leader. But, unfortunately, at times, he let it go to his head. Thinking himself above reproach, he would do something irresponsible.
Afterward, in dejected shame, he always realized he was no different from any other man. And ultimately, he would kneel, kiss the ground before God, and beg for forgiveness. When faced with his slipups, he bowed in humility, confession, and repentance. David was, indeed, a man after God’s own heart.
Long before Newton discovered it, the Bible clearly demonstrated that “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” David’s life is proof.
King Saul was driven to madness by David’s prideful parades—no matter how sincere the apology. Not only did Uriah and the baby die in Bathsheba’s tragedy, but also David’s bony finger-pointing judgment—that the man in the story should pay four times over for his evil—was carried out in full. Four of David’s sons were lost during his lifetime, and he never regained the respect of his children. They had seen too much.
Truly, the wages of sin is death. And often, it is far worse than your own death. It is death through disconnection—of loved ones, of cherished ideals, of commitment to God. Sin separates.
David discovered the solution: repentance. Admitting wrongs and saying “I’m sorry” can often make things right with an offended friend or family member. Repentance always makes things right with God. God always forgives a repentant heart. Unfortunately, repentance doesn’t change the consequences of snowballs you have thrown. Some, mercifully, do little harm, while others cause avalanches.
The only way to ensure that pride will not go before your fall is to catch yourself at the thought level—in those fantasy-like moments when you think, I should have said . . . and take the thought captive. Imprison the prideful and release the merciful.
But when you let one fly and it hits its mark, remember to humble yourself and say you’re sorry. “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up” (James 4:10, NKJV). And you, too, will be seen as someone after God’s own heart, warts and all.
David Edgren is a storyteller and writer. He lives in Victoria, Australia.