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Mark Buchanan on Lessons from David

April 09, 2014
David had a visceral, personal, bone-deep relationship with his God. Were it not so, and were it not written down, it would be impossible to imagine, and beyond our powers to invent.

Mark Buchanan is an author, former pastor, and professor of Pastoral Theology at Ambrose University. His next book will be on the biblical character of David, and he will be teaching a course this summer entitled With Skillful Hands and Integrity of Heart: Leadership Lessons from David, June 2-6. Abigail Harmon, Digital Marketing Coordinator for Regent College, asked him a couple questions about David and his process of preparing for this upcoming course.

AH: You’re teaching a course at Regent this summer on David. In a recent blog post on your preparation process, you wrote, “Though David has been for me an almost constant companion since I first came to faith over 30 years ago, the better I know him the less I understand him.” What has this journey been like for you? What drew you to David in the first place?

MB: I came to faith at age twenty-one from a background of negligible Christian influence. The Bible to me was like bread to a starving man. I even liked Leviticus. I was seeking, not just truth and light, but friends, guides, mentors.

The two Bible characters I instantly gravitated to were Paul and David—Paul because the man knew everything, and David because the man was fearless. I didn’t know then that God was calling me both to teach and to lead, but instinctively I knew that these two men would be faithful, lifelong companions in whatever journey God had me on.

As I got to know David better, he also came to serve as a warning. He’s willful, driven, lustful, violent, narcissistic, misogynistic, vengeful, calculating—the list could go on. But here too, he’s taught me much. He’s given me greater honesty about and insight into my own flaws, temptations, shadows, demons—that part of me that wants to sabotage me. I am emerging into what I hope is a mature view of David: an iron-age chieftain, capable of great valour and great vanity, often driven by outsized appetites and uncontained impulses, who nonetheless was utterly God-smitten. David had a visceral, personal, bone-deep relationship with his God. Were it not so, and were it not written down, it would be impossible to imagine, and beyond our powers to invent.

AH: David’s reputation is one of the most fascinating in Scripture in all its glory and debauchery. What have you been learning from his spectacular failures?

MB: At least three things:

● Passion is ugly if not directed toward killing giants.

● Power can turn even the best men into bullies and thieves.

● God forgives but makes us pick up the pieces.

AH: In the blog post you also wrote, “But the deeper and longer I inhabit his story, the more and more one thing stands out above all: God loves David, and David knows it.” How can we know this the way David knew?

MB: There is a confidence about David that, from a distance, looks like pure cockiness. But the closer I get to him, the more I think his was a child-like trust in God, in God’s unmerited love for him. It was as though David “saw the glory of God in the face of Christ.” He had a deep sense of his chosenness: he knew God picked him, and nothing he did earned that status or could forfeit it. I think that’s the key for anyone: to know that God seeks and loves and keeps you, not because of anything you’ve done, and in spite of everything you’ve done, but simply because that’s who God is—the one who seeks and loves and keeps you.

AH: You’ve been a pastor longer than a professor. Where do you see yourself pulling from David most often in your life in ministry?

MB: I draw often from David’s example of courage. We know of many situations when he was extremely afraid and deeply discouraged. But at his best, he knew how to find strength in God, and to find courage there to rise above his circumstances and emotions and do what needed doing. I have pulled on that weekly.

And I also draw from his example of worship. David was,above all, a worshipper. His deepest impulse was to seek the face of God, in joy, in sorrow, in trouble, in triumph. I have pulled on that daily.


Check out more about Mark Buchanan's summer course at Regent, With Skillful Hands and Integrity of Heart: Leadership Lessons from David.