Truly good fathers are uncommon. Most men desire to be exemplary fathers but few succeed. Despite their best attempts all fathers stumble and none are perfect. Failure happens. Hopefully our failures are not catastrophic and we find ways to recover. But failures can discourage. Sometimes a man may be tempted to throw his hands up in despair and surrender. He reasons that there is no sense in trying because he falls so often.
To give up is the greatest failure of all.
“Jehovah hath sought him a man after his own heart” – 1 Samuel 13:14
David was surely one of the great men of Scripture. Samuel speaks of him as a man after God’s own heart. He is appointed king over God’s people. He is an ancestor of Jesus and figures prominently in Peter’s sermon on Pentecost. David is even mentioned in the Hall of Fame of Faith in Hebrews 11. Surely, if anyone was going to be a great man and a perfect father it would David. You might think so but you would be mistaken.
David was the patriarch over one of the most dysfunctional families in the Bible.
Here is what we know about David:
- He took and committed adultery with the wife of a soldier who was fighting for the nation (2 Samuel 11:3-5).
- When he heard she was pregnant he tried to cover up his sin (2 Samuel 11:6-18).
- When his plan failed, he arranged to have the man killed and then took his wife for his own (2 Samuel 11:26-27).
- David had children by different wives. One of them raped his half-sister, David’s daughter (2 Samuel 13:1 ff).
- Although David knew of the rape and was angry he did nothing (2 Samuel 13:14, 21, 23).
- Another son sought vengeance for his sister by murdering the rapist half-brother (2 Samuel 13:23 ff).
- David did nothing about the rape or the murder. The son fled and David did not seek after him (2 Samuel 13:37-39).
- The murdering son eventually returns and almost seizes the kingdom from his father. He dies on the process (2 Samuel 15:1 ff, 2 Samuel 18:15).
- As he lay dying, one of his sons conspired to gain control of the throne (1 Kings 1:5-8).
Every family has its problems but David had a mess. Wickedness ran rampant in the family and much of it can be traced directly to David’s lax fathering. Nevertheless, this is the man called a man after God’s own heart. It was also this man who fathered Solomon, the wisest man ever and the author of Proverbs. David penned the immortal Psalms as he poured his heart out to God.
Our point is simple: Fathering is not about perfection. It is about seeking God with all of your heart, acknowledging failures and moving onward. When David’s sin with Bathsheba was known, he did not try to hide his responsibility nor did he wallow in self-loathing and pity. He accepted responsibility and moved ahead (2 Samuel 12:1-25).
Fathers, you will stumble and you will fail. Each time, your reaction will determine your legacy. Do not give up. Your children need you. They need your example of dedication. The only way you fail is when you give up on them and on God.