Men Behaving Badly – David and Sons

David’s story shows us that God doesn’t push the rewind button so that our mistakes get undone. God gives us grace as he moulds and shapes us into the people he desires us to be. And that happens most powerfully when God blesses the broken stuff in our lives and uses that stuff to nudge us down the painful path of maturity

This is Session 1 in Series 3 of the Enter Life Curriculum. [Series 3 HomeEnter Life Home]

The Story

Have you ever messed up or hurt someone in such a way that it took a long time to heal the damage – or maybe what got broken isn’t going to be easy to fix at all? Maybe someone did something to hurt you. You might have asked for and received forgiveness or been able to forgive someone but the scars remain.

Sin wrecks things. Sometimes the traces and after-effects of our bad choices are hard to remove. But God draws straight anyway and by grace makes us stronger in the broken places. David’s story is a bit like that. Let’s check it out.

David gets a lot of airtime in the Bible. His story begins in 1 Samuel 16 and continues through to the end of 2 Samuel and into 1 Kings. He also gets a whole chunk of 1 Chronicles (chapters 11-29) all to himself. That’s about 59 chapters of very expensive paper space. Here are some highlights:

  • David is anointed by Samuel on God’s instructions. God likes what he sees in the young shepherd-boy’s heart
  • David single-handedly knocks off a big hairy giant called Goliath using the tools and skills he mastered in the lonely hills looking after sheep – and a whole lot of faith in the God he’d learned to trust.
  • David learned what it took to be patient and respectful in refusing to kill his arch rival Saul
  • God chooses David to be the one to receive a special covenant blessing. In a time when having a long line of descendants was a really big thing God promises David that the Saviour that Israel was waiting for would come from his family. It didn’t get much better than that.


David was the king that Israel loved and would celebrate forever. He lived large and showed everyone what a covenant-keeping life could actually look like – well, nearly.

But David and his sons were human like the rest of us. Like the rest of us they had deep desires for significance and intimacy and identity. And like all of us they sometimes went digging for satisfaction of those desires in broken places – with horrible results…

If you have time read 2 Samuel 11-18 (if not then try 11-13, 15 and 18). Here’s an executive summary of some of the highs and lows:

One day David spies Bathsheba – the wife of Uriah – bathing provocatively on her roof. David lures Bathsheba in and they get together – if you know what I mean. Bathsheba gets pregnant; Uriah won’t provide a convenient cover by sleeping with his wife while there’s a war on.

David gets Uriah knocked off in battle and all is well – until Nathan points out to David what he’s done. Slow down and read that part in 2 Samuel 12v1-14

David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this deserves to die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”  Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!”’

You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’

The rest of the story shows how that painful prophecy plays out in David’s family.

The lust and sex continue when Amnon sees just how drop-dead gorgeous his half-sister is. He hatches a rather bizarre plan to get her alone in his bedroom and then rapes her.

I would like my sister Tamar to come and give me something to eat. Let her prepare the food in my sight so I may watch her and then eat it from her hand.

Amnon then falls very much out of love with Tamar. Absalom, Tamar’s real brother, hatches a plan to kill Amnon – which he does a few years later.

When King David heard all this, he was furious. Absalom never said a word to Amnon, either good or bad; he hated Amnon because he had disgraced his sister Tamar’

Absalom flees from David but after a while returns to Jerusalem, but David refuses to see his son for over four years. Absalom woos the whole nation, setting himself up as the wise and in-touch guy that David is apparently not. A rebellion grows in a nearby city and David is forced to act.

David acts by running away from Jerusalem and the hunt is on. David gives orders to crush the rebellion but to not harm his son:

Be gentle with the young man Absalom for my sake.’

Absalom is killed in a spectacularly bizarre way in chapter 18v9 (a warning to long-haired horse riders everywhere). David is distraught at the loss of his rebel, son-killing son, and is left to pick up the pieces. This must be one of the saddest moments in the Old Testament:

‘O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!’

One of the pieces that gets picked up is the child David has with Bathsheba – Solomon – who becomes a mighty and wise king. Oh, and a king who is eventually seduced by money, sex and power. And so it continues …

What a story …

One thing that impresses me about David is his fatherly love for his sons – no matter what they did to wreck his kingdom, and his life. Even when David’s bitter enemy dies all David can think to say is: ‘if only I had died instead of him.’ Wow.

And like so many of those stories in the Old Testament you’ve got to be asking ‘where is God in all this?’ It’s like God is a lead character in the plot, but mostly a silent one; intervening through various people where necessary but also allowing things to play out. That God is sovereign and ultimately in charge is the message of the whole Bible but boy are there crooked lines and really messed up sections where you’re wondering: ‘is this for real?’

It seems to me that God responds in one of two ways to the choices people make. Where people sin and chase desires in broken ways God says: ‘see, here are the consequences of your actions.’ When people respond to God in repentance God says: ‘here’s my forgiveness and grace to transform the things that got broken.’

It doesn’t seem to me that God ever pushes the rewind button so that our mistakes get undone (that Falling Plates video  you may have seen is good but it gets it wrong on this point – the broken plates of our lives don’t get magically unbroken in reverse when we turn to God). God gives us grace as he moulds and shapes us into the people he desires us to be.

And that happens most powerfully when God blesses the broken stuff in our lives – and instead of unbreaking it –uses that stuff to nudge us down the painful path of maturity.

Ernest Hemingway was right: ‘The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.’

Jars of Clay really nail his idea in their song Faith Enough.

Should the world rely on faith tonight?’

Yes. For any of us creatures who are so easily tempted to head down crooked paths – it’s our only hope.


Leaders Toolkit

In this tab you’ll find ideas and questions to help you lead your group through an interactive, story-based journey. Our leaders guide has more info on how to use our Story-based framework.

Click on the time bomb to see how you could run this session in 15 minutes, 30 minutes or longer.

Download a PDF version of this session here


Can you think of an event or two in your life where you’re like: ‘wow, I ‘d really like to go back and do that over’?

What did the after effects of that moment look like for you?

Would you say those times are more like obstacles to your personal growth or could they be things that make you stronger?


Get the conversation started …
Get everyone to check out the WordSpace posts from this week on their phones or from a printout (you’ll find them in the next tab.)

o Is there a post that stands out for you? Why so?

o Is there something in a post that raises a question for you? What is that?

o If you had to choose one post to share with a friend, which one would it be?


Read the post in The Story tab.


Some questions to help you replay your story 

o  David, Amnon and Absalom all make some pretty bad decisions in this wild ride of a story. What would you say are some of the deep desires that drive their choices? Can you identify with any of those desires?

o  What would you want to say to these guys if you could speak into the story? What might they want to say to you if they got to see what’s going on in your life?

o  Do you agree with the idea that the broken things in our lives could become the places we are made strong? Any idea what that might look like for you?

o  How do think God might be drawing straight with the crooked lines of your life? Does the fact that God is able go do that give you hope?

Re – draw your picture of Jesus

David is in many ways a kind of prototype for Jesus – an immensely powerful king chosen and anointed by God, the focal point of a covenant God makes with his people, and a guy who’s madly in love with people and with God. For the most part the nation of Israel loved and worshipped David like no other king they ever had.

o  How does seeing Jesus as a perfect kind of David help you re-draw your idea of who Jesus is and what he is like?


What practical action, response,or new way of thinking do you need to take into the week?

Re-pent …

When David is confronted by Nathan the prophet he is immediately ‘cut to the heart’ with regret at what he had done.

David wrote Psalm 51 in response. Is there anything in that Psalm that speaks for you?

Some questions to help you remix your story …

o Are there any broken things in your life that you need to bring to God so that they can be blessed and healed? What would it take to do that this week?

o Does it feel like you have wandered off down a path that’s not really where God is leading you? What would it take to change direction and do or think things differently?

From the WordSpace

Here are five posts from the WordSpace we’ve posted specially to tie in with this topic:

Jars of Clay are one of my favourite bands. Here are some lyrics from one of their best songs (I think!):

‘The storm is wild enough for sailing / The bridge is weak enough to cross / This body frail enough for fighting / I’m home enough to know I’m lost’ (Faith Enough)

I love these words cos they remind me that when things in my life are wild, weak and frail God gets to show his strength in me. The chorus ends with the question: ‘should the world rely on faith tonight?’ Yes! Even if our faith in God is small…

Are there wild or weak things you need to rely on faith to overcome today?

Listen to the song here:
Read Matthew 5v3-10 here:


Lord sometimes I wish I was invincible, that the song would be true: ‘I am TITANIUM!’ Instead I’m often exhausted and hurt by life: by the expectations of others, disappointments, pressures, challenges, complications…

Help me to sing like David: ‘God, the one and only I’ll wait as long as he says. Everything I hope for comes from him, so why not? He’s solid rock under my feet, breathing room for my soul, An impregnable castle: I’m set for life. My help and glory are in God granite-strength and safe-harbor-God So trust him absolutely, people; lay your lives on the line for him. God is a safe place to be.’ Psalm 62v5-8 (The Message)


‘Sticks and stones only break your bones, but words can tear your heart out’ (Steve Turner). That’s true right?

David has some hectic words spoken to him before he takes on Goliath,: ‘your heart is evil, ‘you’re only a boy’, ‘I’ll give your flesh to the birds’ (1 Samuel 17v28-44)

I love how David shakes off those word-bombs and keeps going. His secret? Maybe he’d learned to just BE who he was. David’s relationship with God helped him be comfortable in his own skin. That released David to DO amazing things – no matter what opposed him.

Are you amped to DO things for God? Do you need to learn to just BE a God-loved person first?

Read what Paul said about this in Ephesians 2v8-10 here:


Imagine your school decided to have a good-looks competition for everyone. Are people suddenly gymming and crash-dieting? Who wins?

David became Israel’s most loved king ever. God worked out his plans through David more than almost everyone else in the Bible. But David would not have won a beauty contest.

God didn’t care about David’s looks, but God really liked what he saw in his heart (check out 1 Samuel 16v1-13 ) David wasn’t perfect but he was learning to trust and worship God – even as a kid.

How’s your heart – your inner life? Do you need to pray David’s prayer: ‘God, create a clean heart in me!’?

Read Psalm 51v10 here:


Do you ever sing songs to yourself when things get really tough? Way back in 1971 a guy called Gavin Bryars came across a homeless man in London singing these lyrics:

‘Jesus’ blood never failed me yet / Never failed me yet / Jesus’ blood never failed me yet / There’s one thing I know / For he loves me so.’

He was repeating them over and over to himself. Bryars recorded and looped it into a powerful 74-minute track. So simple but it’s the heart of our faith! Jesus’ blood is the unfailing sign of God’s unfailing love for us.

Are things or people failing you? How about singing that homeless guy’s song a few times over to yourself this week?

Listen to Jars of Clay’s cover here:


You may also like