And Abigail hurried and rose and mounted a donkey, and her five young women attended her. She followed the messengers of David and became his wife. David also took Ahinoam of Jezreel, and both of them became his wives. | 1 Samuel 25:42-43
In the sermon Sunday, the beautiful story of discerning Abigail and the fool Nabal took an awkward turn at the end when it begins to list David’s wives. While this is not a surprise to those who have read a lot of the OT (he is not the first major character to have unhealthy marital relations), it is still a shock to the system. Why would God allow this? The issue is that God is unfolding His plan in the real world using sinful people. What this means is that we have to keep a few things in mind as we read:
The existence of traits in God’s people is not an affirmation of them.
The first very simple truth to remember is that people are sinful. David is not someone we should look at to emulate; he exists us to point us to Jesus. This does not just mean that he isn’t perfect, it means that he is depraved. In the story, we saw that Samuel died, leaving David without a prophetic adviser to guide him. Right away, we see him make sinful decisions. This should be a shocking reminder to all of us of what unrestrained sin looks like, because we have the same condition.
Character flaws don’t make people unusable by God.
Shouldn’t God be a bit more selective in His choices of who to use for His purposes? When we realize that all He has to choose from are broken tools it makes a bit more sense. This ‘man after God’s own heart’ also had a heart for numerous women. The one does not negate the other. Now, we need to be very careful with this, because many use this argument to justify keeping pastors in the pulpit who have shown themselves to be in grievous sin. We need to recognize that we are a ways down the road from David, and that the role of king is different from pastor. The truth is this: God does use what is despised in the world to shame the wise/powerful, it is in our best interest not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Sin always has consequences.
One of the things that helps us to keep this in perspective is to see that while David married numerous women, he didn’t actually ‘get away with it.’ Like Abraham having a child with his wife’s servant and Solomon one upping his dad with over 700 wives, these actions always have cost. For David, his son (with one of these women) eventually tries to overthrow him and take the throne and is killed by his own army. He also loses a child as a punishment for his affair. I mention this because while God may not strike David with lightning, He doesn’t let sin go unaddressed.
While God does not condemn David for taking on additional wives, we must see this as an act of mercy, not support. The created order we see from Genesis, Jesus teaching, and Paul’s writing all point to the one flesh union of monogamous marriage. Let us strive to uphold what is best, rather than using the sin of others to rationalize our own sinfulness. David, like every other person, needs Jesus to rescue him from the bondage of his own sin, which includes multiple wives.