I’ve been reading about David lately, and writing a few poems. He’s a complex character – hero, victim, villain, shepherd, king, almost deposed king, warrior, murderer, fugitive, lover, poet . It’s that complexity and occasional contradictions that draw me to study him. He was human! And with all of the things he did and didn’t do, he was still the “man after God’s own heart.”
David is most closely associated with the Psalms. It’s no surprise that the Hebrew word for remember is mentioned 41 times in that collection of songs. (The word is used a total of 149 times in the Old Testament, and if you add in all the variations, it’s almost 200 references.)(And just so you know, there are 66 references in the New Testament.)
If anyone had a lot to remember, it was David. And in Psalm 25, he used the word three times:
“Remember, O Lord, your great mercy and love,
For they are from old.
Remember not the sins of my youth
And my rebellious ways;
According to your love remember me,
For you are good, O Lord.” (Psalm 25:6,7)
My study Bible describes this psalm as a prayer for defense, guidance and pardon. At what point in his life David wrote it is not known, although the “remember not the sins of my youth” make it sound like he was older. Was it when he was being pursued by Saul? When his son Absalom almost seized the throne and publicly humiliated his father? When he had Uriah killed to cover up the affair with Bathsheba, or when their baby was dying? Or was it during a time of war and battle?
Any of those situations might fit, as would others, but the point is that David, in his despair, called upon the Lord both to remember and not remember, the “not remember” being a kind of confession and a seeking of forgiveness. And David, who was a man after God’s own heart, knew of God’s great mercy and love – and claimed it.
What’s fascinating for me is that, for David, remembering was ultimately about the future, and thus about hope. For me, David is the great example of remembrance and hope.
(To see other posts on “remember,” visit the blog carnival over at Peter Pollock’s place, Rediscovering the Church.)