2 Samuel 5:1-10 – The What and The Why

Crumpled 20 note


I’m sure you’ve seen this illustration, but it’s still a good one (although a little harder with the new UK plastic notes)

Offer a nice, crisp £20 note / shiney £2 coin to anyone who wants it. Lots of hands should go up. Then do all kinds of things to deface it: drop it, step on it, rub it on your bum, crumple it (note), scribble on it (coin).

Does this matter? Has it changed it’s value?

No. The value of the note / coin is not determined by how shiney it is, and your worth is not determined by your works. Neither is the worth of the note/coin lost by having been treated badly. No matter what you have gone through, you are still of worth.

We all need to hear this sometimes.


When my youngest daughter was about 5, she told me that when she grew up she wanted to be either an astronaut or a mermaid. Given how she’s still into sequins and rainbows, I think we’re currently aiming for the latter.

I wonder what David’s childhood career hopes were. Train driver? Football player? King? Nah, don’t be daft! I mean he’s the youngest brother, of a small family, from a minor tribe, in a one-goat-town. There’s no way David could be king.

But he rose from shepherd-boy to leader of the army, and now he is the newly-crowned king – and only thirty years old! He’s made it. He’s got to the top of the tree. He’s fulfilled every dream and then some. David certainly had a lot to put in his autobiography, much more than most of us manage in an entire lifetime.

Some folks seem to pack a lot of life into a short time. David certainly did, but for other folks it’s different. Perhaps you look back on a long life and wonder what you have accomplished. Perhaps you look at the years stretching ahead and see a desert of monotony – will anything ever happen? Perhaps you stand in the middle, with the time behind lengthening and the time ahead shortening.

God has his own perspective however.

Sure, David became powerful. Sure, he became rich and famous. It’s the archetypal rags-to-riches story, quite literally. But from God’s perspective, that was not important.

If you were asked to describe David in one sentence, what would you say? ‘The one who killed Goliath’? ‘The one who wrote a load of psalms? How about ‘The one who committed adultery and then murdered a friend to stop himself getting caught’? God’s description is different.

Although he knows all the good things that David had and would accomplish – and all the bad things too – God’s description of David is nothing to do with what he did. It’s more about the why than the what. ‘God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart;’ (Acts 13:2)

David wasn’t defined by his successes. Nor by his failures. But by his heart. Now, let’s not get all hand-wavy and wishy-washy saying ‘Oh, we can do anything we like if we just have a loving heart then God will be pleased’. Nope.  The rest of that verse goes ‘he will do everything I want him to do.’ In David’s culture, heart was not a metaphor for emotion, but for will.

Today we use a heart as a symbol for love, and touching someone’s heart means connecting with their emotions. But in the Bible, heart often means mind, will, intellect – things we more associate with brain. Emotions can be assigned to various organs – including liver, spleen and guts! (check out 1 John 3:17 for ‘bowels of compassion’).

So David being ‘a man after my own heart’ is not about warm and fuzzy feelings, it’s about putting love into action. We find the same principle on Jesus’ lips, in his parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30). (A talent is not an ability, it is 20 year’s earnings, so 5 talents is over £1 million!)

Three servants are given ‘talents’ to invest, and some do better than others. The servants get praised or rebuked depending on … what they did? No, on why they did. Both the first servant, who made a shed-load of money, and the second servant, who just made a wheel-barrow-ful, receive the same commendation. Exactly the same. The other guy, however … was he trying to fail? He was condemned because of a lack of interest (his, not the money).

The first two servants were rewarded according to their attitudes of heart. Both had tried to do well and that was enough. The actual results were not so important. Their worth was not determined by their works.

That’s important. And in our results-driven culture, it’s something we all need to hear.

Your worth is not determined by your works.

David’s worth in God’s eyes was based on his heart attitude of wanting to please God, not on his accomplishments. It was all about the why, not the what.

So perhaps you think there’s not been much what in your life, or you can’t see how you will ever do much what. No matter. Bloom where you’re planted and do the why. The what is God’s business. I suspect that there are many heros of God’s Kingdom who have just been quietly getting on with it to no acclaim, no fanfare.

Or perhaps you’re like me, a do-er. I’m a ‘type-A’ personality. I want to accomplish, and I stuff my life full of busyness. But I need to step back occasionally and check that all the what is because of a good why. Otherwise, it’s just for my own glory. “Unless the Lord build the house …” and all that.

Will you step back with me?


It’s good to do a little personal MOT every now and then. Check the oil and the lights, give everything a quick wipe down with an oily rag (as my dad used to say). We can do this with a What and a Why.

Take a few minutes with pencil and notepad and jot down the things that occupy your minutes and your mind. Things you spend time doing or time thinking about. These are your Whats. Then for each What, think about the Why. Are you happy with the Whys?


2 Samuel 5:1-10 Christian Standard Bible

All the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said, “Here we are, your own flesh and blood. Even while Saul was king over us, you were the one who led us out to battle and brought us back. The Lord also said to you, ‘You will shepherd my people Israel, and you will be ruler over Israel.’”

So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron. King David made a covenant with them at Hebron in the Lord’s presence, and they anointed David king over Israel.

David was thirty years old when he began his reign; he reigned forty years. In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and in Jerusalem he reigned thirty-three years over all Israel and Judah.

The king and his men marched to Jerusalem against the Jebusites who inhabited the land. The Jebusites had said to David: “You will never get in here. Even the blind and lame can repel you” thinking, “David can’t get in here.”

Yet David did capture the stronghold of Zion, that is, the city of David. He said that day, “Whoever attacks the Jebusites must go through the water shaft to reach the lame and the blind who are despised by David.” For this reason it is said, “The blind and the lame will never enter the house.”

David took up residence in the stronghold, which he named the city of David. He built it up all the way around from the supporting terraces inward. David became more and more powerful, and the Lord God of Armies was with him.


Christian Standard Bible (CSB)

The Christian Standard Bible. Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible®, and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers, all rights reserved.

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