There’s a story in the Bible of king David leading a great crowd of people in worshipping God, shirt off, underpants hanging out, to the delight of the young women. When I watched Stormzy lead the Glastonbury crowd in Blinded By Your Grace Part 2, I thought of it.
It is a controversial story. David’s wife, Michal, looked on and held him with contempt. She tore into him. He lashed back, called on God to strike her barren. A woman who had risked her own life to save his; whom, as thanks, he had abandoned for years, while nineteen other sexual conquests are recorded; before demanding her back.
An awkward footnote later in the story notes that she was given to another man, and bore him children. Which tells us two things: that God thought David was being an arse; and that his official biographers really struggled with that...
David was a musician, and a mentor to other musicians. His lyrics, and theirs, include break-outs of shocking violence; tales of heart-breaking betrayal; boasts; penitence; celebration. As I watched Stormzy’s Glastonbury set, I thought of David.
David’s lyrics reflected his life. He wanted to build a house on earth for God, but God would not let him, because there was blood on his hands. A man of violence, of sexual appetite, of song, of homies known as the Mighty Men, of cheating on friends and girlfriends, of pomp and excess, of welcoming those failed or actively excluded by power, of raising up others. Transplant David to the UK today, and he’d be a grime artist from south London.
This same David is also described in the Bible, by God, as a man after God’s own heart.
Which is not to say that God is a violent womaniser, who condones such behaviour. Rather, it is to say that this complex, flawed character, shaped by the world he lived in with its deep injustices and terrifying triumphs, was a true worshipper. A man who longed to know God, and to align his heart with God’s heart.
In the Bible, the heart refers to our capacity to choose. Our free will. Our choices that lead us away from God and our choices that move us to return closer to God. David knew that the heart was untrustworthy, yet longed to be one who chose as God would choose, and who acted consistent with such choices. However many times he failed. However many times he ****** up. However many times he had to turn around and humble himself and come back. However many times he even managed to **** up the coming back.
All that is what came to mind as I watched Stormzy wow the crowd, in ways that somehow connected deeply with their own hearts, their own capacity to make choices, and live with the consequences.
As David’s son king Solomon put it, there is nothing new under the sun. Instead, we find ourselves on the same ground—the dust from which we came and to which we shall return—again and again. Maybe for the first time.