EDITOR’S NOTE—This is the Foreword written for 30 Days with King David by U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia. It appears in the opening pages of the book. Because the bipartisan messages that introduce this book are so important and timely, we are publishing them online today as the book begins taking pre-launch sales on Amazon. (We also have the Preface by Andrew Card.)
By U.S. SEN. TIMOTHY KAINE
Why is the Bible the most read book in human history?
Of course, the main reason is Jesus, the “luminous Nazarene” in the words of Albert Einstein. But another reason is surely the number of fascinating characters who populate its pages. Some are memorable even though they appear briefly. Who can forget Nathanael of Cana, hearing of a Messiah, and sarcastically asking “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” There’s the unforgettable Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, described as one of Jesus’s close friends—whose death causes Jesus to cry. Lazarus’s resurrection is both one of Jesus’s major miracles and the last straw leading to his crucifixion—yet, Lazarus appears in just two scenes and never speaks a word. Millions around the world also recall the unnamed Samaritan woman at the well whose one interaction with Jesus touches upon his divinity, the nature of discipleship, forgiveness and the prejudices of the day. And these three vivid supporting players are examples from just one of the Bible’s many books—the Gospel of John!
Many other characters—Jesus, of course, and also Peter, Paul, Moses, Job, Ruth—are fleshed out in deep detail as if in a great novel. Their characters are full of the motivations, achievements, failures and contradictions that are common, or at least recognizable, to us all.
One of those fully realized characters is the great leader of the people Israel, King David. In the earlier book in this series, 30 Days with Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln scholar Duncan Newcomer distilled dozens of leadership lessons from the life of our greatest American president. Now, the Rev. Dr. Larry Buxton presents life lessons from another towering figure we all revere: King David, who united the nation of Israel 1,000 years before Christ’s birth.
David is an interesting—and controversial—choice to follow Lincoln in this series. When Larry Buxton tells a parishioner about this writing project, she responds by recounting King David’s rape of Bathsheba and his scheming to get Bathsheba’s husband Uriah killed in battle—and labels David a “sleazeball.”
Of course, there’s so much more to this story! Just as the prophet Samuel saw something in this youngest son of Jesse, and King Saul asked the humble shepherd boy to come be his right hand, Larry Buxton sees 30 days of valuable lessons in David. Chief among those lessons that cross thousands of years is that even a “sleazeball”—we might call him “a flawed human being”—can be used by God for a mighty purpose.
What a complex life to analyze! David was plucked from obscurity, led the Israelites to victory over Goliath and the Philistines in one of history’s paradigmatic battles, became a King that unified tribes into the nation of Israel, earned admiration as a skillful musician and wrote portions of The Book of Psalms, one of the world’s best-known literary works. But, this was not a life of untrammeled success or consistent virtue. In addition to his grotesque scheme to entice Bathsheba and arrange for her husband’s death, he had a prickly temper, was prone to exaggerated self-importance, labored in an often unhappy marriage to King Saul’s daughter Michal, had to confront incest and murder among his many children and was even forced to defend his kingdom from a lengthy insurrection led by his own son Absalom. Thankfully, David did possess the rare trait, much like Peter, of being able to see when he was wrong and then sincerely admit and atone for his sins. This trait came in handy and was much used during his life.
From the blockbuster arc of David’s life, Larry Buxton assembles 30 short chapters on key leadership traits—patience, vision, humility, integrity, openness, tenderness, forgiveness, courage, gratitude, self-control, surrender, perseverance, calmness, justice. Buxton helps us see how David either exhibited these values or catastrophically failed to achieve them.
The chapters are probing and conversational—with references from the worlds of literature, sports, politics and entertainment to illustrate how to apply these lessons to our everyday challenges. A personal favorite is humility, which is not thinking less of yourself—but thinking of yourself less.
And the book is not only geared toward personal introspection, but also includes materials to enhance group discussion and activities to bring the wisdom to life.
I have a son who is an infantry officer in the Marines, and he tells me about his own leadership training: “Dad, I’ve served under a lot of officers and I learn just as much from the bad ones as the good ones.” King David was a good one and a bad one, just as most of us are.
While David’s highs were higher than most, and his lows lower than most, there is much to gain by spending time with this groundbreaking leader. He lived more than 3,000 years ago, but the basics of human nature have not changed much in that span. Or, in the words of my second favorite president, Harry Truman, “the only thing new in the world is the history you don’t know.”
Timothy Michael Kaine is the U.S. Senator from Virginia. An attorney and educator, Kaine has served as an elected leader at local, state and national levels since 1994. In the 1990s, he was mayor of Richmond; in 2005, he was elected Governor of Virginia; in 2016, he was Hillary Clinton’s vice-presidential running mate; then, in 2018, he was re-elected to the U.S. Senate.