Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
Back in 1966, a western movie was released starring a young Clint Eastwood. It’s become a classic story of three gunslingers in search of stolen gold buried somewhere in the desert. It was of course The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly—the three men go about their conniving ways and double-crossing each other.
The movie introduced the main characters:
- First, the ‘ugly’—named Tuco (Eli Wallach)
- Next the ‘bad’—named Sentenza (Lee Van Cleef)
- Finally, the ‘good’—named Blondie (Clint Eastwood)
It is a well-known story and liked by most who watched it. The movie actually launched Clint Eastwood into stardom. I thought about these three words—good, bad and ugly—and realised it’s about the choices we make in life.
Life Is Like a Road
There are long and short roads; smooth and rocky, crooked and straight paths. In our life many roads would come our way—ones that lead to fame and fortune on one hand, or isolation and poverty on the other. There are roads to happiness as there are roads to sadness, roads towards victory and jubilation, and roads leading to defeat and disappointment.
Just like in any road, there are corners, detours, and crossroads in life. We make decisions, and not every decision is a good one. It may be bad or downright ugly. But as we look at our own lives, if we are to be really honest, we would see a bit of all three words in our lives.
Life is a series of choices. We can choose wisely or unwisely as we are confronted with decisions, temptations, and priorities. Sometimes we will make the wrong decision, but hopefully we will learn from our mistakes in order to make better choices in the future.
What is happening in our life right now, today, is in large part determined by the choices we made in the past and so our future will be determined by the choices we make today. One day or one action may seem insignificant—and often they are when examined alone—but the patterns of our choices are what shape the direction and quality of our lives, our success, and our happiness.
One of the great things about the Bible is that it contains the stories of real-life people like you and me. Some of the people we read about had lives that modelled faithfulness to God (the Good). Others modelled lives of hypocrisy, evil, and selfishness (the Bad). And still others find themselves somewhere in-between. We read about their lives and sometimes they got it right and other times they got it wrong, but most of the time they finished well (the Ugly). There are many great things we can learn from these Old Testament characters.
King David—the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Like the title of the old Clint Eastwood western, with David we can see the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. We see the dirt under the fingernails of David’s character and soul:
- Samuel anoints David future king of Israel as a teenager.
- David defeats the Philistine giant, Goliath, winning him acclaim.
- King Saul favours David and invites him into his court.
- David becomes king and defeats many of Israel’s enemies.
- A gifted musician and songwriter, David composes a number of the Psalms.
- God promises that his heir will always sit on the throne of Israel.
- King Saul becomes insanely jealous of David and attempts to kill him.
- David lives as a fugitive and outcast for 10 years to escape the wrath of Saul.
- David feigns insanity and seeks sanctuary from Israel’s enemies, the Philistines.
- David’s own men talk of stoning him after their wives and children are kidnapped.
- David commits adultery with Bathsheba and has her husband killed when she becomes
pregnant as a result of the affair.
- God disciplines David for his sin by allowing the baby conceived by the affair to die. God
also tells David that unrest will never leave his household.
- David’s daughter Tamar is raped by one of her brothers, Amnon. As David does nothing
about it, another of David’s sons, Absalom avenges Tamar by killing Amnon.
- Absalom leads a coup against David, causing David to flee Jerusalem. Absalom further
humiliates his father by laying with David’s concubines in public.
David was certainly a man of incredible swings, from mountain-top highs to subterranean lows. Yet throughout it all, there were two constants in David’s life: God never abandoned David and David, despite his detours, always came back to God.
We’ve all have done good or had good circumstances occur in our lives. We’ve all suffered bad things at the hands of other people. Our sinful actions have brought about ugly consequences. Yet, if you have committed your life to following Christ, God has been with you the entire time. Yet scripture reminds us that “God does not show favouritism” (Acts 10:34 – NIV). God told Joshua, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Joshua 1:5 – NIV). As God was with David and Joshua, he will be with you and me. Nothing can separate us from his love. Have a look sometime at Romans chapter 8..
David as an old man—no doubt reflecting on his life, with its ups and downs, its victories and defeats—pens these words in Psalm 37:25:
I was young and now I am old,
yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken
or their children begging bread.
It proves something very valuable: the grace of God can take the good, bad and ugly events in our life and turn them into something beautiful and powerful, which he can use, not only for the good of others, but also for our own happiness and fulfilment.