We walked up to the gate and wondered if we were in the right place.  There was a long line of Hasidic (ultra-orthodox) Jews with the iconic curls on the sides of their heads (called “peyot”) coming out of the building.  But it was the right place: the tomb was in the basement and was also used as a synagogue.
            As I walked into the synagogue, I was humbled what I saw.  Even though I had before been in a place where orthodox Jews worship, the level of devotion of the Jewish people still touches me.  The casket that commemorates the place where David is believed to rest was part of the sacred wall where Jews pray.  As some Jews pray, they rock back and forth as they pray or read from the Torah.  At first, I thought this is unnerving, but then I learned the reason behind it: they interpret the scripture that one should worship God with all one’s heart, might, mind, and strength to require a physical manifestation of their worship.  Now every time I see it, I reflect on my personal prayers: am I physically there when I speak to and worship my Lord?

            After visiting the tomb, I sat down on the steps and read a few scriptures related to the life and doings of David.  His was an amazing life: he was a lowly shepherd boy, and grew to be the most successful persona in Jewish history.  He united the tribes under a single banner and extended Israeli territory to the largest it had ever been, before or since.  If anyone had claim to being on top—to being the best, it was King David.  Which is why the rest of his story is so tragic.  His pride was his downfall.  Now, I don’t pretend to know all of why he did what he did with Uriah and Bathsheba—only God knows what was truly going through his head and He will be the judge.  What I was struck with, though, was the impression I got that David seemed oblivious to his own slippage.  I have read the Old Testament before, but never in any serious depth until my religion class here in the Holy Land… and I have missed a lot. At the burial place of David himself, I re-read 2 Samuel chapter 12.  It is the prophet Nathan telling David a parable of two men: one rich, one poor.  The rich man “had many flocks and herds… but the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe lamb.”  When a traveler came to the rich man’s house, the rich man “took the poor man’s lamb, and dressed it for the man that was come to him.” When David heard this, “David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the Lord liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die.”  David was not even aware of the irony of his statement.  Nathan responded “Thou art the man” (2 Samuel 12:7).  Those four words… are life-changing. 

            People say I overuse that phrase, but that is how I really see things.  And this story, for me, illustrates precisely why.  David, like every. Single. One. Of us…is habitually too slow to look for the multifaceted application to ourselves in every parable, every maxim, every Sunday school lesson, or any inspired piece of truth from any source.  Now, this isn’t required by any specific commandment.  It isn’t unexpected.  Actually, it justifiably has the potential to be unhealthy… but I posit the idea that it is not only possible to do so healthily, but is actually the best possible thing to do for your health—physically and spiritually.  I am sure David went to religious services, He knew the commandments… yet he drifted far enough away in his mind to be able to listen to truth and either unconsciously zone out, or consciously justify that his situation was somehow different—that the lessons being taught were for “others.”  Imagine how his life would have been different if he would have had the simple humility—at all times and in all places—to say to himself, “I am never beyond the need to learn, improve, or repent.” Imagine a world where everyone asks, “Am I ‘the man’”?  or “Lord, is it I?” (Matthew 26:22).  If approached with an eternal perspective, I believe this principle is the basis upon which we fulfill our purpose on Earth and, from my (acknowledgely limited experience) is the quickest way to make heaven of our lives while on Earth.  Consider the words of someone who, I genuinely believe, speaks for God:
“Now as we conclude this general conference, let us all give heed to what was said to us. Let us assume the counsel given applies to us, to me. Let us hearken to those we sustain as prophets and seers, as well as the other brethren, as if our eternal life depended upon it, because it does!” (Spencer W. Kimball, Ensign, May 1978, p.77, emphasis added). Consider also this inspired quote, (that currently happens to be my second favorite of all time):

  • “My dear brothers and sisters, the Lord does not want us to become aware of our state of nothingness and misery (see Mosiah 4:11; Alma 26:12; Hel. 12:7; Moses 1:10) only at the Day of Judgment. Now and every day in our mortal lives, He wants to sharpen our awareness. . . as He calls us to a continuous process of repentance…It seems that we can only effectively go through the process of continuous repentance if we literally learn to become our own judges. We ourselves and the Lord are the only ones who really know us. We do not even know ourselves unless we have learned to walk the lonely and most challenging road toward self-honesty, as constantly prompted by the Spirit.  This is the sacrifice we have to learn to offer. Nobody will ever be able to understand or even to accept principles of truth unless he or she, to some degree, has developed a painful awareness of the dimensions of self-honesty. Without the capability to recognize truth, we will not be really free: we will be slaves to habits or prejudices heavily covered with excuses. But learning to become aware of the depth of the dimensions of truth will make us free. We cannot remove a stumbling block unless we see it first. We cannot grow unless we know what is holding us back” (F. Enzio Busche, “University for Eternal Life,” Ensign, May 1989, 71)

            Is this too idealistic?  Perhaps… but for what it is worth, it has changed my life, and I testify that—if this total and constant application is applied holistically to the truths in the gospel (especially those about God’s love and mercy)—it is the most liberating and happiness-sustaining ways to live.  Once we realize our relationship to God and our absolute dependence on Him, there is no shame in acknowledging that we have a consistent need to learn, improve, and repent.  In fact, I believe that humble acknowledgment brings us closest to the heart and mind of Christ, the fountain of all joy (See 1 Ne. 11:25 and Rev. 7:17).

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The casket that marks King David’s burial place. This photo is from the internet because people were praying alongside it when I was there.
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David with his harp.
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My friends and I in the outer courtyard. The Synagogue/Tomb area is under the tower.
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