How could the Bible claim that king David was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22) when the same book admits that David made serious mistakes in his lifetime? What could be said in favor of a man who slept with another man’s wife and when she became pregnant deliberately plotted the man’s demise? To most people, especially Christians, those acts are considered among the worse anyone can commit. God did not let David off the hook for these sins. David had to pay a heavy price even though God forgave him.
I believe that when God assesses a person He looks at the overall picture of the person’s life rather than just focus on the wrongs that person might have done. He also looks to see whether the person is truly sorry for past mistakes and is trying to change for the better. In examining David’s life much can be found to support the assertion that he was indeed a man after God’s own heart.
After the events, in which David had slept with Bathsheba, made her pregnant and then had her husband killed, his conscience probably bothered him slightly, but at least he could marry her and make everything look good. On a day when all seemed to be going well, the prophet came to see the king. He was most likely ushered into a private office where the king joined him shortly afterwards. Nathan the prophet proceeded to tell a story about a man who had a nice ewe which he loved dearly and another man took it away (2 Sam.12:1-14). David, on hearing the story became very angry at the man for taking the ewe. Nathan then revealed that David was the man being spoken about. He rehearsed to David the facts concerning the pregnancy of Bathsheba and the death of her husband Uriah. David probably turned pale with shock and started to stammer. The prophet waited patiently for him to get out his words. David immediately realized that he had committed a serious sin. Although there was no higher human power in Israel than him, he realized that God was above all. He knew that his power as king had been derived from God and that he was answerable to God. His illicit action had offended God and hurt the subjects whose interest he was supposed to uphold. In humility he admitted his wrongdoing and repented (Psalm 51). Very few persons holding David’s position of authority would have admitted any wrongdoing furthermore repented.
David behaved like a man after God’s own heart when he on several occasions refused to kill Saul although he had the opportunity to do so. Which of us, having the opportunity to be rid of an enemy (an enemy who was seeking to destroy us without cause), would hesitate to deliver the final blow? David restrained himself from harming Saul even when urged to do so by the men who protected him.
David, when he became king, did not proceed to kill Saul’s family as some of the kings after him did. He remembered the kindness and friendship Jonathan had shown him. For this, he singled out Mephibosheth one of Jonathan sons and Saul’s grandson to be a recipient of his kindness (2 Sam.9:1-13). It is easy to forget those who helped you on your way up but David was different.
David served God and none other. Unlike many of the other kings of Israel, David enshrined the worship of Yaweh as the state religion. He worked closely with the prophets and priests to ensure that all Israel had access to the form of worship prescribed by the law of Moses and as God had commanded Israel. This is what God wanted at the time. He faithfully carried out the will of God.
David wanted more than anyone else to build a temple for God but that was not God’s will for him. David’s psalms demonstrate how much he loved God and depended on Him for all he needed. David’s whole heart, soul, mind and interest were on pleasing and serving God and on leading the nation of Israel into doing the same. In one psalm he passionately and poetically compared his desire for God to a thirsty deer’s desire for water (Psalm 42:1-2). In this regard, he was truly a man after God’s own heart. For God wants all people everywhere to seek after Him.
King David had a life full of drama, trials, frustration and even horror; but through all of this he maintained his commitment to God. These troubles served only to draw him closer to God.
David had massive family problems. His son Absalom staged a military coup that drove the king from office for a while (2 Sam.15). The same son, once he had settled himself in the palace, dishonored his father by having sexual intercourse with his father’s concubines who had been left behind in Jerusalem (2 Sam.16:22). One of David’s sons named Amnon raped his sister Tamar. Later Absalom his brother plotted and killed him for the rape of their sister (2 Sam. 13).
As though family problems were not enough, David had to grapple with at least one disobedient general in his military. David had given strict orders to the military to be gentle with his son Absalom when he was captured (2 Sam.18:5). Yet Joab deliberately disobeyed the king and executed Absalom after he was found alive a tree (2Sam.18:4-5).
Despite all his troubles, David was not a bitter man. He still had a heart of forgiveness. He did not punish Joab for defying his order not to harm Absalom. He mourned and wept for his sons Absalom and Amnon whom one may argue got what they deserved (2 Sam. 18:33; 13:37).
King David, the man chosen by God to lead Israel, proved himself to be a man after God’s own heart. He like us was imperfect. He like us was tried and tested. He like us had many problems, some of which he brought on himself and others not of his own making. He patiently endured all that life had to offer – the good with the evil. He never allowed these circumstances to cause him to resort to wickedness, dishonesty or worldliness. Instead, he kept God first in his life always and steadfastly looked to Him for help and deliverance. David wrote, “The Lord is my rock, and my fortress and my deliverer; The God of my rock; in him will I trust: he is my shield, and the horn of my salvation… Therefore I will give thanks unto thee, O Lord among the heathen and I will sing praises unto thy name.” (2 Sam. 22:2-3, 50) All must agree that king David was truly a man after God’s own heart.
1. The Holy Bible Authorized King James Version. London : Oxford University Press.