David: a man after God’s own heart?

David: a man after God’s own heart?

King David, the greatest of the Old Testament kings, is a figure who confuses many. After all, he was deeply flawed. Here is a man who is called the one after God’s own heart (1 Sam 13:14), the king with whom God made a covenant (2 Sam 7), who was promised a descendant who would sit on the throne forever. But, on the other hand, the same man was a known adulterer, a murderer, a liar (all to do with Bathsheba, 2 Sam 11), a poor parent, a man who had a tendency to think too highly of himself (2 Sam 24), and a man prone to anger (1 Sam 25). How can this be? How can this man possibly please God when he was so sinful?

Let’s be clear: the Bible never tries to convince us that David was a perfect man who was worthy of God. David himself knew he wasn’t (Ps 51 comes to mind). What we see in 1 and 2 Samuel is a description of a man who was broken and flawed. He was just like us in lots of ways. He was a man who broke God’s laws a great deal and was not some purer, more holy person than the rest of us.

What is striking about David, especially compared to King Saul his predecessor, was that when confronted with his sin, he was repentant. Here is a man who was quick to confess his sin and ask for God’s help. We see this when Nathan the prophet spoke to him about the Bathsheba incident in 2 Samuel 12. We see this when asked for mercy by Abigail in 1 Samuel 25 and when his sin in the census was clear in 2 Samuel 24. David was not perfect; he often needed forgiveness. And God often gave it to him.

In addition, David really loved God. He authored more of the psalms than anyone else. He danced in front of the ark in such a way he embarrassed his more regal wife in 2 Samuel 6. He trusted in the power of God when he fronted up against Goliath in 1 Samuel 17.

Many of the accounts of David’s life are not there to show us how to live, to hold him up as a model believer. Else we would think that it was acceptable to break all of the commandments! No, David is held up as a man saved by grace. A man who clearly did not deserve his position and blessing. A man who was brought from humble beginnings to become the greatest of Israel’s kings. This is pure grace. When we see David, we shouldn’t think how wonderful David is; we should be amazed as how gracious God is.

David was not the end of God’s plan but pointed to a greater one coming, great David’s greater son (2 Sam 7). It is clear that David was not God’s perfect Saviour who could pay for sins; he was so obviously broken. But, in his better, more faithful moments, we do see a glimpse of what a great king looked like. And when we look at Jesus, we see who that great king really was.

David’s account is so helpful for it stops us getting the wrong idea about God. God doesn’t expect us to be perfect to be his people. He accepts those who are humble, who are repentant, and who trust in Jesus. That is great news!