Question: God stated that King David was a "man after his own heart." How do we understand these words in light of David's lifestyle that was filled with glaring sins?

You have pointed out one of the many great paradoxes presented to us in Scripture, where it would seem as though either God had made a mistake in his assessment of David, or there was a Biblical error.  For as you ask, “How can God call David, ‘A man after his own heart’ (1 Samuel 13:14), and yet David have such glaring sins in his life?”  Well, since we know the Bible to be infallible and we also know that God doesn’t make mistakes, let’s explore the paradox.

You might find this interesting that God rejected Saul’s kingship for his disobedience against God, and in response to God’s rejection of King Saul, he announced that he was giving the kingdom to a “Man after his own heart.”  Was Saul’s disobedience greater than David’s disobedience?  The plot thickens.  I suppose that’s a question for another post!

Let’s review David’s sins before we get much farther.  King David’s army was off to war fighting the Ammonites.  David stayed back at the palace and with too much time on his hands he finds himself perusing the city roof tops high from his palace when all of a sudden, he finds himself lusting over a woman bathing on her rooftop.  King David abuses his power, against the advice of his servant who told David that she was a married woman…, but he summoned her nonetheless.  He slept with her and sometime later finds out that she’s now carrying his child. 

Sadly, as all of us know to some degree, sin, when left unchecked in our life can quickly spiral out of control and it certainly did in David’s life.  You see, Bathsheba, the woman David slept with, had a husband who fought in David’s army.  David sent for Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, with the intent of wining and dining his soldier and then sending him home to his wife so that the baby his wife was carrying could be considered his if Uriah went and slept with his wife.  But…, Uriah, the ever loyal soldier would have none of it!  So long as his men were off fighting, he wasn’t going home to his wife, so he slept at the door step of the castle.  So David tried again, keeping him another day at the palace, wining and dining Uriah, even getting him drunk so that Uriah would go home, hopefully sleep with his wife so that David could hide his sins against his wife.  Again, no such luck!  Uriah wasn’t about to go home.  

So, now David was on to plan “c” or “d”.  He sent Uriah back to the front lines, concocted a plan to have Uriah bumped off.  And it seemingly worked!  When the enemy came out, Uriah courageously went forward, but his cohorts withdrew and Uriah was killed.  Or we might say, murdered by his boss, King David.

Does this sound like a “Man after God’s own heart?”  Hardly. 

You know, the Bible lets us into the hearts and lives of a lot of God’s people and a recurring theme is this: the godly men and women of the Bible aren’t a whole lot different than twenty first century Christians.  OK, so you haven’t murdered anyone.  So what!  You and I know what sin is like and you and I know exactly what’s it like when sin spins out of control in our life.  It doesn’t feel good, does it? 

Well, it certainly didn’t feel good for King David, either.  You see, the Bible reveals a couple of different Psalms that David wrote in response to his bold and daring sins, one of those Psalms is 51, a penitential Psalm that always comes up during the season of Lent.  But the one I want to share with you today, is Psalm 32, which shows us the utter agony David’s soul was going through while concealing these wicked sins in his life.  It reads… “Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.  Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit, is no deceit. When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was  heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.’ And you forgave the guilt of my sin” (Psalm 32:1-5). 

This gives us insight to God’s declaration about King David being considered, “A man after God’s own heart.”  You see, God didn’t speak these words about David because David was a better man than his predecessor, nor did he speak these words because David always or even sometimes “got it right” in life when it came to moral living.  No, I believe God spoke these words over David because of David’s willingness to admit his sins to God. 

You see, it wasn’t long after David fell into these great sins that God sent him the prophet Nathan to point out his grievous errors.  And when he did point them out, David confessed, “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Samuel 12:13).  No excuses; no rationalizations; no cover up, at least, no more cover up!  Simple confession, which is what God loves to hear from his people. 

You see, you and I are men and women after God’s own heart every time we confess our numerous errors and faults before his throne of grace, trusting confidently as David did, that God has taken away our sins.  You see, David was told immediately by the prophet Nathan that the LORD had taken away his sin and that he was not going to die.  How relieved David must have felt?  He tells us how relieved he felt in Psalm 32, doesn’t he?  He calls himself a blessed man for he knew he was forgiven because of the future sacrifice of God’s own Son, who David also knew as his Good Shepherd.

You see, being a man or woman after God’s own heart does not only mean we confess our sins before God’s throne, but it also means that we trust the promise of forgiveness that he provided for us through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  What good is confession, if it’s not accompanied by faith in the promise of forgiveness and salvation?  No good at all.  Trust what God has provided you and do not doubt it for a moment, dear Christian.  Why else does our God let us in on the nitty-gritty details of the people’s lives?  To teach us this single truth – we can’t out sin God’s grace to us in Christ Jesus, nor should we try.  God’s grace comes to us freely and at no cost to us.  For Jesus paid the ransom price for us.   

May God keep us as men and women after his own heart, by producing in us, what he produced in the late, great, King David – a confessing heart that looks to Christ our Savior for forgiveness. 

Blessings on your day and week! 

Pastor Matthew P. DeNoyer