After highlighting some of David’s serious sins (see previous articles), the question could be raised, why did God consider David “a man after His own heart”, when David repeatedly sinned against Him? It appears as if God showed David leniency above and beyond all other servants of His. Yes, God chastened David for his sin, chastened him severely; for he suffered consequences throughout his life because of his sin. However, as compared to Israel’s great deliverer and leader Moses, for instance–it appeared as if God dealt much more sternly with Moses when he committed sin.
For example, when Moses was confronted by the multitude of thirsty, grumbling, and hostile fellow Israelites demanding water, Moses, out of frustration disobediently “struck the rock” [with his staff to obtain water], rather than “speak to it”, as God had commanded (Num. 20:1-12). More important than Moses’ act of disobedience, was that he tarnished God’s holiness before the people: “But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you have not believed Me, to treat Me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.’” (Num. 20:12, cf. Deut. 32:52). According to Scripture, it appears for that one incident of disobedience, Moses was denied entrance into the Promise Land. After forty years of arduous desert wandering, enduring inclement weather, and bearing the children of Israel’s constant grumbling and rebellion against his authority—Moses’ sudden display of anger seemed justified.
Amazingly, despite David’s many offenses against God, Him, still considered David “a man after His own heart”. It was an honorable title God had uniquely bestowed upon David–no other servant, prophet, or king of Israel, was given such a designation. Even David’s son Solomon, who inherited his father’s throne, never received such acclaim from God: “In Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream at night; and God said, ‘Ask what you wish me to give you.’ Then Solomon said, ‘Thou hast shown great lovingkindness to Thy servant David my father, according as he walked before Thee in truth and righteousness and uprightness of heart toward Thee; and Thou hast reserved for him this great lovingkindness, that Thou hast given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day.’” (1 Kin. 3:5-6). In fact, all kings were measured against David’s standard of “righteousness”. The MacArthur Study Bible notes: “David is consistently presented as the standard by which other kings were to conduct their lives and be judged by God. (1 Kin. 3:14; 9:4; 14:8, 15:3; 2 Kin. 8:19; 22:2).” 8 In God’s eyes David was uniquely special (Ps. 17:8).
However, Scripture documents David committed sins just like the rest of Israel’s kings had done, so why then did God exalt him above all the rest of them? The answer is apparently given by God’s own testimony. When the Lord appeared to King Solomon after having just finished constructing and dedicating His “house” (temple), the Lord declared:
“I have heard your prayer and your supplication, which you have made before Me; I have consecrated this house [temple] which you have built by putting My name there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually. And as for you [Solomon], if you will walk before Me as your father David walked, in integrity of heart and uprightness, doing according to all that I have commanded you and will keep My statutes and My ordinances, then I will establish the throne of your kingdom over Israel forever, just as I promised to your father David, saying, ‘You shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’” (1 Kin. 9:3-5–emphasis added).
Unfortunately, Solomon failed to keep God’s commandments as his father David as he “did what was evil in the sight of the Lord”. Unlike his father, Solomon allowed the multiplicity of his foreign wives to lead his heart astray from the One True God of Israel as well as having committed abominable acts of idolatry (1 Kin. 11:1-8). Because of Solomon’s wickedness, God tore the kingdom away from him and divided the nation of Israel into twelve parts or tribes (ten tribes to the north and two tribes to the south–1 Kin. 11:9). God awarded all but one tribe (Judah) to Solomon’s servant and master builder, Jeroboam. It was only because of God’s covenant faithfulness to His servant David, that He left Solomon one tribe–from which the Messiah would descend: “My covenant I will not violate, nor will I alter the utterance of My lips. Once I have sworn by My holiness; I will not lie to David. His descendants shall endure forever, and his throne as the sun before Me. It shall be established forever like the moon, and the witness in the sky is faithful.” (Ps. 89:34-37).
Unfortunately, like Solomon, Jeroboam acted wickedly and “did evil in the sight of the Lord”. In fact, he behaved more wickedly than Solomon. Again, God employed David’s noble character as an illustration of righteousness, for all generations of Israel’s kings:
“…Thus says the LORD God of Israel, ‘Because I exalted you [Jeroboam] from among the people and made you leader over My people Israel, and tore the kingdom away from the house of David [Solomon] and gave it to you–yet you have not been like My servant David, who kept My commandments and who followed Me with all his heart, to do only that which was right in My sight; you also have done more evil than all who were before you, and have gone and made for yourself other gods and molten images to provoke Me to anger, and have cast Me behind your back’” (1 Kin. 14:7-9–emphasis added).
Furthermore, stated in the two previous passages (1 Kin. 9:3-5, 1 Kin. 14:7-9) that: “[David] walked in integrity of heart and uprightness” (1 Kin. 9:4), “kept God’s statutes and ordinances” (9:4), “did what God commanded”, (1 Kin. 14:8), “followed God with all his heart” (14:8), and “did right in God’s sight” (14:8). Jeroboam on the other hand, behaved wickedly and antithetically to God’s designated “standard of righteousness”, utilizing David as His example. In fact, God referred to Jeroboam as the “standard of evil”, to which Israel’s future kings were juxtaposed: “…and you have walked in the way of Jeroboam and have made My people Israel sin…” (1 Kin. 15:34, cf. 16:2, 3, 7, 19, 26, 31, 21:22, 22:52, 2 Kin. 3:3, 9:9, 10:29, 13:2, 6, 11, 14:24, 15:9, 18, 24, 28).
Another reason God favored David above all other kings and considered him “a man after His own heart”, was that the shepherd and king remained loyal solely to Him. As was previously mentioned, David never turned aside from walking with the God of Israel; never bowing down to pagan gods. David remained faithful to his One True God; as he wrote in the Psalms: “My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be moved.” (Ps. 62:5-6). Of the forty kings that succeeded David and reigned over the “split” kingdom of Israel, only two kings remained faithful to God; Judah’s kings Hezekiah and Josiah. All the rest “did evil in the sight of the Lord”. The MacArthur Study Bible notates: “These…words ‘evil in the sight of the Lord’ were used throughout the books of Kings to describe the rulers who practiced idolatry (I Kin. 15:26, 34; 16:19, 24, 30; 22:52; 2 Kin. 3:2; 8:18, 27; 13:2, 11; 14:24; 15:9, 18, 24, 28; 17:2; 21:2, 20; 23:32, 37; 24:9, 19).”9 The New American Commentary on 1, 2 Kings, Dr. Paul House comments: “Certainly David sinned in the Bathsheba/Uriah incident, yet he never turned to idols as Solomon, Rehoboam…[or] Abijah…God keeps His promise even when David’s descendants do not.” 10
Another significant reason God exalted David, was because he genuinely repented when he committed sin. God who knows the heart (1 Sam. 16:7, 1 Chr. 28:9, 2 Chr. 6:30), obviously saw David’s genuine contrition: “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.” (Ps. 51:2-3). Dr. John MacArthur notes: “This was not because David had not sinned (cf, 2 Sam. 11, 12), but rather because he repented appropriately from his sin (Pss. 32, 51), and sin did not continue as a pattern of life.”11 Psalm’s 32, 38, and 51, are three of David’s well-known penitential Psalm’s and written testimonies of his own struggles with sin. Moreover, they provide a glimpse of transparency and sincerity into David’s heart.
As examples, first David acknowledged that the heavy weight of God’s chastisement was because of his impenitent sin: “For day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer.” (Ps. 32:4). “For Your arrows pierce me deeply, and Your hand presses me down. There is no soundness in my flesh Because of Your anger, nor any health in my bones because of my sin.” (Ps. 38:2-3–NKJ). Furthermore, David recognized the persistent guilt, joylessness, and misery when he foolishly suppressed his sin: “For my iniquities are gone over my head; as a heavy burden they weigh too much for me. My wounds grow foul and fester. Because of my folly, I am bent over and greatly bowed down; I go mourning all day long. For my loins are filled with burning; and there is no soundness in my flesh. I am benumbed and badly crushed; I groan because of the agitation of my heart.” (Ps. 38:4-8). Second, David confessed his sin: “I acknowledged my sin to Thee, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD’; and Thou didst forgive the guilt of my sin.” (Ps. 32:5). Third, he rightly identified that his sin was ultimately against God: “Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight — That You may be found just when You speak, and blameless when You judge.” (Ps. 51:4–NKJ). Incidentally, it was not that David was oblivious, insensitive, or indifferent to those he sinned against; he realized that many of his sins caused devastating consequences. However, he prudently acknowledged first and foremost, that his iniquity transgressed the law of God and besmirched His holiness. Commenting on Psalm 51:4, C. H. Spurgeon wrote:
“All his [David’s] wrong-doing centered, culminated, and came to a climax, at the foot of the divine throne. To injure our fellow men is sin, mainly because in doing so we violate the law of God. The penitent’s heart was so filled with a sense of wrong done to the Lord Himself, that all other confession was swallowed up in a broken-hearted acknowledgement of the offence against Him.” 12
Forth, David desired to be restored and made pure. He not only confessed, repented, and realized that he ultimately sinned against God; but sought to be cleansed and purified from sins contamination. David’s sin had plundered his joy and tarnished his relationship with his perfectly holy God: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me…Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit.” (Ps. 51:10, 12, cf. 51:2, 7). Fifth, David understood God requires a broken, contrite and penitent heart for sin: “For You [God] do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart — these, O God, You will not despise.” (Ps. 51:16-17 NKJ).
Perhaps it was David’s genuine contrition expressed in his Psalms, that pleased God. Perhaps it was his confessed godly reasons that God considered David “a man after His own heart”? Additionally, in the seventy-five Psalms David wrote, not only did he confess and repent over his sin, but he displayed a faithful heart zealous to do God’s will: “…[David] did what was right in the sight of the LORD, and had not turned aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, except in the case of Uriah the Hittite.” (1 Kin. 15:5). In Psalm forty David wrote: “I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” (Ps. 40:8, cf Ps. 69:9, Acts 13:22). John MacArthur observed: “David may justly be termed a man after God’s heart because…his greatest desire came to be doing God’s will.” 13
Additionally, by reading David’s Psalms one can get a glimpse of what, can be called, “David’s Spirit-inspired diary”–recorded intimate thoughts, exultations and praises for the God he loved, worshipped, and served: “I will extol You, my God, O King; and I will bless Your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless You, and I will praise Your name forever and ever.” (Ps. 145:1-2). Nothing is more perspicuous than David’s all-encompassing love for God, by the various types of prayers he offered up to Him. For example: his “praises” to God: “I will be glad and exult in Thee; I will sing praise to Thy name, O Most High.” (Ps. 9:2). “That my soul may sing praise to Thee, and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to Thee forever.” (Ps. 30:12); his proclamations of God as his “Rock” and his “trust”: “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.” (Ps. 18:2-3). “He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be shaken. On God my salvation and my glory rest; the rock of my strength, my refuge is in God.” (Ps. 62:6-7); for deliverance from the threats and terrors of his enemies: “My times are in Thy hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies, and from those who persecute me.” (Ps. 31:15). “Deliver me from those who do iniquity, and save me from men of bloodshed. For behold, they have set an ambush for my life; fierce men launch an attack against me, not for my transgression nor for my sin, O LORD, for no guilt of mine, they run and set themselves against me. Arouse Thyself to help me, and see!” (Ps. 59:2-4); mercy and forgiveness because of his weakness and fall into sin: “Have mercy on me, O LORD, for I am weak; O LORD, heal me, for my bones are troubled. My soul also is greatly troubled; But You, O LORD — how long? Return, O LORD, deliver me! Oh, save me for Your mercies’ sake!” (Ps. 6:2-4–NKJ). “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.” (Ps. 51:1-2–NKJ).
It is obvious that David was a man of abundant prayer and in constant commune with God and a paradigm for “praying without ceasing”: “Evening and morning and at noon I will pray, and cry aloud, and He shall hear my voice.” “Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I cry to You all day long.” (Ps. 55:17, 86:3—NKJ; cf. 1 Thess. 5:17).
These examples and many more represent the close and intimate relationship David had with God. It’s no wonder God exalted David above everyone else. It’s no wonder God showed him mercy and forgave him for many trespasses against Him. It’s no wonder God considered him “a man after His own heart”! All believers can be encouraged by David’s contrition in his repentance and how he desired to restore his relationship with God. However, far above all that is how gracious and merciful God was to forgive David of his numerous trespasses against Him–to keep the promises He made to the patriarchs, despite their shortcomings. God has that same level of forgiveness for those who love Him (Rom. 8:28, cf, Jn. 14:15) –despite falling far short of His perfect holiness. Now that is encouraging!
See next week for part 5 of, David: A Man After God’s Own Heart
8The MacArthur Study Bible (NKJ), Word Publishing, 1997, pg. 491–Footnote on 2 Kin. 11:4 “as…David“
9 The MacArthur Study Bible (NKJ), Word Publishing, 1997, pg. 491–Footnote on 2 Kin. 11:6, “evil in the sight of the Lord”
10 New American Commentary, 1, 2 Kings, Paul R. House, B & H Publishing, 1995, pg. 196
11 The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Acts 13-28, Moody Publishers, 1996, pg. 20-21, footnote on 13:22.
12 C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, Vol. II, Funk & Wagnalls, 1882, pg. 451
13 The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Acts 13-28, Moody Publishers, 1996, pg. 20-21, footnote on 13:22.