I was reading through a few Psalms one day and after going over one of my favorites, Psalm 37, I got to thinking about David (no surprise). The only time in the Bible that we have recorded as mentioning that someone was after God’s own heart, was referencing David. In 1 Samuel 13, Saul had disobeyed God’s instructions and as a result, the position of King was going to be taken from him. In verse 13-14, the prophet Samuel said to Saul, “Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the Lord thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the Lord have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever. But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the Lord hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the Lord commanded thee.” (Emphasis mine.)
Think about that for a minute. The LORD considered David to be a man after his own heart. What did he mean by that? How are you one after someone else’s heart? To me, I consider that to mean David would seek the things that are important to God; that David would find importance in the things that carried eternal value, not just what brought immediate gratification. Even in terms speaking of one man to another, you would simply place value on the same things that another person does. Paul said something similar to Timothy in Philippians 2:19-20 – “But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state. For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state.” You could say that Timothy was a man after Paul’s heart. There was no one else that Paul would consider sending on something important. He knew that Timothy would care for the church at Philippi just as he would as if Paul were there himself. I think that the LORD saw David in the same light: that David would represent the Kingdom of Heaven well….but did he?
Granted David did many things that pleased God, however, there were a few things that did not go over so well with the LORD (in no particular order).
The most well known incident in David’s life is his affair with Bathsheba. You can read about it in detail in 2 Samuel chapters 11-12. To sum it up, a man named Uriah was a soldier in David’s army and while Uriah was out fighting a battle to which David should have been at, David had an affair with Uriah’s wife Bathsheba and she got pregnant. When David found out, he commanded that Uriah be brought to him. When Uriah came to David, he basically told Uriah to take a break and go home to his wife. David did so hoping that Uriah would go have relations with Bathsheba and it would hopefully cover up his incident. Well that didn’t work out because Uriah spent the night on the steps of the palace because he couldn’t dream of relaxing while his fellow soldiers were out fighting. What a stand up guy! When that didn’t work, David got him drunk and tried again. No go on that angle either. So David got a “bright idea” and told the captain to place Uriah at the most dangerous place in the battle and have the rest of the men fall back so that Uriah would be killed. He told the captain by means of a letter that he handed to Uriah to give to the captain! Uriah was carrying his own death warrant and never even knew it! David believed Uriah to be such a stand up guy that he knew Uriah wouldn’t open the letter! Well, needless to say Uriah was killed and David ended up marrying Bathsheba, but the baby died as a result of what David had done. This from a guy who was after God’s own heart.
Another incident in David’s life was recorded in 1 Chronicles 21. David ordered Joab to perform a census in Isreal. Even Joab knew that was not right, but David insisted and God was not pleased. As a result, 70,000 people were killed.
So here we have adultery, murder, lying, to top it off, genocide. Yet David was a man after God’s own heart? Didn’t God know that David would screw up like he did? I believe so, but I still think God saw David as a man after His own heart. Certainly adultery, murder, lying, and genocide are not things that God places value on. Those are not things that pleases God. However, reading past those mistakes David made, reveal why I believe David was a man after God’s heart.
In both instances, when David came to his senses, he owned up to what he had done and relied on the mercy of God. So what’s the big deal about that? David understood the value of judgement, mercy, and forgiveness.
David knew what he had done was wrong and knew that his actions would bring judgement upon him and upon Israel. When the judgement came, David never accused God of being unjust in the punishment. In other words, he took it like a man. He didn’t whine about it or even attempt to negotiate with God. In fact, when David saw Israelites being killed as a result of his census, David offered himself up to be slain in their stead. He fully admitted that he was the one that deserved the punishment for what was done.
On the flip side of things, consider Saul. It either eludes minds or for whatever reason, we skip over the fact that Saul was God’s first choice to rule as King forever. I quoted it in the first paragraph, but here it is again: “And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the Lord thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the Lord have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever.” – 1 Samuel 13:13
Reading through the remainder of Saul’s life and his relationship with David, reminds me of Hebrews 12:15 (NLT) – “Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.“
Saul was most definitely poisoned by bitterness. He relentlessly and passionately pursued David at all costs. How many lives were lost, how many resources were wasted, etc., all because Saul refused to own up to his mistake when confronted?
And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord. And Nathan said unto David, The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die. – 2 Samuel 12:13 KJV
I love this. David’s response was so simple. Obviously, he didn’t just own up to his grave error to get out of trouble. I believe in that moment, his eyes were finally opened to the life he had been living. He didn’t like what he had become. He truly felt remorse for what he had done. Was he forgiven? Yes. Did God show him mercy? Yes. Was there still punishment to be dealt? Yes. Unfortunately, that was how it worked under the first covenant. Thanks be to God that we won’t suffer judgement due to our actions. Will there still be consequences? Possibly, but it won’t be God that’s punishing us.
In the end of it all, no matter what you do wrong or why you did it, it’s highly unlikely you’re too far gone to be forgiven. In fact, the sacrifice that Jesus made on our behalf is so powerful, He has already forgiven you for it. At the same time, the LORD always gives us a choice. Just as Saul and David chose the end of their story, albeit two separate ways, you get to choose the end of yours. Will bitterness and pride direct your path? Or will you allow the Godly type sorrow to lead you to repentance?
There is much truth to the saying, “Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.” David played a stupid game. One that cost him a child. The games we play, may very well end up costing us dearly. Will every consequence be negated if we simply admit our wrong doing? Probably not, but nevertheless, it’s the right thing to do before the sight of our merciful, gracious Heavenly Father. Whether or not you do it, all depends on the condition of your heart, which God is well aware of…even better than you are.
I think one of the most important lesson of both incidents that were mentioned above, is the David was more than willing to accept punishment for his actions, no matter the cost. Reminds me of someone else in scripture, except that He was more than willing to accept the punishment of not just someone else’s actions, everyone else’s.