I find it curious that despite his many flaws David is given a generous title: a man after God’s own heart. (1 Samuel 13:14). One of my favorite questions to ask friends and family at times has been “why is David called – a man after God’s own heart?” Those familiar with David’s story have often referenced 2 Samuel 12:1-13. In that particular story, the prophet Nathan comes to David and confronts him with the murder of Uriah and adultery with Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba. Rather than denying, projecting, or minimizing his actions, David admits his wrong. David is sorrowful and vows to change (Psalm 51).
Today, politicians and authority figures apologize to ease media scrutiny and to bolster bruised public opinion. But we see in Psalm 51, David’s sincere remorse, pleading for God’s mercy and pledging to change. Many believe that it was David’s honesty and humility that earned him the title “a man after God’s own heart.” This is a logical and compelling argument.
A few (including myself) have wondered if there is another angle that could be taken to help us understand why David might have received such a generous description. Perhaps the phrase is referring to a defining characteristic in David’s life that reminds people of God – passion. In worship, in battle, and in friendship David demonstrates a remarkable passion. In this way, David resembles God – a chip off the ‘ol block – as the saying goes. Even after thousands of years, David’s passion jumps off the pages of scripture. You can almost feel it. Because of this, it’s hard not to like David even though he made a mess of his life and the lives of others in some pretty tragic ways.
We want to see David as a passionate hero. An underdog who defeats Goliath, rises through the ranks, eludes his enemies and eventually becomes King. It’s an American rags to riches story that we can get behind and cheer for. But throughout the story of David, we realize that David’s story is not really about David at all… and it’s not a rags to riches story either.
Throughout the narrative we discover that the true climax and point of every story is that David is the recipient of God’s gracious choosing and promises. David prays a beautiful prayer of response after receiving the news that his house (lineage) will last forever. David is overwhelmed and knows that he has done nothing to deserve this (2 Samuel 7:18-21). After all, David has committed adultery and murder. But this unmerited favor is what the Bible calls grace. Grace is heaven shining down on you. Grace is the smile of God. Grace has nothing to do with being a good person, being perfect, trying hard or even trying at all. David wasn’t a perfect person and his flaws remind us that the blessings poured out on David are not because of David’s virtue, but rather because of God’s overflowing goodness.
As we study and explore the life of David this summer, see David – the king, warrior, poet, lover, father and friend. But see through him too – to God, who works his grace in and through David’s life – through the good and the bad.
Join us for our upcoming sermon series starting on Sunday, June 3 and follow along online through our sermon podcasts!