Though it was marred by failure, the key to David’s life was his attitude toward God. God’s glory was his greatest concern; it is a recurring theme of his psalms. In his conflict with Goliath, he showed no concern for personal glory. His life was marked not by ambition, but by a consuming desire to secure God’s glory. He praised God continually with his whole heart. His defections from this position, though serious, were temporary rather than habitual. Near the end of his life he wanted to build a house for the Lord. To him this would be the crowning achievement (2 Sam. 7:1-3). When God denied this he did not sulk, but did all he could to prepare for its building by his son, Solomon. His desire kindled Solomon’s enthusiasm (2 Chr. 6:8-9).
David is the only one in the Bible called “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14; Acts 13:22 NKJV). He is so called “because David did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, and had not turned aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite” (1 Ki. 15:5). There are six reasons why he is called a man after God’s own heart.
David Did God’s Will
God said, “I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will” (Acts 13:22). We often find it difficult to know God’s will in certain situations despite the fact that we have the revelation of God in the Bible. How did David know God’s will? By asking God, who always answered. When David acted without consulting God, sin and failure resulted. For example, when David wanted to bring the ark to Jerusalem, he did not ask God how to do it. The ark was carried in a wrong way and one of the men, Uzziah, died.
As we study David, we find nine times that he asked God for direction. Four inquiries are found in 1 Samuel 23:2-12. David heard that the Philistines were fighting Keilah and robbing the threshing floors. “Therefore David inquired of the Lord, saying, ‘Shall I go and attack these Philistines?’ And the Lord said to David, ‘Go and attack the Philistines, and save Keilah.’” The Lord immediately answered David and promised that he would deliver Keilah. But David’s men were afraid, and this presented a real test to David’s faith. If his men were unwilling to follow him, how could he save Keilah?
David refused to be turned aside by the fears of his followers. Therefore, he asked the Lord again, and the Lord answered: “Go down to Keilah. For I will deliver the Philistines into your hand.” God was not displeased by David’s second inquiry; He not only responded, but gave a more explicit answer, assuring His servant of complete victory. May this encourage us to come to God with every difficulty, and count upon Him at all times. “David and his men went to Keilah and fought with the Philistines, struck them with a mighty blow, and took away their livestock. So David saved the inhabitants of Keilah.”
When Saul heard that David and his men were in a walled city, he rushed to capture them. David inquired a third time: “O LORD God of Israel … Saul seeks to come to Keilah to destroy the city for my sake. Will the men of Keilah deliver me into his hand? Will Saul come down? … I pray, tell Your servant. And the LORD said, ‘He will come down.’” So he escaped. The Lord once more answered David.
Then David inquired of the Lord for the fourth time: “‘Will the men of Keilah deliver me and my men into the hand of Saul?’ And the LORD said, ‘They will deliver you.’” The Lord patiently answered regardless of how many times he inquired.
The fifth inquiry of David is found in 1 Samuel 30:8-20 where we read that the Amalekites destroyed Ziklag, taking the women and children captive. When David and his 600 men returned to Ziklag expecting to be reunited with their families, they found the city burned and their loved ones missing. “So David inquired of the LORD, saying, ‘Shall I pursue this troop? Shall I overtake them?’ And God answered him, ‘Pursue for you shall surely overtake them and without fail recover all.’” So David attacked the enemy and recovered all that the Amalekites had carried away including his two wives.
The sixth inquiry of David, in 2 Samuel 2:1, took place after the Philistines killed Saul and Jonathan. “It happened after this that David inquired of the LORD, saying, ‘Shall I go up to any of the cities of Judah?’ And the LORD said to him, ‘Go up.’ David said, ‘Where shall I go up?’ And the LORD said, ‘To Hebron.’” David would not take a step toward claiming his rights without consulting the Lord. It shows how David, with all his faults, waited on the Lord and acknowledged his dependence on Him. Here he reminds us of Jesus who always waited on His Father. The answer came at once that he was to go up into the cities of Judah, into Hebron. Then the men of Judah anointed him king over Judah.
David’s seventh inquiry is in 2 Samuel 5:17-21. When the Philistines heard that David was anointed king, they went up to search for him and he went down to the stronghold. The Philistines moved to the Valley of Rephaim. “So David inquired of the LORD, saying, ‘Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will You deliver them into my hand?’ And the LORD said to David, ‘Go up, for I will doubtless deliver the Philistines into your hand.’” So David drove the Philistines away.
David’s eighth inquiry is in 2 Samuel 5:22-25. The Philistines went again to the Valley of Rephaim. “Therefore David inquired of the LORD, and He said, ‘You shall not go up; circle around behind them, and come upon them in front of the mulberry trees.’” This time the Lord told David to follow another plan. He obeyed and drove back the Philistines from Geba to Gezer.
The ninth inquiry of David is in 2 Samuel 21. There was a famine in the land for three years. “David inquired of the LORD: And the LORD answered: ‘It is because of Saul and his blood-thirsty house, because he killed the Gibeonites.’” When David faced trouble and did not know what to do, he asked and waited for an answer. David learned that he needed to wait on the Lord for direction.
David Praised The Lord
David penned 77 of the 150 psalms in the Bible. Many of his psalms overflow with praise that is characterized by eight features:
1. David cultivated the habit of praise. “Praise is awaiting You, O God” (Ps. 65:1). Praising God occupied him so much that he called Him “God of my praise” (Ps. 109:1). May we also learn to call Him the God of our praise.
2. David praised the Lord continually. “I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Ps. 34:1). David is called a man after God’s own heart because he abounded with thankfulness. David praised the Lord in good times and bad, even as a fugitive from King Saul (Ps. 57:7).
3. David praised the Lord with his whole heart. “I will praise you, O LORD, with my whole heart” (Ps. 9:1; 138:1; 86:12). God was his consuming passion.
4. David praised the Lord with determination. “O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing, and give praise, even with my glory” (Ps. 108:1). When David said he would praise the Lord, he meant he was resolved and determined to do so.
5. David praised the Lord with boasting. “I will bless the LORD at all times … My soul shall make its boast in the LORD” (Ps. 34:1-2). Are we boasting in our God, or do we boast in our name, position, wealth, family, or something else?
6. David praised the Lord with gladness. In many psalms, praise and joy are side by side. “I will offer sacrifices of joy … I will sing praises to the LORD” (Ps. 27:6).
7. David’s praise of the Lord was public. “I will praise You, O LORD, among the peoples, and I will sing praises to You among the nations” (Ps. 108:3). “O LORD, open my lips, and my mouth shall show forth Your praise” (Ps. 51:15).
8. David offered the sacrifice of praise. “My heart is steadfast; I will sing and give praise” (Ps. 57:7). David was in the cave when he penned these words – a fugitive from Saul’s wrath. In the worst of circumstances, David was steadfast in his praise of the Lord. It was not based on impulse, but principle.
David Had Great Faith
Although David had several failures, underneath was a faith that never failed. God knew his heart. David loved, trusted and walked with Him. When he failed, God’s rod of correction fell heavily on him, but David never murmured. He cherished his fellowship with God. He was a man after God’s own heart.
Even as a boy, David had a heart for God. As he faced Goliath, he testified to his faith: “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied” (1 Sam. 17:45). David did not fight Goliath because the Israelites were being humiliated, but because Goliath was defying the living God.
David Did Not Avenge
David never avenged himself, he left vengeance to the Lord. On two occasions (1 Sam. 24, 26) David could have killed Saul, the one who thirsted for his blood. But David left him in the Lord’s hands to deal with him as it pleased Him. God says, “Vengeance is Mine, and recompense” (Dt. 32:35). David believed God, and wrote, “O God, to whom vengeance belongs, shine forth!” (Ps. 94:1).
In 2 Samuel 16:5-8, we read that Shimei cursed David, threw stones at him and called him a bloodthirsty man responsible for “all the blood of the house of Saul.” His accusation was unfounded, as David was not responsible for the death of Saul and Jonathan who died in battle with the Philistines (1 Sam. 31:2-4). Abishai, David’s nephew, offered to kill Shimei, but David refused saying, “Let him alone, and let him curse, for so the LORD has ordered him. It may be that the LORD will look on my affliction … and repay me with good for his cursing this day” (2 Sam. 16:10-12). David saw the hand of God when Shimei cursed him.
Faith sees God’s hand in every situation. In his reply to Abishai, David mentioned the Lord’s name four times. He realized Shimei was but an instrument in the Lord’s hand, and therefore showed mercy and forgave Shimei. As king he could have had Shimei killed. But as a man after God’s own heart, he is a picture of Christ who forgives us.
David Showed Grace
David showed kindness to Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s son, and the grandson of Saul (2 Sam. 9). Because he was lame in both feet (2 Sam. 4:4), Mephibosheth had to be carried into the king’s presence. Likewise, the sinner cannot come to the Lord by his own strength. David wanted to show him “the kindness and the love of God” for Jonathan’s sake just as God for Christ’s sake shows His great kindness to sinful men (Ti. 3:4).
Mephibosheth means “a shameful thing.” When he heard from David what grace was to be shown to him, he confessed his shame, calling himself a “dead dog.” Mephibosheth was lifted from his low place of shame to a place at the king’s table, as one of the king’s sons. Today God’s grace is made known in the gospel; He takes us out of our shame and makes us His sons.
Mephibosheth did not deserve these blessings. They came by grace, the unmerited favor of God toward those who deserve hell. “Mephibosheth … ate continually at the king’s table. And he was lame in both his feet.” David represented to him “the God of all grace” (1 Pet. 5:10).
The above features are what made David a man after God’s own heart. If we possess these features and show them in our daily life, we too will become men and women after God’s own heart. May the Lord give us grace to follow David’s example.
By Maurice Bassali
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org