A Man After God’s Own Heart

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Pieter de Grebber, King David in Prayer (1635-40), Oil on canvas, 94 x 84 cm, Museum Catharijneconvent, Utrecht, The Netherlands

For the past two months I’ve been preaching through the life of David, one of the most colorful characters in the Bible or in all of literature for that matter. He is described by one author as follows:

He is wily like Odysseus and an impetuous daredevil like the Scarlet Pimpernel. Like Hamlet, he pretends to be crazy. Like Joan of Arc, he comes from nowhere, ardent and innocent, to infuriate the conventional elders. Like the Athenian rogue Alcibiades he goes over to the enemy side for a time. Like Robin Hood, he gathers a band of outcasts and outlaws in the wilderness. Like Lear, he is overthrown and betrayed by his offspring. Like Tristan and Cyrano, he masters the harp as well as the sword: a poet as well as a warrior-killer, but as a poet, he is far above any other hero, and as a killer no one among the poets can even approach him. (Pinsky, Life of David, 3-4)

Great heroes have serious flaws as well as heroic virtues. David was a murderer and adulterer, maybe even a rapist. (Isn’t that what we call it when a man uses his power to force a woman into his bed?) He’s a neglectful father and two of his sons, Absalom and Adonijah, rebel against him. He seems vindictive at the end of his life when he asks his son Solomon to settle old scores by killing Joab and Shimei (1 Kings 2:5-9). Despite all of David’s sins, the Lord calls him “a man after his own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14). Perhaps David’s most redeeming quality was his tender heart toward God that enabled him to repent sincerely when he realized he had sinned. That’s a good example for us to follow. There’s a Proverb that says, “For a just man falls seven times and rises up again” (24:16). If we’ve stumbled, we need to get up and move forward with God.

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