David was a man after God’s own heart and it shows. His dying words in 2 Samuel 23 ring with a heart aflame with love towards God. David was a murderer, an adulterer, a passive father, a greedy politician, a polygamist and a sinner. Is it not perplexing that this man is called a man after God’s heart, even though he was quite a scalawag? I’m always preaching about holy and righteous living, and not justifying sin within our lives. So why does David seem to get a free pass in Scripture. He blows it, and gets the accolade: man after God’s heart.
God, never once condones David’s many faults, nor does He overlook them. In fact all of the Mosaic Law condemns the things which David did. So what makes David so special?
He is a saint not a god. He is a sinner saved, not a Savior of sinners. He is a shadow of Christ, not Christ Himself. In the same way, neither you nor I are perfect reflections of Christ; the Christian is a poor and shadowy reflection of the true Light of the World. It’s much like the moon is a sad reflection of the sun.
When we compare David with many of the later kings of Israel and Judah, it might, on the surface, seem inconsistent of God to call down judgement upon these other kings and overlook David’s many sins and call him “beloved” (which is what David’s name means). Is God being unfair?
Here is the distinguishing factor: David held steadfast to the everlasting covenant of grace and worshipped, served and loved God alone. Whereas, many of the later kings, while seemingly morally good, went and served all the idols of the nations. Idolatry mixed with morality is still idolatry. We must worship and serve God alone. While Israel’s later kings served Baal with a nice, sanitary morality, David wept over his inward idolatry and turned in repentance to the One True God.
There was nothing special about David which procured God’s favor upon Him. However, there was one thing that enabled David to enjoy the favor and grace of God upon him. That one thing? Faith which worketh by love (Gal. 5:6). For, the final statement of David’s life shows how, despite all his badness, he had the humility to spurn his own goodness, his own accomplishments and his own efforts at righteousness and cling with loving faith to the salvation and mercy found in God’s everlasting covenant: Christ, the Lamb that was slain. His dying words are “Although my house be not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he make it not to grow (2 Samuel 23:5).”
The glorious thing about the life of David is not David, it is Christ! Christ is the everlasting covenant which is ordered in all things and is sure. Meaning, the saving grace which Christ offers is everlasting, ordered in all matters and efficacious for all sins, and is unchanging, sure, steadfast, an anchor for the soul. David says that which is the confession of all true saints of God, “this is all my salvation, and all my desire!” Is Christ your only hope? Or have you mixed the temple of God with idols? We must learn to say with David and with Paul, “[. . .] this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14).”
David was a sinner who placed his faith in the sure and steadfast promise of God’s everlasting covenant. Jonathan Edwards has well said of him, “David always esteemed the greatest smile of God upon Him, the greatest honour put upon him; he prized it, and rejoiced in it above all the other blessings of his reign.” So, while King David was a glorious type and shadow of Christ, he was also a sinful man; however, he was a sinful man who turned and looked in faith unto the grace poured out upon Him in the person of Christ. For, the smile of God only rests upon Christ, the image of the Father; thus, David knew that if he was to find favor in God’s sight it must be found in the promise of His Word. Which is why David declares:
Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them. […] O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day. […] I hate vain thoughts: but thy law do I love. […] I hate and abhor lying: but thy law do I love.
Psalms 119:165, 97, 113, 163
Thomas Watson once memorably said, “Many court God, but few love Him.” David is one who loved Him, and with his final, feeble breath declared: “this is all my salvation, and all my desire!” Isaac Watts’ well understood this reality as well, and may his words prove a sweet meditation on the salvation found in Christ alone!
Amidst Thy wrath remember love,
Restore Thy servant, Lord;
Nor let a Father’s chastening prove
Like an avenger’s sword.
Thine arrows stick within my heart,
My flesh is sorely pressed;
Between the sorrow and the smart,
My spirit finds no rest.
My sins a heavy load appear,
And o’er my head are gone;
Too heavy they for me to bear,
Too hard for me t’atone.
My thoughts are like a troubled sea,
My head still bending down;
And I go mourning all the day,
Beneath my Father’s frown.
Lord, I am weak and broken sore,
None of my powers are whole:
The inward anguish makes me roar,
The anguish of my soul.
All my desire to Thee is known,
Thine eye counts every tear;
And every sigh, and every groan,
Is noticed by Thine ear.
Thou art my God, my only hope;
My God will hear my cry;
My God will bear my spirit up,
When Satan bids me die.
My foot is ever apt to slide,
My foes rejoice to see’t;
They raise their pleasure and their pride
When they supplant my feet.
But I’ll confess my guilt to Thee,
And grieve for all my sin;
I’ll mourn how weak my graces be,
And beg support divine.
My God, forgive my follies past,
And be for ever nigh;
O Lord of my salvation, haste,
Before Thy servant die.