When David became king of Israel, he had already captured the hearts of the people. A man after God’s own heart, he became Israel’s favored son. But it came with a price. As we saw in last week’s blog, David was hunted relentlessly by Saul for years. By all accounts, David should have been dead. Yet God spared him. Through this one life, God painted a picture of the Jewish people, showing how He has protected them from powerful enemies for thousands of years.
David was protected from destruction despite the attacks on his life, but his life was filled with personal struggles. These struggles could have changed the course of his legacy, but he was no average man. He had a special relationship with God that wouldn’t be destroyed despite his sin. The same is true of the Jewish people. Let’s take a look at David’s difficulties and what they reveal about the Jewish people’s relationship with the Lord.
King David enjoyed a close relationship with God, but today when we hear about David in sermons and teachings, we are often reminded of his flaws. Most commonly we hear about his sin of adultery with Bathsheba and murder of her husband, Uriah. In his lust for Bathsheba, he used his kingly powers to unjustly coerce a married woman to be unfaithful to her husband. He only made the matter worse when, rather than confessing his sin to her husband, he arranged for Uriah to be killed in battle to claim Bathsheba for himself.
Today David is often unfairly characterized by this sin rather than his many great achievements. But before we discuss how David should be better viewed, we should acknowledge that lust and murder weren’t the only public failures of David listed in Scripture.
He fought for the Philistine army (1 Samuel 27), the powerful enemies of Israel whose giant, Goliath, he had slaughtered as a young man. Yet against good sense, and immediately following the two accounts of him sparing King Saul’s life as discussed in last week’s blog, David joined the enemy for 16 months (v. 7).
He struggled to keep his children from falling into sin. In fact, David’s children are more known for their sin than anything else in Scripture. Their collective rap sheet included rape (Amnon), murder (Absalom), polygamy (Solomon), and rebellion against his throne (Absalom) (2 Samuel 13; 15; 1 Kings 11). These sins are directly linked to his sin with Bathsheba, as the prophet Nathan promised David’s own family would bring him trouble (2 Samuel 12:10–12)
He doubted the Lord. David was guilty of trusting the size of his army more than God when he demanded a census of Israel to be taken (2 Samuel 24). God punished this sin by sending a plague that killed 70,000 Israelites to confirm that this census was no mere kingly duty but a result of doubting God (v. 15).
His sins are well documented, but David still found mercy and favor with God. He was much more than a king who sinned against God.
A Man After God’s Own Heart
David was not defined by his sins; he was defined by his love for the Lord. He was known as a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22). Why would God give Him such a special, personal title if he was supposed to be known by his flaws?
David was not defined by his sins; he was defined by his love for the Lord.
In spite of his sin recorded in Scripture, David was favored by God. It’s easy to see why he was considered a godly man when we take note of how he responded to his sin: He repented with genuine remorse. This wasn’t lip service; it was a true acknowledgment of his sin and humility before the Lord in asking for forgiveness.
He repented of his sin of lust and murder by writing Psalm 51, a truly broken cry for mercy and forgiveness. Likewise he cried out for God’s mercy in response to his sin of counting the people in 2 Samuel 24, asking the Lord to give him the punishment but to spare the Israelites. He was never too proud to try to justify or overlook his sin, choosing rather to confess to the Lord and seek mercy. David pursued God first in his kingship and in his personal life with a mind set on mercy, a lesson for us all.
Disobedience warrants punishment. It always has. When Adam and Eve first sinned in the Garden of Eden, they were banished from the Garden. When the whole earth except for Noah rebelled against God, the flood decimated humanity, leaving none but Noah and his family. Most significantly, those who never receive Jesus as their personal Savior and continue to live in sin will be punished by eternal condemnation. This is why it’s so important that we share the Good News with those who need to accept Jesus!
But the cause-and-effect balance of disobedience and punishment is most often seen with the nation of Israel. God gave them a special honor through Abraham: to be His Chosen People for the rest of history. But that didn’t guarantee a nation free of sin.
Despite their flaws, God’s relationship with the Israelites was greater than their sin, just like His relationship with David.
Israel demonstrated man’s sinful nature on a large scale many times throughout the Old Testament. Among other failures, the Israelites complained against God when He rescued them from slavery in Egypt, and their kings promoted sin by their character and policies in their leadership. But the most severe and most often-recurring sin of Israel was idolatry. It took hold of the nation in different ways throughout the Old Testament. Sometimes it was the result of weak kings giving their hearts to women who led them into idolatry; other times it was the people’s own impatience, as when they created a golden calf simply because they grew tired of waiting for Moses to come down from Mount Sinai where God gave him the Ten Commandments (Exodus 32).
God does not tolerate idolatry. The first two commandments He gave Moses were not to have other gods before Him and not to make and worship any graven images; they broke both. But the worship of this calf was just one instance in a long history of idolatry that Israel committed against God.
Yet God did not forget the Jewish people or define them by their sin. Instead His covenant with them remained intact, and their position as His Chosen People—a people “after God’s own heart,” you might say—defined them.
Having a special relationship with God is no guarantee of a sinless life, as we see through David and the Jewish people. Despite their flaws, God’s relationship with the Israelites was greater than their sin, just like His relationship with David. The Jewish people today still get to enjoy the benefits of their bond with God as His Chosen People, as He has allowed the nation of Israel to be restored and has protected them throughout history. David got to enjoy the privileges of His connection with God, too, as Jesus the Messiah came from his line as God promised.
It is a refreshing thought to know that we can enjoy a personal relationship with Jesus and have access to “the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16) today. As David and the Jewish people experienced through their relationships with God, our shortcomings do not condemn us. In next week’s blog we’ll see how God’s divine purpose for David symbolized His purpose for the Jewish people. Today let’s rejoice that “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1).