Have you ever read this passage of Paul recounting the history of his people and considered what is recorded concerning David? Among the first things we typically think of when we think of David is his sin with Bathsheba, but there is no mention of this sin in the New Testament. There is a reason that David was “a man after God’s own heart”. We learn much from the examples of Godly men in Scripture, and the way that David treated sin is a great lesson to learn.
David did his best to avoid sin. In the early days after David was anointed, King Saul did his best to make David’s life miserable. He tried to kill David at least 11 times (1 Sam. 18:11,17,21; 19:1,10,11,15,20-22; 23:15; 26:2) Most in this world would work hard to repay Saul for his cruelty, but David did not.
David had two opportunities to end these problems and easily take the throne. However, in 1 Sam. 24:1-7, 10 David does not kill the man that God had placed as King. This might seem odd, especially since God had already told Saul that his reign was going to end because he was not faithful (1 Sam. 13:13-14). We have no way of knowing whether David knew of this exchange, but even if he didn’t, nowhere do we see David given a command to kill Saul. In 1 Sam. 26:7-11, David is given a second chance to kill Saul, and he doesn’t even have to do it himself! He forbids Abishai to kill Saul because Saul is still the king that God had anointed to lead Israel. This is what authority is all about. God didn’t ask for it, so David will not do it. If we want to avoid sin, we must be prepared to do no less and no more than what God asks for.
Even when Saul is dead, David is not happy about it (2 Sam. 1:5-16). David is free from this pressure of Saul seeking his death, and even has the crown at his disposal – but this fails to make him joyful. This is because David was not seeking his own will – he intends to do the will of God, no matter what. Our Savior was the same way – “I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.” (John 5:30).
As we have referred previously, there was one time that David did NOT do his best to avoid sin. The sin with Bathsheba and the following plot to kill Uriah (2 Sam. 11) We can note two things: David was at home when he likely should have been in the field of battle with his men (11:1), and David pushed for an opportunity to meet with Bathsheba, when it should have ended there (11:2-5). There are many great lessons to learn from these events, but for the purpose of this article, we must understand that despite all of David’s great achievements, he was still a man with the desires of a man.
The prophet Nathan showed David the sin that he had committed (2 Sam. 12:1-15). It is hard to believe that David did not realize the grievous error he had made. In essence, Nathan told David, “You could have had anyone you wanted, but you took what belonged to someone else.” It is notable that David, with his sin fully revealed, seems to immediately respond with “I have sinned against the LORD.” (12:13).
Over the rest of his life, it would seem that David continued to seek the will of God in dealing with this great sin. In Psalm 38, David is “plagued” with his great sin. In Psalm 32, David is joyful over being forgiven of this sin. What a Godly example for us!
In all this, David was indeed "a man after God's own heart". We see this clearly in Psalm 51. David was a man who sought God’s mercy (1-6), a man who sought God’s cleansing (7-13), and a man who sought God’s pleasure (13-19).
David was a great man, but far from perfect. However, it wasn’t that he was perfect – only that he was penitent. May the same be said of us! -Steven McCrary