To understand why David was a man after God’s own heart, we need to see what characteristics he had to qualify for such an exalted description. In the book of Acts, the Apostle Paul is speaking before the men of Israel, and he tells them of God’s feelings about King David. Speaking first of King Saul the Apostle Paul states, “After removing Saul, he made David their king. He testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do’” (Acts 13:22). The obvious question is, how could God call David “a man after His heart” when David was such a terrible a sinner, having committed adultery and murder? Much has been written regarding the meaning of the verse and its applicable value today. Much has also been written about David, especially in the books of 1 and 2 Chronicles and 1 and 2 Kings. However, we find much of his character in the book of Psalms as he opened up his life for all to examine. David’s life was a portrait of success and failure, and it highlights the fact that he was far from perfect. But what made David a cut above the rest was that his heart was pointed toward God. So what does it take to be a man after God’s own heart? Let’s look at some key characteristics of David’s life to find out.
First, David had absolute faith in God. Nowhere in Scripture is this point better illustrated than in 1 Samuel 17 where David as a young shepherd boy fearlessly slew the Philistine, Goliath. Shortly before the duel, we see direct evidence of David’s faith in verse 37 where David says, “’The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.’ And Saul said to David, ‘Go, and the LORD be with you!’” David was fully aware that God was in control of his life, and he had faith that God would deliver him from impending danger. How else would one venture into a potentially fatal situation with such calm and confidence? David knew early on in life that God was to be trusted and obeyed. As we see in Scripture, David’s faith pleased God, and he is rewarded for it by the Lord.
Second, David absolutely loved God’s law. Of the 150 psalms in the Bible, David is credited for writing over half of them. Writing at various and often troubling times in his life, David repeatedly mentioned how much he loved God’s perfect Word. We find a beautiful example of this in Psalm 119:47-48: “For I delight in your commands because I love them. I lift up my hands to your commands, which I love, and I meditate on your decrees.” It is not hard to see his complete adoration for God’s Word. But also notice how he mentions that he “meditates” on God’s statutes. God granted David understanding and wisdom through daily meditation. We would do well to not only read God’s Word but also think about it throughout the day for God loves when we think about Him. “Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart. They do nothing wrong; they walk in his ways” (Psalm 119:2-3).
Third, David was truly thankful. “I wash my hands in innocence, and go about your altar, O LORD, proclaiming aloud your praise and telling of all your wonderful deeds” (Psalm 26:6-7). David’s life was marked by seasons of great peace and prosperity as well as times of fear and despair. But through all of the seasons in his life, he never forgot to thank the Lord for everything that he had. It is truly one of his finest characteristics. “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!” (Psalm 100:4, ESV). As followers of Jesus Christ, we would do well to follow David’s lead of offering praise through thanksgiving to our Lord on a daily basis.
Fourth, David was truly repentant. “It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. And David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, ‘Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?’ So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she had been purifying herself from her uncleanness.) Then she returned to her house. And the woman conceived, and she sent and told David, ‘I am pregnant’” (2 Samuel 11:2-5). The mighty fall hard, and David’s fall included adultery, lying and murder. He had sinned against God and he admits it in 2 Samuel 12:13: “David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the LORD.’ And Nathan said to David, ‘The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die.’” But admitting our sin and asking for forgiveness is only half of the equation. The other half is repentance, and David did what we should all do: repent of our sins. Psalm 51 is David’s prayer of repentance to God: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!” (Psalm 51:1-2).
In conclusion, David demonstrated his faith seemingly on a daily basis which pleased the Lord. Throughout his life his faith would be tested on a grand scale and in the final analysis he passed most of the tests. David also loved God’s law and he sought to follow it as best he could. He spent many days meditating on it and trying to apply it to his own life. He knew that God’s law had the power to change lives if it was followed to the letter. Another important character trait that David exhibited was that he had the attitude of gratitude and was very thankful for his life. During his life he had all sorts of trouble, but David thanked God every day no matter the circumstances. And, finally, David was truly repentant. Let us not forget that he was a man just like us who sinned on a regular basis. But, despite his sin, he always loved God and sought to repent of those sins. He is a role model for all of us sinners who need to repent earnestly. David was indeed a man after God’s own heart.