Godly King David?
By Jack Kinsella
Israel’s King David is the only man in the history of man to wear the title, “a man after God’s own heart.” The title isn’t one bestowed on him by the rabbis or the sages as a result of his being Israel’s greatest King.
“Israel’s greatest king” is a secular, political title given him by Jewish historians. He didn’t get that title until after Israel’s Kingdom Period came to an end and there were no more kings to evaluate.
Of all the kings of Israel from its first king, Saul, to its last king, Hoshea, David was the greatest political leader.
Under David, Jerusalem was established as Israel’s capital. David purchased the threshing-floor from Araunah the Jebusite, even though Araunah offered it to David for free as tribute. Note that the Bible refers to Araunah as “a king.”
“All these things did Araunah, as a king, give unto the king. And Araunah said unto the king, The LORD thy God accept thee.” (2 Samuel 24:23)
Instead, the Bible says that David paid for it in cash.
“And the king said unto Araunah, Nay; but I will surely buy it of thee at a price: neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the LORD my God of that which doth cost me nothing. So David bought the threshingfloor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver” (2 Samuel 24:24)
Araunah was a Jebusite, meaning he spoke the language of the Hittites. In the language of the Hittites, Araunah means “the lord” or “the king” in the sense of a personal title.
King David conquered Jebusite Jerusalem. While David took the city after the manner of conquerors, he bought the threshing-floor. He paid cash for it, to the owner, who just so happened to also be the king of the newly conquered city.
Why is this important? Jerusalem is a political entity whose conquest was typical of the times. Once conquered, it became the capital city of the Kingdom of David, which also expanded as the result of conquest.
There is nothing particularly unusual about that – that is the way that all existing political divisions became political divisions – through conquest.
America was born out of a failed British attempt at conquest and expanded to the West Coast through the political doctrine of ‘Manifest Destiny’ – which justified the conquest of the people who owned it.
But Araunah’s threshing floor was the site selected by God as the home of the Ark of the Covenant and the site of the eventual construction of the Temple. It wasn’t conquered or taken as a prize of conquest, although it was freely offered.
There was to be no question as to legal ownership of God’s Holy Hill. Jerusalem has been conquered and lost and reconquered hundreds of times over the course of its three thousand year history.
But the Temple Mount was legally purchased only once.
Araunah was the king that legally owned the threshing-floor. David was the king that legally bought it – for cash, before witnesses, and the sale was recorded for posterity in the pages of Scripture.
David’s actions ensured that, even after three thousand years, the only possessor of clear title to the Temple Mount is the heirs to David’s kingdom. That action, more than any other, is what made David Israel’s greatest king.
But what made David “a man after God’s own heart?”
David was no shrinking violet but was instead a bloody man of war. King Saul made David a commander over his armies after David handed Saul more than 200 Philistine, er, ahem…foreskins. I mean, this guy was brutal.
His last request of his son and heir, Solomon, was that Solomon kill David’s oldest enemies on his behalf.
King David’s record is nothing one would think of as ‘godly’ – he was at various times deceitful and corrupt, a traitor to King Saul, a tyrant who lacked for justice and a murderer. David slaughtered Saul’s seven sons, seduced a married woman, Bathsheba, and had her husband, Uriah killed.
I could go on listing David’s offenses, which are many, all of which are carefully noted in Scripture. David was such a bloody man that God would not permit him to build the Temple. (1 Chronicles 22:8)
God punished David for his bloodthirstiness by delivering his kingdom to Absalom (2 Samuel 16:8). God cursed David for ordering the murder of Uriah the Hittite (2 Samuel 12:9-10)
By any standard interpretation of what would make a guy a good person, David was a very bad man indeed. His conduct was deplorable in almost every single aspect of his reign. So what made David a man after God’s own heart?
The Bible also tells us that David loved God’s Law. (Psalms 119:97) He loved to pray (Psalms 116:1-2). He loved to praise God (Psalms 119:164). David hated falsehood (Psalms 119:104). When confronted with his sin, David didn’t attempt to justify it. Nor did he pretend to be more than he was.
After Nathan convicted David of his sin against Uriah with Bathsheba, David took it directly to the Lord.
In his prayer of contrition in Psalm 51, David reveals much of what it was that caused God to pronounce him a ‘man after His own heart.’
“Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of Thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.” (Psalms 51:1)
David understood that his relationship with God was ‘according to His lovingkindness’ and not according to David’s definition of what God should do. He also understood that his sin, as horrendous as it was, could be blotted out, not by some act of David’s, but solely due to the ‘multitude of God’s tender mercies’.
“Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.” (v.2.3)
David knew that God knew what his sins were, but the important point was that DAVID knew what his sins were, and the importance of honest confession before God.
David understood also that his sin was against God, that it was deliberate, and that the reason his sin haunted him was because of its offense before God. David understood that, since it was a sin against God, only an act of God could blot it out. Nothing David could do to make restitution would ever be sufficient.
“Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Thy sight: that Thou mightest be justified when Thou speakest, and be clear when Thou judgest.” (v.4)
David understood that there was no ‘wiggle room’ before the Lord and that God’s justice is as absolute as His mercy. But David was also a realist;
“Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Psalms 51:5)
David understood the dual nature of fallen humanity, that which caused the Apostle Paul to cry out;
“O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24)
“For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.” (Romans 7:14-15)
Having expressed his frustration with his own struggle with his dual nature, Paul summarized that which David understood, saying,
“So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” (Romans 7:25)
“Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.” (Psalms 51:6)
God’s truth is that nothing we can do by our own effort will ever make restitution for our past sins. Each of us shares the same conflict between the carnal nature and the spirit.
David trusted God to lead him, even when he was out of fellowship, having faith that ‘in the hidden part’ — in his spirit, God would ‘make him to know wisdom’.
David’s understanding of the grace of God as expressed in his prayer in large part, fits with God’s description of him as being a man after His own Heart.
It was this understanding of unmerited grace that formed the centerpiece of the ministry of Jesus. One of the Lord’s earthly titles is the “Son of David.”
David expresses his understanding of how the process of forgiveness operates in God’s economy.
“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” (v. 7-10)
Note the role David plays in his redemption. Admit, confess, repent and trust. To ‘repent’ means to change one’s mind about sin. David saw himself as King of Israel, and therefore, whatever he did was above reproach.
David sat on his throne, and passed judgment on the wicked rich man of whom Nathan spoke. Until he realized Nathan was speaking about HIM, at which point he changed his mind about his sin and laid himself bare before the Lord.
All the rest of the redemptive process David placed in the Hands of God. ‘Purge me, wash me, forgive me, bless me and renew me.’
Even his sense of conviction came through a direct message from God through Nathan, just as we are directly convicted by God through His indwelling Holy Spirit. David’s only role in his redemption was to trust in God to make the changes that David knew he could not effect himself.
David accepted the earthly consequences of his sin, such as the death of his infant son, but with the clear understanding that the spiritual consequences of his sin were forgiven.
“While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether GOD will be gracious to me, that the child may live? But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I SHALL GO TO HIM, but he shall not return to me.” (2nd Samuel 12:22-23)
What made David a man after God’s own heart was his understanding of the consequences of being out of fellowship with God, and how to get back into right fellowship with God.
David simply asked Him.
“Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation; and uphold me with Thy free spirit.”
Note that David didn’t ask for his salvation to be restored, but rather, the joy of it. It is the joy of knowing one is saved and in fellowship with the Lord that shines through and attracts the lost.
“THEN will I teach transgressors Thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto Thee.”(v. 12-13)
Note also the progression: GOD restores our joy, GOD then subsequently upholds us with His Spirit. THEN we find ourselves effective witnesses, teaching people His ways, and leading the lost to Christ.
David makes it clear that the redemptive process is in God’s Hands, understanding grace so well that he could see past the Temple rituals of the Mosaic Law and peer into God’s Heart, saying,
“For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” (v. 51:16-17)
One of the most debilitating emotions to one’s Christian witness is the weight of the guilt we heap on ourselves because of what we KNOW that we are in our own ‘inward parts’.
David understood, in his spirit, that God’s forgiveness is total and absolute, and leaves no spiritual residue of guilt. At the Cross, the Son of David cried out in a loud voice, ‘Tetelestai!’ which means, ‘paid in full’.
David trusted God instead of relying on his own righteousness. God called David “a man after My own heart.” It is deceptively simple. Trust God. Be joyful.
Allow Him to lead you and not the other way around.
“And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)
This Letter was written by Jack Kinsella on July 27, 2011.