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Becoming a man after God’s own heart: The life and legacy of David

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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Topical Scripture: 1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22

Scholars find some 1,181 different men named in the Bible. Of all these, only one is described by God as “a man after my own heart” (Acts 13:22).

What an unusual choice! Consider what everyone knows about David:

•The youngest son of his father

•Overlooked by his father when the prophet came for a visit

•Ridiculed by Saul and Goliath

•Rejected by Saul, his life endangered

•Bathsheba

If this man could be “after God’s own heart,” there’s hope for us all. But we must do what he did. We must seek God as he sought him, and engage in the spiritual disciplines which forged his soul.

Do you want to know God better than you know him today? More intimately and personally? Do you want greater assurance that he hears and answers your prayers, and that you hear his Spirit’s voice in your soul? Do you want the Bible to be more alive in your life, its light more a guide for your decisions and future? Do you want to know that you are fulfilling God’s purpose for your life and work? In short, do you want to know God as David knew God? This study is for all of us who do.

Let’s get acquainted with the man who will be our guide for the study. Then we’ll follow where he leads us, until he leads us home.

Seven facts about David

“David” apparently comes from the Hebrew verbal root d-w-d, “to love.” So his name probably means “beloved,” apparently by God.

Attractive: “He was ruddy, with a fine appearance and handsome features” (1 Samuel 16:12). “Ruddy” apparently means red-haired.

Athletic and courageous: “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God” (1 Samuel 17:34-36).

“Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on his forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground” (1 Samuel 17:49).

A great soldier: “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands” (1 Samuel 18:7). Survived as a guerrilla leader in the Judean wilderness before Saul’s death (1 Samuel 22-25).

“The king and his men marched to Jerusalem to attack the Jebusites, who lived there. The Jebusites said to David, ‘You will not get in here; even the blind and the lame can ward you off.’ They thought, ‘David cannot get in here.’ Nevertheless, David captured the fortress of Zion, the city of David” (2 Samuel 5:6-7). This action united the southern and northern tribes under his rule.

Because of his wartime success, “God said to me, ‘You are not to build a house for my Name, because you are a warrior and have shed blood'” (1 Chronicles 28:3).

Artistic: A harpist and musician of known reputation (1 Samuel 16:15). A great poet (cf. Psalms 8, 19, 23). A convincing actor (1 Samuel 21:10-15).

A spiritual man: Samuel told Saul, “But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command” (1 Samuel 13:14). “David had done what was right in the eyes of the Lord and had not failed to keep any of the Lord’s commands all the days of his life–except in the case of Uriah the Hittite” (1 Kings 15:5).

Sinned horribly: Speaking of the future king, Moses warned that “he must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold” (Deuteronomy 17:17). However, “after he left Hebron, David took more concubines and wives in Jerusalem, and more sons and daughters were born to him” (2 Samuel 5:13).

The king was not where he should have been: “In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem” (2 Samuel 11:1).

Ease led to lust: “One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her” (vs. 2-3a).

Lust led to adultery: “The man said, ‘Isn’t this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite?’ Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (She had purified herself from her uncleanness.) Then she went back home” (vs. 3b-4).

Adultery led to pregnancy: “The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, ‘I am pregnant'” (v. 5). Pregnancy led to deceit (vs. 6-13). Deceit led to murder (vs. 14-17). Murder led to further deceit (vs. 18-27). Deceit led to exposure by God and the death of their child (2 Samuel 12).

Repented with genuine contrition (Psalm 1).

His life before the throne

He grew up on his father’s farm at Bethlehem, the youngest of eight sons (1 Samuel 16:10-11). Their family was traced to Perez, Judah’s son by Tamar (Ruth 4:18-22; Genesis 38). Ruth was David’s great-grandmother and a Moabitess. Thus see the challenges in his background.

•He worked as a shepherd defending the flock (1 Samuel 17:34-36).

•He was chosen by the prophet Samuel to succeed King Saul, but his election was kept quiet (1 Samuel 16:12-13).

•He became the king’s harpist and court musician (1 Samuel 16:14-23), then returned to the farm (1 Samuel 17:15).

•He journeyed to the front lines in the war with the Philistines, and killed Goliath (1 Samuel 17:25-53).

•His victory won the admiration of Jonathan and the people, but the jealousy of Saul (1 Samuel 18:1-9).

David was then compelled to flee for his life into the Judean wilderness (1 Samuel 19).

Jonathan aided his escape (1 Samuel 19:4-7). During their conflict, he spared Saul’s life twice (1 Samuel 24:1-15; 26:1-20).

His life on the throne

At Saul’s death, David’s tribe of Judah named him their king; he reigned seven years in Hebron (2 Samuel 5:1-5). At the death of Ish-Bosheth, the son of Saul, David became king of all Israel (2 Samuel 5:3).

Military exploits:

•He captured Jerusalem and made it his capitol (2 Samuel 5:7).

•He brought the Ark to Jerusalem (2 Sam 6:1-11; 1 Chronicles 15:1-29).

•He defeated the Philistines and enlarged the kingdom (2 Samuel 8, 10).

His sin with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11-12; Psalm 51).

Family struggles, including Absalom’s rebellion against him (2 Samuel 15-18).

Last days:

•Prepared to build the Temple (1 Chronicles 22:5, 14; 29:2).

•Appointed Solomon as his successor (1 Kings 1:11-39; 2:1-9).

His death: “He died at a good old age, having enjoyed long life, wealth and honor” (1 Chronicles 29:28).

Conclusion: lessons for souls today

Where we’ve been is no indication of where we’ll go.

In the depths of the Great Depression, Charles Darrow found himself out of work and out of money. He was an engineer with years of experience but no job. He and his wife were barely surviving. One evening, they made up a little game to take their minds off their troubles. They drew a circle on a piece of cardboard, and, recalling a fun visit to Atlantic City, marked the circle with the names of its streets. Charles carved little houses and hotels out of pieces of wood, and they called their game “Monopoly®.” In 1935 they sold the game nationally and became millionaires.

Do you know why “Formula 409®” is so named? The developers experienced 408 failed attempts before their final product was created.

Edmund McIlhenny operated a sugar plantation and saltworks in Louisiana before the Civil War. When Yankee troops invaded his area in 1863, he fled. Two years later he returned to find his plantation in ruins. McIlhenny fell into deep despair. Surveying his once-prosperous plantation, the only undamaged part he could find was a small plot of hot peppers to add to his meager dinner, thus inventing Tabasco® Sauce. One hundred years later the McIlhenny family still produces it.

Material power is no assurance of spiritual strength. We can find many instances of people who had it all and lost it all in Scripture and life today.

Staying close to God is the key to a life lived well. One of the greatest creeds of a life committed to God was written by an African martyr:

I am part of the “Fellowship of the Unashamed.” I have Holy Spirit power. The die has been cast. I’ve stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I am a disciple of His. I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, and my future is secure. I am finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tame visions, mundane talking, chintzy giving, and dwarfed goals.

I no longer need pre-eminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded. I now live by his presence, lean by faith, love by patience, live by prayer, and labor by power.

My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions few, my guide reliable, my mission clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, diluted, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of adversity, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.

I won’t give up, shut up, let up, or slow up ’til I’ve preached up, prayed up, paid up, stored up, and stayed up for the cause of Christ.

I am a disciple of Jesus. I must go ’til He comes, give ’til I drop, preach ’til all know, and work ’til He stops.

And when He comes to get His own, He’ll have no problems recognizing me—my colors will be clear.