David is perhaps the most complex person in the Bible. II Samuel describes his adult years, including his insidious sins and his incredible insights. As I have heard different people teach on his life, I’ve noticed some skepticism regarding his true legacy and place in history. You hear people say things like “I would not want to be David in heaven; everyone will be reminding him of his mistakes for all eternity.” And “David only got a small honorable mention in the ‘Hall of Faith,’ Hebrews 11, because of his sins.” It’s valid to ask the question “Why is David considered a great king of Israel, considering his great sins?...What’s the deal with David?”
It helps to go right to the heart of the matter. Through divine inspiration, the prophet Nathan called David a man after God’s own heart (I Sam 13.4). And so one can ask: “What made David tick?” and “Why was his heart like God’s own heart?” The following is a list of some of the main aspects of David’s heart comparing them with God’s heart, as represented by Jesus Christ:
a) A valiant heart – Scriptures show that courage is a sign of faith while fear is actually a sin (Rev 21.8). David showed great courage in defending his flocks against bears and lions, in defeating Goliath and being a warrior. He also persevered through various periods of exile. This quality of courage was also evident in Jesus Christ who “set his face like flint” towards the cross in Jerusalem (Is 50.7, Lu 9.51) and endured unjust rejection and slander for our sakes.
b) A faithful heart – Aside from David’s two great mentioned sins, adultery and accessory to murder; he was generally a faithful man obedient to God. His own king attacked him and instead of revenge, he honored Saul, respected his authority (I Sam 26.23) and grieved for him at his death (II Sam 1.11-12). David showed great faith in God by trusting God would give him his throne in His own time and way. David’s desire was to please God. Jesus also lived to please and obey the Father (Jn 12.29).
c) An open heart – David showed he was both open-hearted and open-minded in the freedom of his worship of God. For example, he danced before the holy ark of God with a kind of exuberance that caused others to disdain him (II Sam 6.14). Likewise, Jesus was not afraid of men’s opinions and was ready to break with tradition for the sake of grace. This included healing on the Sabbath, hanging out with notorious sinners and many other such examples.
d) A humble heart – David was given a keen understanding of the sin nature. He wrote “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.” (Ps 51.5 NASB) and “But I am a worm and not a man…” (Ps 22.6 NASB) This insight into the sin nature doesn't negate the fact that we are precious to God (Ps 18.19, Eph 2.10) but gives proper perspective and helps us show grace to others (II Sam 16.7). Jesus was likewise clothed with humility. Because sinners were drawn to him, He was accused of being “a friend of sinners” by the religious Pharisees (Lu 7.34).
e) A tender heart – Though David was a warrior he was also known as “the sweet psalmist of Israel.” (II Sam 23.1) The Psalms he wrote are filled with honest and tender emotional expression. Jesus also showed deep emotions and was referred to as “a man of sorrows.” (Is 53.3) He was unashamed to weep publicly (Jn 11.35) and to show compassion when others were criticizing Him (Lu 7.39).
f) A heart of grace - Long before Jesus walked the earth, David had incredible insight into God’s atonement and redemption. He understood that his great sins were completely forgiven and forgotten by God: "The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness: according to the cleanness of my hands…I was also upright before him, and have kept myself from mine iniquity…according to my cleanness in his eye sight.” (II Sam 22.21-25 KJV) His understanding of grace was reflected in his grace towards others. When David sought out Mephibosheth, he thought David would kill him as a family enemy. On the contrary, David blessed him and adopted him into his own royal family and Mephibosheth dined at his table.(II Sam 9.8-10) This exemplifies the grace of God to us “…When we were enemies, we were reconciled unto God...” (Rom 5.10) Jesus, the Word made flesh, is "full of grace and truth." (Jn 1.14)
When you examine David’s life you see his obvious “feet of clay.” You will see the same when you examine any human leader. But the extreme sins of David help to drive home a point. Jesus showed that feelings of anger and thoughts of lust are the same as murder and adultery (Mat 5.22, 28). In that teaching, Jesus showed that basically we’re all in the same boat; we’re all sinners in need of God’s gift of righteousness. Mephibosheth is a great example because he not only had feet of clay, he had completely deformed feet, and that’s an accurate picture of all of us, maimed and crippled by the sin nature. When we come into God’s family, it’s like coming to fellowship at David’s table that covered the gnarly legs of Mephibosheth. How one believer treats another believer reflects his or her understanding of God’s grace and love. Those prone to slander tend to have a high view of their own righteousness and a low view of God’s grace.
You will find none of the sins of the OT fathers and prophets dwelled upon in the New Testament. This is a key aspect of the New Testament life “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom 8.1) The amazing thing is that David had these insights long before Christ was born. I mentioned David’s confession of cleanness from II Sam 22.21-25. David also wrote “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.” Ps 103.12. Paul confirmed what David long ago knew “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” (Heb 8.12)
If David is to be considered a great king of Israel, it is only because he reflects the great grace of the living God. God’s high evaluation of David’s life shows that God evaluates us not based on our mistakes but based on our victories and successes. This should inspire us to be bold and to step out in faith as God leads for the sake of His kingdom and glory. Appraising David would be incomplete without mentioning that he was a prasing David. Worship was a part of his lifestyle. And as God showed Saul "Those who honor me I will honor" (I Sam 2.30)