David is the most talked about person in the bible; he got 66 chapters in the Old Testament and 59 references in the New Testament. In 1 Samuel 13: 14 it says that he is a “man after God’s own heart.” His name literally means Beloved. He was Israel’s second king, yet he grew up a shepherd working for his father who was not a king. The man David succeeded on the throne was Saul. Saul was an answer to Israel’s prayers; they wanted a king. They looked out into the world and saw these shiny built-up men sitting on thrones and thought, “We want that too!” So, God, hearing their prayers gave them Saul. Outwardly, Saul looked like the perfect King, 1 Samuel 9:2 says, “…There was not a man more handsome than he. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people.” Two kings chosen by God with two vastly different stories. They both had potential, they both had God on their side, and they both sinned greatly and yet one thrived while the other fell.
Saul committed two major sins. On paper they really don’t sound that bad. The first sin was while fighting the Philistines. He had been instructed by Samuel, God’s prophet, to wait seven days with his army and on the seventh day Samuel would come to offer a burnt and peace offering. Saul on the seventh day, in a panic, saw the great army of the Philistines gathering and his own army scattering and decided to take matters into his own hands. He called for the offerings and offered them himself. Samuel showed up immediately after. Saul defended himself saying he didn’t want to go to war without the Lord’s blessing. Which sounds like a good sentiment to have. However, Samuel declares this sin so bad that God took away Saul’s dynasty. Saul’s line would not reign over Israel and God would place a new king on the throne.
The second sin Saul committed also doesn’t sound so bad on paper. This time at war with the Amalekites God commanded him to, “…Go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.” (1 Samuel 15:3) So, Saul goes and strikes Amalek and is victorious over them, however, instead of devoting them to destruction he spared their king, Agog, and the best of the sheep, oxen, calves, lambs, and all that was good. (1 Samuel 15:9) Samuel enters the scene again and this time his news is even greater, this time he tells Saul, “…Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has also rejected you from being King.” (1 Samuel 15:23) God rejected Saul himself. Again, Saul made the excuse in 1 Samuel 15:21 he says, “But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the best of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal.”
David also sinned. David committed murder and adultery. He let his eyes wander to beautiful Bathsheba, had an affair with her, and lo and behold she got pregnant. To hide his sin from her husband, Uriah, he sent him to the war front and commanded his army to step back. On paper, this sounds way worse than what Saul did. Murder and adultery vs. doing a sacrifice and not killing things. To the world it is a no brainer, David should be punished harder. Yet, God did not take away his dynasty or reject him. There were consequences, the child died and David’s descendants would know great hardships because of his sin, but God did not turn his back on David. The question is, why?
The problem with Saul is he always just put a toe in the water. He tried to use God as a tool instead of being a tool for God. He turned to God when he needed Him, but often did what he thought was best. He was not immersed. Tony Evans describes this heart posture as, “dipping a tea bag in water,” you dip it when you need Him and the water gets kind of cloudy and might change a little. Saul disobeyed direct orders. He tried to play master of his own life and he lost. He tried to manipulate God. Tried to make his disobedience acceptable, but God is no fool.
David lost a lot as a result of his sin and Israel would feel it’s affects long after he was gone, but God also blessed the line of David. Jesus was from the line of David. David made mistakes, you and I will make mistakes, it is our heart posture that God cares about. He calls us to be obedient. David was a man after God’s own heart because he was fully immersed for God. Yes, he made mistakes, we all do but when he was confronted, he didn’t make excuses like Saul, he admitted his sin, he owned it. His consequences were great, God did not take this sin lightly, but when the consequences came, he didn’t build resentment toward God because he knew it was his fault and his alone. He also saw the grace God had given him. By the law he deserved death for what he did, but God chose grace.
There are so many lessons we can glean from Saul and David, but the one I’m hitting at today is this; we must keep God on the throne. Saul’s punishment was greater because he disobeyed a direct order from God, twice. He refused to fully submit to God’s authority. When confronted he made excuses, and he was only sorry when given consequences. Saul kept Saul on the throne. He refused to trust God fully, refused to jump in and he suffered greatly because of it. David broke Mosaic Law, he too sinned against God, but his repentance was sincere, he understood the consequences were his own fault. He failed, but he still kept God on the throne. God showed David great mercy for his repentance and He will do the same for you. To be a man or a woman after God’s own heart we have to look at how David handled his life. In the psalms we find a man whose heart is open to God in worship, in seeking truth, in lament. Throughout his life we see a man who trusted God to do the impossible. We see a man who respected God’s authority and submitted to his will. We see a man whose sin was great, but instead of letting that sin build a canyon between Him and God we see a man who admitted he was wrong and gracefully accept the consequences. And through it all we see a gracious God.