King David, at one point in his life, committed two capital sins — adultery and murder. God's reaction is recorded in II Samuel 11:27: "But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord." At various times in our lives similar words could be written about us. The important question is, was God permanently displeased with David? Is He permanently displeased with any of us when we slip and fall on the road to eternal life? How does God judge us? How did He judge David?
How did God judge David?
King David sinned. But when the knowledge of that sin fully penetrated his mind, David deeply repented. And at the end of his life, the slate was wiped clean. David himself said of God: "If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, 0 Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared" (Ps. 130:3-4). How did God view David's sins after David died? Did He continually repeat them in the books of the Bible written after David's lifetime? Notice the account, written two generations later, recorded in I Kings 14:7-9: "Go, tell Jeroboam [Jeroboam was the first king over the 10 tribes after Israel was divided], Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Forasmuch as I exalted thee from among the people, and made thee prince over my people Israel . . . and yet thou hast not been as my servant David, who kept my commandments, and who followed me with all his heart, to do that only which was right in mine eyes; But [you, speaking to Jeroboam] hast done evil above all that were before thee." God made this declaration many years after David's death. Nothing about any capital crimes is mentioned. Instead, David has become the standard — the right example — by which other kings are judged. What we have here is a brief summary statement of David's life. This is how God judged David, and the incident reveals an important aspect of God's method of judgment. In I Kings 15:5 David is compared to another king, Abijam of Judah. Notice again how God judged David: "David did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, and turned not aside from any thing that he commanded him all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite." Aside from the account itself in II Samuel (and, in one sense, Psalm 51), this is the only other place in the Bible where David's capital crimes are even hinted at. And even then, great diplomacy is exercised in the wording. Verse 5 is another overall judgment of David's conduct. God boldly states, "David ... turned not aside from any thing that he [God] commanded him all the days of his life." Then, almost as an afterthought, the matter of Uriah is mentioned as the one exception. But wait a minute! Did not David number the people for purposes of military advantage? And wasn't God highly displeased with that course of action? And didn't God say to David, "Thou hast shed blood abundantly, and hast made great wars: thou shalt not build an house unto my name, because thou hast shed much blood upon the earth in my sight" (I Chron. 22:8)? True, there are other instances where David fell short of God's will. But in a summing up or an overall judgment, whether it be from God or man, common practice is to omit specifics. Whenever one is able to make a positive judgment, bygones are generally bygones and specific indiscretions are simply omitted and forgotten as if they had never occurred. After all, God does promise to remove our transgressions from us as far as the east is from the west (Ps. 103:12).
David's kingship judged
Notice now God's judgment of the overall tenor of David's kingship: "And David reigned over all Israel; and David executed judgment and justice unto all his people" (II Sam. 8:15). Does this, then, mean that King David never made a mistake. Of course not! Remember David later regretted appointing Joab as his chief general. David based this appointment primarily on Joab's military prowess, overlooking other aspects of Joab's character. Twice during his reign, David tried to appoint other men to that vital post. And twice Joab managed to murder David's appointees. David, during his lifetime, was not able to discharge Joab from his responsibilities (sometimes we have to live with our mistakes). Another example of a hasty judgment David made is found in II Samuel 16. Mephibosheth's servant Ziba slandered his master to David and, under great pressure because of his hurried flight from Absalom, David believed him without getting the other side of the story. Immediately David awarded all of Mephibosheth's property to Ziba (verse 4). Later the king at least partially corrected himself when he finally saw Mephibosheth face to face (II Sam. 19:24-30). Since David did not know whom to believe, he finally divided the property between the two. King David was not perfect. He did not always do the right thing on the spot. But he did try to correct his errors when they were brought to his attention. And many other biblical accounts show David making astute and fair judgments, especially when aides and staff were bent on incorrect action. David's wise decisions far outweighed his unwise ones.
New Testament evidence
Did you know that none of David's sins are ever mentioned in the New Testament? Do you realize that Jesus Christ never referred to them in the Gospel accounts? Nor did any of the apostles. If we only had the New Testament, we would know nothing of David's mistakes. On the contrary, we do have some positive judgments of David's life in the New Testament. Notice what the apostle Paul was inspired to say in one of his sermons: "He [God] raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfill all my will. Of this man's seed hath God according to his promise raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus" (Acts 13:22-23). It is hard to imagine how a human being could receive much higher praise from God. And do you know that David received this testimony from God even before he became king? Samuel said to Saul: "But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the Lord hath commanded him to be captain over his people" (I Sam. 13:14). God knew His man! He had great plans for David from the very beginning. In the same sermon Paul had another occasion to mention David. He said, "For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep" (Acts 13:36). That statement amounts to a one sentence summary of David's life. That is how God remembers him.
How will God judge you?
We can take great courage in God's mercy and method of judgment. If our hearts are right, if the overall tenor of our life is in the right direction, if we are overcoming, then we are going to be in God's Family. We can be much encouraged by reading how God looks at the life of David. But we must say this much in the way of qualification: We should never point to David's mistakes as an excuse for our own sins. We should instead follow the principle laid down in I Corinthians 10:11 and learn from David's errors' by avoiding them ourselves. If David were alive today and could communicate with us, he would say, "Look at all the suffering that those sins brought upon me, and don't follow my example in them." But the good does outweigh the bad in David's case. You'll be able to see that clearly if you read through the books of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles. The good that David did and the lessons he learned are the reasons he will be king of Israel in the world tomorrow. If you really repent, God will remember the good things you've done and forget the bad. That — the element of repentance — is why the majority of mankind, even though all have sinned, will eventually be able to join God in His Kingdom. That's the kind of God we have!