Why Was David a Man After God's Own Heart?
Good News Magazine
April 1983
Volume: VOL. XXX, NO. 4
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Why Was David a Man After God's Own Heart?
Stanley M McNeil  

What special attributes did David develop that gained him such high favor with God?

   "I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will" (Acts 13:22).
   So said God of King David of ancient Israel! What a positive evaluation!
   Of all the people who have lived, God has given David a special place in His heart. We know from Scripture that King David, when resurrected, will rule over all Israel in the Kingdom of God (Jer. 30:9, Ezek. 37:24).
   Have you stopped to consider why God felt this way about him? As one of God's people today, being judged now for your response to God (I Pet. 4:17), how do you measure up to David's example? Would God be able to say that you are a man or woman after His own heart?
   The biblical books of I and II Samuel cover David's life history. Saul had preceded David as king, and utterly failed by disobeying God (I Sam. 13:13-14). God decided to replace Saul with someone else as king, and God used a different method of selecting the next king than humans would have used.
   God looks on the inside, at the inner motives of the heart, at a person's attitude (I Sam. 16:7). He wanted Saul's replacement to measure up to high standards in inner character.
   Here are several specific areas of David's character that made him especially pleasing to God — that made him a man after God's own heart.

Active faith

   Even though he was but a young man when initially anointed to be king, David had already exhibited tremendous strength, wisdom and talent. He was known as a shrewd fighter. He was physically fit and poised, and an accomplished musician (I Sam. 16:18). Soon afterward, David showed one key reason for his success in God's eyes: active, living faith.
   Perhaps no Bible story is more popular than the example of David and Goliath. Here was the teenaged David — perhaps short, freckle-faced and lanky — who decided to go against the champion of the enemy army — a man-crushing warrior who stood more than 9 feet tall and whose armor alone weighed nearly 200 pounds!
   Goliath had taunted the Israelites for some time, challenging them to provide an opponent for him. All Israel's warriors refused. But not David! David walked by faith, not sight, and he knew God could use him to defeat this enemy of His chosen people (I Sam. 17:26, 36-37).
   Without a trace of fear, and with no armor or battle garb, David stepped forward with his slingshot and — whap! — down crashed the mass of muscle, bone and armor who dared to defy the Eternal!
   David was close to God. He listened to God and believed that nothing could stand against the power of God. He had complete faith to overcome any seemingly insurmountable obstacle.
   But it wasn't faith without effort. David was prepared. He didn't neglect the physical part he could do. He had become strong and able by protecting his father's sheep from wild animals, and he was an expert marksman after years of practice.
   Still, David maintained regular contact with God and rightly gave God full credit for the victory.
   We today should have this same attribute of character. If we believe God, diligently study His Word, remain in prayerful contact with Him and follow as God leads through His Church, we can have the same kind of faith David exhibited.
   Another major aspect of David's character was that he was sincerely and consistently humble. This trait was especially apparent in David's relationship with Saul.

Godly humility

   After his incredible defeat of Goliath and the resulting adulation of all Israel, David became a member of Saul's royal court. Still, he considered himself totally unworthy to marry the king's daughter (I Sam. 18:18, 23-24). He knew God had blessed him, and he felt undeserving.
   Later, after Saul had become "David's enemy continually" because of jealousy (verse 29), David still esteemed himself as nothing more than a dead dog or a flea (I Sam. 24:14). He honestly felt that he was too insignificant to threaten Saul's position.
   Eventually, when David did become king, God made far-reaching promises to him, including the establishment of a perpetual throne, which Saul failed to qualify for. Yet David continued to reflect godly humility: "Who am I, O Lord God? And what is my house, that You have brought me this far?" (II Sam. 7:18).
   David felt he was not important; to him, only God's plan and purpose mattered. He served God in humility, with the mind of Christ, with the attitude described in Philippians 2:3: "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself." Do you have this kind of humility?

Loyalty to God's government

   David displayed another quality that anyone being trained for rulership must possess: He had complete loyalty and respect for God's government, and for the human instruments God places in the offices of that government.
   God had begun to work through King Saul as His ruler over the people. Saul, caught up in a rebellious attitude, began to reject God's directions.
   Immediately after anointing future King David, God sent an evil spirit to trouble Saul, but left Saul in office as king (I Sam. 16:13-14). Demon-influenced Saul, crazed with envy, tried to kill David at every opportunity. Even though David served him totally and refused to fight back, Saul persisted.
   David had a deep, abiding respect for whomever God had established over him, even if that person in authority were a murderous maniac. Striving only to keep his life, David never talked against Saul or failed to acknowledge Saul's authority as God's anointed.
   Once, having given in to temptation to move against the king, David "cut off a corner of Saul's robe" (I Sam. 24:4-5), an act that would have shamed the ruler. David felt guilty, and repented bitterly (verse 6).
   All this, while Saul was on a mission to murder David!
   On another occasion, David rejected an easy opportunity to take Saul's life, knowing that to do so would make him guilty of rebellion against God (I Sam. 26:9, 11). David understood the lesson Saul missed: "For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king" (I Sam. 15:23).
   God allowed this test to continue for David for many years after he was anointed) to replace Saul. David could have rebelled and tried to take over, but he didn't. He didn't resist, and always honored God's chosen servant.
   How would you have reacted if you had been in David's shoes? Would you have passed his test? How do you react today to God's chosen apostle, ministers and servants? Are you willing to be ruled now, so you can be trained to rule in God's Kingdom (Heb. 13:7, 17)?

Serene patience

   Another facet of David's character, which developed along with loyalty, was patience. David had to wait years after his anointing) before he became king! And the waiting wasn't easy. He had countless physical and spiritual trials. Only after much strife did God give him the kingdom of Israel. In waiting on God, David endured in spite of circumstances. He left his life and future in God's hands and had the patience necessary to develop godly character. Paul explains this attitude as it applies in the lives of true Christians: "We glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope" (Rom. 5:3-4, Authorized Version).
   Faith and patience are often mentioned together in the Bible. You cannot have patience without faith. Faith is belief in God backed up with active obedience (Jas. 2:18). Patience is the serene attitude that allows you to wait on God in adverse circumstances. Patience is developed through trials like those David experienced: "The testing of your faith produces patience" (Jas. 1:3).
   David knew that God would fulfill His plan for him if he patiently endured (Heb. 10:36).
   How about you? Are you patiently enduring? Do you have the calm resolve that results from leaving your life in God's hands?


   Another major area of David's character involved his whole approach to God's way. He didn't do anything halfway. David always exhibited an unfeigned, wholehearted, enthusiastic devotion to God. When David served, he served all the way, in whatever was needed. He was a continual inspiration to others.
   After retrieving the ark of the covenant from enemy armies, King David was more excited than anyone else. He dropped any courtly reserve and danced for joy in the streets of Jerusalem (II Sam. 6:14).
   Everyone knew David's enthusiasm about serving God, and it affected the whole nation. David gave himself completely to the way of God. He didn't hold back. What about us today? God tells us to develop this same kind of wholeheartedness through drawing near to him and exhorting one another (Heb. 10:22-24, 38).
   Do you have an enthusiasm for God's Work today, a zeal that is contagious? We must not draw back or allow others to hold us back. We must give God our total involvement, as David did. God was pleased with him. How about you?


   Not to be overlooked, another vital aspect of David's life was the wisdom he developed. From his youth, David behaved "wisely in all his ways" (I Sam. 18:14).
   David's son Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, learned about wisdom from his father, and Solomon was the source of most of the instruction now incorporated into the book of Proverbs (Prov. 4:3-5).
   Wisdom, the proper application of the spirit of God's law in every area of life, began for David with a deep reverence for God. He feared God and set his heart and attitude to obey Him. What about you? Do you lack spiritual wisdom?
   God tells us to ask, in total faith, for wisdom, and He will give it in abundance (Jas. 1:5).

Real repentance

   This last spiritual characteristic David had is the most important. Without it, he would not have continued as a man after God's own heart. David practiced real repentance.
   David was not perfect. Like all of us, he occasionally stumbled. But when he saw his mistakes, he always admitted he was wrong and sought God with all his heart, to go the right way.
   After his adultery with Bathsheba and murder of her husband Uriah, for example, David totally repented before God. He knew he had not just committed sin. He, as a person, was wrong through and through. He repented not only of what he did, but of what he was.
   In private before God, David cried out and asked that God would forgive him and restore His Spirit: "Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.... Hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me with Your generous Spirit" (Ps. 51:6-7, 9-12).
   Notice David's intent and motive. He wanted with all his heart to continue to be used by God, to be on the right track spiritually (verses 13-15).
   David knew God had to clean him up in order to use him. David's motive was to give. He wanted with all his heart to help others know and obey God.
   "For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart — these, O God, You will not despise" (verses 16-17). David was completely broken in this attitude of deep repentance. His self was shattered. And he knew that God required this contrition for his own good.
   God, who looks on the heart, forgave and forgot David's sins (II Sam. 12:13). He only remembers the character David developed. That is why He describes David as a man after His own heart. If David had not admitted his sins and changed, God could not have said that about him.
   The analysis of David in Acts 13:22, quoted at the beginning of this article, was recorded long after David died. Through faith, humility, loyalty to God's government, patience, zeal, wisdom and real repentance, David overcame his human nature, developed godly character and qualified for a high position in God's coming Kingdom. He was a man after God's own heart.
   What will God say about you?

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Good News MagazineApril 1983VOL. XXX, NO. 4