Q & A: A Man After God’s Own Heart

DAvid and Bathsheba

Question and answer from the Bible Answer Man broadcast.

Kay in St. Louis, MO: Hi. Thank you for taking my call, Mr. Hanegraaff. I am wanting you to plot a discourse, perhaps, on David on the phrase that he was a man after God’s own heart. It’s my understanding that that was stated early in his life, and yet later in his life with Uriah, Bathsheba incident, for example, he sins as dispassionately as he prays. Tell me your perspective on it. At the end of his life was he still a man after God’s own heart, do you think?

Hank: I don’t think there’s any question about it. He’s Israel’s quintessential king, he’s a man after God’s own heart. That is not because he doesn’t sin. It is because he desires fellowship with his heavenly father and therefore confesses his sin, most notably in Psalm 51 where he says “Have mercy on me, O God. According to your unfailing love, blot out my transgressions, cleanse me from my sins.” And he asks God to restore to him, grant to him a willing spirit and the joy of his salvation. “Create in me,” he says, “a pure heart, O God. Renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of my salvation. Grant a willing spirit to sustain me.” And then he says “Then I will teach transgressors your ways and sinners will turn back to you. Save me from blood-guilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.”

He was well aware that he not only had an affair with Bathsheba, but as a result of that affair he had to have Uriah killed on the battlefront. So he had blood on his hands and this was pointed out to him in no uncertain terms when Samuel pointed a boney finger at him and said “You are the man, the man who has taken someone else’s wife.” And Samuel used an illustration to get through to David, who was living in denial with respect to his own sin. And this was not even the greatest of his sins. I mean, it was a great sin, but there were many other great sins in David’s life, including the census that he took, demonstrating that he was leaning on the arm of flesh rather than on the arm of God.

And David is not just anyone. He is the leader of God’s people and therefore his responsibilities and his judgment is a stricter judgment, very much like what James says about teachers. “But not many of you should be teachers because in teaching there is a stricter judgment.” So David sinned horribly, but he had a heart that panted after God as a deer pants after water brooks.”

Kay: So you believe that his repentance after the fact is reason for that statement to continue to be true throughout his life.

Hank: Yeah, because he cared about God’s Law and he recognized that that Law was significant in that it ultimately was the schoolmaster that pointed him towards the coming King Who would forever sit upon the throne of David – David, of course, being Israel’s quintessential king – that promise fulfilled in Jesus Christ. So he’s looking forward to the promise. And so David, like Abraham, like the patriarchs, was not fulfilled through the Law but fulfilled through faith. The Law, the types and the shadows, temple priests, sacrifice, all of that was merely pointing forward to the coming of Jesus Christ, and that was why he actually says later on in this same psalm, “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it. You do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. No, the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit. A broken and a contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” Then he says “May it please you to make Zion prosper, to build up the walls of Jerusalem. Then there will be righteous sacrifices, whole burnt offerings to delight you; then bulls will be offered on your altar.” So he’s looking past temple priests and sacrifices to what temple priests and sacrifice signified, the ultimate sacrificial Lamb who would take upon Himself the sins of the world.

Kay: Could it be said of modern man, women, that someone who has, in fact, lived a life and then they fail. We have those Godly men and women who unfortunately make a false step in one direction that is not a godly step, but their heart still is following heart after God?

Hank: We cannot be cavalier about sin, and this is what contextualized it. I’m really glad that you pressed me on this, because this needs to be said as well, and I probably would have neglected to say this, but it’s really tying a ribbon around the package, if you will: If you look at David’s life, the one thing you see is that a sword never leaves his family. In other words, the consequences of his sin followed inexorably like night follows day. While he was forgiven, there were consequences to his sin, and I say the same thing follows today. There are consequences to our sin and those consequences follow just like night follows day or day follows night. So we can’t simply sin in a cavalier fashion.

If we then confess our sins, we know that He’s faithful and just. He will forgive us of our sins, cleanse us from all unrighteousness, but that doesn’t mean that the consequences go away. There are consequences to sin. Those consequences can be great, indeed. If someone with a platform falls there is a big blemish on the name of Christ and that is no small thing when Christ’s name is dragged through the mud. But that does not eclipse their salvation. They are still saved, not by what they have done, but rather saved by what Jesus Christ, the Lord of the universe, has done on their behalf.

Kay: What would you say about the call on their life?

Hank: God uses broken vessels, is what I would say. I think that there is such a thing as restoration that takes place, even in ministry. But that restoration has to be sincere. Through that restoration God continues to use David to this day. He repented, though the sword never left his home, and we can see the consequences of his sin in graphic detail in the Scriptures today. I’m still edified when I read Psalm 51 or Psalm 139 in the Bible. It’s extraordinarily edifying to me as I see God’s grace in the midst of my sin.

The reality is, we can look at graphic examples like David and we can say, pounding our own chest, “Look at me, I have not done such a thing as David has done.” But I wouldn’t want my life flashed up on a screen on Sunday morning in a church. If it were, I would duck under the pew and I would hide because I am imperfect in thought, word and deed, and if all my impure thoughts, and words and deeds were flashed onto a screen Sunday morning, I would be embarrassed. This is simply a recognition that we are all sinners in need of a Savior. That’s why Paul can call himself the worst of sinners, because he has come closest to the brilliance of God’s holiness and seen in the light of God’s holiness the full extent of his own sins.

Kay: Do you think we’re too judgmental on these leaders who fall?

Hank: I think many times we are, but to say that a leader falls is not a small thing, nor should we be cavalier about it, but we should be willing, not to run away from them, but to run towards them and help them in the process of restoration, recognizing that we, too, are sinners in need, when we fall, someone picking us up, dusting us off again and recognizing that God is our ultimate judge.