Why was David called “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14; Acts 13:22)? It is not because David avoided sin more than most. In fact, the more I read about him, the more sinful I realize he was. Of course, we all know about Bathsheba and Uriah (2 Sam. 11). But, even before he is anointed king, he commits adultery by taking more than one wife (1 Sam. 25) and he commits murder by killing the men and women of surrounding cities (1 Sam. 27:11). David isn’t a story of a sinless man who had a fall from grace. David was a sinner from the moment his story starts. David wasn’t a man after God’s own heart because he was a really good guy who made a one-time blunder. Why then?
For all of his sins, David never fought his way to the throne. Up until this point in the Bible, we’ve read countless stories of men who usurped thrones, killed for the maintenance of power, and resorted to sinning against God himself in order to keep the throne God had given. This is Saul’s story, who tries to kill David to retain the throne.
Plato allegedly said that the first qualification for leadership is not wanting to lead. David doesn’t seek to kill Saul in personal defense. David doesn’t seek the throne. The reason David doesn’t seek the throne is that it’s already filled. He wants to serve and support the one who is already in charge, even though the one in charge wants to kill him. His goal isn’t personal gain, but the good of God’s people Israel, even if that means humble service.
After Saul’s relentless assault on David is over, David does not rejoice over Saul’s death. In fact, David mourns. “And David lamented with this lamentation over Saul and Jonathan his son … ‘Saul and Jonathan, beloved and lovely! In life and in death they were not divided; they were swifter than eagles; they were stronger than lions … How the mighty have fallen in the midst of the battle!’” (2 Samuel 1:17, 23, 25)
This is why David is a man after God’s own heart: “Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live” (Ezekiel 33:11). God doesn’t rejoice over the death of the bad guy. His goal isn’t revenge, but the good of His people.
Being set apart in God’s kingdom means desiring the good of other people, above our own. Paul says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3) and he repeatedly exemplifies this by showing his willingness to lose life, limb and eyesight for the sake of his brothers. He even reached the apex of self-forgetfulness when he exclaimed, “For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh” (Romans 9:3).
So there it is. Arguably the two most prominent Christians in the Bible, one from the OT and the other from the NT demonstrating a willingness to sacrifice themselves for others. It should be no surprise that this gets right at the heart of God since this is who God is. He is the one who laid His life down for His friends, for there is no greater love than this (John 15:3).
Satan’s campaign is to denigrate this reality to the point of absurdity. If we’re honest, he’s doing a pretty good job. It sounds ridiculous that losing your life is gaining a better one. Or that taking a sinful person’s burden is to bless God. It is getting that brings reward, not giving, we think. For every minute we consider how to give, we spend hours contemplating gain. We’re “greedy when others are fearful, and fearful when others are greedy.”
The great mystery of Christianity is that loving God is loving people. Embracing the pain of the world in order to embosom the poor in spirit is the very Spirit of God. We touch God when we touch and clean the feet of others. We lay upon the bosom of Christ when we lay our lives down for our friends. The giving of self is the getting of God.