HE DIM ORANGE GLOW THAT HAD once flickered brilliantly against the stone wall now threatened to die out completely. Water dripped consistently from the thatched roof—a reminder of the storm that had just passed. After the hurried activity of the day, the palace grounds were calm and still amid the silence of its sleeping members. Except for one place.
Physically, he seemed calm—almost stoic—lying on the cold granite floor. But internally, the king was a melting pot of turmoil, sorrow, and regret. He couldn’t eat, he couldn’t sleep, and desired to talk to no one. His mind began to wander. He thought about the wild animals and giants he’d slain. He thought about his friend Jonathan. He thought about the victories and the defeats.
Then his mind drifted back to that fateful night a short while ago. Although his nation was enduring an excruciating war—as he gazed across the kingdom from the palace roof and basked in the cool night breeze—he was sure that God would give them victory.1
Then he saw her. Even now he could visualize her features and figure—it was an image forever stamped on his brain. As he watched her bathe, his meditation with his Lord turned into fantasies of lust. As the most powerful man in the world, he could have any woman he wanted . . . and he wanted her.
That one decision had led him down this dark road . . . to this cold floor. He’d come to the point where he began to cover up one sin with another. Ultimately, he’d been led to murder one of the best men in his entire kingdom. All in the name of . . . well, he wasn’t even sure of that anymore.
He’d realized his mistake, but it was too late. After righteously chastising the king’s actions, the prophet Nathan had given God’s punishment: his unborn child would die. It was more than David could take. It hadn’t ended with Uriah’s murder—he was now guilty of another.
Setting Ourselves Apart
Judging by Jesus’ words in Matthew 5, David should not have been a very blessed man—particularly in this instance. He wasn’t exactly gentle, merciful, pure in heart, or a peacemaker.
But David was blessed, even after this unthinkable strand of transgressions. And God takes it even further than that. Not only was David blessed; he is called a “man after God’s own heart.”2 That seems like pretty high praise for an adulterous murderer who would be condemned by today’s society. It would seem as though there are many great men of the Bible who would be more deserving of that title. The Bible reveals no such blemishes in the lives of Daniel, Joseph, and John the Baptist. But God chose to reveal everything about David. Why?
When reading the Beatitudes I’ve often become a bit overwhelmed. I look at my life and realize the number of times each day I’m not gentle, merciful, pure in heart, or poor in spirit. Meditating on the life of David has helped me realize that receiving God’s blessing is not an “all or none” scenario. It’s how we respond to our mistakes and what we do from that point on that define us.
When the prophet Nathan came to rebuke David for his sin,3 he told David a story about a rich man who had hundreds of animals but chose to take the one lamb owned by a poor man to feed his guest. David’s spirit burned with anger, and he told Nathan that this rich man was worthy of death. “You are the man!” Nathan proclaimed.
There are many situations such as this in the Bible in which a nomad prophet sends down condemning words on the most powerful man in the kingdom. Moses accosted Pharaoh, Elijah accused Ahab, and Samuel arraigned Saul. In all these situations the kings failed to heed the message of God. Their anger burned as their pride was too great to recognize and repent of their mistakes.
David’s response set him apart.
David didn’t throw Nathan in a dungeon, he didn’t threaten his life, and he didn’t say he’d have to think about it for a few days. No, David immediately understood his mistake and fell prostrate in repentance before his God. “I have sinned against the Lord,” he said in reply to Nathan.
I’ve found that God oftentimes helps us realize our sin. Sometimes He uses people, sometimes circumstances, while other times He just convicts us internally. From there on, however, it’s up to us. Will we react like David or like Ahab?
Anything but Perfect . . .
I think God knew what He was doing when He gave the title of “man after God’s own heart” to David. As much as I’ve felt overwhelmed by the lofty goals of Matthew 5, I’ve grown even more in awe of the men and women in the Bible who displayed them with apparent relative ease. Knowing he would go to jail, Joseph chose to remain pure. Knowing that he would probably be killed, Daniel chose to remain righteous.
But in David we have a man who was anything but perfect. A man who blatantly broke God’s laws, yet a man still held in highest esteem by heaven. In fact, during the evil kingships of his children and grandchildren, God vowed not to destroy the kingdom for the sake of His servant David.4 Need more evidence about the esteem in which God held David?
Like David, each one of us will at some point have to face Goliath. As I read the Beatitudes I feel pretty good about how I live my life in regard to most of them. Then I am sent back down to earth as I hit the “Goliath” in my life. Maybe you don’t have any problem giving mercy, but being humble or poor in spirit, on the other hand, is difficult, if not impossible. Perhaps you’re an excellent peacemaker, but when it comes to having a heart of purity you’d rather not think about it. We’re all blessed with certain gifts; we’re all cursed with individual struggles. That’s part of the carnal nature of being a human being. It is how we respond to our greatest struggle—and what we do when shown our blemishes—that will ultimately define our lives.
Paul says in Romans that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.5 I’m sure that includes Daniel and Joseph, too. And I know David fell far short of God’s glory in many ways. Like David, despite my sin, my faults, and my carnal desires, I can still be a man after the heart of God.
For me, that’s an incredibly encouraging thought as I read and focus on the Beatitudes. Blessed are those who have fallen into impurity and survived to discover the light of God’s salvation. Blessed are those who’ve treated others harshly but now go out of their way to exhibit mercy. Blessed are those who’ve been hungry for the things of this world yet now are satisfied only by the righteousness of our Lord and Savior. Blessed are those who’ve been persecuted and those who’ve fallen short but now, like King David, are called men and women after God’s own heart, because, as Jesus says, “your reward in heaven is great.”6
12 Sam. 11
2See Acts 13:22
32 Sam. 12
42 Kings 8:19
6Matt. 5:12, NASB
Jimmy Phillips is a senior communications major at Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska.