THE MAN AFTER GODS OWN HEART

 

That God Himself has said that David was "a man after His own heart" (1 Sam.13:14) - a statement repeated in the New Testament (Acts 13: 22) - is as wonderful a tribute as has ever been paid to a human soul. It at once rivets our thoughtful, pondering, imitative gaze upon the man whose very name was - Ďbeloved of Godí. Moreover, David's niche in prophecy is unique. He shares with Daniel the rarest of all honours - named as in the First Resurrection: apostles (Matt. 19: 28), prophets (Luke 13: 28), martyrs (Rev. 20: 4), all are named as classes; but the solitary individual disclosed by God Himself as actually rising from the dead* is David. There is probably no more human character in the Bible, and it is the human that God loves - "My delight is with the sons of men"; nor is any other character (apart from our Lordís) so fully portrayed by inspiration: therefore, the wise disciple, disentangling qualities merely personal to David - gifts as poet, as prophet, as musician - and fastening on the fundamental God-lovability possible to us all, will ponder the triumphant march of one of the Victors of God.

 

[* Daniel's Ďstandingí implies resurrection, but of David alone is the act explicitly stated, and that by God. "Go thy way till the end be; for thou shalt rest, and shalt stand [in resurrection] in thy lot, at the end of the daysĒ (Dan. 12: 13); "thou man greatly beloved" (Dan. 10: 11).]

 

Davidís first and most dominant characteristic is an unsurpassed devotion, both in heart and in intellect, to God and the Word of God. Probably more of Davidís prayers are recorded than of all other saints put together. The Book A Psalms, a standard hymn-book of the people of God for three thousand years, as perfect a mirror as was ever made - of a trusting, weeping, rejoicing, trembling, loving soul, who lives in the presence of God; and the 119th Psalm has no parallel in all literature, inspired or uninspired, as the expression an overwhelming passion for the Word of God - its truthfulness, its inerrancy, its sweetness, its saving power, its divine origin. David's whole life is one constant grip of the Unseen Hand. The Books of Samuel, Kings, Chronicles give the outer panorama of his life: the Psalms, the X-Rays that disclose the motive springs, reveal a saint in heaven while lived on earth: though one of the wealthiest of Kings, he was a stranger and a pilgrim, and his absorption in Scripture day and night had, for aim, a perfectly God-patterned life. The Psalmist models all thought and conduct on the Word of God.

 

In a second characteristic David stands forth in lonely splendour: a warrior all his life, he never lost a pitched battle. With great significance to us the Arch-enemy in the unseen stirred by his goodness and Divine favour, so constantly stirred up enemies that the sword was never out of Davidís hand; and, far more wonderful, no set engagement ever proved a lost battle. He fought Godís battles at the peril of his life; and at least once nearly won the martyrís crown, when, faint and exhausted, he was all but slain by a gigantic Philistine (2 Sam. 21: 15). His war-work - symbol of our holier war - was magnificent. Philistia was finally broken: Moabís army, out-generalled and outflanked, fell nearly whole into his hands, and Moab paid tribute for the following century and a half; Syria and its allies - soldiers whose very shields were of plated gold - were broken and subjugated and Edom was exterminated. By the close of his reign the Hebrew dominion, stretching from the Mediterranean to the Arabian wilderness, and reaching up to and embracing Syria in the north, had been lifted to a commanding sphere among the Oriental nations; and Davidís weapons after his death, deposited as sacred relics in the Temple (2 Kings 11: 10) became exquisite symbols of the Spiritís epitaph on Apocalyptic overcomers - "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; for their works follow with them" (Rev. 14: 13).

 

The third characteristic of David is, to us all, of extraordinary importance. It is inexpressibly comforting that Davidís sins - though, it is true, few and isolated, and receiving a publicity unparalleled in the history of the world - are as great as they are: what was in God's sight (2 Sam. 12: 9) adultery and murder - both of which, under the Law, carried the death-penalty - were actually part of the life of one of Godís greatest saints. It is exactly here that modern evangelicalism has plumbed neither the sinfulness of the saint nor the immensity of pardoning grace. So stoutly is the possibility of grave sin in a child of God resisted - so as to elude the fearful consequences of which many Scriptures warn us - that The Homilist, avoiding the common plea that such a man could never have been converted, solves the problem by a point-blank denial of the Scripture. "Was the character of David after Godís own heart? Conventional pietists will to a man say, Yes. The most thoughtful, independent, and critical students of Godís Book will to a man say, No. David had his virtues, as most bad men have; but few men in history have been guilty of more heinous crimes. It is blasphemy to say that such a character was after the heart of infinite purity."

 

All such critics, another section of whom have the word Ďgraceí constantly on their lips, flinch from facing both facts and Scriptures - the depth to which the servant of God can fall, and the corresponding depth and wonder of the grace of God.* For Davidís is the golden possibility of us all - a perfect pardon and a complete recovery long ere the sin reaches the inexorable Judgment Seat of Christ. For the Fifty-first Psalm is the supreme confession of sin in all literature. It has supplied millions of penitent souls with exactly the words they wanted, and their use after sin - if we can use them - is to let down into the waters of the soul a thermometer which will reveal, or not, a broken and a contrite heart. For David was vastly more than a pardoned backslider. Ample sowing brought ample harvest. His extraordinary generosity, his frank forgiveness of his enemies his warm affections - for his parents, for Jonathan, for the little son that died, for Absolom: - all the splendid large-heartedness he meted, God measured back to him again. For David is a supreme embodiment of the pregnant law of Christ, "Many that are first shall be last, and the last firstĒ (Mark 10: 31): first become last - in the grossest sins ever attributed to a saint in the Bible; last become first - in an after-life of perfect penitence and purity.

 

[* This most prominent of all sinfulness in a saint is peculiarly valuable as placing beyond reasonable doubt or denial the sins which the truly regenerate can commit, and so establishes that the warnings and punishments for such sins, in contexts addressed to believers, directly concern the regenerate. It will hardly be contended that David when he sinned was an Ďempty professorí, or a Ďfalse brotherí crept unawares into the fold of God. So New Testament Scriptures explicitly assert that the regenerate can commit murder (1 Pet. 4: 15) and adultery (1 Cor. 6: 15), with consequent though not eternal, consequences; and to assume that 'graceí covers such sin unabandoved, or that if unabandoned it will never come into judgment, is doctrine as immoral and unscriptural as could be conceived.]

 

David's fourth characteristic is the magnificence of his unattained ideal. A manís ambition is the exact revelation of his heart. So ample and complete were David's preparations for the building of the Temple, so enormous the wealth he accumulated for what his eyes would never see, that Solomon (for the most part) but put together what David had gathered. Immense stores of copper, iron, cedar, and marbles; all the plans, given supernaturally by God, and drawn out to the minutest detail, in its courts, chambers, furniture, utensils; and huge sums mounting up to hundreds of millions, including £19,000,000 out of his own purse, were laid up before his death. David built beyond the grave: he invested all the present in the future: his ideals, to which he shaped his life, were the inspired plans drawn up by God: his ambitions for the hereafter were boundless: he died, waiting.

 

So now we arrive at the inevitable destiny of a man or woman after Godís own heart - a first-broken tomb; as "accounted worthy to attain to that age, and the resurrection [from among] the dead" (Luke 20: 35). David alone is personally named by God, in a prophecy made three times, through three different prophets, as in the First Resurrection. Jehovah says through Jeremiah (30: 8), centuries after David was dead:- "And it shall come to pass in that day" - the age of the restoration of Israel - "that [Israel] shall serve the Lord their God, and David their King, WHOM I WILL RAISE UP UNTO THEM." David's tomb, unbroken at the Lordís resurrection (Acts 2: 29), will be split by the last earthquakes that will again rock the Holy Land. So Hosea also (3: 4) says:- "Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their king, in the latter days," so that, to fulfil this, David must be already risen when Israel seeks the returning Lord, and thus ĎDavidí in these prophecies is not (as some suppose) a title of Christ. And Ezekiel (37: 24) says:- "And my servant David shall be king over them ; and they all shall have one shepherd: and David my servant shall be their Prince for ever" BLESSED AND HOLY IS HE THAT HATH PART IN THE FIRST RESURRECTION.

 

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