The first thing to understand is that God judges men by their hearts, not simply their deeds. You may do a thing for many reasons, but you may also have regrets for those things, that matters to God.
To understand why David was a man after God’s own heart, we need to see what characteristics he had to qualify for such a description. In the book of Acts, Paul speaks of God’s feelings about King David:
“And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave their testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will.” (Acts 13:22).
The answer to why David was considered a man after God’s own heart is found right in the verse: David did whatever God wanted him to do. An obvious question is how could God still call David a man after His own heart when David committed such terrible sins, including adultery and murder?
We learn much of David’s character in the book of Psalms as he opened up his life for all to examine. David’s life was a portrait of success and failure, and the biblical record highlights the fact that David was far from perfect. But what made David a cut above the rest was that his heart was pointed toward God. He had a deep desire to follow God’s will and do “everything” God wanted him to do. In this specific regard, he was a man after God’s own heart.
Part of why David is called a man after God’s own heart is that he had absolute faith in God. Nowhere in Scripture is this point better illustrated than in 1 Samuel 17 where David as a young shepherd boy fearlessly slew the Philistine, Goliath. Shortly before the duel, we see direct evidence of David’s faith when David said..
“David said moreover, The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said unto David, Go, and the Lord be with thee.” (1 Sam 17:37).
David was fully aware that God was in control of his life, and he had faith that God would deliver him from impending danger. How else would one venture into a potentially fatal situation with such calm and confidence? David knew early on in life that God was to be trusted and obeyed. As we see in Scripture, David’s faith pleased God, and God rewards David for his faithfulness.
Another reason, David loved God’s Law. Of the 150 psalms in the Bible, David is credited for writing over half of them. Writing at various and troubling times in his life, David repeatedly mentioned how much he loved God’s perfect Word.
“47 And I will delight myself in thy commandments, which I have loved.
48 My hands also will I lift up unto thy commandments, which I have loved; and I will meditate in thy statutes.”
Also notice how David “meditates” on God’s statutes. God granted David understanding and wisdom through daily meditation. We would do well to not only read God’s Word but also think about it throughout the day, for God loves us to think about Him.
“2 Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart.
3 They also do no iniquity: they walk in his ways.” (Psalm 119:2–3).
Another aspect is that David was truly thankful..
“6 I will wash mine hands in innocency: so will I compass thine altar, O Lord:
7 That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all thy wondrous works.” (Psalm 26:6–7).
David’s life was marked by seasons of great peace and prosperity as well as times of fear and despair. But through all of the seasons in his life, he never forgot to thank the Lord for everything that he had. It is truly one of David’s finest characteristics.
“Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.” (Psalm 100:4).
As followers of Jesus Christ, we would do well to follow David’s lead of offering praise through thanksgiving to our Lord.
After he sinned, David was truly repentant. David’s sin with Bathsheba is recorded in 2 Samuel 11:2–5. The mighty fall hard, and David’s fall included adultery, lying, and murder. He had sinned against God, and he admits it in 2 Samuel 12:13:
“And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord. And Nathan said unto David, The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.”
But admitting our sin and asking for forgiveness is only half of the equation. The other half is repentance, and David did that as well. Psalm 51 is David’s prayer of repentance to God:
“Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin." (Psalm 51:1–2).
In conclusion, David was a man after God’s own heart because he demonstrated his faith and was committed to following the Lord. Yes, his faith was tested on a grand scale, and he failed at times. But after his sin he sought and received the Lord’s forgiveness.
In the final analysis, David loved God’s Law and sought to follow it exactly. As a man after God’s own heart, David is a role model for all of us.
Finally, consider how God judges, not how we judge. In Gods judgment of Davids heart, He not only blessed David but He blessed the generations after him.
Consider Manasseh, not only did Manasseh sin personally, but as king he led Judah in forsaking the LORD and worshiping idols. Such was the extent of their sin that God declared He would wipe out Jerusalem as He had the northern kingdom of Israel (2 Kings 21:13–15).
Jeremiah 15:4 notes that it was the sin of Judah, initiated by Manasseh, that brought the judgment that Jeremiah proclaimed (the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple and the exile of the people).
“And I will cause them to be removed into all kingdoms of the earth, because of Manasseh the son of Hezekiah king of Judah, for that which he did in Jerusalem.”
It was King Manasseh who murdered the prophet Isaiah.
Second Chronicles 33 adds more information not recorded in 2 Kings. God reached out to Manasseh and the people (presumably through prophets), but they would not listen. So God sent the Assyrians who captured Manasseh and took him away to exile (2 Chronicles 33:11).
While in exile..
“12 And when he was in affliction, he besought the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers,
13 And prayed unto him: and he was intreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord he was God.” (2 Chronicles 33:12–13).
The repentant Manasseh was restored to his kingdom and started to rebuild Judah militarily (2 Chronicles 33:14), and he also began to institute religious reforms.
“He got rid of the foreign gods and removed the image from the temple of the Lord, as well as all the altars he had built on the temple hill and in Jerusalem; and he threw them out of the city. Then he restored the altar of the Lord and sacrificed fellowship offerings and thank offerings on it, and told Judah to serve the Lord, the God of Israel”(2 Chronicles 22:1–12).
Even though Manasseh had a personal conversion, he was never able to lead Judah out of the sin that he had previously led them into. They did not follow him in his reforms. The people continued in their idolatry (2 Chronicles 33:17), and, when Manasseh died, his son Amon
“did evil in the eyes of the Lord, as his father Manasseh had done. Amon worshiped and offered sacrifices to all the idols Manasseh had made. But unlike his father Manasseh, he did not humble himself before the Lord” (2 Chronicles 33:22–23).
Second Kings 21 and 2 Chronicles 33 tells us about King Amon of Judah. He was an evil king, and father of Josiah. Amon was twenty-two years old when he began to rule and was king for only two years (642–640 BC) before he was assassinated.
It is interesting to see that Amon followed in the evil ways of his father, failing to humble himself as his father had eventually done, yet he had a godly son.
Each of us is accountable to God. We are not destined to walk in the footsteps of our ancestors’ examples, whether good or bad. The stories of David, Manasseh and Amon serves as a warning to us as well as an encouragement.
Judah would eventually receive God’s punishment because of what they had done in Manasseh’s days (2 Kings 23:26–27), but, during Josiah’s reign, they walked in God’s ways. Josiah was not bound to repeat his father’s mistakes. Rather,
“Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the Lord as he did—with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses” (2 Kings 23:25).
The evil that David did does not compare to that of Manasseh or Amon, but in Gods mercy He judges the heart of man more than the deeds…