Last Sunday someone dropped a bomb. I only heard Josh repeat it on the Podcast but it went something like this:
“Don’t presume someone doesn’t have a heart after God if you see them actively sinning.”
Boom. ‘Nuff said. Drop the mic. Arrow through the heart.
This quote might make a fundamentalist from the Bible Belt squirm but lets look at it in context before passing judgment. The conversation during the sermon was centered on the seeming duality of King David’s life. Duality meaning, David was crazy amazing yet disturbingly evil. He was a dude who took on the massive Goliath while his countrymen cower in fear with no faith in their God but later would commit adultery with Bathsheba, Uriah the Hittite’s wife. Not just some guy in David’s army but a guy that was recorded, in the Bible, as one of David’s “Mighty Men” that stood by him while he was in exile in the wilderness, running from Saul. God called him a “man after my own heart” while also being the dude that not only killed Uriah to cover up the affair but killed a whole platoon of his soldiers in order to make Uriah’s death seem like a normal war casualty. Interesting, no?
It is within the wonder of this duality that this statement was made and is most applicable to us. How many of us, if David were alive today…no, wait…if David were President of the United States today, would see David or hear of him committing such atrocities and proudly claim, “David is a man after God’s own heart.” Really? I don’t think so. At least I wouldn’t be able to. I would certainly question his “Christianity.” I’ve certainly done it to people in the past that have done far less evil. This is why the above statement cut right to my heart and dethroned me from my self-righteous pedestal.
However, as convicting as a statement like that is, how do we make sense of David’s dualistic nature? He is like Jekyll and Hyde. Waking up in the morning to write wonderful hymns and psalms of praise only later to be seducing women, killing loads of people, and seemingly doing what is contrary to God’s heart?
The answer is found in the courtroom scene between the prophet Nathan and David, in the aftermath of the Bathsheba incident. You see, as King of Israel, it was David’s job to also be judge. So people would bring their cases before him and he was to judge justly for them. So in comes Nathan to bring a case before David…
“Your highness! Their has been a situation that has come to my attention. Their is a rich man and a poor man in your city. The poor man has nothing save a little lamb that he has put all his effort into raising and loving as if it were his own child. Now the rich man had a visitor but he didn’t want to kill one of his own lambs to give the visitor for dinner so he took the poor man’s lamb, killed it, and served his visitor dinner.”
David was vehement, “The rich man shall die!”
But Nathan replied, “YOU, are that man!”
Unbeknownst to David, he had just nailed his own coffin. The adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah was now out in the open and David’s eyes were opened to his sin and he repented (see Psalm 51 for David’s psalm of repentance).
God had some consequences for David though. Nathan continues, giving David both bad and good news. The bad: David’s son, that Bathsheba was to conceive, would die. The good: David would not die. Fair trade? I think not. Why doesn’t David die for his sin?
Eugene Peterson makes a connection between the courtroom of Nathan and David to the courtroom scene of Pilate and Jesus, saying, “There’s a remarkable verbal resonance of this story of David standing before Nathan, and that of Jesus standing before Pilate. Nathan says of David, ‘You are the man.’ And Pilate says of Jesus, ‘Behold the man.'”
Let’s flesh this out a bit. Here we have two courtrooms. In one, King David is on the judgment seat. In the other, King Jesus is in the dock being judged. In David’s courtroom, Nathan comes to put David where he belongs and David finds himself in the dock being judged. But in Jesus’ courtroom, no one comes to put things right. No reversal takes place. Pilate and the Jewish leaders deserve to be in the dock to be judged for their sins but instead Jesus is left in the dock. Why?
Ever wonder why Jesus was silent during his trial? Why didn’t he just deliver the truth? That he was innocent of the charges against him? Perhaps he stayed silent because he knew he had to remain in the dock. The dock that would send him to the cross where he would die in our place, for our sin, for our evil hearts.
We are ‘that man’ that deserves judgment, deserves to die.
But in Jesus we ‘behold, The Man’ that took our judgment upon himself even though he was innocent (remember how David’s innocent son died in his place, taking his punishment?).
How can David be a man after God’s own heart? Only because Jesus took David’s heart of stone and made it one of flesh. A stone can’t change. It can only crumble. A heart of flesh can be molded, shaped, dissected…changed.
May we, like David, see that we are people capable of the most horrendous sins (or perhaps already have committed). Yet, may we come to find a God that meets us with even greater grace and forgiveness through Jesus. May we also search and pray for the continual grace offered through Spirit of God that shapes our hearts. And through it all, may we give others as much grace as God continues to give us despite our own dualities.