King David was far from perfect, and he would’ve been the first to admit it. Just read a few of the psalms and you’ll get an intimate look at David’s nearly constant cycle of shortcoming and contrition. Perhaps this is what makes his psalms so compelling; we see David in the depths of his broken humanity crying out for the embrace of a completely loving and restoring God.
When we appropriately acknowledge the complexities of David’s character, we are able to say that while not all of his choices as king were flawless, he was still “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14). In light of that, I want to draw our attention to two moments in today’s narrative that really demonstrate David’s closeness to God, and his sensitivity to the Father’s heart.
The first, and perhaps the most powerful, is his response to the death of Absalom. We know from earlier in Samuel’s account that Absalom was not a loyal son. His intentions to wage a rebellion and incite an insurrection were clear and known by the people as well as David. Yet David, upon hearing news of Absalom’s death, wept the tears of a distraught and deeply grieved father. He did not see an insurgent; he saw his son. David did not remember a traitor to the throne. Rather, he showed the heart of our Father, who always desires the prodigal’s return, no matter how far he has strayed or wandered.
The second moment comes when David, as he is restored to power, has mercy upon his enemies. For many of us, this may be harder to comprehend than the love for one’s own son. It can be difficult to truly forgive a friend who has slighted you, but I imagine it would be nearly impossible to offer true forgiveness to someone who betrayed you and then tried to kill you. But that is exactly what we see David do throughout 2 Samuel. Truly, only a heart restored to God could extend that sort of forgiveness and reconciliation.
It seems to me that David had learned to emulate the heart of the Father the hard way. As an adulterer, he had to beat his breast before the throne of grace. As a murderer, he had to cry out for mercy and forgiveness. And as a wayward king, he had to lay down his pride over and over again.
So it is for us.
More often than not, we come out the other side of a shipwreck better understanding the heart of God for others, because He’s so freely extended Himself to us. This does not mean we get to go on sinning intentionally so that “grace may abound” (Romans 6:1), but what it does mean is that God can redeem anything and everything from our past. He redeems us for our own sake, but also for the sake of those around us.
David knew how to forgive because he himself had been so lavishly forgiven. He knew how to love unconditionally because he had been loved so perfectly and truly by his God.
My hope, my prayer for each of us today, is that we would hand over to God the things that we’ve most mucked up, the worst we’ve done, and the worst that’s been done to us. It’s in those places where we’ll find the greatest hope, and also the great opportunity to live as wounded healers and heralds of the goodness of God.
Written by Andrew Stoddard