David is rightly known as a man after God’s own heart and the sweet Psalmist of Israel. God made an everlasting covenant with Him. Christ descended from the Davidic line. And David defeated Goliath! All these truths about David often cause us to view him as an impregnable man of granite piety. The complete Scriptural record says otherwise.
The Lord twice states explicitly that David’s actions “displeased” Him. Second Samuel 11 records David’s adultery with Bathsheba and ensuing murder of Uriah. The narrative concludes with these sober words: “But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord” (2 Samuel 11:27, ESV). And again, when David took a census of the people we read, “But God was displeased with this thing and struck Israel” (1 Chronicles 21:7). Both instances brought severe consequences from the Lord. David lost the child conceived in his adulterous affair, suffered treachery in his own family, and faced the sword in his house the rest of his days. Israel faced great loss of life as the consequence for David taking the census.
The test of a man after God’s own heart is not whether he is sinless (no one is), but what he does when confronted with his sin.
Psalm 51 answers that question for David. Listen to David’s casting himself on the Lord’s mercy in the first two verses: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!”
These words come from a “broken and contrite heart.” That posture refuses to view displeasing God with a cavalier attitude. It accepts the magnitude of disobedience and deeply sorrows for grieving God. The words of repentance represent a turning away from evil, not a ritualistic formula to repeat before indulging again. David obeys what God declares through Ezekiel, “so turn and live” (Ezekiel 18:32).
God’s grace does not offer license to sin without repercussion. God is displeased when people called by His name depart from His ways. He will bring appropriate consequences as the discipline of a loving Father (Hebrews 12).
Both correction and consequences display God’s grace. Sin destroys. Grace restores. God’s grace convicts of wrongdoing. God’s grace provided the payment for wrongdoing in Jesus Christ. Jesus paid for David’s sin (Romans 3:25-26) just as He paid for our sin. That payment manifests “the grace of God that brings salvation” (Titus 2:11).
We need God’s grace to keep from cheapening disobedience into a laughing matter that God shrugs off. Disobeying God always costs. We find refuge from the full impact of the cost in Christ alone as we humbly accept that we have displeased God and cast ourselves on His mercy.