Reading the history of David’s life, it is evident leading up to his sin with Bathsheba that David was not a perfect man. For instance, he very nearly destroyed an entire household simply because Nabal would not give him provisions when he and his army were in need (1 Sam. 25). But very little could have prepared us to expect David to fall as far as he did when he took another man’s wife and arranged for the death of her husband (2 Sam. 11). Here was a man who was supposed to be one after God’s own heart (1 Sam. 13:14; 16:1–13). How can a man after God’s own heart have sunk so low? Did the Lord misjudge David when He chose him to be king?
Of course not. David was a man after God’s own heart not because he was perfect but because his love for the Lord and the Lord’s ways was the driving force in his life when we consider David’s life as a whole. We find some of the best evidence for this in today’s passage.
David may have thought that he would get away with adultery and murder, but God loves His children too much to let their sin go unaddressed and undisciplined (Prov. 3:11–12; Heb. 12:5–6). So, He sent Nathan the prophet to confront David regarding his transgression. We should see Nathan’s approach as nothing less than masterful. The prophet did not accuse David of sin directly—to do so might have gotten him expelled from the court or worse. Moreover, it might not have been very convincing. Nathan very smartly told a parable about a rich and powerful man who took the one thing that belonged to a lesser figure—just as David took the one wife of a man with a position far lower than his own. And once David rightly recognized the evil of the powerful man in the parable, Nathan revealed the true story behind the parable, allowing David to convict himself with his own words (2 Sam. 12:1–12).
Although David had ignored God’s law in the matter of Bathsheba, he returned to his senses once he heard from the Lord through the prophet. His heart was softened, he confessed his sin, and God forgave him (vv. 13–15a). Matthew Henry notes the true repentance seen here: “David says not a word to excuse himself or extenuate his sin, but freely owns it.” David had done great evil, but when God showed him his sin, he agreed with the Lord’s evaluation. That is what it means for sinners to be people after God’s own heart—not to attain perfection on this side of glory but to so love the Lord that we agree with Him about the truth of our sin and turn from it when we see it.