“The LORD has sought out a man after His own heart and appointed Him ruler of His people.” (1 Samuel 13:14)
Hero, shepherd, warrior, psalmist, lover of God—that’s how King David is still remembered among Jews and Gentiles alike.
Born in 907 BC, David reigned for 40 years as Israel’s second king, handpicked by the Lord Himself because David proved to be a man after the heart of God.
David’s passionate pursuit of God is obvious in the songs of praise, repentance, adoration, and lament that he wrote, sang, and accompanied with the playing of musical instruments.
“I will praise you with the harp for your faithfulness, my God; I will sing praise to you with the lyre, Holy One of Israel. My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you—I whom you have delivered. My tongue will tell of your righteous acts all day long.” (Psalm 71:22–24)
So anointed was David as a musician that his playing of the lyre is the only thing that brought King Saul peace while he was being tormented by an evil spirit. (1 Samuel 16:23)
His psalms still move us 3,000 years later; his beautiful lyrics of praise and worship are sung and often hang in the homes of people of many faiths, such as the Shepherd’s Psalm:
“The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters.” (Psalm 23:1–2)
Of the 150 psalms of the Tanakh (Old Covenant), at least 73 are generally accepted to be penned by David. Thirteen are believed to be written in direct response to a major event in his life, as we’ll see throughout this article.
Orthodox men and women are often seen reading from the Book of Psalms throughout Israel, especially at the Wailing (Western) Wall. As well, the Psalms comprise a major portion of the siddur or prayer book, which are recited in synagogue services daily.
David: Brave Shepherd, Mighty Warrior, Loyal Subject
Before rising in the ranks as one of Israel’s greatest warriors, David had already earned King Saul’s trust by relieving him of his evil spirit through praise and worship of God. (1 Samuel 16:23)
He first distinguished himself as a mighty hero in Saul’s kingdom when he—a fearless shepherd boy—killed the Philistine’s greatest warrior, Goliath, with a sling and a stone. (1 Samuel 17)
But it wasn’t immediately apparent to those assessing his abilities that he could do this.
King Saul, like any man seeing only the outward appearance, looked at this youngest son of Jesse from Bethlehem and saw inexperience.
He did not see Israel’s champion.
He told David, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth.” (1 Samuel 17:33)
But David knew that victory came from the Lord.
He had learned from an early age that he carried the protection and strength of God in all his dangerous encounters. Moreover, Goliath had defied God, so David reassured Saul, saying:
“Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it.”
“Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” (1 Samuel 17:34–36)
After David’s magnificent and very public victory over Goliath, Saul sent him on many missions for the kingdom. David returned triumphant in all of them, growing in strength, faith, and popularity.
He became a celebrated public figure. The people compared Saul’s prowess with David’s and sang, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.” (1 Samuel 18:7)
Instead of thanking God for the blessings David brought to his kingdom, Saul became jealous and plotted to kill this servant of God.
David Cries out from the Cave
A disobedient king, though appointed by God, cannot last long.
Even before David defeated Goliath, the Spirit of God had already left Saul when he failed to follow the Lord’s commands in battle. So grievous was Saul’s disobedience, in fact, that the Bible tells us “the Lord regretted that He had made Saul king over Israel.” (1 Samuel 15:35)
Without the Spirit of God guiding his thoughts and controlling his actions, Saul’s jealousy of David turned into a murderous frenzy.
Although David fled into the harsh, barren wilderness to save his life, his heart for God did not waiver as he praised the holy name of the Lord:
“I thirst for You, my whole being longs for You, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. I have seen You in the sanctuary and beheld your power and Your glory. Because Your love is better than life, My lips will glorify you.” (Psalm 63:1–3)
David fled south and hid in a cave in the desert at Ein Gedi. There, he wrote Psalm 142, pleading with God for deliverance:
“Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need; rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me. Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name. Then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me.” (Psalm 142:6–7)
When Saul entered the cave, David had the perfect opportunity to defend his own life and take Saul’s. No one would have blamed him if he did—no one but God.
With the power of the Spirit of God on him, David did not do what came naturally for a valiant warrior to do.
Instead, he cut off the corner of Saul’s robe, a symbol of Saul’s authority. But David was conscience-stricken for even that act and said, “The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the Lord.” (1 Samuel 24:6)
David had yet another opportunity to kill Saul. When Saul was told that David had fled to Ziph in the Judean Desert Mountains (Psalm 53), he followed him there with 3,000 select troops.
David and Abishai crept into Saul’s camp unnoticed at night and removed Saul’s spear and water jug as he slept. When Abishai told David he could pin Saul with one thrust of the spear, David commanded:
“Don’t destroy him! Who can lay a hand on the LORD’s anointed and be guiltless?” (1 Samuel 26:9)
David is a role model for us all. During these years of persecution by the man he was loyally serving, David could have wallowed in self-pity and lost all faith in God’s promises on his life.
Instead, David remained loyal to God as well as Saul, trusting God to make him victorious even in this bitter relationship war, as he tells us in Psalm 34, which ends:
“The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all; He protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken. Evil will slay the wicked; the foes of the righteous will be condemned. The Lord will rescue His servants; no one who takes refuge in Him will be condemned.” (Psalm 34:20–22)
After saving his life, Saul repented for his murderous thoughts. David remained loyal to the kingdom, not seeking or taking more than what God was ready to give him.
When Saul died fighting the Philistines, his son Ish-Bosheth took the throne, becoming king over the northern tribes of Israel.
The Lord told David (who is from the tribe of Judah) to move to the Judean city of Hebron.
War ensued, but David continued to grow in stature as a mighty warrior, and in favor with the people. In every challenge, he trusted God for the victory:
“Give us aid against the enemy, for human help is worthless. With God we will gain the victory, and He will trample down our enemies.” (Psalm 60:11–12)
As David was tried through suffering, he was shaped into a Godly leader of noble character so that when his time to shine came, he was ready.
Seven and a half years later, when Ish-Bosheth was assassinated, Israel needed a new king.
In Hebron, the elders of Israel crowned David king, remembering his call to lead: “You shall be shepherd of My people Israel, and you shall be prince over Israel.” (2 Samuel 5:2)
David Reigns from Jerusalem
David’s first act as king was to choose Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, even though it was still in the hands of a Canaanite tribe, the Jebusites. (1 Chronicles 11:4)
When David and his men approached the fortification, the city’s inhabitants mocked them, believing their city was impenetrable.
“The Jebusites said to David, ‘You will not get in here; even the blind and the lame can ward you off.’ They thought, ‘David cannot get in here.’” (2 Samuel 5:6)
The Jebusites thought they had a right to be smug. After all, even the first tribes of Judah and Benjamin who were granted the city by the Lord Himself could not take it. But God granted victory to David.
Rather than use a frontal attack on the fortress, David found a water shaft leading into the city. David offered to make the man who led the invasion through this tunnel his commander-in-chief. (1 Chronicles 11:6)
Joab took the challenge and defeated the city. From that day on, Jerusalem also became known as the City of David, Israel’s capital.
David reigned from Jerusalem over a united Israel for the next 33 years.
As a worship leader and psalmist after God’s heart, David understood how much God loves and deserves worship. That is why he moved the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem in a very public procession in what was perhaps his next major act as king.
The people in the entourage rejoiced in praise with tambourines, cymbals, harps, lyres, singing, and wild dancing, with David in front perhaps displaying the most enthusiasm.
His wife, Michal, who was Saul’s daughter, did not seek after the heart of God like David did, so she didn’t understand how he could act so unkingly in front of his female subjects.
She actually despised David in her heart for the way he worshiped and said to him:
“How the king of Israel honored himself today, uncovering himself … as one of the vulgar fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!” (2 Samuel 6:20)
For despising David in her heart, Michal remained barren for the rest of her life.
David Buys the Deed to the Temple Mount
In 1 Chronicles 21, we read that Satan rose up against Israel, tempting King David to take a census to determine the strength of his military might.
The resulting plague claimed 70,000 lives, but when the Angel of the Lord reached the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite in Jerusalem, the Lord relented. God told David to build an altar there.
The threshing floor was located on Mount Mariah, where Solomon would build the First Temple and Herod would expand the Temple Mount. It is the same mount where Abraham brought Isaac to sacrifice him in obedience to God.
As a warrior king, David could have claimed this piece of real estate as his own. The Jebusite owner, Araunah, even offered to give it to him for free, along with oxen for the first burnt offerings.
But as this was the place where David would make his altar to the Lord, accepting full responsibility for his sin, he refused the offer:
“‘No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.’ So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen and paid fifty shekels of silver for them.” (2 Samuel 24:23–24)
David Disobeys God
The census incident was not the only time David disobeyed the Lord.
This man, who was so faithful to God in even the most adverse trials of faith and war, turned from seeking the rewards of the King in Heaven to seeking the rewards of being a king on earth.
Walking around his rooftop, David saw a beautiful woman bathing and sent for her.
As Jewish tradition goes, Bathsheba was technically not married since her husband was at war. The wives of fighting men were granted conditional divorces lest their husbands go missing in action, leaving their wives unable to remarry.
Nevertheless, God was clearly unhappy with David’s adultery and his indirect assassination of Bathsheba’s husband.
God sent the prophet Nathan to reprove him (2 Samuel 12). Nathan started with a parable of a poor man whose only beloved lamb was stolen and slaughtered for a feast by a rich man, who had many sheep.
David responded with outrage, “The man who did this must die!”
Nathan informed him, “You are that man!”
David expressed his deep remorse in Psalm 51. In it, he cried out to God in confession:
“I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight.” (Psalm 51:3–4)
David still pursued God above all, asking Him to renew and purify his heart:
“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)
As well, David cared deeply about keeping his anointing, unlike Saul perhaps. David pleaded with God, “Do not cast me from Your presence or take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” (Psalm 51:11–12)
God did not remove His Spirit from David, for he would be the anointed king from whose lineage every other king of Judah would rule, including the Messiah (Mashiach—anointed one).
“‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In His days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The Lord Our Righteous Savior.’” (Jeremiah 23:5–6)
Nevertheless, David and Bathsheba both reaped a very grave consequence: the death of the son conceived from their adultery, as well as inner turmoil within the family of David.
This should be a warning for everyone. We still reap the consequences of sin, despite God’s forgiveness. May we be diligent to walk in His ways.
The Coming King
Through David’s anointed leadership and victory over his enemies, all the tribes of Israel were forged into one united, mighty nation.
The nation established its borders from the River Euphrates in the north, to the Red Sea in the south.
“And David defeated Hadadezer king of Zobah as far as Hamath, as he went to establish his power by the River Euphrates …. So David reigned over all Israel, and administered judgment and justice to all his people.” (1 Chronicles 18:3, 14)
Even today, despite attempts by the Palestinians to remove all evidence of an historic Jewish presence in Israel, archaeologists continue to unearth proof going back to King David’s reign in Jerusalem and even Joshua’s entry into the land of Israel.
The ten northern tribes of the Kingdom of Israel rejected Solomon’s son as king, and instead chose someone outside the tribe of Judah, Jeroboam, and formed the northern Kingdom of Israel.
The kings of Judah served as political heads and also as intermediaries between God and the nation, with David’s heart for God and anointed leadership setting the standard. David understood that God was the real king of Israel.
The ultimate heir to the throne is the true intercessor and Messiah, Yeshua, who is born of the tribe of Judah and sits at the right hand of God, interceding on our behalf:
“Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Messiah Yeshua who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” (Romans 8:34)
The reign of kings from the lineage of David seemed to come to a tragic close when both the kingdom of the northern tribes of Israel and the kingdom of Judah were taken into captivity by Babylon due to Israel’s disobedience.
Nevertheless, Yeshua, whose heart for God and anointing surpasses all, will ultimately return to reign on David’s throne over a reunited Israel, indeed over the entire world, from Jerusalem. (Jeremiah 23:5–6)
The angel Gabriel confirmed this to Miriam (Mary):
“You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Yeshua. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1:31–33)
In Yeshua, the monarchy of David will one day be completely fulfilled, and the Kingdom of Heaven will become a physical reality on earth. Still, those who follow in His footsteps, who endeavor to be men and women after God’s own heart, live victoriously in the spiritual reality of God’s Kingdom even today.