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Why Was David “A Man After God’s Own Heart”?

By August 3, 2009July 19th, 2021Devotional, Encouragement, God, Leadership

An often-confusing term concerning the Biblical character of David is the term “man after God’s own heart”.  Have you ever wondered what that really means? What does that kind of heart even look like? This morning I read a verse from the writings of David that I believe perhaps best captures the meaning behind this phrase.

I said to the Lord, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.” Psalms 16:2

David recognized that the only good in him was the God in him.  Great godly leaders are willing to step aside from their own need for ego building and self-confidence and humble themselves before an almighty God.

I have heard before that President Theodore Roosevelt often went outdoors at night, looked up into the vastness of the universe, simply to remind himself of his humanity compared to the vastness of the universe.  I think that is an important principle for all of us that claim a leadership title.

Next time someone asks you why David was called “a man after God’s own heart”, point him or her to Psalm 16:2.

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Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 72 Comments

  • stella sammy says:

    I love God with all my heart. As a child, I grew up in a catholic believers family. I am forth born in my family. three sisters older than me, three sisters younger than me that makes me be in the middle. I am the only child who didn’t receive sacrament. I remember those days when coming from church with my age mates I would pull them to independent church just to hear and see how jump and beat the drums though unfortunately we weren’t allowed to enter but stand at the main entrance. At the of teenager I received Lord as my Savior at age 24 in home fellowship. I didn’t know how to pray but surrounded myself with sisters. The town and estate I was living by then had so many funny history. I remember a sister who share a testimony to me and little I didn’t know the words in that testimony would soon save me. There were knocks from outside my window it went on and at times a strong wind would blow inside my room even as the door and the window were closed. Out of curiosity I went in my window to confirm if I had locked it but moment I pulled the curtain I heard a very loud knock and felt as if my heart was knocked. Unknown to me I used the testimony and said “ooh the blood of Jesus, rescue me” immediately I heard something very heavy fell down that shook the room and I started to talk by saying these words “Satan and your demons I don’t care who sent you to torment Mr but I command you this moment that whatever you were sent to do, go back to your sender and do the same for I am a child of God covered and surrounded by His blood. Early in the morning I went out and saw deep crows from the outside of my window. From that moment I knew that the name and the blood of Jesus are very powerful and from that time my spiritual life changed and desired nothing but the things of God. At times I feel like quitting because of challenges I encounter but the compliments I receive from my friends and close relatives gives me more desire to know about God. I have dozens of testimonies which I can’t explain here. I am an intercessor, praise and worshipper and have more than 17 songs that are yet to be recorded mostly worship. 2012 I fell sick and the sickness left me partially deaf and blurred vision and as a result, I lost friends, being looked down upon, jobless and lots of stigmatization but all these has never stolen what God planted in me.

  • mary says:

    We don't escape sin, so even at our best its like filthy rags. Understanding sin comes form the heart then in the mind, our thoughts. Try to capture your thoughts and align them with Gods commandments. I think you will be shocked to see how much violation there is against the commandments. It truly is our LOVE FOR GOD, our willingness to try to strive to do his will, and yes we will fall and sin but we get back up repent in our hearts and try again to walk the straight road, because we love him.

  • mary says:

    Although David did have sin, remember the Lord said that LOVE covers a multitude of sin. David Love the lord. Remember when the prostitute cleaned the feet of the Lord with her hair. THe lord was touch because of that he saw in her for him, more so impressed than the Jews who kept the law that sat beside him. LOVE the fist 2 commandments in the BIBLE. May we all love the Lord as David and the prostitute. May we love his word and yes we fall short of the law it is love that covers that sin.

  • Dorcus Lama says:

    This is encouraging and challenging at the same time. Looking at the characteristics why David was called A a man after Gd's own heart i realize how much i have to wake up from my slumber and get up to the challenge. God help me become a better woman that is after you heart alone.

    Dorcus Lama

  • Komanx

    I am gay from Iraq, I attained Engineering cectfiirates in Chemical, Nuclear, and Environment. […] unfortunately this relationship is considered weird and not acceptable in my society and therefore I suffer rejection and bad treatement. I wonder whether there is a possibility to help me overcome this problem. For your early reply I remainGay Engineer HayderBaghdad-Iraq

    • Larry says:

      Komanx….is there a rating for a high or low sin to God…no.. we are all guilty…and all in need of
      a desperatly needed saviour….Receive your saviour Jesus and treat him like a treasure and look
      not apon yourself to save you ..but let Jesus do the saving.

  • Enno says:

    David was a Godly man as he was very humble and a man after the heart of God.
    Although he sinned as any human nature, he was quick to repent and bow before almighty knowing that he wronged the master of life.He was ready and transparently regretful of his sins and he was also very forging.
    He was a man after the heart of God.

  • Nathan says:

    God look's at everyone heart and expects us to live holy lives pure and walk in righteousness and obey his commands …… Just like Samuel we tend to look at people from an outward view but God look's at our hearts and God was trying to help Samuel understand that because he struggled with just looking at peoples outward apparent's. God out of love show Samuel to look more at people's hearts rather than their outside because many people can fool us but can not fool God…That's why God pick David he was a humble man who loved God and sought out his face each day he surrounded himself around God….And despite his failures he loved God with all his heart he asked God to forgive him and i believe that's what made him a great king..He knew when he was wrong got on his knee's asked God to forgive hi and he turn away from sin and that's when he knew he needed God more and he became wiser and got to know God on a deeper level..Just like we do. At one point we all turn our own ways thinking we know better but God know's everything our lives are an open book before him our entire life from beginning to end are laid before him we just need to trust in him always he is God and he know's best our lives are in his control… Amen be bless..

  • Stephan Marais says:

    Thabks Ron, the verse I am struggling with is 1 Kings 15:5, where God says that David never did anything to displease him, except in the case of Uriah. But David not only broke his vow to Shimei, but also took revenge. Thanks so much, Stephan.

    • ronedmondson says:

      The “man after God’s own heart” was not a man without sin. He was a man whose heart always led him back to God. 1 Kings 15:5 does not mean that the only sin in David’s life was the one surrounding his adultery with Bathsheba and subsequent murder of Uriah. 1 Kings 15:5 singles out this single sin of David as an exception to his usual obedience to God, because of this one was not easily reconciled and he continued to drift further into more sins to cover up the first sin. It was as if David, "the man after God's own heart" was on a downward spiral during that time, not reflective of someone with a heart like God's.

  • Stephan Marais says:

    How do the above verses link up with Romans 12:19 'Never take revenge my friends, but let God's anger do it.?

    • ronedmondson says:

      David was not a perfect man. Neither am I am neither are you. Jesus, the only perfect man, redeemed sinners like us…and David. David had a heart that repented when approached by Nathan the prophet.Thanks so much

  • Stephan Marais says:

    All quotations from Good News edition. 1 Kings 2:8. 'There is also Shimei son of Gera, from the town of Bahurim in Benjamin. He cursed me biiterly the day I went to Manhanaim, but when he met the at the River Jordan, I gave him my solemn promise in the name of the Lord that I would not have him killed. 9. But you must not let him go unpunished. You know what to do, and you must see to it that he is put to death'.

    1 Kings 15:5. The Lord did this because David was had done what pleased him and had never disobeyed any of his coomands, except in the case of Uriah the Hittite.

  • Dave says:

    Brian, I was all set to agree with you. . .until I looked up the use of kardia in Acts 13:22. According to BDAG, this falls under the 5th usage "of the emotions, wishes, desires" and more specifically here "of the wish or desire of God …after God’s heart i.e. as God wishes him to be."

    The rest of the verse makes it clear that the way in which David fit this distinction was that he did everything that God wanted him to do. This forms a sharp contrast between David and Saul…as well as between David and Solomon (1 Kings 11:4) or Jeroboam (1 Kings 15:3), etc.

  • Brian says:

    I think it's an both/and not an either/or. Noah D. Roberts is right, but Acts 13:22 also confirms that David was in a unique way a man after God's own heart.

  • LindaLou says:

    I like this question and I especially like the answer of Noah D. Roberts 73 weeks ago. Hi Noah D. Roberts. I am realizing more and more in my Bible studies and time alone with the Lord that He has done the choosing. We think we are responsible for many things that we really are not. He needed a David and He chose one for Himself. We are not that good, after all, that God is so impressed with any of us. It's His mercy and grace that has made a way for us, not the other way around. Thanks for the opportunity to commment.

  • tendai says:

    im very much encouraged by david's life, it gives me hope….

  • ronedmondson says:

    Good thoughts…I like it.

  • revtrev says:

    I've often thought about the difference between David and Saul…Saul did everything out of fear while 7 times we're told "David sought the Lord"… with 7 being the number of completeness and wholeness I think it gives us a clue why David was "a man after [God's] own heart."

    We've got to be led by the Spirit. Jesus told his disciples "Buy a sword" and 11 verses later He rebuked them for using it. We can be obedient and then assume the next logical step and get into a heap of trouble.

  • john says:

    I believe that this statement made by God himself,says of David andcould be said of anyone seeking God,that when we want to know God`s heart we want to know His ways His thoughts,His perspective,His will for us.

  • Travis says:

    The mention of David's sin being more egregious is in error. David's sin never led him to intentional disobedionce, hatred of God's people, and idolatry as did Saul's. David sinned, but not of deliberate intent. Moreover, he immediately was remorsed because of his sin (no the consequences) and took his sin straight to God. His heart was troubled at any sin in his life and his heart sought after God.

    • ronedmondson says:

      No argument about his heart's intent..that's why he was "a man after God's own heart" and Saul wasn't.

    • Katie says:

      Travis, I really don't think that David was "immediately" remorseful… he slept with Bathsheba, killed Uriah and then when Nathan points out to him his sin (through the story of the rich and poor man with their sheep) he repents. And part of Nathan's warning included all sorts of warnings about how God would punish him and his household.

    • Jsmith says:

      David's sin was deliberate and intentional. After he looked. He deliberately inquired as to who is she. Then AFTER KNOWING WHO'S WIFE SHE WAS had someone go and "fetch her" for himself KNOWING HER HUSBAND WAS OUT FIGHTING DAVID'S WAR. Then AFTER KNOWING SHE WAS PREGNANT had her husband come home with the INTENT (intentional plan) TO COVER UP his sin. He then PURPOSELY PLANNED TO HAVE HER HUSBAND KILLED so he could not say he did not sleep with his own wife during the time of war. His remorse was VERY SLOW in coming NEVER immediate until his sin was EXPOSED. He knew God's law …that except for God's grace…deserved DEATH. This sin is few that REQUIRED DEATH by God's law. He broke covenant of marriage. He broke God's law. He was to be out to war….should not of been in the palace to begin with according to scripture. The judgement and discipline of God shows the seriousness of David's sin. It was said of David that he "DESPISED GOD'S COMMANDS" because he wanted to make up rules for himself NOT follow God's. He was a THIEF, a LIAR, a DECEIVER, a MURDERER, and one who DESPISES GOD. According to 1 sam 13-13-14 a man after God's own heart is one who "Keeps God's Commands" David did not. He WAS a man after God's own heart. Then he WAS NOT. But he ended his life "remembering from whence he had fallen" and returned through repentance to become once more a "man after God's own heart". God DESIRED to do so much more for David, but could not now (2 sam 12:8) The consequences were now PERMANENT. David's sin allowed God's enemies to BLASPHEME God ( 1 sam 12:13-14). This IS AN EGREGIOUS SIN in David's day, as well as in ours today. If our body is the "temple of God" then he desecrated and defiled something that was not his but God's

      • ronedmondson says:

        All we like sheep have gone astray. Thankful for grace that satisfied the law.

  • Ric says:

    Thanks for all the insights guys! they were really helpful

  • Jeff F. says:

    The extraordinary power of letting go of self, and letting God have his way is the key to living an abundant life in Christ. When David surrendered his heart to the Lord, he realized that he was nothing with Jehovah Jireh (The Lord who provides). As human beings, we wrestle with allowing God to take control, because He will take us to places of unknown territory that will increase us in Him.

  • Mary Tackett says:

    I have read sold out to the Lord.

    I have been trying to do that.and as hard

    as try to understand I cant seem to reach

    that in my life

    • ronedmondson says:

      I'm praying for you Mary

    • larry says:

      Mary ….me and you might be in the same boat…I have tried desperatly to live righteously. only to end
      a failure to God..but I am starting to lean on Christ more that there is no good thing inside me to be
      worthy of life except Gods gift that his son paid the price for my past and future sins

      • ronedmondson says:

        Thank you

      • katoanh says:

        Mary, take another look at David, David confessed his wrongs but the key is that he when to God and poured his heart out to him and David focused on Gods righteousness and forgiveness. David was confident in God hearts and not his own heart. Mary remember we all sin but God is righteousness focus on Gods mercy and not your righteousness.


    I mean thatI am totlly consfused about ” man after God’s own heart” please what is the meaning?

  • Noah D. Roberts says:

    In the original Hebrew, the meaning appears to be a bit different than how it is translated in English. The phrase "after his own heart" appears to be referring to the act of God choosing rather than to the man. Essentially, "after his own heart" means "according to his (God's) own choosing" which is intended to be a contrast to Saul who was the choice of the people of Israel. The verse could be more easily understood if it were translated into English as " Yahweh has sought out a man according to his own choosing…" or a bit more awkwardly, "Yahweh has sought out, according to his own choosing, a man…" Of course, David was a great man of God in many respects and extremely flawed at the same time. At our best, we are still in this category. From a merely human perspective, David's sins seem far more egregious than Saul's, but God's point is that he chose David (with all of his flaws) to be the king over his people and to be in the line that would bring about the Savior of the world. It was not dependent on David's holiness, but God's faithfulness. This is why David gets all the press throughout the rest of Scripture. Of course, all that you have said about David's repentance, his servant's heart and all the rest is true, and his constant faith in Yahweh as his delight and deliverer is a model for all believers.

    • ronedmondson says:

      Thanks for your great insight Noah. Great name too! (Gen 6:22…one of my favorite verses!)

    • Sheila says:

      Thank you. This makes sense and helps me understand what can sometimes be a puzzling statement

    • Buddy says:

      Noah, What Bible are you reading? Have you 1 Sam 9,10,11. God clearly chose Saul and then says, I am grieved that I have chosen Saul.

      • Bheki says:

        Buddy! There may be debates about what you are saying. My understanding is that the people of Israel pestered God and said they wanted a king just as other nations had kings; it was not God's idea that they have a king. God anointed their choice of Saul; however with David, God chose him Himself

    • katoanh says:

      I totally Agree!! yes, It was God's goodness and David saw that. God is demonstrating Mercy once again to show us so we can see its not about our goodness because we have none. God bless

    • Bheki says:

      Great note Noah!!! 4 days ago when praying I heard God, in my spirit, say to me "You have my heart!" It is the reason why I googled the topic. Stay Blessesd!!!!!

    • pas Bernard Ettuaful says:

      Dear rev the choices of God comes after we are on his heart. So David first pleased God before He chooses him.

  • candace siebert says:

    Can,t we all really relate to David? His mistakes and his PAIN!!!

    I am fascinated by David because I so appreciate his willingness to be

    REAL! He sincerely loved the Lord, yet sinned and repented earnestly! He teaches us that there is no sin or trouble bigger than our God!

    • I can relate well Candace…I’m glad the Bible points us to real people and let’s us see their good and bad sides.

      • katoanh says:

        when I read the response David wrote to God it seems like David never thought about himself at all but he focused on God goodness alone. Each key point made me realize why David was a man after God's own heart and that's because he understood he needed God, David knew God was not in his works but outside of his own goodness. He knew God as faithful, as a forgiver, as a protector and so did Abraham and that's why they all when down in history as men of faith, you see God is looking for us to have faith. in the old testament it was by works, when they offer up sacrifices that was consider works, David was demonstrating faith which was introduced in the new testament which was a foreshadows in the old. David sort mercy not forgive by his own goodness.David sin many times but he has confidence in Gods goodness and Gods love and that's what God wants us to have in him, not basing our own goodness as a way to his heart but complete trust in him because when someone trust you feel respected, you feel loved, you feel joy and , you know you are in a real relationship and that's worship.. David knew he wasn't god but only God!! Amen.

  • Josephine Williams says:

    I believe David had a shepherds heart, he was a worshiper

    and he delighted in doing Gods will, He forgave his enemies and didnt retaliate even when he had opportunity e.g. to kill King Saul, more importantly proved it, by taking Sauls grandson Mephibosheth into his family and making sure he was cared for for the rest of his life. No wonder he was a man after God's own heart.

    • Great thoughts Josephine. I’m actually updating this post for next week, so good timing.

    • Olayemi 'Ysaint' Ogunlowo says:

      God bless you all. I actually searched for this because of what was revealed to me. I was so glad when I came across Josephine Williams’ comment and the confirmation of Bob Johnson. Basically David HAS A SHEPHERD’S HEART after God’s Heart. With this heart he wrote Psalm 23. God’s ancient profession is Shepherd. Could this be the reason why God reckon with Shepherds and the ones who tend the flock? Starting from Abel and the shepherds whom the Angels appeared to at the birth of Jesus. Its not about the profession but the heart of the profession. That’s why David is a man after God’s OWN HEART. Shalom

  • Ron says:

    Great insight Bob. Thanks for sharing.

  • kola sobakin says:

    David was indeed a man after God’s heart . Take a critical look at those circumstances he had the opportunities to kill his enemies and he spared them. Many of us will move in quickly without 2nd thought and destroy our enemies. This only remind me of Jesus on the cross. The way he quickly admits his faults without excuses. The way he forgives. The way he praises and celebrates God. The heart to build a house for God. His offerings- must be costly. Please read the book of psalms for more.

  • Mary Tackett says:

    I had heard that David knew how to repent
    this is why the bible says that “David was a man
    after God’s own heart

    • Ron says:

      It was David’s heart that made him a man after God’s own heart. I was only listed an example of that heart. Yours is right also! 🙂

  • Ron says:

    I totally agree. When we look at David we can be reminded that as frail as we are we too can have that kind of heart. David was not perfect, but his heart was pointed towards God, even to the end of his days.

    Consider some of his last words even after some of his greatest sins:

    1 Chronicles 29:10-13

    David praised the Lord in the presence of the whole assembly, saying, "Praise be to you, O Lord, God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.

    There is hope for even someone like me!

    • Joshua says:

      I am 28 years old and my name is Joshua from the time i was little my mother had me in church but win i was 6 or 7 my mom and dad split up and then my whole world fell apart my mother starting look to drugs and other men to fell that void i fell into some of the same things even the drugs but i still look to god ever day i have been off drugs for a year but i still burn with lust . kind of just like David did for bath S and other thing as well please pray for me i want to be a man after gods own heart as well

  • Steve Tucker says:

    I often think that this statement was "overrated"! It was said early in Davids life. And if he was a man after Gods own heart, then it give me great hope to know how he turned out. A man full of all kinds of sin to wear that title give me a chance.

    Love the verse that goes you shared. What makes us a man after Gods own heart? Letting God have control. Easier said than done, but I keep striving to give God the controls.
    .-= Steve Tucker´s last blog ..Welcome to My World =-.

    • nate says:

      David was a man after God's own heart not because of his sins, but because of his humility and desire to Grow in God's Word. You dont have to be spotless/perfect to be after God's heart, its your desire to build a relationsip with him, and growing in his spirit.

      Why is it that Christians think that being full of sins is worse than commiting few sins? SIN IS SIN. There is no difference, or special ranking to what sin is. They all deserve the same punishment. If anything, rejecting christ is the worst sin anyone can commit.

    • freddy says:

      man after God's own heart . in no way the scripture compare David to God. it is just a reminder of a man seeking God's presence by singing, song of praise. something David always did …