A Great Role Model—or Not?

"I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.”—Acts 13:22

A Great Role Model?


Did David really do everything the Lord wanted him to do? What earned him the title “a man after God’s own heart” and gave him more space in the Bible than anyone, including Jesus?

Is David a good role model? Is his life something to emulate?

The strength of David’s story, says Eugene Peterson, is that “David deals with God. As an instance of humanity in himself, he isn’t much. He has little wisdom to pass on to us on how to live successfully. He was an unfortunate parent and an unfaithful husband. From a purely historical point of view he was a barbaric chieftain with a talent for poetry. But David’s importance isn’t his morality or his military prowess but in his experience of and witness to God. Every event in his life was a confrontation with God.”


For some of us with a hero worship ideal of David, that statement is harsh and disillusioning. But we can’t skirt the facts of David’s life. He did what he did, and that statement is accurate. That’s what makes David so important.

John Calvin wrote, “Let us therefore remember that David is like a mirror, in which God sets before us the continual course of His grace.”

David learned from his mistakes, repented of his sins, and paid dearly for some of his sins.  But he always turned back to the Lord, always cried out to Him for mercy and strength.

He proclaimed, out of the depths of his heart, “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart.” (Psalm 51).

David wasn’t much of a role model, but he was an example of loving God with passion, and of allowing God to love him and mold him into the man after God’s heart.

“Have mercy upon me, O God… Create in me a clean heart.” —Psalm 51, a prayer of David

Ray Bentley