In history, only David was considered and referred to a man after God’s own heart in the Bible. This had absolutely nothing to do with perfectionism. A man after God’s own heart is one who seeks to actively live in obedience to God while being captivated by the beauty, sufficiency, and necessity of God and is one who responds properly when confronted with his sin.
It is this certitude that distinguishes David from Saul and David from most other people.
David’s life wasn’t perfect – He committed adultery with Bathsheba and went ahead to kill her husband, Uriah, who was not an Israelite but a Hittite. As if killing Uriah was not enough, David married Bathsheba, but their first child died as punishment from God for his adultery and murder of Uriah. If he was to be taken to court he would be sentenced to death or life imprisonment.
Because of who God is, His choice of a king does relate to a character. Saul was disqualified from kingship because of his lack of character and obedience to God. On the other hand, David exemplified the character of one who is devoted to God throughout the book of 1 Samuel.
Comparing the two, David appears to be completely the opposite of Saul in quite a number of ways. He waits upon the Lord. He seeks God’s will above his own. Even in his sin, David is sensitive to Nathan’s confrontation. It is clear that David is a special character in the Scriptures. So, even though the phrase “a man after God’s own heart” should be viewed as a phrase relating to choice (not character), the choice does relate to a character. David was God’s choice.
It clearly evident that there is indeed a very big difference in how Saul and David responded to their sins;
After he won the battle against the Amalekites, Saul was confronted by Samuel for his disobedience in allowing the king and his family to live as well as spare some good looking livestock. He tried to justify his sin by saying that they only kept the best of the livestock in order to offer a sacrifice the Lord (1 Sam 15:21)
David, on the other hand, reacted exactly the opposite of how Saul did. When confronted with his horrific sin of adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband, he quickly accepted responsibility and repented. He acknowledges the fact that he had sinned against God (2 Sam 12:5-13)
David responded with humility and true repentance by agreeing with God when his sin was made evident to him. He was indeed a man after God’s own heart.
Recognizing that we aren’t perfect, we need a Savior, and that we should strive to be continually repentant when we stray from God’s law is what we ought to embrace. Good luck folks!