“For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
I have joined a ladies Bible study on Monday nights and we are currently reading through the stories of King David. Many of you may know that David was considered a man after God’s own heart.
God said, “I have found in David… a man after my heart, who will do all my will” (Acts 13:22).
When I studied about David before, I questioned David’s title – a man after God’s own heart – primarily due to the Bathsheba scandal, then later, the problems with the census, along with other mistakes he made (see 2 Samuel 11-12 and 2 Samuel 24). But going through those stories again, I am seeing David (and God) in new light.
So, what does it mean to be a person “after God’s own heart”?
So far, I’ve gleaned two answers (of many) to that question. First of all, having God’s own heart is not about being worthy. God chose David even before worthiness or unworthiness had had a chance to be determined. While David was still a boy, the Lord sought him out and chose him to be “prince over his people” (1 Samuel 13:14).
Having God’s own heart is not about being perfect either. David’s mistakes are evidence of that. He did not have a perfect track record. He made mistakes over his lifetime that cost thousands of people their lives, even people in his own family. Yet God still blessed him. God still used him. That doesn’t mean the mistakes or the wrongs were looked over or ignored. Quite the opposite. David’s mistakes and wrongs were not a part of God’s heart and needed to be removed… daily.
What’s telling about David is that whenever he was confronted with his sin, his first reaction was honest remorse. He didn’t make excuses. He didn’t pass the buck. He admitted his wrong and accepted the consequences. In the incident with Bathsheba, David responded to his guilt by saying, “I have sinned against the Lord.” When he realized his sin in the census situation, the Bible says “David’s heart struck him,” and he said “O Lord, please take away the iniquity of your servant, for I have done very foolishly” (2 Samuel 24:10). Every time he realized his heart was unbalanced or moving away from God’s own heart, he pleaded with God to fix it. To balance it. To make it again like God’s heart. And God did that… every time.
Second of all, being a person after God’s own heart means seeking God. Seeking God’s help. Seeking God’s strength. Seeking God’s wisdom and God’s will. David sought God in everything he did. From the very beginning, the Bible says, “David strengthened himself in the Lord his God” (1 Samuel 30:6). When he faced his enemies, he brought his fears to the Lord. “Deliver me from my enemies O my God” (Psalm 59:1). When he wasn’t sure whether or not to go up against his enemies, he asked, “Shall I go up against the Philistines?” (2 Samuel 5:14). When he needed answers or help, “David sought the face of the Lord” (2 Samuel 21:1). In Psalm 34:4, David said, “I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.”
David wanted his heart, his movements, his actions, and his will to be fully aligned with God’s. He wanted the same for his family and he wanted the same for his people. David charged his people to, “Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!” (1 Chronicles16:11) Later to the leaders of Israel, David commanded, “Set your mind and heart to seek the Lord your God” (1 Chronicles 22:19). In his last days, he prayed, “O Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, our fathers, keep forever such purposes and thoughts in the hearts of your people, and direct their hearts toward you” (1Chronicles 29:18).
Is that it? Is that all we need to know about being a person after God’s own heart?
Well, it’s a start, but that’s not all there is. (Sorry.) That’s not even all there is to the David story. We could talk for hours on David’s worship life, his thankfulness and humbleness towards God. We could talk of the way he trusted God and was confident in God’s promises to him, to his family, to his people, and of the coming Christ. David’s story is a great example of a human-to-God relationship that God was pleased with. And David’s story gets us ready for the ultimate relationship of Jesus to his Father. And that was new light for me.
May God grant us the Spirit to continually seek His face, so much so, that when God looks at our hearts He sees His own.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and uphold me with a willing spirit” (Psalm 51:10-12).