Friday, September 14, 2018

David, A Man After God's Own Heart

We read in the book of Acts that the apostle Paul said, "After removing Saul, [God] made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’" (Ac 13:22, NIV; c.f., 1 Sam 13:14). Have you ever wondered why God considered David a man after His own heart, despite his failures? In this article, I'd like to explore the reasons why God so esteemed him, and in doing so to show the character traits we should earnestly desire to have, if we would aspire to be men and women after God's own heart as he was.

Devoted to His Will
The first reason why David was esteemed by God that way was that he would do everything the Lord wanted him to do. That was the explicit reason God Himself cited (1 Sam 13:14). As a man who was fully devoted to the Lord His God (1 Ki 15:3), he was surrendered to the will of God, or you could say he had given himself over to it, which was in stark contrast to Saul, who at best only partially obeyed the Lord.

King David Playing the Harp
by Gerard van Honthorst
David did not fail to keep the Lord's commands. "For David had done what was right in the eyes of the Lord and had not failed to keep any of the Lord's commands all the days of his life -- except in the case of Uriah the Hittite." (1 Ki 15:5 cf., 1Ki 11:34, 38; 14:8, NIV). Any understanding of being a man or woman after God's own heart is truly incomplete that does not take into account the need to do what is right in His eyes and obey His commands.

The Psalms provide us with a very good picture of David's attitude in this respect. David wrote, "Sacrifice and meal offering You have not desired; My ears You have opened; Burnt offering and sin offering You have not required. Then I said, 'Behold, I come; In the scroll of the book it is written of me. I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your Law is within my heart.'" (Psa 40:6-8). Aside from the fact that this is a Messianic prayer that prophetically describes Christ's attitude toward the Father, it was David's attitude as well. His desire was to do God's will. It was like the slave that says to his master, "Your wish is my command." In other words, if the master even wishes for something, I will act upon it as if it were a command.

We see an actual example of such an instance when David once wished for water from the well in his hometown, and his three mighty men jumped at the opportunity to satisfy his desire, even risking their lives to do so. Scripture states: "David had a craving and said, 'Oh that someone would give me water to drink from the well of Bethlehem which is by the gate!' So the three mighty men broke through the camp of the Philistines, and drew water from the well of Bethlehem which was by the gate, and took it and brought it to David. Nevertheless he would not drink it, but poured it out to the Lord; and he said, 'Be it far from me, O Lord, that I should do this. Shall I drink the blood of the men who went in jeopardy of their lives?' Therefore he would not drink it. These things the three mighty men did." (2 Sa 23:15-17). While David did not expect them to do that, they loved him so much they were willing to risk their own lives to fulfill his desire. That's the attitude that David had toward God.

Referring to Christ, the apostle quoted Psalm 40 in Hebrews when he wrote, "Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says, 'Sacrifice and offering you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me; in whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin you have taken no pleasure.' Then I said, 'Behold, I have come (in the scroll of the book it is written of me) to do your will, O God.' After saying above, 'Sacrifices and offerings and whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin you have not desired, nor have you taken pleasure in them" (which are offered according to the Law), then He said, 'Behold, I have come to do your will.' He takes away the first in order to establish the second. By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." (Heb 10:5-10)

The reason for the difference of wording from Psalm 40 is that the apostle in Hebrews quoted from the Septuagint, which was the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible. In quoting this, the apostle shows that this was the attitude of Christ toward the Father: "Behold, I have come to do your will." In saying so, He declared His purpose in life, which should also be my purpose and yours if we desire to be men and women after God's own heart.

That's exactly what the apostle Peter taught, saying that we should live the rest of our lives on earth for the will of God. He wrote: "Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God." (1Pe 4:1-2).

Likewise, the apostle Paul admonished the Ephesian church to "find out what pleases the Lord." (Eph 5:10, NIV). He told them, "Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is." (Eph 5:17). We, too, should find out what pleases the Lord and understand what His will is.

As Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, "He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf." (2Co 5:15). In saying this, he taught that everyone who is alive on earth should live for Christ and not for himself.

Moreover, the apostle John taught the same thing when he wrote, "The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever." (1Jn 2:17). This shows that doing the will of God is necessary for eternal life. Some people would baulk at that, but isn't that what the Lord taught? He said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." (Mat 7:21, NIV).

For more on the topics covered in this section, please see Walking in the Perfect Will of GodPleasing the Lord, The Way, Will, and Word of GodObedient to the Heavenly VisionIs Obedience Optional?The Obedience of FaithDoing What is Right and Righteous Deeds and White Robes.

Following the Lord with All His Heart
Another reason why David was considered a man after God's own heart is that he followed the Lord with all his heart, doing what was right in God's eyes. God said:

"I tore the kingdom away from the house of David and gave it to you, but you have not been like my servant David, who kept my commands and followed me with all his heart, doing only what was right in my eyes." (1Ki 14:8).

Anyone who desires to be a man after God's own heart must follow the Lord with all his heart. The Lord Jesus says to us "Come, follow Me," and He has set an example for us, that we should follow in His steps (Mt 4:19; 1 Pe 2:21).

For more on that topic, please see Following in His Steps.

Knowing the Lord
Another reason why David was considered a man after God's own heart was that he knew the Lord. I don't mean a mere head knowledge, but an intimately personal knowledge. He knew the Lord as his shepherd (Ps 23:1), his sustainer (Ps 54:4), his fountain (Ps 68:26), his rock (Ps 28:1; 31:3), his strength (Ps 18:1; 59:17), his shield (Ps 3:3), his fortress (Ps 31:3), his stronghold (Ps 59:17), his deliverer (Ps 40:13,17; 41:1; 68:20; 70:5), his comforter (Ps 86:17), his Lord (Ps 38:22; 51:15), and his Savior (Ps 38:22; 55:16; 68:19). When you know the Lord this way, it's more than just information about Him that you know, but rather you have a personal relationship with Him.

The Scripture says that Adam knew Eve, and she conceived and bore him a son (Gen 4:1). The Hebrew word for "knew" in this passage is "yada" meaning "to know", which indicates that Adam had intimate relations with his wife. God desires to have a very close and personal relationship with each one of us as well, which is how we will come to know Him and take His heart for our very own.

The apostle teaches us that this is the way it is for each of us who enter into the New Covenant with the Lord. "No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest." (Heb 8:11, NIV).

In His high priestly prayer on the night He was betrayed, Jesus prayed, "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." (Joh 17:3). This means that the very essence of eternal life is to know the only true God and His Son Jesus Christ. What could be more essential to seeking after God's own heart?

John affirmed the need to know God and His Son in order to have eternal life. He wrote: "And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life." (1Jn 5:20)

When we know the Lord, God sheds His love abroad in our hearts, and we receive in our hearts the same love that He has for Jesus. For Jesus prayed, "And I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them." (Joh 17:26)

Conversely, those who do not know the Lord do not have eternal life, but are destroyed. Paul said, "He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you." (2 Thes 1:8-10, NIV).

For more on this, please see Knowing the LordFrom Religion to Relationship, and Having the Love of God in Your Heart.

Being Made Holy
A third reason why David was called a man after God's own heart was that he desired to be holy, which is something we should all desire and strive for.

Going back to the Hebrews passage I cited earlier, it states, "Then he said, 'Here I am, I have come to do your will.'...And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." (Heb 10:9-10). This teaches us that by the very will of God, which Jesus came to do, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of His body, if we have put our faith in Him to save us. This places the process of being made holy in the past tense ("we have been made holy"), which means it is a completed work of sanctification.

However, the apostle goes on to say, "For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy." (Heb 10:14, NIV). This means that by Christ's sacrifice on the cross, He has already made us perfect forever (past tense), provided that we are being made holy (present tense). Here we see that while we already have been made holy and made perfect, we are also being made holy. So it is both a past, completed event and an ongoing present process of sanctification. The past event was our positional sanctification in the sight of God through faith in Christ, but the ongoing sanctification is the practical kind that is worked out and evidenced in our everyday attitudes and behaviors.

This practical sanctification is essential, if we ever hope to see God. The apostle stated, "Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord." (Heb 12:14, NIV). So while we are already made holy in the positional sense, through our faith in Christ, we must make every effort to be holy, which refers to the practical holiness without which no man shall see the Lord's face.

Paul prayed for the Thessalonians, "May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it." (1 Thes 5:23-24, NIV).

While we understand that even the best are only sanctified in part, we also realize that we need to pray for God to sanctify us wholly in every part of our being -- body, soul, and spirit. He will do it, so that we will be kept blameless at the coming of Christ. To this end the Lord prayed for us saying, "Sanctify them by the truth; Your Word is truth." (Jn 17:17, NIV).

Another passage that teaches us about the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit is found in Paul's second letter to the Thessalonians. He stated: "But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth." (2Th 2:13)

Certainly Scripture teaches us that sanctification is a work of God by His Spirit inside of the believer, but that does not eliminate our involvement in the process. Paul said, "Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God." (2 Cor 7:1, NIV). He clearly taught that we each have an active role in purifying ourselves and perfecting holiness in the fear of God. This demonstrates that we are in fact a man or woman after God's own heart.

For more on this, please see Holy Living in a Perverted World, Aim for Perfection, Called to be Blameless, The Knowledge of the Holy, and Walking in Truth, Righteousness, and Holiness.

Shepherding with Integrity
A fourth reason why David was called a man after God's own heart was that he was a man of integrity. The Scripture says, "And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them." (Ps 78:72, NIV). What's needed today are cross-bearing people, who will shepherd God's people with integrity of heart and lead them with skillful hands. Integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles, or moral uprightness. It's easy to find those who claim to be leaders that have plenty of head knowledge, including the knowledge of Scripture, and those with charismatic personalities who are great public speakers. But it's much more rare to find men and women of integrity who lead with skillful hands, whether they be those who have authority in the church, or those who are business leaders, or even those in the political arena. It's been said that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, and we have plenty of examples of that in both the church and the secular world. Yet David did not let himself become corrupted when God granted him power and authority as king.

Moreover, he actually shepherded the people, which is not just teaching them or telling them what to do. It's not lording it over others. To shepherd people is to care for them, pray for them, guide them, feed them, nurture them, serve them, facilitate their growth, prepare them for service, and lead them by godly example, so that they will one day enter the kingdom of heaven. This too, is something that is more difficult to find today in churches. It's more common to find pastors who act like CEOs of big businesses in corporate America. How we need true shepherds once again to shepherd the people of God and equip them for works of service, which is God's own heart!

Receiving His Mercy
Although David was a man of integrity, shepherding the people, leading them with skillful hands, devoted to doing God's will, knowing the Lord, and becoming holy, he still fell short of God's glory like the rest of us, and needed God's mercy. He would have been a much better example for us if he had not fallen into adultery with Bathsheba, and his own life would have been better for it, too. But then we might assume that the reason he was a man after God's own heart was that he was so perfect and without sin in his life. So the Lord used even his great sin to teach us something. We learn from it that in our pursuit of doing God's will, knowing Him, and becoming holy, that if we sin, we, too, will need to receive God's mercy.

David prayed, "Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin." (Ps 51:1-2, NIV). While he could not undo the sin he had committed, he knew he must repent and seek forgiveness from God. He sought hard after God for mercy to wipe out his transgressions, wash away all his iniquity, and cleanse him from his sin. That's the example we need to follow, too, if we would be a man or woman after God's own heart.

"Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Heb 4:16). We should always know that if we sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous One (1 Jn 2:1), so we can approach the throne with confidence, because it's a throne of grace. There we can find mercy to help us.

"Then he adds: 'Their sins and lawless acts  I will remember no more.' And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary." (Heb 10:17-18). When you have been forgiven of sins and lawless acts, the Lord remembers them no more. At that point, it's no longer necessary to offer any sacrifice for sin. The price has been paid at the cross for us by Jesus Christ. "Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." (Rom 8:1). Don't let the devil beat you up and heap condemnation on you. Instead, repent and go to the throne of grace, asking for mercy and grace. Then receive it from the Lord. Jesus said, "But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mt 9:13, NIV).

For more on this, please see and God Forgives and Forgets.

Finding His Grace
Just as David cried out for God's mercy, he also relied on God's grace as well. This, too, was part of being a man after God's own heart. Here are some of the prayers he prayed regarding God's grace:

"As for me, I said, 'O LORD, be gracious to me; Heal my soul, for I have sinned against You.'" (Psa 41:4)

"But You, O LORD, be gracious to me and raise me up, That I may repay them." (Psa 41:10).

"Be gracious to me, O Lord, For to You I cry all day long." (Psa 86:3)

"But You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, Slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth. Turn to me, and be gracious to me; Oh grant Your strength to Your servant, And save the son of Your handmaid." (Psa 86:15-16)

This unwavering trust that David had in God's grace is an important part of how he sought after the heart of God. Likewise, we too, must boldly approach the throne of grace to find grace to help us in our time of need (He 4:16).

The apostle said, "Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin." (Heb 10:18). While receiving forgiveness is a result of God's mercy, it is His grace that frees us from ever having to make any sacrifice for our sins. Once a person is forgiven, he no longer needs to offer a sacrifice for his sins. For to do so would be to question God's grace and seek to earn His forgiveness.

Paul taught that "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us." (Eph 1:7-8a). It's always according to the riches of His grace, which He gave to us in such large measure.

"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast." (Eph 2:8-9). The meaning of this Scripture is self-evident, that we are saved by grace through faith, not by works. Even the best reach heaven by the grace of God, because even they are not good enough to earn their way in by their own merits. Someone said, "You can't earn God's love. You can only accept it."

In David's case, as I have said, it would have been better for him if he had not committed adultery with Bathsheba and then murdered her husband Uriah, but once he realized his sin and repented, the grace of God was sufficient for his need. Although his sin increased, the grace of God increased even more. As Paul said, "The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more." (Rom 5:20).

If you have never experienced the grace of God like that, then let me tell you that there is no time like the present to do so. "As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says, 'In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.' I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation." (2 Cor 6:1-2). You may not have tomorrow, but you have today, and now is the time to seek God's favor and receive His grace in your life.

For more on this please see By Grace Alone and Amazing Grace.

Putting it All Together
In our look at the life of David, we've discovered that there were several reasons why God considered him a man after His own heart. He was full devoted to the Lord his God and to doing His will, he was obedient to the Lord, he followed the Lord with all his heart, doing what was right in God's eyes, he shepherded God's people with integrity of heart, he led them with skillful hands, he knew the Lord personally, he desired to become a holy and godly man, yet he also knew how to receive mercy and find grace to help him in his time of need. May the Lord help each one of us to have these same outstanding characteristics in our own lives, so that we too may be men, women, and children after God's own heart.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, copyright the Lockman Foundation. Other Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible NIV, copyright Zondervan. The painting of King David Playing the Harp by Gerard van Honthorst, 1622.

Author's note Also see Aim for Perfection, Knowing the Lord, The Knowledge of the Holy, Is Obedience Optional?, Walking in the Perfect Will of God, Pleasing the Lord, Holy Living in a Perverted World, Called to be Blameless, A Tale of Two Kings, Sin and ConsequenceGod Forgives and Forgets, By Grace Alone, Amazing Grace,and From Religion to Relationship. You may find the Main Directory for this blog at Home, and also access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master."

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission.

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