Dennis McClendon, January 2014
Today’s message is titled, “After My Own Heart”. It’s a bit of a loaded phrase, “…after My own heart.” For those of you familiar with the Books of Samuel and Acts, it is a phase that invokes the image of an epic character, and an epic chapter of ancient history.
“…after My own heart”, Who’s heart? Yes. God’s heart, and if you are familiar with the books, you know who was after it… who was pursuing it. Yes. David, the son of Jesse, the King of Israel. After King Saul’s failure in the eyes of God, God told the prophet, Samuel, “I have found David, the son of Jesse, a man after my own heart.”
David’s Heroic Character…
… is the stuff of legend. Known for great feats of battle – exponentially greater than his mighty predecessor, King Saul – King David’s individual battle victories number in the tens of thousands. He united the tribes of Israel and he expanded their domain toward the extent of God’s promise to to David’s distant grandfather, Abraham. Under King David, the influence and national wealth of Israel increased dramatically.
Did God Need a Warrior? A Conqueror?
The short answer? No. God can speak His own name and knock 600 warriors to the ground. At his command, the heavens and earth were formed from nothing. Nothing! He did not create us out of need. He created us out of desire. God wanted David. God wants you… even me. God wanted to share His abundance with David while fulfilling the promises He made to Abraham 800 years earlier. David was part of God’s plan.
What Did God See in David?
Well, many things, of course. First and foremost, as the Apostle Paul put it, referring to the words of the prophet Samuel, God saw, “… a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.” (Acts 13:22) In other words, God saw a man in pursuit of His own… God’s own core values. Now it is also true that while David did all of God’s will… he did more. Understand that politically and militarily, David became the most powerful of Abraham’s descendants in the 800 years that had passed since Abraham. That kind of power has a lot of corrosive influence and temptation. David fell into that temptation with one of history’s most storied misadventures… dereliction of duty, adultery, and murder!
So, King David was a good man? Yes! A good man blinded by power and wealth. How was his good character shown, in spite of this horrible behavior? Well traditionally, powerful monarchs became laws unto themselves. David had intimate relations with Bathseeba, a woman who was married to one of David’s dedicated warriors, Uriah the Hittite. When David’s efforts to cover up Bathsheeba’s resulting pregnancy failed, David conspired to have Uriah killed in battle. David thought he had covered his tracks well.
Yet when King David’s sin was called out by the prophet Nathan, did David throw Nathan in prison or have him killed like many kings did to confrontational prophets? No! David confessed his sin and repented. God removed David’s sin, sparing David’s life, but the fruit of this adultery, David and Bathsheeba’s first son would be stricken with a grave illness. Not one to underestimate God’s grace, David humiliated himself by fasting, sleeping in the dirt in sackcloth, and pleading with God on behalf of his son for the entire week of his son’s illness. But the consequence would remain. God took their son. One could question why the son paid with his life, but in reality the son went to Abraham’s bosom. David and Bathsheeba were left with the pain of losing their son. Once this was clear to David, He got up, cleaned up, and went to the tabernacle to worship God. When his friends asked about this quick change, David replied,
“While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ 23 But now that he is dead, why should I go on fasting? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”
~ 2 Samuel 12:22-23
What faith! What understanding! What determination! David could have wallowed in self-pity, blamed the prophet, or simply sunk into deep bitterness. Instead he drew near to God, first in prayer, then in acceptance, then in worship. After that, David went home. He had a meal and spent time with Bathsheeba, consoling her. Sometime later they had their second son, Solomon.
Understand that this was a time and place in history where women weren’t considered to be more than property in the surrounding cultures. This had a lot of influence on ancient Hebrew culture, but the Hebrew forefathers set examples as loving husbands. Among the wealthy and powerful, women were often used as political pawns. This was the case with David’s first wife Michal and it appears, in scripture, that they had no real affection for each other. David had five other wives and at least 10 concubines. He fathered 6 children from those wives, after Bathsheeba’s first child died. He was a loving man, but that’s a BIG family, so along with the responsibilities of being King, and the stresses of ongoing warfare throughout his reign, it proved to be just too much for the King. He had the blood of tens of thousands on his hands, sometimes his priorities were out of whack, and some his children grew up to be spoiled, self-indulged, and reckless.
David’s love for Bathsheeba and Solomon seems to have had a profound effect on Solomon who later wrote the fantastic love poetry found in the Song of Solomon. David also continued to be a fervent prayer warrior… a worshiper… an itinerant song-writer… and a strong supporter of the tabernacle, organizing perpetual worship there with an army of musicians and singers working shifts day and night. This, too, seems to have had a strong influence on Solomon, who later went on build the first temple in Jerusalem, to be an avid author of what came to be scripture, and to be the wise ruler of Greater Israel at its peak of power and influence, dominating a thousand-mile expanse all the way from the Euphrates River in modern-day Iraq, to the Nile River in Egypt — the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham! This is the fruit of the noble character of David, in pursuit of God’s own heart.
So we see some of what God found in David.
What is God Looking for in me? In You?
A Common Answer is Noble Character. It is a correct answer. The problem arises from how we get to noble character… and from what we think noble character accomplishes.
The noble character God desires does not start with our own understanding. It starts with hearing God’s call… with a faithful search for God’s own heart. Romans 10 declares that “faith comes by hearing”. Hearing what? The spoken word of God. What word, in particular? The truth that in Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection, your sin is annihilated and your salvation is bought and paid for. Believe this in your heart and by that faith, Jesus’ righteousness becomes your own righteousness. The noble character acceptable to God is born of this righteousness, and the righteous comes by faith. It can not be the other way around.
Our own noble character… our own righteousness, is… as filthy rags compared to Jesus’ righteousness, which is ours through faith. As our righteous — our noble character — grows in Him, hunger for the lusts of the flesh die off and are replaced with a hunger and thirst for righteousness. Jesus promised in the Sermon on the Mount that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled. Filled with what? Filled with His righteousness! Through His Holy Spirit! And then what? Then… the search goes on! We should never reach a finish line in the walk of faith. As we mature in this walk, the attitude of faith becomes a more consistent, more permanent feature of our character.
Jesus said, “Seek and you shall find. Ask and it shall be given to you. Knock, and the door will be opened unto you.”
The Bible is an excellent way to get acquainted with God. To discern His character. But think about it. Noah and Abraham had no scripture, yet their faith was accounted to them as righteousness. Moses was given the law. David had that… and some history books along with the words a few prophets, but it was his faithful pursuit after God’s own heart, his pursuit of God’s essence, his pursuit of God Himself, this is what God loved about David. The Pharisees were very devout students of the word, but they used it to enrich themselves and control the masses. They weren’t after the heart of God to transform their lives. Jesus said to them,
“You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about Me.”
~ John 5:38-40
God is alive. He wants us to learn of his holy scripture, but He wants a relationship. We can’t relate to our loved ones only by reading about them. We must live with them, have faith in them, and sacrifice for them. It is the same with God.
We must choose God over flesh. Faith over bitterness. Trust over fear. Even when… especially when… it looks like obedience will be costly or painful. We must choose costly truth over a cheap lie.
What is God looking for in us, corporately… our church, THE church, our nation?
Nothing less than that individual relationship multiplied. Simply being a member of an organization isn’t enough. An appearance of godliness that denies His power is, again, the fruit of the Pharisees. Jesus said those who practice it are,
“…like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.”
~ Matthew 23:27
We must pray… fervently… for revival and demonstrate it with our own lives.
Where are We Headed?
We are experiencing a continuing storm. On all fronts, we are challenged: economic, moral, cultural, social, political, environmental. This decaying world system is on the brink of collapse.
God warned of these things in advance. He has warned us of many challenges and catastrophes over the years. He warned us again in 2009 saying, “The coming storm is likened to a hurricane, with successive squalls impacting before the eye of the storm comes upon you. You have felt the squalls. The eye is approaching. Maps will change. Foundations of powerful nations will be shattered.” Any interpretation of that leaves us in a challenging situation. This has been prophesied repeatedly by our pastor over the last two years. It is likely to manifest soon. God has spoken to His prophets. This year and next He is even giving us signs in the heavens associated with the high Holy Days.
God isn’t trying to scare us into obedience. He is more like a loving parent, on a journey with their child. They see the storm approaching. Knowing what is in store, they reassure their child saying, “I know what we are about to go through, I know how to deal with it, and I’ll make certain that we get through it together. I got you.”
We are in the world, but we are not of the world. What happens here affects us, but Adonai, Malek Ho Olam (Lord God, the King of the Universe) is the One who sustains us in abundance.
After You Have Done Everything, Stand.
“Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” – Ephesians 6:13
The victorious Christian finds peace and strength… in the midst of adversity.
Stand in Christ… Jesus… Messiah… the Son of David. You have greater resources than King David. Stand in the knowledge of God’s Word. Stand in the power of God’s Holy Spirit, who lives within you. Stand in the power of His presence. Stand, strengthened by the realization of that presence… of who you are called to be in Him. When you falter, wait on Him, trust in Him, rejoice in Him, and move on in Him, as King David did.
I know a woman who has overcome alcoholism. Lost her driver’s license for a couple of decades. She stood in Him, and she overcame it. I know a man who grew a new lung, a woman who grew nerves, two women who had babies they weren’t “able” to have (one of those was prophesied very specifically). I know a woman who died at least four times. I know a couple who suffered the loss of their young son and grew stronger. Multitudes have been blessed by these testimonies and the character of the people that live them. These folks have sat among us, in this little congregation, and some remain. They were determined to stand, wait, rejoice, and move on in Christ.
I know a woman who cannot receive a blessing without complaining about it. She lives in a constant state of bitterness. I knew a woman who thought the world owed her everything. She died with one single codependent drug addicted “friend” in the world. I know a couple who lost their young son. It destroyed their marriage. These are not so much examples of God’s punishment, but of the cost of shunning God’s revealed path to abundance, of what happens when we fail to stand, wait, rejoice, and move on in Christ. Again, these folks have been among us.
So, come what may… I repeat… We must choose God over flesh. Faith over bitterness. Trust over fear. Even when… especially when it looks like obedience will be costly or painful. We must choose costly truth over a cheap lie.
Stand in Christ, Jesus, Messiah, the Son of David. When you falter, wait on Him, trust in Him, rejoice in Him, and move on in Him, as King David did. Always be one who searches, who is running… after God’s own heart.