Sermon series: Guarding Your Heart
David is one of the most illustrious, interesting, and inspiring characters of the Bible. He was a shepherd, a giant killer, a mighty warrior, a talented musician, and the greatest king to lead Israel. David also had a dark side to his character. He was guilty of adultery and murder. His arrogant disobedience of God's prohibition to conduct a census led to the death of 70,000 citizens. Even with these moral and personal failures, God said of David, "He was a man after my own heart." Why is David called a man after God's heart?
Before answering this important question, let's make some basic observations about God's evaluation of David.
God has a "heart." Some issues capture His favor, affection, and attention.
Ultimately, God's evaluation is what matters, not what man says.
We can follow and capture the heart of God.
One does not have to live a perfect life to follow the heart of God.
The Bible says that things in the past were written to encourage and instruct us (Rom. 15:3). As we examine David's life, four distinctive qualities emerge that define his life as a man after God's heart. To earnestly follow the heart of God we must
1. Declare God's praise
This is one of the most recognized and celebrated aspects of David's life. He consistently deflected praise directed to himself and declared the glory of God. It is an overwhelming task to analyze all the wonderful expressions of praise, thanksgiving, and worship included in the psalms and other Scriptures that record David's praise. Dr. Stephen Olford said of David, "He was a man after God's heart because he abounded with expressions of praise more than anyone mentioned in Scripture. The blend of confessing sin and thanksgiving for the mercy of God make him wholly acceptable to God. Most Americans work at their play and play at their worship. It is pathetic to listen to the attempts of some to offer prayer and praise. In light of David's devotional life, they have hardly begun." (Stephen F. Olford, Fresh Lessons from Former Leaders, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1991, p.17.)
It is not enough just to know that God is great. We must express our worship to God. Hebrew 13:15 reminds us that an acceptable sacrifice is fruit of our lips. Certainly other acceptable sacrifices are mentioned in Scripture, but one of the defining characteristics of David's life was his passionate declaration of praise.
2. Depend on God's provision
A second characteristic of following the heart of God is depending on God's provision. In the famous battle with Goliath, David refuses to wear King Saul's armor because it does not fit. The armor does not fit physically, and it does not fit spiritually. David recognizes what the other soldiers failed to see. The battle against Goliath was not just a military fight. It was a challenge of faith to determine the one true God. Listen to David's response to Goliath's ridicule about insufficient armor, "I come against you in the name of the living God of Israel whom you have defiled."
In another battle prior to assuming the throne, David led his mighty men to defeat the enemy at Ziklag. This was a critical time in David's life. Some of his men were considering rejecting his leadership. The Bible says David "inquired and found strength in the LORD" (1 Sam. 30: 3-8). While living in exile, David demonstrated tremendous trust in God's sovereignty by refusing to kill King Saul. He was willing to wait upon God's provision instead of pushing forward with a selfish agenda. David had already been anointed as the future king by the prophet Samuel, but David patiently waited for God's timing.
David's dependence is an amazing contrast to Saul's arrogance and impatience that led to God stripping the kingdom from him and his family. Saul fell prey to what professor Leonard Sweet calls, "Believing the trees move the wind." David beautifully expresses his dependence on God in numerous psalms "The LORD is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? He is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?" (Ps.27:1) "You, LORD are a shield around me, my glory and the One who lifts up my head" (Ps. 3:3). "The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble" (Ps. 9: 9).
3. Desire God's presence
Closely related to David's commitment to declare God's praise is his desire to seek God's presence. Public praise is a vital part of our journey of faith, but our corporate praise should flow from our personal communion with God. Just as an iceberg reveals only a portion of its size on top of the water with the greater portion remaining under the water, David had a passion for pursuing the presence of God. Psalm 119 describes his personal desire to study the Scriptures, to meditate upon God's word, and to feast upon the honey contained in holy precepts. David's poignant confessions of sin are examples of his desire to dwell in the presence of God. His greatest fear was being separated from the God he loved.
4. Display God's power
I am convinced that one of the primary reasons God described David as a man after His heart was that David never stopped believing that almighty God desires to manifest His power and glory upon the earth. As a teenager David believed God would deliver him from Goliath just as He had from the lion and the bear. Later as king, David wanted to build a temple that would display the glory and majesty of God. Very few saints live with a desire to experience the supernatural power of God. Most are content to attend church, sing a few songs, and learn some biblical principles that make their life easier. David lived according to the prayer of Moses recorded in Psalm 90:17, "Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us; establish the work of our hands!" David believed God wanted to demonstrate divine favor, the supernatural blessing, through his life as a shepherd and as the king of Israel. This type of living is what Henry Blackaby calls believing God for "God-sized tasks." It is what the Lord Jesus prayed for his followers that they would bear much fruit for the Father's glory (John 15: 8).
The Bible is clear that God is pleased by lives that demonstrate great faith. The righteous live by faith (Rom. 1:17). Hebrews 11: 6 declares that it is impossible to please God without faith. In his book Fresh Faith, Jim Cymbala identifies the greatest theft by Satan is faith from the church. Because of some abuses by some in the Christian community, followers of Christ do not believe God wants to display his power. (Jim Cymbala, Fresh Faith, Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1999, p. 16.) You don't find David saying, "The great demonstrations of power were regulated to the days of Moses and Joshua." David prayed for supernatural anointing, and he possessed deep faith that his own life should be a reflection of God's power.
C.S. Lewis said, "When we consider the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures fooling around with drink, sex, and ambition when infinite joy is offered to us. We are like an ignorant child who wants to go making mud pies because we cannot imagine what is meant by a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased." (Lewis, C. S., 1996. “The Weight of Glory.” The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses. Ed. W. Hooper. New York, Simon and Schuster: 25-26.) David captured the heart of God because he expected great things from God by attempting great things for God. David had many flaws, but he also had amazing faith that pleased God. The beautiful description of David as a man after God's heart is not limited to a teenage giant-killer. This divine commendation is available to all who declare God's praise, depend on God's provision, desire God's presence, and display God's power.