Within the Christian community, we’re engulfed in a culture that often repeats ideas. This is actually a very Biblical principle.
The Word of God was passed down orally for many years before Moses wrote it out. Later, before modern printing presses, the Scriptures had to be recorded by a group of priests called the “scribes.” The process was tedious. Copies of the Scriptures were scarce. Only the priesthood had copies, so people relied upon the reading of the Scriptures by the priests in the synagogue each Sabbath. (Luke 4:16) The rest of the week, they had to talk about what was learned, rather than personally read them.
What a privilege it is for us to have our own copies of God’s Word at our fingertips! We would do well to discuss them with our friends and family throughout the week. Let us bind them to our hands (actions/behaviors), place them between our eyes (meditate on them/believe them), and put them on our door posts (make them visible for all to see). (Deut 6:5-9)
Most of the time, God willing, these ideas are found in Scripture. However, occasionally upon further personal investigation of the actual Scriptures themselves, we find quite a different story. When a particularly troubling passage of Scripture is found to say something contrary to our culturally repeated ideas, it can be like a breath of fresh air! We must remember that our faith is based upon the Word of God. We are followers of Christ, not followers of Christians.
Let’s explore a common misconception about the Biblical patriarch, David.
Have you ever heard someone say, “David did all kinds of wicked things in his life, but God still called him a man after his own heart”? This implies that the evil acts David committed were somehow excused and that his heart was always labeled “Godlike,” no matter what kind of life he lived. How are we to reconcile this with God’s heart?
Here is the only Biblical reference to the idea in question:
“But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the Lord hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the Lord commanded thee.” -1 Samuel 13:14 (& Acts 13:22)
Context is Everything
Notice when David is given this label. Saul was being removed as ruler of Israel because of his disobedience to God. A search was conducted to find Saul’s successor.
David was a shepherd, living a simple life protecting his sheep. He was daily in communion with his Father, keeping his mind fixed upon higher things. He had led a life of obedience to the Word of God. He desired nothing more than to please God in all his endeavors. David was a type of Jesus.
God selected David to lead Israel. God knew that David had the potential to be a great ruler of His people. He knew David’s heart was in the right place. He knew David would ultimately succeed in the place that Saul failed, which was to “[keep that which the Lord commanded him.]”
Was David perfect? We know from the rest of the story of David’s life that he was far from it! David repeatedly disobeyed the known Word of God. He did some of the most heinous acts described in the Bible, including murder and adultery. Are we to conclude that David’s heart was still modeled after God’s? Absolutely NOT!
Sanctification is Needed
David, like all of us, required a process of sanctification in order to become refined. (Mal 3:2) He began with good intentions and a clean heart, but David readily acknowledged that his spirit needed “[renewing].” (Psalm 51:10) He knew that, left to trust his own deceitful heart (Jer 17:9), he would fall.
So once again, through a study of the Scriptures, God stands vindicated. He never condones evil behavior. It’s proof of God’s patience and His loving character that He can take even someone like David, who clearly fell from grace on multiple occasions, and re-create a clean heart within. The condition of this re-creation is true repentance– a repentance that desires a new heart.
Do you desire to be a man or woman after God’s own heart? Ask God to create in you a clean heart, and to renew a steadfast spirit like His today.