28 July 2016

A man after God's own heart: really?


It was springtime in rural Kansas in about 1978. I was a high school mathematics teacher. After lunch I taught a group of about 25 all boys in geometry class. You have to know that most of those year 10 boys were more interested in discussing the girls and the cars they monitored during lunch rather than angles and logical theorems with me.
A smallish lad was talking more than I preferred as I was trying to teach the students, and I asked him to stop. He didn't. After a couple warnings, I approached his desk and flipped it backwards. Yes, the old style with the desk and chair attached. He landed at a 90 degree angle, and I was shocked, at myself and at my actions. Oh my goodness. What did I just do? The young man jumped up from his collapse and ran to the principal's office. He was right. I was dead wrong.

At the time I was teaching, I lived about 30 minutes away in Lawrence, Kansas. There for the previous 6 years, I had built a new congregation of mostly young people named "The Mustard Seed." It was actually thriving and growing very well. And then here, at Basehor High School, for the last year or so, each morning I wrote a Bible verse onto my blackboard, maybe for the students, and maybe for me. Today I don't remember. So there I was after I flipped the young man backwards (which could have seriously injured him for life), and I sat in my large desk chair, wondering what I had done, and wondering if I would ever be able to honestly share my life with these young people again. Hadn't I just tossed aside my 'testimony' for one moment of anger?

I went home later that afternoon, almost depressed. I certainly was kicking myself mentally. "How could I have done that? What is wrong with me!?" I was embarrassed and shamed. I knew my sin. That action I committed-- so very very wrong.

Later that evening I spoke with a dear friend and brother in the faith, Barry. I told him what I had done. He said something like, "You didn't ruin your testimony. You highlighted it." He went on to tell me that I was a forgiven sinner, and that although I had seriously marred my relationship with the boys and the school and more... that I was not supposed to be 'drawing people to myself', that is to show people how good I was at following Jesus. "You need forgiveness like everyone else, including your students." He assured me that God well knew what I was feeling and had forgiven me already when Yeshua died on the cross. What a relief that was!

Of course, that didn't excuse me from needing to write a letter to the boy, to his parents, to the school, etc. That I did immediately and with deep apology.

The next morning, I wrote as was my custom a new Bible verse. Maybe it was something like this one. I told each class about the incident the day before and most had already heard about it. I didn't have any vocal challenges to me that day, and I think I got along very well with the students from then on, but more importantly I testified of Jesus being the One who forgives and forgave me. I didn't make light of my wrongdoing; but I highlighted the grace of God which I received and told the students I wanted them to receive as well.

Which brings me to a Bible verse about King David. (For more biography about David, see bottom of page) David is known as a "Man after God's own heart." This verse talks about God removing the kingship from King Saul and giving it to another, whom we know as David. “But now your (Saul's) kingdom shall not endure. The LORD has sought out for Himself a man after His own heart, and the LORD has appointed him as ruler over His people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you.” (1 Samuel 13.14). This is confirmed in the Brit Hadasha (Acts 13.22): "And when he (God) had removed him (Saul), he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave their testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after my own heart, which shall fulfil all my will."

What does this phrase 'a man after God's own heart" really mean?

Ron Edmondson of Lexington, Kentucky wrote this list of exemplary characteristics about David. "Humble – Lowborn men are but a breath, the highborn are but a lie; if weighed on a balance, they are nothing; together they are only a breath. Psalm 62:9
Reverent – I call to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies. Psalm 18:3
Respectful – Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief. Psalm 31:9
Trusting – The LORD is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1
Loving – I love you, O Lord, my strength. Psalm 18:1
Devoted – You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound. Psalm 4:7
Recognition – I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonders. Psalm 9:1
Faithful – Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. Psalm 23:6
Obedient – Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart. Psalm 119:34
Repentant – For the sake of your name, O Lord, forgive my iniquity, though it is great. Psalm 25:11"
(From this website: WEBSITE)

But this idea of repentant intrigues me. A man calls out to God for forgiveness if he's been bad, not if he's a man after God's heart, right? So like I thought in 1978, if I'm following God, I shouldn't have to be forgiven, because I should be walking close to the Lord.

But here's the deal. None of us is perfect. None of us is above repentance because we all fall short of the standards and glory of God. We really do need to repent and ask for mercy from heaven. How do I know this?

Look at King David. Most of his time he was a very good king, but for a serious springtime season he really went off the rails. He didn't go out to war with his soldiers. (This whole episode is recorded in 2 Samuel chapter 11 in the Bible, and we have reproduced it below in the end notes). He stayed home from battle instead of leading the troops. One evening he sees his neighbour taking a bath on her rooftop and he lusts for her. He subpoenas her and since he is the king, she doesn't really have a choice to decline the invitation. He takes her sexually and then she is found pregnant. David sends for her husband, (probably a convert), Uriah the Hittite, and Uriah acts more nobly and honourably than anyone else in the whole story. Finally David sends Uriah along with a note to Joab, his commander of the army. David tells Joab to place Uriah on the front of the front lines, and of course, Uriah is killed in the next scene.

So how does a king who misuses his power to abuse his neighbour, who breaks the 6th, 7th and 10th commandments (murder, adultery and coveting) end up being titled a "man after God's own heart?"

The difference in Saul (the one whose heart was not right) and David is ...what do they do when confronted about their own sin? Samuel the prophet came to Saul after Saul had disobeyed the prophet Samuel. And he came up with some clever answers, but he basically knocked the prophet back. When Nathan the prophet came to David (2 Sam 12) about the issue with Bathsheba, David humbled himself and repented.

So here's what I mean. Each of us will sin. Each of us will have opportunity to repent. If we hear and heed, if we humble our souls and cry out to God, He will hear us and forgive us. And we will succeed in being a person after God's heart. If we reject the word of repentance, if we don't apologise to the student we tossed out of his chair, if we don't apologise to our spouse for harshness or adultery or lying or... if we pretend we are all so good, when deep down we are very aware of our sin, then we will NOT be 'after God's heart." The choice, the evidence is in what we do with those words of corrections.

I'm so glad for Barry. I'm so glad for Yeshua. I'm so glad He has graced me to repent and to receive that forgiveness that only comes from Him. I still want to live for Yeshua. Lord, help me to walk like David, when confronted with my own sin, make me to repent, not to hide my sin, but to cry out for mercy.

Psalm 51 was King David's prayer after Nathan confronted him. The full text is below. Let it be your prayer today, won't you? Then you can be a person 'after God's own heart" too. He's like that.



_____ Biography of King David: David was born in 1040 B.C.E. (2 Sam 5:4), the youngest son of Jesse of Bethlehem (1 Sam 16:10-11), and developed in strength, courage, and attractiveness while caring for his father’s sheep (16:12; 17:34-36). Samuel anointed him as king, and God’s Spirit came upon David from that time on (16:13). Saul, meanwhile, summoned David to periodic appearances at court to soothe his own troubled mind by skillful harp-playing (16:18; 17:15). While still in his teens, David gained national renown and the friendship of Saul’s son Jonathan (18:1-3; cf. 20:12-16; 23:16-17) through his victory over Goliath (17:45-47). Saul’s growing jealousy and four insidious attempts on David’s life served only to increase the latter’s popularity (cf. 18:13-16, 27). At length, urged on by David’s rivals (cf. Ps 59:12), Saul openly sought his destruction; and though frustrated by Samuel and the priests at Nob, he did succeed in driving David into exile (1 Sam 19:11; 21:10).

David fled to Philistine Gath and then to Adullum (1 Sam 21:12; Pss 34:6-8; 56:3; 142:6). On three occasions Saul attempted to seize David (1 Sam 23; 24; 26; Pss 7:4; 54:3; 57:6). Near the end of 1012 B.C., however (1 Sam 27:7), David in despair sought asylum in Gath, feigning vassalage (27:8-28:25). After Saul’s death at Mt. Gilboa in 1010 B.C. David’s forces advanced inland to Hebron, where he was declared king over Judah (2 Sam 2:1-4). In 1005 B.C.E. Saul’s general, Abner, enthroned Ish-Bosheth, a son of Saul. Only after the death of Ish-Bosheth (ch. 4) did all Israel acclaim David king in 1003 (5:1-5; 1 Chron 11:10; 12:38).

David, after an initial retreat to Adullam (2 Sam 5:17; 23:13-17), expelled the Philistines in two divinely directed campaigns (5:18-25). He next established a new political and religious capital by capturing the Jebusite stronghold of Jerusalem and installing Moses’ ark of the covenant in a tent on Zion (2 Sam 6; Ps 24).
From 1002 to about 995 B.C. David expanded his kingdom on all sides: west against Philistia (2 Sam 8:1), east against Moab, (8:2), north against Syria (10:13, 18; cf. 8:3) to the Euphrates River, and south against stubborn Edom (1 Kings 11:15; Ps 60:10). An alliance with Hiram of Tyre enabled David to construct a palace in Jerusalem (2 Sam 5:11). Rest from war followed (2 Sam 7:1; 22:1-51; Ps 18), and David proposed a permanent temple for the Lord in Jerusalem, but was denied this privilege (1 Chron 22:8; 28:3). However, God promised to establish David’s dynasty through Solomon, who would build the temple, and culminating in the incarnation of God’s eternal Son (2 Sam 7:13-14). David composed many psalms concerning this Messiah (Pss 2, 16, 22, 68, 110). Some of David’s greatest achievements lie in this literary sphere. Of the 150 canonical psalms, 73 possess titles asserting Davidic authorship.

Yet soon after this, David lapsed into a series of failures including the killing of seven innocent descendants of Saul (2 Sam 21:9), adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband (10-11), and ineffective control over his sons—Ammon’s rape of Tamar, Absalom’s murder of Amnon (13:23-29), and his revolt and death (13:38; 14:28; 15:7; 16:20-22; 18:9-15).
David’s last years (975-970 B.C.) were occupied with Philistine wars (2 Sam 21:15-22), a military census (24:3, 9; Ps 30:6), and the resulting plague (2 Sam 24:15). David subsequently undertook massive preparations for the temple (1 Chron 22). In David’s old age, his oldest surviving son, Adonijah, attempted to usurp the throne from Solomon, but David proclaimed Solomon’s coronation (1 Kings 1). Thus in 970, after a final charge to his son (2:2-9), David died. His last words were a prophecy of the future Davidic Messiah and of his own salvation, springing from this covenant (2 Sam 23:5).
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Bible passage about Uriah/ Bathsheba/ David:
"Then it happened in the spring, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him and all Israel, and they destroyed the sons of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David stayed at Jerusalem.
Now when evening came David arose from his bed and walked around on the roof of the king’s house, and from the roof he saw a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful in appearance. So David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” David sent messengers and took her, and when she came to him, ahe lay with her; band when she had purified herself from her uncleanness, she returned to her house. The woman conceived; and she sent and told David, and said, “I am pregnant.”

Then David sent to Joab, saying, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” So Joab sent Uriah to David. When Uriah came to him, David asked concerning the welfare of Joab and the people and the state of the war. Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house, and wash your feet.” And Uriah went out of the king’s house, and a present from the king was sent out after him. But Uriah slept aat the door of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house. Now when they told David, saying, “Uriah did not go down to his house,” David said to Uriah, “Have you not come from a journey? Why did you not go down to your house?” Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in temporary shelters, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field. Shall I then go to my house to eat and to drink and to lie with my wife? By your life and the life of your soul, I will not do this thing.” Then David said to Uriah, “Stay here today also, and tomorrow I will let you go.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next. Now David called him, and he ate and drank before him, and he made him drunk; and in the evening he went out to lie on his bed with his lord’s servants, but he did not go down to his house.

Now in the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by the hand of Uriah. He had written in the letter, saying, “Place Uriah in the front line of the fiercest battle and withdraw from him, so that he may be struck down and die.”

So it was as Joab kept watch on the city, that he put Uriah at the place where he knew there were valiant men. The men of the city went out and fought against Joab, and some of the people among David’s servants fell; and Uriah the Hittite also died. Then Joab sent and reported to David all the events of the war. He charged the messenger, saying, “When you have finished telling all the events of the war to the king, and if it happens that the king’s wrath rises and he says to you, ‘Why did you go so near to the city to fight? Did you not know that they would shoot from the wall? ‘Who struck down Abimelech the son of Jerubbesheth? Did not a woman throw an upper millstone on him from the wall so that he died at Thebez? Why did you go so near the wall?’ — then you shall say, ‘Your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.’”

So the messenger departed and came and reported to David all that Joab had sent him to tell. The messenger said to David, “The men prevailed against us and came out against us in the field, but we pressed them as far as the entrance of the gate. Moreover, the archers shot at your servants from the wall; so some of the king’s servants are dead, and your servant Uriah the Hittite is also dead.” Then David said to the messenger, “Thus you shall say to Joab, ‘Do not let this thing displease you, for the sword devours one as well as another; make your battle against the city stronger and overthrow it’; and so encourage him.

Now when the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she mourned for her husband. When the time of mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house and she became his wife; then she bore him a son. But the thing that David had done was evil in the sight of the LORD." (2Sam. 11.1-27)

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PSALM 51:
For the choir director. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.
Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness;
According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity And cleanse me from my sin.
For I aknow my transgressions, And my sin is ever before me.
Against You, You only, I have sinned And done what is evil in Your sight, So that You are justified when You speak And blameless when You judge.
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.
Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.
Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Make me to hear joy and gladness, Let the bones which You have broken rejoice.
Hide Your face from my sins And blot out all my iniquities.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from Your presence And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the ajoy of Your salvation And sustain me with a willing spirit.
Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, And sinners will be converted to You.

Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, the God of my salvation; Then my tongue will joyfully sing of Your righteousness.
O Lord, open my lips, That my mouth may declare Your praise.
For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.

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