Being a “Man After God’s Own Heart”

Most of us, at one point or another, have pointed to 1 Samuel 13:14 and Acts 13:22 zealously declaring we should be men after God’s own heart just like David! This is a mistake. When we say that, we mean that David is a man who seeks after God’s heart. But do you see the word “seek” in either of those passages? It’s not there and here’s why. King David being designated by God as a man after His heart is about God choosing David, not David’s character.

The phrase “after my own heart” was commonly employed by other ancient near easterners.* It simply means, “this is the person I’ve chosen.” When a god or king chose someone to rule, he would describe the successor as a man after his heart. When God utilized this phrase to describe David, He was not commenting on David’s stellar character (which was anything but stellar), He was alerting the audience that David was the chosen ruler of His people. This is contrasted with Saul who was appointed king as a judgment on Israel for their rejection of God’s kingship and their sinful request for a king like all of the other nations (see 1 Samuel 8:1-9).

A Lesson from This Phrase

King DavidDavid’s installment and perseverance as Israel’s king was a result of divine election and promise-keeping (cf. Psalm 78:70, 1 Kings 8:16), not the result of any particular merit he possessed. God is the one with the wisdom and authority to designate this son of Jesse as the “man after his own heart.” When David commits his egregious sins, he is kept in office because God picked him. This points us to one of the most notable features of the Old Testament narrative: the major figures are incredible sinners. And yet, they remain God’s instruments in advancing the redemptive story because He ordained their part in it.

In like manner, we who are chosen by God have confidence in His promise to keep us as His own. God has “predestined us for adoption” (Eph. 1:5) and we have complete assurance that no sin can take God’s favor from us. All former, present, and future transgressions have been paid for by Christ and we can confidently enjoy God’s abounding love. The point is that our character does not determine whether or not we are men and women “after God’s own heart.” God has already picked us. Rather, knowing that God chooses to save us despite our glaring deficiencies is precisely what shapes our character.

The Anticipated “Man After God’s Own Heart”

The selection of David as a king “after God’s own heart” is not an end in and of itself, but rather serves as a foreshadow. When God promises in Jeremiah 33:17 that David’s throne “shall never lack a man” He is pointing us to a much greater figure than King David. Isaiah 9:7 describes the Messiah as one who would assume the “throne of David.” Then, in Luke 1:32, the angel Gabriel explicitly tells a trembling, frightened Mary that “the Lord God will give to [Jesus] the throne of his father David.” Christ is the eternal King from David’s line. He will be called King of Kings and His kingdom shall know no end. He is the King that God has chosen to rule and reign forever. Jesus is the longed for “man after God’s own heart”, the royal Son of the Almighty, who gave His life to transform rebellious subjects into sons and heirs.

We all want to be people after God’s heart. The beautiful thing is that – because of Christ – we already are.

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*For example, see this excerpt from Henri Frankfort’s book Kingship and the Gods – a study of Ancient Near Eastern Religion as the Integration of Society and Nature. Scroll half way down the page, look for the heading THE CHOICE OF THE GODS and examine the end of the last paragraph. You will see Cyrus the Persian describing the god, Marduk, as searching for “a king after his own heart.”
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Poem for a Dark Day (Re-visit)

I wrote this poem for Good Friday last year. I read it again today and my affections and gratitude for Christ were reignited. I can only hope and pray that if you read or listen, the same will happen for you.

They breached the laws of men
Took Him to trial by night
They told Him to defend
He gave to them no fight

A poem for a dark day

Took the flesh off of His back
Whips and glass and bones and nails
Healed our wounds in the attack
Filled He the air with wails

Some poetry on this dark day

The cross He bore of wood
It’s weight crushed He to bear
Yet something greater stood
At the Father’s wrath He stared

A verse for this dark day

Raised upon that cursed hill
Heaves He a heavy sigh
The Almighty’s perfect will
This begotten Son must die

A bit of lyric on a dark day

Crushed Him for our trespasses
He enduring matchless pain
God’s just judgment passes
The Lamb for sinners slain

A poem for this darkest day

And yet soon, the dawn shall rise

The Forgetful God – TG4OC

In case you hadn’t seen it, The Gospel for OC has published another of my articles. It’s actually a re-working from one I’d written a while back, but I hope you find joy and encouragement in the God I’m writing about and who I treasure. A God who “will not remember your sins.” O Hallelujah, there is mercy for us! Here’s the link:

http://thegospelforoc.com/2012/01/the-forgetful-god/

For His glory and fame,
Dustin

The Sensibility God

God is not who you and I think He is. He is who He says He is. What we think is inconsequential. We do not define Him, He defines Himself for us.

Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God and there is none like me…I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it” (Isa. 46:8-9, 11b).

Perhaps one of the biggest distortions in our view of God flows from our escalated view of humanity. We have such a high view of our ability to reason that we end up subjecting Him to our sensibilities instead of letting our sensibilities be shaped by His self-revelation. Have you ever said or heard somebody else say “I couldn’t believe in a God who ________.” This disease of the Western mind is one huge barrier to a real and impactful relationship with God. As long as we confine Him to our limited scope of understanding, we forego the transformative power which comes from knowing the Living God through Jesus Christ (cf. Isa. 6, 1 Cor. 1:18-25).

There are basically two ways that we redefine God according to our sensibilities. The first is by willful ignorance. The second is by over-dependance on subjective provision. Let me explore each since I am confident that all of us make these mistakes and need to be lovingly redirected.

1. Ignoring God’s Revealed Character Willfully
God has disclosed Himself supremely through His Son, Jesus Christ, who is one with Him and who was sent by Him (Jn. 10:30, Jn. 5:23, 36, 37). Jesus lived a sinless life (Heb. 4:15), died a sinner’s death (2 Cor. 5:21), and rose again conquering death and the grave (Hos. 13:14, Acts 2:31). He embodies God’s love, mercy, grace, justice, patience, might, and wisdom. We know Jesus through the work of God’s Spirit (1 Jn. 5:6) and through the Scriptures (Lk. 24:27) both working in conjunction. If we ignore Jesus Christ and the truths He taught, we willfully ignore God. If we embrace the Messiah, we enjoy forgiveness of our sins and joyful acceptance by God.

Those who do not accept these truths about Christ are certainly ignoring God. But how can those of us who are Christians willfully ignore Jesus? A few ways would be through 1) neglecting to spend time seeking Him through prayer and Bible study, 2) failing to fellowship with other believers, and 3) forgetting the gospel which reminds us of His great love. All of us must be cautious not to fall into these traps and instead we should continually be “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…” (Heb. 12:2). The positive sides of the three failures I listed above all serve us in “looking to Jesus.” We don’t merely participate in personal devotion, church life, and preaching the gospel to ourselves as some religious exercises, but instead as the means God has given us to know our Savior more deeply and truly.

2. Putting Too Much Stock in Subjective Provision
It is all too easy to want God to do something for us now instead of being satisfied with all that He’s already done. Many of us are discontent because God isn’t coming through in some present circumstance in the manner which we expect. Maybe you’ve been frustrated because He isn’t letting you into the college you want to go to, you’re still single but want to be married, or you have been hunting for a job but still find yourself unemployed. Why is God holding out on you? If that’s the line of thinking you’ve slipped into, beware of idolatry. You don’t really want God, you just want His blessings. And yet, at great personal cost, He has ransomed you from death and granted eternal life. The objective provision that you need has already been freely given to you! What more could you ask for? There is enough joy and satisfaction in knowing the gospel of His grace. Even if He takes all of your relationships and possessions away, you still have Him forever and He is enough.

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Forgive me if my tone has come across as harsh. This has been a bit confrontational but that is not always bad. Sometimes we need a wake-up call though it may be unpleasant. Please know that I’m just as convicted by these things as you are. My prayer is that we would all ditch our sensibilities and look to Jesus to find out who God really is. Rely no more on your own capabilities to know God but instead trust in His revelation through Jesus Christ. May you find rich, gospel blessings as you do.

For His glory and fame,
Dustin

Jesus is a Liberal Democrat

The provocative title for this post comes from a segment off of the satirical news program The Colbert Report. Take a moment to watch this 4-minute clip.

I delight in the fact that Colbert points out Jesus’ propensity to help the poor while He fails to lobby for a tax cut to the wealthiest 2% of Romans. In that sense He is a “liberal democrat.” He is unquestionably interested in the poor being provided for by the rich (Mt. 19:16-22). In fact, that is precisely why He came to earth: the wealthy King of the Universe gave up His wealth and status for His spiritually impoverished subjects thereby making them rich (2 Cor. 8:9). The error that the Left makes is to then assume that Jesus wants the government to mandate wealth redistribution. The Messiah certainly never advocates for that. He is interested in so affecting people’s hearts that giving their wealth away is natural and joyful. In God’s Kingdom, the government wouldn’t need to force its people to help the poor, the rich would do it anyway as they desire to emulate Christ. But alas! Our sinful condition keeps us from being like our Maker.

As you can probably tell, the disdain for the poor which comes from today’s Conservatives is troubling to me as a Christian. Fortunately there are a number of people, even the likes of Stephen Colbert, pointing out that modern, American conservativism is, in some ways, incongruent with Christ-exalting, Biblical faith. One inconsistency is the oversimplification which asserts that poverty is mainly the result of laziness. Now don’t get me wrong, Biblically speaking laziness is a cause of poverty. Proverbs 10:4 confirms it by saying “A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.” But, it’s grotesquely incoherent to broadly blame laziness for poverty when there are a host of other factors. For example, the Bible also identifies oppression as a cause of poverty (Prov. 22:16, Mk. 12:40, and Lk. 10:25-37). So God is just as opposed to the “job creators” who exploit their employees as He is to the poor person who’s manipulating the welfare system. As a result, Christians should be supporting legislation that makes manipulation – whether by the rich or by the poor – difficult while promoting aid to the needy and appropriate freedom to the entrepreneur.

Colbert makes a number of exceedingly strong points in this segment such as how Christ is unconditional in His sense of charity. The best one being his devastating and very accurate critique of right-wing Christianity:

Because if this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor either we’ve got to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are or we’ve got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don’t want to do it.

That quote is spot on. The bottom line is that Christians need to be deeply compassionate towards the poor. There just isn’t a way to get around our call by God to be advocates for those suffering from lack of basic necessities. The Bible is overwhelmingly instructive for God’s people to be involved with the poor. The nuance comes when you ask the question: So how should we express that call? There are a myriad of ways. But at the very least, as a collective group, we need to make it abundantly clear to our nation that we are totally in favor of alleviating the suffering of the poor.

Let me wrap up by offering a few suggestions for us Christians as we consider how to relate to this particular political issue in our current, cultural setting:

1. Turn off the 24-hour news networks
Condition yourself to restrain exposure to channels like Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, and the like. Whatever your political alignment may be, develop it intelligently. The yahoos that rail on these shows fail to help us in that regard. They exist to push an agenda and to polarize. They’re a waste of our precious time. If we spend more hours in a day listening to voices on these networks than we do in prayer, fellowship, service, and time in God’s Word something is wrong. We will be much more content if we re-work our schedules and, as we grow more in Christ, we’ll become better citizens.

2. Understand that Jesus does not have a political party
Even though the title of this post is Jesus is a Liberal Democrat, I hope you’ve figured out that I don’t actually believe that. There is not one political party, candidate, or policy that embodies the politics of Christ. A huge take away point of the “render unto Caesar” passage, Matt. 22:15-22, is to demonstrate Jesus’ nuanced relationship to human government. Tim Keller, in his sermon Arguing About Politics (which I HIGHLY recommend you listen to), states that Jesus “resists political complacency, political primacy, and political simplicity.” He’s not inactive in political issues, he doesn’t seek political power, and he does not simply land in one political camp. Neither should His followers.

3. Focus on gospel proclamation and service
God does not intend for us to conquer America’s moral depravity through political means. Should you stand up for the truth? Of course. But you stand up against sin by first bending low and serving sinners. Practical service is our avenue into people’s lives which gives us opportunities to tell them the good news. The gospel is the matter “of first importance” and we witness to it through word and deed. When people are touched by God’s grace in your service and proclamation of the gospel then things will change. Hearts will be revived and God will be glorified as the Spirit moves.

May God richly bless our nation through the presence of His Church as we witness to both His holiness and His unfathomable grace.

For His glory and fame,
Dustin

Satisfaction for Free

“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters;
and he who has no money, come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.”

Isaiah 55:1-2

These two verses are part of a plea that God is making to His people.  If you go back to chapter 54 you’ll see Him explain the reason behind their upcoming suffering. The LORD tells them in verses 7-8, “For a brief moment I deserted you, but with great compassion I will gather you. In overflowing anger for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you.” Their unfaithfulness has led to a momentary disciplining. He reminds them that “my steadfast love will never depart from you” in verse 10 though they certainly will struggle to sense it while in exile.

Once God has completed His explanation and assured them that He will never waver in His commitment to them, we find ourselves at the beginning of chapter 55. In this passage God is agonizing over their decision to continually find satisfaction elsewhere: “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread and your labor for that which does not satisfy?” Can you sense God’s desperate plea in these verses? He wants so bad for His people to be extremely pleased and contented with Him.

Now personalize that reality. Do you grasp how immensely God wants you to be overwhelmingly satisfied with Him?! He wants you to be absolutely enthralled with His love. We spend so much time, energy and money to find satisfaction while God offers it at absolutely no charge: “Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” Do you know why He offers it to so freely? Your satisfaction has already been paid for.

By washing away your sins and restoring your relationship with God, Jesus has secured your pleasure. You can enjoy the wine of God’s love because He has removed your sinfulness and granted you the righteousness which He requires for those would would come into His presence. And “in [God’s] presence there is fullness of joy” (Ps. 16:11). All you need for everlasting joy is to be near God and to be able to say “for a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere” (Ps. 84:10). Enter freely through the Door, Jesus Christ, into the joy of your Master!

May you find satisfaction and joy as you experience God’s presence now and look forward to the full disclosure which is coming.

For His glory and fame,
Dustin