As we took another step this week in our summer long exploration of The Big Picture of the Bible, we took a trip through the Old Testament age of kings, focusing very specifically and very intentionally on a single king, David. Though the story of the Bible tells us about many kings in the nation of Israel and otherwise, there is no human ruler that looms large over the narrative than David.
David was, in so many ways, an unlikely candidate to be king. Last and least among his brothers, he is not even called into his father’s home to be evaluated by the prophet Samuel, who had come to his father in search of Israel’s next leader. But as 1 Samuel 16:7 makes clear, God saw something in David that was absent in Saul, his predecessor, as well as in his seven older- and seemingly more impressive- brothers. And what was that “something”? A heart after Him.
In choosing David to lead His people, God revealed something critically important about the manner in which He measures men and women- that is, that in His Kingdom, the heart matters most. We may regularly be impressed by others’ wealth, talent, professional success, and the like, but God is impressed by no such things; He looks first to the state and content of our hearts before Him. After all, as Saul’s failures clearly showed, “looking the part” can only get one so far in God’s Kingdom.
It is essential to note that when we say God looks to our “hearts,” we are not saying that he looks to our intentions. A heart after God possesses far more than good intentions; it is revealed, even validated, by what we say, think, and do. The content of the heart always, eventually, inevitably comes out in the everyday choices we make. And as we look to David’s life and rule, we see a man who consistently, even in the face of enormous pressure and hardship, sought to exalt and honor God in all that He said and did.
This did not, however, mean that David was perfect. As 2 Samuel 11 reveals clearly, and in ugly detail, David remained a deeply broken man, wholly susceptible to the sin and temptation that afflicts us all in this world. At the peak of his power and influence, he leverages his position to commit adultery, fraud, and murder in rapid succession (and you thought political scandals were invented in Louisiana!). And yet, it is what happens in the immediate aftermath of this string of sins that reveals as much or more about David’s heart than anything else he said or did in all of his life.
Confronted head on by the prophet Nathan with the utter, egregious wickedness of his actions, David makes no excuses, minimizations, or justifications. He responds to the revealing of his sin with but one statement- “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Samuel 12:13). For a fuller statement of David’s confession and repentance, read and reflect on Psalm 51. This raw moment, on one of David’s darkest days ever, teaches us a critical truth regarding the heart- The heart that honors God is marked by recognition and repentance.
If you desire to honor God with everything you are and everything you’ve got, you simply must recognize that at some point, your brokenness is going to show itself, and it is what you do in the moment that it does that will reveal where your heart truly stands before God. Stop believing the lie that you’re ever going to get all your stuff together, and learn to live with a persistent sense of holy desperation that recognizes God’s righteousness, your sinfulness, and your need to repent before Him and receive the transforming grace that only He can offer. If you do this, you will progressively grow in godliness; and on the flip side, if you don’t, you’ll become insufferably prideful, and your heart will grow gradually colder and colder before God.
So, as you consider David this week, ask yourself this question- How’s your heart? And how do you know? Be honest with God, with yourself, and before some trusted others too about the content of this most critical part of your being. Don’t believe the lie that your imperfections disqualify you from having a God honoring heart. Instead, recognize them for what they are and learn to live in a place of consistent humility and repentance. Beg God to change your heart to be more like His. It is a prayer that, by His grace and power, He is more than willing and able to answer.