The Heart of the Matter

King David was described by God as "A man after my own heart." (Acts 13:22, referring to 1 Sam 13:14). That is obviously a good thing. But what does it mean?

If you look at the life of David, there are numerous examples of behavior which does not meet the standards of God's law. Several of those violations appear to be worse than the failures which led to his predecessor, King Saul, being rejected as king. And yet, he is still remembered as a man after God's own heart?

So what does it look like to be a person after God's own heart?

One clue is found in the accusation made by the commander of his army: "You love those who hate you and hate those who love you" (2 Sam 19:6). David had a tendency to show mercy where common sense would expect judgment. And that tendency reflects a core value in God's own heart.

The heart of GodThe New Testament points to four things that are dear to God's heart. Things he longs for, seeks and desires:

  • He wants every person to come into relationship with him (1 Tim 2:3-4)
  • He longs for his Spirit to dwell in us (James 4:5)
  • He seeks worshipers (John 4:23)
  • He desires that his people would live in unity (John 17:20-24)

All of these things are relational. They all depend on grace, forgiveness and love.

  • A person after Gods own heart will not have enemies; but rather view every person as a target for relationship; be they opponent, foreigner, criminal, evil or whatever.
  • A person in whom the Spirit dwells will bear his fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.
  • A worshiper is sensitive to the longings of their beloved, such as meekness, mercy, purity, and peacemaking.
  • Those who live in unity walk in love; they are patient, kind, not envious, not boastful, not proud, not dishonoring, not self-seeking, refraining from anger, and keeping no record of wrongs.

And yet, way too much of what is being communicated by Christians in this age does not look very much like what I have just described. Whether it be from pulpits or on social media, there are a lot of harsh words. There are adamant statements about what is right and wrong; about who is doing good things or who is likely to bring about evil. There are condemnations and curses. Unfortunately, much of it looks a lot more like this:

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
(2 Tim 3:1-5 NIV)

A Pharisee is someone who puts behavior ahead of heart condition. If you look back at God's four longings, none of them are actually very concerned about behavior. The focus is relationship—God's relationship to people. It seems to me that what is really important to God is the condition of the heart. Your heart. My heart. And the condition of the heart is revealed by how we speak.

A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.
(Luke 6:45 NIV)

This, I believe, is what it means to be a person after God's own heart.

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Scripture quotations marked NIV are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™