Man After God's Heart

William C. Brownson Uncategorized

READ : Acts 13:22

And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king; of whom he testified and said, “I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.”

Acts 13:22 rsv

What is the highest honor you could possibly receive? What would be the greatest tribute anyone could pay you? Would it be a Nobel peace prize perhaps? A Pulitzer? An Emmy? An Oscar? Would it be perhaps a Miss America title? Or a “most valuable player” award? There are Congressional Medals of Honor, Olympic gold medals, world championships of this or that. Which would be the most rewarding, the most desirable, the most coveted of all distinctions for you?

These are all remarkable awards, but they are reserved for a very few, aren’t they, exceptionally gifted people? They’re out of reach for most of us. Yet there are distinctions of even greater value open to us all. They have more to do with character than with talent and accomplishment. We needn’t compete against others to win them. Let me suggest this as chief among them all: to be, in the words of Scripture, a man or a woman “after God’s own heart.”

What do you suppose that means? Surely this at least: A man or woman after His heart would be God’s kind of person, one with whom He feels kinship, whose heart beats with His. These would be the persons Jesus once referred to as His “friends,” those in whom God delights, over whom He sings. What about that? Oh, to be a man or woman after God’s heart!


The person to whom this title is twice given in the Scriptures is David, the son of Jesse, king of Israel. Does that seem strange to you? “What about his affair with Bathsheba?” you ask. “What about the planned disposal of her husband, Uriah the Hittite? What about the blunders David made as king of Israel? And what about all the trouble he brought on himself in his own family? You really mean David? This David?” The answer is yes. He’s the one, the one whose story is so fully and frankly told in the pages of Scripture.

What could there have been about this man that prompted such a remarkable designation? Why is he called in the Bible “a man after God’s own heart”? Think about that for a moment. Maybe you’ll want to take a pen and paper to write down your reflections. Draw on whatever memories you may have of King David’s life. Just what constituted his unique greatness? Maybe you remember his courage as a shepherd boy. Young David had fought wild beasts, barehanded, in protecting his little flock. Later, when all the armies of Israel cowered before the giant Goliath, it was David who challenged him, felled him and won a great victory for God’s people. Maybe you recall the psalms David wrote, impassioned songs of praise, rich expressions of trust. Or perhaps you think of him as Israel’s most famous king, a great leader who for the most part did what God wanted him to do.

Surely all of these are notable qualities and may have played a part in his being called “God’s man.” Nowhere in Scripture is it spelled out exactly why he was named “a man after God’s own heart.” No one can claim, therefore, to have the final answer. But surely, close to the heart of everything else was David’s humility before God.

There’s considerable evidence in the Bible that this quality of life, this basic outlook, is precious to the Lord. Think of texts like these: “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. . . . Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you” (James 4:6,10). Or listen to these prophetic words, “For thus says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: `I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and humble spirit'” (Isa. 57:15a). These are strong supports for the observation of a noted Christian writer: “Modesty makes a man dear to God.”


Let me trace how I see this quality in King David. First, I think of his grateful amazement at God’s goodness to him. Second Samuel, chapter 7, records one of David’s prayers. On every front, the king had been victorious in battle and finally had rest from war. He decided to build a house for the Lord. When he told the prophet Nathan about his plans, Nathan said, “Go, do all that is in your heart; for the Lord is with you” (v. 3).

That night, however, it was revealed to Nathan that David was not to build the temple. On the contrary, God was going to build David a house. That is, God would give him a progeny, descendants who would never fail to sit on his throne. When David received that message, he was overcome. He went in and sat before the Lord and said, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that thou hast brought me thus far?” (2 Sam. 7:18). Earlier in his life, when it had been proposed to him that the king’s daughter might be his in marriage, he had said to Saul, “Who am I, and who are my kinsfolk, my father’s family in Israel, that I should be son-in-law to the king?” (1 Sam. 18:18).

We learn a great deal about a man’s character from words like those. Significant, isn’t it, how we think of ourselves? Maybe you see yourself today as worthy to receive all kinds of honors. Whenever any kind of distinction is awarded, you secretly think, “Why didn’t I or my children win that?” That kind of spirit can make us restless, dissatisfied and touchy. Jesus urged the man who came to a marriage feast not to take the place of honor for himself lest he be later demoted by the host. Rather, he should begin by taking the lowest place. Then, if the master wants to exalt him, give him a higher position, well and good.

David had something of that spirit. “Who am I, Lord?” He knew something of Paul’s melted heart when the apostle said, “to me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given. . . . ” (Eph. 3:8). They both could sing, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me,” or “And can it be, that I should gain an interest in the Savior’s blood?” “Who? Me, Lord? That’s beautiful.” There are no surprises, no honors, no joys, for those who think they have everything coming to them, but David wasn’t like that. He could be astonished. He could be filled with wonder. He could shake his head and marvel: “Who am I, Lord, that this should come to me?”


Here’s another expression of a humble heart: David’s constant pleas to be guided by God. Listen to this passage:

Now they told David, “Behold, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah, and are robbing the threshing floors.” Therefore David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I go and attack these Philistines?” And the Lord said to David, “Go and attack the Philistines and save Keilah.” . . . Then David inquired of the Lord again. (1 Samuel 23:1-4)

David was a born leader and a great military strategist. He had courage, initiative, forcefulness. Yet before God, he remained like a child. He needed wisdom and guidance and was not ashamed to ask for it. When emergencies came and weighty decisions were to be made, his characteristic cry was, “What shall I do now, Lord?”

It’s a blessed thing to recognize our need for help. I thought about that one morning when I found a toad floating about in a little swimming pool. He apparently had fallen in some time before and was becoming weary of keeping afloat. When I reached in a skimmer to take him out, he used what little energy he had left for a steep dive. He tried to foil every effort I made to rescue him. He was about to drown but he didn’t want any help. How like us! Even when we’re about to go down for the third time, we say, “I can handle this.” But David could call the Lord his shepherd. For all his genius and strength, he was ready always to be cared for and guided by Another.


Here’s a third ingredient of humility: David’s patience with those who opposed him. Try to put yourself in his place. Samuel the prophet has just poured the anointing oil over your head. You know now that you are destined to be Israel’s king. But King Saul is after your life, leaving no stone unturned in seeking to have you killed. Suddenly, your golden opportunity comes. King Saul turns aside to relieve himself in a cave where you happen to be in hiding. It would be a simple matter for you to dispose of him right there. What do you do? In that instance and in another one later, David refused to play God. He wouldn’t take matters into his own hands. He chose instead to leave Saul unharmed. Let God be his judge.

David showed that same kind of forbearance later on when he had to leave Jerusalem as an exile. A man was walking along the ridge above him, cursing, throwing down stones and dirt. One of David’s loyal servants said, “Shall I go and take care of that wretch?” David said, “Let him alone, and let him curse; for the Lord has bidden him. It may be that the Lord will look upon my affliction, and that the Lord will repay me with good for this cursing of me today” (2 Sam. 16:10-12). Quite a patient, forbearing spirit, wouldn’t you say?


Now for one last trait of a humble heart. When confronted with the fact of his sin, David took responsibility for it. You remember Nathan’s strategy, telling David a story in which the king’s own guilt lay hidden. Until that time, David had not been brought to repentance for the evil he had done. But when Nathan’s “You are the man” pierced his heart, David’s response was moving.

Remember, he was an oriental king with absolute power over his subjects. Think of what he could have said in response to Nathan’s charge: “How dare you make such an accusation of the king?” Or “Mind your own business, Nathan, don’t meddle with matters that don’t concern you.” Perhaps there could have been feigned innocence: “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Nathan!” Or again, projection of the blame: “It was Bathsheba’s fault. She led me into it.” But the king, with all his fearful authority, said none of those things. His word was rather, “I have sinned.”

Now what about us? What about me? What about you? How are we reacting to what comes our way? When some special blessing meets us, do we take it pretty much for granted or do we feel a sense of wonder, saying, as David did, “Who am I, Lord, that this great mercy should come to me?”

When we face a big decision, do we simply muddle through on our own or do we ask, “Lord, what will You have me to do?” Or when someone gives us a hard time, do we respond with impatience, touchiness? Are we quick to get even, or have we learned to leave that person to God? And when we’re faced with a wrong we’ve done, how do we react? Is it bluff, is it bluster, is it blaming, or is it honest confession?

All the heart-humbleness we see in David sprang from what the Bible calls “the fear of the Lord.” You know what that means. It’s not terror or fright. To fear the Lord means simply to take Him seriously, to know that He is real and that we have to answer to Him in everything. It’s realizing God’s undeserved kindness toward us that gives us a sense of wonder. It’s His infinite wisdom and nearness that makes us pray: “Guide me, Lord.” It’s His lordship, His judgments, that encourage us to leave our vindication finally with Him. And isn’t it always His pardoning grace that melts us and moves us to confess our sins? Yes, the knowledge that we’re greatly loved. So, friends, the way to walk humbly is to know the living God as He has made Himself fully and finally known in Jesus.

That way is open for you today. You can learn this heartening truth from David’s experience: you don’t have to have a perfect record. You may have really messed things up in your life. Things even now may not be going very well in your life or in your family. There’s a lot in the past about which you feel ashamed. But if you will let God be God, if you will trust His love for you in Christ and walk humbly with Him, you can dare to believe something truly remarkable. Just as He said of David, a flawed and sometimes a fallen man, God may yet say about you, “That’s My man. That’s My woman. There’s one after My own heart.” And that, friends, will be the greatest honor you can ever win.