Lesson 1: What It Means To Be After God’s Own Heart

When Samuel announced to Saul, the first king of Israel, that his kingdom would not endure, he had this to say about Saul’s successor: “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.” (1Samuel 13.14). Approximately 1000 years later, the apostle Paul referenced this event in one of his sermons: “He raised up David to be their king, concerning whom He also testified and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My heart, who will do all My will.’” (Acts 13.22). 

David, a man after God’s own heart, one who kept the Lord’s will. He is the topic of this class, a guide for us as we seek to have the same kind of heart. But before proceeding, we must first consider what it means for a person to be after God’s own heart.

A person after God’s own heart hasn’t achieved perfection, but they are mold-able by God.

Whenever we think of David’s life, numerous highlights come to our mind. His faith and courage when facing Goliath (1Samuel 17), sparing Saul because he was the Lord’s anointed (1Samuel 24, 26), his love for the Lord’s house (2Samuel 7), etc. These events probably fit our preconceived notions of what it means to be after God’s own heart. But we are also aware of David’s numerous failures: adultery and murder (2Samuel 11), injustice (2Samuel 13-14) and pride (2Samuel 24). So, how could it be said of David that he was after God’s own heart, that he fully did the will of God?

The answer lies in how David responded to his failures. While many of God’s people were described as having hearts of stone (Ezekiel 36.26), hard hearts (Mark 3.5) and uncircumcised hearts (Jeremiah 9.26), David possessed a heart that was mold-able by the will of God. His heart truly mourned over his failures and longed to be restored (cf. Psalm 51.10). Thus, in spite of his failings, David remained a man after God’s own heart.

A person after God’s own heart will have a positive affect on others.

Remember that when Samuel confronted Saul in 1Samuel 13.14, it was because Saul had transgressed the will of God (see vss. 8-13). Saul’s actions affected not only himself and his descendants, but the whole of Israel; their king had led them into apostasy and would continue to do so (see 1Samuel 15). 

Israel would have numerous kings who would lead them astray, ultimately resulting in their removal from the promised land. Significantly, God promised that in the future He would give them “shepherds after My own heart, who will feed you on knowledge and understanding.” (Jeremiah 3.15). David had been such a shepherd. In contrast with Saul who led the people astray, David led the people toward God.

A person after God’s own heart has the assurance of God being with him. 

Returning to Paul’s words in Acts 13.22, the apostle not only quoted 1Samuel 13.14 but also Psalm 89.20: “I have found David My servant; With My holy oil I have anointed him.” Continue reading the Psalm and you see how the Lord would strengthen David (vss. 21-23), exalt him (vss. 24-27) and confirm His covenant (vss. 28-29). The Lord had chosen David and would bless him.

While the phrase “after God’s own heart” is not found in Psalm 89, this passage helps us understand the blessing implied in the phrase. To be after God’s own heart is a relational concept; if I’m following the Lord and allowing Him to shape my heart, then I have the assurance of a relationship with Him!

David, a man after God’s own heart; a man whose relationship with the Lord was secure. As we study how to have a heart like David’s, we are also studying how to have a relationship with our God!

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