There is a saying that goes “your character is what you are when no one is looking.” I guess you could say it is the heart that reveals a person’s innermost character.
Noah Webster’s original dictionary defines heart as “the seat of the affections and passions; the seat of the understanding; the seat of the will.” Notice how the definition includes “the seat of the understanding; the seat of the will.” What abides in our hearts is not based on fleeting emotions; it is a matter of conscious decision.
In 1 Samuel 13:14 King David was referred to as “a man after God’s own heart”. This is a pretty special thing to be called; especially since we know what Jeremiah said is true: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it”? (Jer.17:9) So, knowing that David was a man after God’s own heart yet the heart is deceitful and wicked, how do we know what it looks like to have a heart after God’s? How can we model what it means to love the Lord with all our heart?
To look at David’s life for guidance we get a less than perfect example. He committed adultery (2 Samuel 11:3-4), committed murder (2 Sam. 11:15-17), and with impure motives, he numbered the people (2 Samuel 24:1-9). As a result of these specific sins his son died shortly after birth (2 Sam. 12:16-19), the sword never left his house (2 Sam. 12:10), and the Lord sent a plague that killed 70,000 men of the people Israel (2 Sam. 24:10-17). These alone seem to be enough to disqualify anyone from having a heart after God’s.
Our humanity makes it hard to understand how David could have a heart after God’s, but praise God that “the Lord does not see as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7)! To really know why David was given this special consideration we need to look beyond the surface and into his innermost being. To do that, let’s take a look at his response to sin as seen in the psalms.
David wrote Psalm 51 after his affair with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah the Hittite, Bathsheba’s husband. In this psalm are these famous lines: “Have mercy on me, O God; according to Your steadfast love, according to Your great compassion, blot out my many transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity, cleanse me from sin.” “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” David was broken over his sin. He saw its ugliness in his life and he desired to cast it away from himself and make himself right before God.
After David had wrongfully taken the census of the people his heart condemned him and he repented, throwing himself on God’s mercy. When the Lord presented him with a choice for his punishment, David responded by saying “I am in great distress. Please let us fall into the hand of the Lord, for His mercies are great; but do not let me fall into the hand of man” (2 Sam. 24:14). The gravity of the situation before David was awful. The consequences of his sin would not affect only himself, but all of Israel; yet he knew the Lord intimately and trusted in His mercy. It is in this that David found his refuge; a rest found always in God, never in the world.
John MacArthur says this of 1 Samuel 13:14; “No man after God’s own heart is perfect; yet, he will recognize sin and repent of it.” To be a man, or woman, after God’s own heart there needs to be a response of understanding. You must first understand who God is, and then you must understand what sin is and the state of the sin in your own life. Once you have come to a full realization of your sinfulness, you throw yourself at the mercy of God and renounce the hold that sin has over you. This is what it means to love the Lord with all your heart. Not to be perfect, but to continually let go of your sins, past and present, and to seek the Lord.
The greatest struggle most people face when it comes to living our lives with a heart that pleases the Lord is comfortability. We become comfortable in our sin and we justify it. As long as we look on our sins with laughter and indifference we are not loving the Lord with all our heart, no matter how small we think our sin is. Understand what God sees as sin and understand what God says about sin. It is our response to this understanding that will set us free to love the Lord with all our heart, just as David did.
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