A Man After God’s Own Heart
Robert Wurtz II
“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 ESV)
In 1996, a contemporary Christian song was released that turned the phrase “a man after my heart” and was entitled “A Man After Your Own Heart.” It spoke of a man who was a confessed prodigal, driven by rivers of pride, wondering away so far, but yet is still “a man after your own heart.” The lyric begs God to still be used of Him even though they are a prodigal child that He knows them to be. Really? I suggest that the theology in this song is more deception and wishful thinking than sound doctrine. Nevertheless, it became the anthem of a generation (if you will) who believes that as long as a person can identify with David, they are still a man or a woman after God’s own heart.
Understand that a person can fall into sin more than once and be forgiven. Most would be in agreement with this truth. However, what are we to do when a pattern develops where a person is in rebellion and are justifying their rebellious lifestyle? What happens when contemporary Christian music reinforces these behaviors? The only solution is to challenge and pull down those strongholds of the enemy. That is the purpose of this entry — not to condemn anyone who has fallen into sin (even multiple times) and has now repented. I want that to be clear from the beginning.
A Readiness to Do God’s Will
When God called David to be king in Israel, he did so because Saul was rebellious and wouldn’t follow God’s direction. God never wanted Israel to have a king in the first place, but if they insisted on having one, He wanted one in place that would be “after His own heart” — a man with a readiness to do whatever God desired. The phrase could better be translated, “A man who is all that My heart could desire.” [The words “a man who is all that my heart could desire” (ἄνδρα κατὰ τὴν καρδίαν μου) are taken from 1 Sam. (LXX 1 Kms.) 1Sa 13:14 (ἄνθρωπον κατὰ τὴν καρδίαν ἀυτοῦ,) ἄνδρα (om B) is a more precise equivalent of Heb. ʾîš than is LXX ἄνθρωπον. (New International Commentary on Acts 13:22)].
Clearly, God chose David because he would do God’s will and emulate His personality. This is what it means to be “all that God’s heart could desire” in a man or woman. When David placed himself between a sheep and a lion or a bear—he was imitating the heart of God. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He protects them from the enemy. He or she is not a wolf who preys on the flock; they risk their lives to protect the sheep from wolves. The metaphor is that of a pastor who protects the sheep (God’s own possession) from the trappings of sin and Satan. Selah.
This fact is what makes the lyrics of the song quoted above so egregious. The prodigal son and the prodigal king (David when he fell into sin), were not acting at that moment according to the character that is “all God’s heart could desire.” In other words, it is foolish and deceptive to use either the prodigal son parable or the true-life story of King David as justification for gross sin. But that hasn’t stopped people from doing it.
A Life-long Prodigal?
Imagine having a mindset that says, “The prodigal spent all his fortune on parties and prostitutes and God still loved him.” Well, God loved him but had he never came to himself in the pigpen he would have died in his sin. The game-changing watershed-moment was when he finally came to his senses, repented of his evil, and returned home to a life of submission to the Father. That’s the picture. There is no such thing as a life-long prodigal.
Another thing I have heard, “David was a man after God’s own heart and he committed adultery.” This was being said to justify a lifelong problem with womanizing and adultery. Yet David is not the example here for such behavior. Indeed, he sinned with Bathsheeba and killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword of the enemy, but he repented and never (underline never) did it again. This is how we know he repented. He was not a compulsive adulterer. Can you imagine a murderer using David as an excuse to keep killing? And in the end say, “David killed and yet he was a man after God’s own heart.” That attitude borders on blasphemy.
The error behind this thinking and the stronghold that must be torn down is the notion that I can live in rebellion against God and love Him at the same time. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15 ESV). Some manuscripts have the verb tērēsete (keep) as aorist imperative and some future active tense. Either way, you are to keep or you will keep the commandments as an expression of your love for Christ. In fact, “Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:4 ESV).
Repentance: A Change of Mind and Behavior
When The prodigal son sinned, he returned home to his father deeply sorrowful and repentant. When David sinned with Bathsheeba, he acknowledged his sin, turned from it, prayed for a clean heart and a right spirit (Psalm 51). He spoke of how he was under such strong conviction, that he moaned in distress all day long and it was as if God’s hand was pressing down on him (Psalm 32). He begged God not to take the Holy Spirit from him as He did king Saul (clearly a possibility). There was no second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, adulterous affairs and cover-ups. It was over—except for the sword that never departed his house (2 Sam. 12:10).
Would to God that the song would have said, “O God, though I have wandered so far … You know that I’m still a man in need of deep repentance from sin. Don’t use me in this condition, lest I bring reproach to your name.” How would that have impacted the hearer? Rather than stoking a narcissistic and rebellious attitude with lies that suggest God is happy with us in our sin, perhaps the door for good ole fashioned Holy Spirit conviction would have come open and the opportunity for true restoration could have been realized. A generation could be like the real David and repent, turn to God, and utterly forsake their sin.