How to be a person after God’s own heart
Jocelyn Chen // October 8, 2018, 4:59 pm
“At this age, you should be at this job position.”
“By this organisational level, you should be earning this.”
“Shouldn’t you be married by now?”
“When are you going to have a baby?”
What are you waiting for?
Like it or not, we all have expectations. Expectations contain connotations of hopes, anticipations and ideals. More often than not, they come about because we grow up with a certain mindset and hence perceive that, perhaps, that is the order in which life should work out.
Many times we find ourselves in situations where we are caught up by men’s expectations of us. We find ourselves being so consumed by what men think of us that we forget we are children of God, and the power that that identity alone entails.
We may also project such expectations on ourselves, and on others. It could take place on an individual level: What our life should look like, looking for a job or a partner … Or on a national level: The kind of governance we ought to have, or the type of leader one should be.
In the light of all this, it is useful to compare the lenses of how men and God look at King David – an unlikely candidate in the world’s eyes, who yet remained God’s ultimate choice.
How did David remain steadfast over the long years of his career? How did he keep his eyes fixed on God? Why did God call him “a man after His own heart”?
I believe that through his example, we will find redemption from the tainted view of men’s expectations (including our own) that has prevent us from becoming the men and women God has destined for us to be.
In 1 Samuel, we read about the Israelites, and even Samuel – the greatest prophet and judge to rule Israel – having expectations of how an ideal king ruling over them should look like.
This rather fixed mindset certainly did not reflect David, the youngest “forgotten” son, the mere shepherd boy, who was ironically, God’s choice to be king over Israel. To further emphasise his insignificance in the eyes of man, David was only introduced by his father, Jesse, when Samuel enquired if the seven sons he’d seen were all the sons Jesse had.
“Jesse had seven of his sons walk in front of Samuel. But Samuel said to him, ‘The Lord hasn’t chosen any of them.’ So he asked Jesse, ‘Are these the only sons you have?’ ‘No,’ Jesse answered. ‘My youngest son is taking care of the sheep.’” (1 Samuel 16:10-11)
“Youngest … tending the sheep” – this is how David is first introduced to us. Youngest son, shepherd, fugitive, king, murderer – he was all of that by the end of his story. The nobody, the great and the worst, and yet God still gave him the honour of being called “a man after God’s own heart”.
1 Samuel 16:7 gives us a clue of what kind of person the Lord looks for: “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” So what was it about David’s heart that pleased God?
“… 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)
On the flip side, we note from the scriptures how quickly men based their judgment and selection on physical appearance.
While humans are limited to the externals, the “outward appearance”, God looks at the heart.
King Saul, whom David later took over the kingship from, was described as “a head taller than anyone else” and “more handsome than anyone in Israel” (1 Samuel 9:2) when he was anointed the first king of Israel.
Eliab, Jesse’s first son, also impressed Samuel with his striking appearance, and was thus very quick to assume he was the Lord’s anointed.
“When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab. He thought, ‘This has to be the one the Lord wants me to anoint for him.’ But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider how handsome or tall he is. I have not chosen him.'” (1 Samuel 16:7)
Here we see the distinction between how different people and God perceive situations and reality. While humans are limited to the externals, the “outward appearance”, God looks at the heart.
What really counts in a person has more to do with the heart than with the eyes.
Despite David’s young age, we catch glimpses of what a heart yielded to God should look like. Our experiences often shape our actions and responses. Do we have such encounters with God that would propel us to act in the way David did?
“David said to Goliath, ‘You are coming to fight against me with a sword, a spear and a javelin. But I’m coming against you in the name of the Lord who rules over all … He’s the one you have dared to fight against. This day the Lord will give me the victory over you … The Lord doesn’t rescue people by using a sword or a spear … The battle belongs to the Lord. He will hand all of you over to us.’” (1 Samuel 17:45-47)
When David was in battle with the Philistines, a fight in which his own people, the Israelites, doubted him, he remained unfazed. He was focused, single-minded and only looked to God.
One lesson that we can draw from David’s responses is that he knew God so well that he could work within the logic of God. He was so convinced and confident of God’s guidance even before the victory took place.
Knowing God seemed to be central to David’s life. As seen in many of the psalms, David’s life was difficult, to say the least. Despite his deep anguish, it was always without fail that he chose to ultimately acknowledge God and His good, unchanging nature, which spurred him on and kept him going.
David also knew his position and role. He knew that he was a king in waiting, and honoured Saul as the “Lord’s anointed” when he was still king (1 Samuel 24:6). He knew that even if Saul did try to kill him many times, he was not to repay evil for evil.
Most importantly, he knew that God’s timing is perfect. He knew that God would vindicate him one day. He knew that he was a child of God and that God cared for him, and thus, he could trust for God to deliver.
In all these, we see a heart that continuously waited upon the Lord, even when it did not make sense.
“What are you waiting for?” may seem to be the question of the hour.
Whether we are successfully ticking all the “correct” boxes in life, winning the rat race, building a home with a partner – there will always be an expectation on us to achieve, to do more.
But this very question creates an illusion that we are always behind time. It forgets that time is written by the same God who has written all the days of our lives.
I see the struggle of friends who have had to deal with such comments. They love God and seek to do His will. However, clouded by the expectations of society, they resort to satisfying everybody including themselves, when we are naturally insecure and prideful. Many may have achieved these societal expectations only to feel emptier than before.
If someone were to ask David “what are you waiting for?”, I believe David would have replied with this: “Do you mean, who am I waiting for?”
As the Psalms illustrate, David knew that in the midst of life’s pressures and tribulations, all that he truly desired, all that he needed, he could expect from a God who loved him. After all, David means “beloved”.
He knew God loved him, and with that knowledge, he knew that he could restfully wait on the one who had it all planned out for him. Like David, we should strive to live with a confident expectation of the one who loves us, who promises to work all things for our good (Romans 8:28), and is always on time.
It is this understanding that must govern our logic, actions and thoughts, that will compel us to live not on man’s timing, but on God’s. Then we too can be people after God’s own heart – people who will do all He wills.