Friday, May 30, 2008

Man after God’s own heart

I have just completed a very edifying (to me at least) series on the Life of David. I enjoyed it immensely and it was eye opening to me often. Of course I think the question that cannot be ignored when studying David is what exactly does it mean that David is a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14, and again in 16:7). However, I was extremely disappointed in the commentaries I often used because they did not pay enough attention to this question, and thus, I also think they missed one of the major themes of the books of Samuel. Admittedly, this is partly because our English Bible as two books of Samuel as opposed to the Hebrew Bible, which has Samuel as one book. Thus, the commentaries were often broken up into 1 and then 2 Samuel and would look for themes in each book rather than find a unifying theme or a theme that ran throughout.

For example, Joyce Baldwin does not even make a comment at all upon 1 Samuel 13:14 as if it was not that important. Keil and Delitzch do not spend long upon it nor do they reference 1 Samuel 13:14 when God says he looks upon the heart at the anointing of David (16:7). I think that comment is meant to remind us that God has chosen a man after his own heart to be the next king as well as make the contrast between David and Saul clear. Dale Ralph Davis’s commentary on 2 Samuel is more about the kingdom than about David, and his quoting of the 1 Samuel 13 is only to point out flaws in David and never to define what is meant by the phrase. Walter Brueggemann actually jumps off his liberal leaning deep end in 1 Samuel 13:14 and has a very sympathetic view of Saul! No kidding. He actually thinks Samuel withheld the promise from Saul on purpose and had been looking for an excuse to remove Saul from the throne. Brueggemenn argues that the punishment is far to severe. Disturbing. Even the book, After God’s Own Heart: The Gospel According to David by Mark Boda only mentions the verse twice. I do think Boda gets it right on page 136 when he says that David’s quick repentance at Nathan’s revelation in 2 Samuel 12 shows that David is a man after God’s own heart as opposed to Saul who argued with Samuel’s proclamation of sin. However, he failed to carry that short paragraph through the whole book.

I believe that the text is saying that David is a man after God’s own heart and the rest of Samuel reveals what that means. Basically, I think the text is showing us that David is a man after God’s own heart because David loves God’s word. That is what the text tries to show over and over and over again. We get stories of David in Chronicles as well, but Chronicles is clearly following the temple. Samuel is contrasting David’s attitude toward the Word of God with those around him. First, Saul, later Joab, Absolam, and a host of others. Let me try to illustrate. I will focus on David’s life, but I think it is apparent earlier in Samuel too for example Samuel’s own reaction to God speaking as opposed to Eli’s sons or even Eli himself.

It starts at the introduction of Saul. Saul is annointed King over Israel in chapter 10 verse 1, but it not made public to Israel. Yet when it is public, Saul is hidding among the equipment (v.22). Not exactly a bold trust or ready acceptance of God’s word. Of course in chapter 13 Saul is already elevating himself as the King of Kings and ignoring God’s word. He does not wait for Samuel to make the Sacrifice. His sin is primarily not obeying the word of God as given by Samuel, not in doing the work of a priest (13:13). He is finally rejected as king in chapter 15 because he disobeys the word again. Chapter 16 David is promised that he will be king and in chapter 17 we see the story of Goliath. Here David does not fear and kills Goliath while Saul sits in his tent and trusts in armor more than in God. Notice in places like chapter 20 that Jonathan believes the promise or word of God to David and chooses David over Saul. Note in chapter 22:5 of 1 Samuel how quickly David obeys rebuke from God this time through the prophet Gad. The rest of chapter 22 is devoted to Saul making war on God and his Word by trying to kill all the priests. Notice how David turns to get a word from the Lord through the priests/ephod in chapter 23. Every time David spares Saul’s life it is because he respects God’s word and the fact that God will not have his annointed harmed. That is a sign of David’s love for God’s word, not sign of David’s respect of Saul. The contrast is made explicit at the end of 1 Samuel as both men are in tough positions. Saul goes to a medium to try and resurrect Samuel. Saul does not turn to God’s word. In fact it is said God refused to answer him (28:6). So Saul turns to a medium. David on the other hand turns to God in the Urim and Thummim in chapter 30. What seems like an obvious choice to pursue those who kidnapped your loved ones, David makes sure to clear it with God before doing so. Respect for God’s word. In the early parts of 2 Samuel we get to see the warlike attitudes of Abner and Joab. Joab repeatedly breaks God’s word and the king’s word. We see David fail to transport the ark according to God’s word in chapter 6, but he corrects himself. Showing he knows where to turn when sin is exposed. Chapter 7 God gives him a promise, which is a high point of the narrative. God’s word to David serves as the turning point of the whole narrative. We then get chapters 9 and 10 where David deals out the Hesed of God (lovingkindness) to Mephibosheth and to Ammon (which was rejected). This is to contrast David with Joab who deals out only murder. David lives out God’s word, Joab does not. Again we see David sin, but is quickly repentant when confronted with the Word of God in chapter 12. This is another turning point of the book. In chapter 12 Nathan promises trouble that the sword will not depart. The rest of the book shows that Word of God being fulfilled. First with Amnon then with Absolam, both of whom show no respect for God’s word despite being confronted with it, and on with the other rebellions. Ahithophel hangs himself in chapter 17 because he realizes that God is with David and not Absolam and instead of repenting, he hangs himself ala Judas. Chapter 21 is again David inquiring of the Lord and doing what he says without question. The last words of David in chapter 23 are about God’s word. God “spoke by me” (v.2), “spoke to me” (v3.), and verses 5 to the end are about the strength of God’s promise/word to him and his house. It is about ruling under God’s word and trusting God’s word. The last story in chapter 24 shows us again David’s tender conscious to sin and his quick trust of God when confronted with the Word of God again by the prophet Gad. That story culminates with God answering prayer and David obeying the Word of God by buying the threshing floor. Another example of David obeying the word of God.

In short I wished that the commentaries had wrestled more with the meaning of being after God’s own heart. In the end, I think that tremendous application can be made to our lives if we understand exactly what it means to be after God’s own heart.