I couldn’t resist. It is the day before Valentines Day, so it seemed appropriate to be thinking about hearts. So, here I am.
This led me to think about a phrase that I have heard often: “having the heart of God” or “having a heart after the heart of God.” Neither of them is very clear. And, as it turns out, neither are really from Scripture.
The turn of phrase seems to come from the shift of royal power from King Saul to shepherd boy David. In Samuel, God let’s Saul know that things have gone south for him: “But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you” (1 Samuel 13:14). From then, God starts looking for someone else to be King.
The hunt leads God to the house of Jesse and Jesse’s eight sons. At this point God’s helper, Samuel, starts looking at who might be the swarthiest of the sons. And God says, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature,…; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Sam 16:7). Since, eventually, God chooses the youngest of Jesse’s sons, it is often said that David had a heart after the heart of God.
The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart1 Samuel 13:14
Which is weird, because David was a royal screw up — pun intended. Maybe you know that famous story of him with Bathsheba the Bathing Beauty; if not you can read about it in 2 Samuel 11. But the scandal doesn’t stop there, because by the end of his life David’s own family in in shambles. What sort of God says this guy — this guy who is so flawed as to be painful — this guy has a heart after my own heart?
But then, flip it around. What great news that this royal mess has the heart of God! Because that means that even I could have a heart after God’s heart!
You know what David did that not many other biblical characters did? David said he was sorry. David admitted his mistakes. David repented.
Maybe that is all it takes to have a heart after the heart of God — to stand before God and say, “I tried to be you — I failed… of course… I am so very sorry for not letting you be you.”
Maybe that is all it takes in our relationships with others. To have a heart after the heart of God is to stand before those we love, those we despise, those we disagree with and say, “I tried to make you into me — I failed, of course… I am so very sorry for not letting you be you.”