By: Beth Doohan
“[The Lord] made their hearts, so He understands everything they do…the Lord watches over those who fear Him, those who rely on His unfailing love.” (Psalm 33:16, 18)
“Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power, that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12)
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Here at The Wholehearted Woman, part of our mission is helping women be fully surrendered to the lordship of Jesus Christ. When I think about this calling, one of the greatest biblical heroes of the faith comes to mind. He authored our mission’s Scripture, “I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is within my heart” (Psalm 40:8). That’s right—King David!
From the humble beginnings of a shepherd, God selected David to be king over Israel and made his name great as a powerful warrior and leader. As my husband Corey and I recently reflected on David’s story, we were struck by how set apart he was from other leaders of Israel, both before and after his reign. The Bible tells us that God’s favor was upon him. So we asked ourselves, what was it that made David so different?
Throughout David’s life, we see again and again how open and transparent he was before the Lord. The Psalms reveal David’s heart and fervent prayer to God. His life shows that David looked to the Lord for approval and sought to obey Him fully in all that he did. His wholehearted devotion and sincere love of the Lord is what made him a man after God’s own heart. Corey also noted that David was heavenly-minded, always thinking about things above and how to please the Lord. Unlike other rulers who sought favor with man or followed their own self-interests, David made decisions based on his relationship with the Lord and seeking to follow Him.
As we explore this great man of God’s life, we will discuss three key components: his youth, his reign and his legacy.
1) David’s Youth
One of the most powerful elements of David’s story is that he followed the Lord from his youth. His challenges as a shepherd boy trained David for a life of service to the Lord. That is not to say that a Christian’s impact is diminished if they did not follow the Lord in their youth. But for David, his youth was a season of preparation In fact, one of the greatest kings following David’s reign was King Josiah, who became ruler at age eight and discovered the Book of God’s Law 18 years later. When he read the Scriptures, King Josiah was grieved in his spirit, for he knew that he and all Judah were living in sin against the Lord. In response, he turned to the Lord fully, asked for His forgiveness and issued reforms to restore the Lord’s temple and remove pagan practices from the land. II Kings 23:25 tells us that, “Never before had there been a king like Josiah, who turned to the Lord with all his heart and soul and strength, obeying all the laws of Moses.”
In Psalm 8:2, David penned, “You have taught children and infants to tell of your strength,” showing he recognized God’s hand in his life from a young age. As we discuss his early years, take note how David wholeheartedly served the Lord and trusted in Him, which prepared him to rule as king.
God Sees Our Hearts
Have you ever felt unimportant, or that what you are doing in life is insignificant? I have news for you: God promises that if you remain faithful in little, you will be entrusted with much (Luke 16:10). Think of David, who from humble beginnings was chosen to reign as king of Israel.
As Saul, David’s predecessor, continued to disobey God’s commandments, the Lord told Samuel that He was grieved He had ever made Saul king. He instructed Samuel to go to Bethlehem and anoint one of Jesse’s sons to be the next king. When Samuel arrived, he thought he knew which of Jesse’s eight sons would be king just by looking at how impressive and good-looking the oldest brother Eliab was. But God told Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (I Samuel 16:7). As one by one the Lord passed over each of Jesse’s sons, Samuel asked if there were any others. Indeed, there was one, the youngest of them all, who was tending to the family’s sheep in the fields. As David approached, God told Samuel to anoint him, for he was the Lord’s chosen one.
Why did God choose David to be king? David had learned to be faithful with little while caring for his father’s sheep. Through encounters with lions and bears, he had learned to trust in the Lord no matter what and knew that God would protect him. The Lord saw David’s heart of obedience and surrender to Him and blessed David for his service. We learned by Saul’s example that “Obedience is better than sacrifice and submission is better than offering the fat of rams” (I Samuel 15:22b). As daughters of the King, God wants us to surrender our whole hearts to Him and serve Him faithfully. David understood this and devoted himself completely to the Lord. In Psalm 33:16, 18, David wrote, “[The Lord] made their hearts, so He understands everything they do…the Lord watches over those who fear Him, those who rely on His unfailing love.” Whatever season you may be in, preparation, action or renewed surrender, keep in mind the shepherd boy who God selected in midst of his everyday work because the Lord saw his heart.
Fear the Lord First
Throughout his life, Saul consistently feared man more than he feared God. Because of this God eventually rejected him as king. When Saul was chosen to be king, Samuel anointed him and later introduced him as God’s chosen one, but Saul was nowhere to be found. Then, God told Samuel that Saul was hiding. He did not think himself worthy or capable enough to rule over Israel. He did not see himself as God saw him—a man of character and godliness fit to lead the nation. The underlying root of his insecurity was a lack of trust in God to be with him and help him reign as he should.
If we fear man more than God, we will lose what He has entrusted to us. When Samuel confronted Saul about disobeying the Lord, he said “Although you may think little of yourself, are you not the leader of the tribes of Israel?…Because you have rejected the command of the Lord, He has rejected you as king” (I Samuel 15:17, 23b). Saul had given in to what the people wanted instead of leading them in the Lord’s commands. Saul told Samuel he was afraid to say no to the people’s demands, so he went along with their request instead of doing what God wanted. Does this sound familiar? We can all get trapped into following what other’s want instead of what we know God wants. But as His children, the Lord calls us to fear Him first, walking in obedience to Him and not going along with what others think. If we do not, we may end up missing out on God’s best, like Saul did as king.
In contrast to Saul, David’s whole heart was surrendered to the Lord. He was unafraid to face Goliath the giant and to become the next king, because he knew that his strength came from the Lord. David said, “The Lord who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine” (I Samuel 17:37). Because David trusted in God and feared Him more than man, God was able to make his efforts successful. He looked to God for approval and was blessed, while Saul looked to man and lost his kingdom because of it. When you have a willing heart trusting and devoted to God, He will use you mightily.
2) David’s Reign
As king of Israel, David enjoyed great favor and blessing from the Lord. God had prepared him to reign and continued to make him victorious in battle after battle, even allowing him to bring the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. David also made some powerful mistakes and suffered the consequences of his sin. But through it all, his first response was humility and surrender before the Lord, admitting his fault and not making excuses. David chose to keep his heart open before the Lord his entire life, and this gave him God’s favor.
Turn to Me and I Will Restore You
One of the most distasteful sins of David’s life was his affair with Bathsheba, Uriah’s wife. After he had committed the act, he further sinned by trying to cover it up. When he could not convince Uriah to return home to be with his wife during battle, David arranged a bloody murder for him on the front lines of the fight. However, when Nathan the prophet confronted David about it, he quickly admitted, “I have sinned against the Lord” (II Samuel 12:13). Immediately, Nathan responded that the Lord had forgiven him. In great contrast, when Saul had sinned and was confronted by the prophet Samuel, Saul made excuses and refused to admit his sin before the Lord. Because David humbled himself and repented of his wrongdoing, the Lord continued to bless him, although in consequence the child Bathsheba bore died.
As we go through life, our hearts should be ready and willing to admit fault before God. Like David, our heart’s cry must be “yes, Lord, I have done wrong. Forgive me, Father, and help me change and make it right.” Part of being fully surrendered to the lordship of Jesus Christ is having a heart of repentance and humility before the Lord to acknowledge any sin. David exhibited this heart when he turned back to God after sinning. In Psalm 139:23-24, he wrote, “Search me, O God, and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” As wholehearted women, we need to ask God to reveal any areas of sin in our life and be willing to repent before the Lord and turn toward righteous living. Then, like David, we can experience God’s continued favor and blessings. Psalm 34:12-14 says, “Does anyone want to live a life that is long and prosperous? Then keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies! Turn away from evil and do good.”
Serve God Like No Other
What was it that distinguished David, to make him be called “a man after God’s own heart”? Among all the kings of Israel and Judah, God said that no one followed Him like His servant David, even though there were other kings who did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight. What was different about David’s relationship with the Lord?
First and second Kings documents the history of rulers who reigned over Israel and Judah after David. We see a pattern in this account that each one either “did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight” or “did what was evil in the Lord’s sight.” Even if a king followed the Lord, he often did so with mixed loyalty. We see this pattern over and over again of kings who sought to please the Lord, but also failed to remove the idols in his nation, failed to remove shrines and detestable practices or failed to follow God’s instructions.
In contrast, David served God with his whole heart. The Psalms are a window into David’s heart of surrender and openness before God: “Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me”; “This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; He is my God, and I trust Him”; “The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship…The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul…The commandments of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart” (Psalm 51:10; Psalm 91:2; Psalm 19:1, 7-8). These passages reveal God’s glory and nature through what He had spoken to David’s heart as His servant and anointed king. David sought to follow the Lord with his whole self. Even when he sinned, David repented and surrendered to the lordship of his Savior, admitting his wrongdoing and asking God for forgiveness.
3) David’s Legacy
David’s life was remarkable, and his enduring legacy has impacted generations of believers for thousands of years. Not only does the Bible tell his story, but it also holds the many psalms and hymns David wrote unto the Lord in devotion and praise. As a man after God’s own heart, the Lord honored David with a lasting lineage. As wholehearted women, how we live now has a huge impact while we are alive, but also leaves an important legacy for generations to come. When we live in surrender to Jesus Christ, He will bless us and our descendants after us.
Promises of an Enduring Lineage
God loved David and was very pleased with him. He was with him as a shepherd, brought him victory as a warrior and anointed him as king. Because David had followed the Lord wholeheartedly, God promised him that He would create a dynasty of kings from him: “Your house and your kingdom will continue before Me for all time and your throne will be secure forever” (II Samuel 7:16). God honored David with a lasting dynasty, leading all the way down to the King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus Christ, born in Bethlehem. What a privilege!!
When we faithfully serve God with our whole hearts, He promises to be with us and even with our children and grandchildren. Even though not all David’s descendants remained faithful to the Lord, God still showed mercy and special grace to them for David’s sake. II Kings 8:19 tells us, “But the Lord did not want to destroy Judah, for He had made a covenant with David and promised that his descendants would continue to rule, shining like a lamp forever.” Like David, we play a powerful role in our family’s legacy and heritage to follow the Lord.
I mentioned in the beginning how David was heavenly-minded, fixing his heart on things above. In a song of praise near the end of his life, David told how the ways of the Lord are perfect and that His promises prove true, praising God for blessing those who love Him. “The Lord has rewarded me for doing right. He has seen my innocence. To the faithful You show Yourself faithful; to those with integrity You show integrity. To the pure You show Yourself pure…You show unfailing love to your anointed, to David and all his descendants forever” (II Samuel 22:25-27, 51). David knew his success and legacy were rewards from God for following Him wholeheartedly. We, too, can experience God’s blessings when we commit to our calling all the days of our lives!
Carrying the Torch
Wholehearted women, let us strive to live in total surrender to the lordship of Jesus Christ and to be women after God’s own heart. As we have seen from the life of David, God longs for us to know Him deeply and to use us for His glory. Through seasons of preparation, service unto God and even through a lasting legacy, the Lord has plans for our lives that are far greater than we could imagine as we continue to trust in Him. May we always stay close to Him, follow Him in wholehearted devotion, and carry the torch of faith that will impact generations to come.