(Preliminary note; I hope I’m never so naive that I think I can fathom the depths of profound thoughts in a single post . . . or in multiple volumes. The notion that a man could be defined with such words has captured my thinking for quite some time. I know some people feel a man’s life is defined by his mistakes. The greater and more public the mistake, the more he diminishes in stature. What if, instead, we were to able to isolate a single characteristic which could become the sum of his character ~ in spite of glaring mistakes? Obviously, he was a man of flesh and bone and blood.
His sins were exposed to shaming, humiliating glaring light. History has recorded them in blaring headlines. Those facts along with our appetites for sensational scandal, are the way we think. The Bible says it this way:”Man looks on the outward appearance; but God looks on the heart.” How thankful we should be for that fact! How worthwhile it would be for us to set such a goal for ourselves: “people who desire the heart and mind of God more than anything! Knowing I’ll never reach such a goal, it is still worth a try!
“But now your kingdom shall not continue; the Lord has sought out [David] a man after His own heart, and the Lord has
commanded him to be prince and ruler over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.” I Samuel 13:14
I may be the only guy I know who gives the answer to a question he’s going to ask even before he asks the question. Go figure.
When I think of David, for example, he made some tragic, costly mistakes. And the consequences of those mistakes hounded and harassed him for the rest of his life and are known to history. They were exposed plainly, showing us that we can “be sure our sins will find us out.” As much an embarrassment as the failure of His anointed must have pained the Lord and David, there was no cover-up. Before any television commentator used the phrase, we here encounter a true “no spin zone.” The sins stand as an indelible stain on an otherwise exemplary life and career. It is, as well, a lesson which we seem never to have learned.
The post I made earlier is, I believe, an important insight into how Joseph was able to get past those errors. That may seem premature in light of the fact that the purpose of this exploration was to ask: “How did he mess up?” Then, after addressing that and attempting to answer it as reasonably as possible, I would pose the next logical question: “How did he come back?”
To give you the main reason he was able later to recover spiritual equilibrium and direction before ever saying how he strayed off course may be another classic example of putting the proverbial cart before the proverbial horse! Sometimes, admittedly, I think in reverse. I gave you one of the answers before even raising the question!
But the logic (whether it’s inductive or deductive reasoning) seems to work. “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he’s old, he will not depart from it,”* isn’t just a wise proverb. It is a timeless truth. I believe it was Horace Bushnell, one of education’s great voices confirmed the same truth. Michael Apted** a great British film director did a documentary, following the lives of fourteen British children for forty years. The main theme of his study was Give me a child until he is 7, and I will show you the man.”
I happen to believe that early childhood gives you a pretty good idea of the kind of person someone will become. If a child starts out early and continues lying, sneaking, stealing, disobeying, bullying, treating others with contempt, being cruel to animals, etc., you get a pretty accurate idea of what that person will become in later years.
Think about David as you consider the phrase: “A man after God’s own heart.” To even attempt to grasp what that means, I need to understand how he grew. It’s easy to discover that much of his early life was spent in solitude, out in the desert tending sheep. Sometimes that put him in a dangerous place. He risked himself to do his duty, to carry out faithfully the menial tasks he was assigned for his family. Much of his time as a youth was spent in solitude, out beneath the desert sun and stars. There, without the distraction of bright lights and honking horns, ipods, cellphones, computers and jangling telephones, he learned the art of meditation, and prayer, and praise. Somewhere out there, it seems, he learned what it means to “hunger and thirst for righteousness.”
David is credited with having written many of the Psalms. Look them over when you have the time and you get a sense of what was really in the young man’s heart. Sure, he made some bad mistakes. Sure, he tried to cover them up and in doing so he made an even worse mess. But there runs through his life a steady current of love for the God about whom he wrote so many psalms.
In spite of the blunders, you can examine his record and learn that he really longed to know God. And there seem to have been times when they were so close, it shows through in his writing, his music, those early psalms. We must not discount early experience in seeking to understand later developments in life. If you’ve been on a steady course since your youth, you will be what you have been becoming, even if there are momentary lapses.
All of us know it is possible to kill a conscience by repeatedly ignoring or defying it. But any of us who has been exposed to a godly influence or felt drawn to faith early in our lives KNOWS that is like a magnetic pole which draws us steadily back. I don’t doubt that some have succeeded in breaking that attraction, but if it is recognized it will always draw us back to our true center.
In ways I can remotely understand, David early in his life developed a strong attraction to God. Even when he strayed, that was a force which helped him return.
For all his flawed humanity, the record still attests that David was a “man after God’s own heart.” Think about it. Remember times and places when you felt God was as close as your own heartbeat? Perhaps you can even now hear His faint calls for you to come home where you belong.
If you will listen, I’m sure you’ll hear.
(Concluding thought: When David finally did admit his sin and repent of it, the lesson of Scripture does not minimize the wrong he did. Rather, it focuses upon and maximizes clearly the magnificent grace of God.).
God’s son and servant, your friend and fellow student, ~donkimrey
**With this simple premise, Michael Apted, prolific in both scope and accomplishment, began his illustrious career as few successful feature directors have, doing documentaries. In 1962, Apted began chronicling the lives of fourteen English children, all aged 7, and from sundry walks of life. Then, a researcher at Granada Television he has followed most of the original participants, for more than forty years, spacing interviews and broadcasts seven years apart.