David: A Man After God’s Own Heart
This post, humbly written for my home church, Westover Church. Reflections on a sermon series about David, that man who had a heart very much like his Father’s.
We walked a dry, red dirt trail that curled through a wooded animal sanctuary outside Harare, Zimbabwe. The African sun was as red as the dirt, and had begun it’s descent behind the tropical trees. Hundreds of animals were roaming the game park, but on this particular outing we passed all of those less fearsome creatures grazing in tall grass, because we were headed to meet Brutus the lion.
The right way to live life isn’t to always seek the safe. The opposite of that statement isn’t true either – but for us on this day in Africa, we were headed to the lion’s den. Literally.
Brutus the lion had been rescued as a cub and raised on this reserve, and was now physically restored, healthy, and strong. As we approached his territory, the only protection between us and this majestic, dangerous lion was a mere chain-link fence. He paced his side of the reserve, staring at us through the metal fence as if deciding which looked the most appetizing, while us trembling sheep stood on our side of the fence praying the fencing was buried deep enough and secure. Brutus’ stride was smooth and silent – eerily so. Back and forth he paced the worn path, with each step his paws spreading open a foot in width across the African dirt. And his eyes. His eyes were both beautiful and terrifying, and when his dangerous gaze met mine, the hair on the back of my neck stood on end. Locking eyes with Brutus felt the equivalent of an enemy sniper locking his weapon’s crosshairs directly over your heart.
As if all that had not already left an impression on our group, when Brutus’ rescuer and caregiver (our guide) rounded the corner of his cage and the two made eye contact, we all witnessed what it would be like to be hunted. Brutus had grown into adult maturity, and he now considered his male rescuer a threat to him. He crouched low to the earth waiting for his opportunity to attack, and the moment our guide turned his back, he charged. His speed was staggering and Brutus hit the chain-link fence with such force it rattled violently and time stopped for a few seconds. He followed his charge with a roar that jolted time to begin ticking again, and brought all of us back into reality.
While we stood shaken at what we had seen, our guide only smiled, practically proud of the effort his dear Brutus had made at attempting to take him out. He was used to it, we were not.
Make no mistake, if ever anyone was delivered from the paws of such a beast, that person would never forget it.
And so was true of David, the man after God’s own heart.
God had been preparing David to protect His sheep long before David knew he was being prepared. David was a shepherd, which meant he had learned how to fight a lion who threatened one of the defenseless ones he cared for. But when we join David’s story in 1 Samuel 17, we see the face of the lion had changed into a blaspheming giant in the Philistine army named Goliath.
And David remembered. He remembered the faithfulness of His God.
While Saul was fearful – David was faithful.
And Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth.” But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.” And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”
1 Samuel 17:33-37
Sometimes I think I want a Christian life that is lived out like life in the pastures and tall grasses of the animal sanctuary. The one where the warm sun always shines, the food is plentiful, and protection is highly probable – the place where life feels safe. I can dwell there for awhile and for a short time it’s satisfying, and that’s not all together a bad thing. After all, as David himself wrote, our living God “…makes me lie down in green pastures” (Psalm 23:2).
But let us not forget the promise that follows our lying down, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me.” (Psalm 23:4) This life will have dark valleys. There will be seasons of life where the shadows are thick and our souls long for wide open, green pastures. Are you in one of those seasons? Keep holding on! “..for You are with me.” (Psalm 23:4)
David knew that. He remembered who he belonged to. He remembered how the Lord had delivered him from the paw of the lion, and in that remembrance he was equipped to take the next step of life in faith. Remembering the past faithfulness of God, has the power to unlock the future faith needed to persevere another day – to cling to hope a little longer – to press into the promises of our God who is with us.
The person after God’s own heart is not prevented from experiencing evil and sufferings in this world, but we are promised a Companion and Overcomer. “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) But our God is faithful to deliver His beloved from such a paw. Because His grip is stronger.
May our memories of past deliverances be the key that unlocks our faith to keep moving forward, transforming our hearts evermore into the image of our Father’s.