by Rev. Jeremiah Cheung
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(1Sa 13:14)Samuel told Saul: “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 and ruler over His people.” We all know that the man after God’s own heart is David. David is called a man after God’s own heart, he is a man with whom God was delighted. What does God delight in David? When Samuel went to Jesse’s house to anoint one of his sons as king, the Lord told Samuel `man looks at the outward appearance but I look at the heart.’ God’s delighting in a man is totally unrelated to his appearance. God became delighted with David because of his heart. What kind of a heart did David have?
I. God Delighted in David’s Repentant Heart
What is the greatest difference between Christians and non-Christians? If we talk about intelligence, many non-Christians are wiser and more intelligent than us. I am not belittling you, I know there are many wise and intelligent people among us, but a great many are like me, ordinary. If we talk about power, there isn’t a lot among us who have power and position. This is as the Book of 1Corinthians say: “Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish and weak things; and his purpose was so that the wise and the strong will be shamed. That the whole world may know that our salvation is all but God’s grace.”
The greatest difference between Christians and non-Christians is in the area of repentance. Christians are people who have repented of their sins, while non-Christians have not repented of their sins, moreover, they refuse to do so. God was delighted in David because David had a heart willing to repent of sin. If you had grown up in Sunday School, you had probably been taught by your Sunday School teacher that David was a good man and Saul, a bad man. We all know what good is and what bad is, but actually, Saul was a bad man and David was also a bad man. David had a good side and Saul also had a good side. David wasn’t better than Saul. In fact, unlike David, Saul never took another man’s wife, he never committed adultery with another man’s wife. However, David had a repentant heart, while Saul didn’t. Psalm 51 is a psalm of repentance written by David. In this psalm, we discover that David really knew what repentance is.
1. He was Completely Repentant of His Sins. Psalm 51: 2-3 “Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.” Confession is a form of art. In the last ten years, many world famous people have fallen into sin, but their attitudes about their sins are totally different. Jackie Chan’s first reaction, when it was reported that he had extramarital affairs, was to deny it; but when the evidence came out, he said, “I have simply committed the sin that every man commits.” To lighten the gravity of his own sin, he dragged every man down with him. Taiwan’s Terry Gou, when discovered that he had an illicit affair in mainland China while doing business there, neither denied nor confirmed it. He reasoned it was but knowing how to enjoy one’ self wherever one goes.
Tiger Woods got found out by his wife about his affairs with different women. He denied it initially but had to admit it in the end. However, he admitted only to those affairs that were discovered; so aside from himself, no one knows how many women he really had relationships with. Despite being convicted of graft charges, Taiwan’s Chen Shui-bian continues to deny any wrongdoing and has even written a book entitled “The Cross of Taiwan”, claiming he is carrying the cross of Taiwan. Every man’s response to sin differs. David the king said, “I know my transgressions, they are always before me.” Not only did he admit his sins, he totally repented of it, saying, `My sins are always before me.’ He completely repented of his sins.
2. He Sought to Restore His Relationship with God. Psalm 51:4 “Against you, you only, have I sinned…” David understood that sin is offense against God, that man was created in God’s image, man originally carried the glory of God, and sin is falling short of God’s glory. God took David from shepherding in the fields and made him king of the whole nation, gave him honour and glory, yet he committed adultery and murder. He had truly sinned against God.
When he confessed his sins (Psalm 51:7-12), David asked the Lord for six things:
1. He asked the Lord to cleanse him
2. He asked the Lord to forgive him
3. He asked the Lord to heal him.
4. He asked the Lord to purify his heart.
5. He asked the Lord to give him a steadfast spirit.
6. He asked the Lord not to take away his Holy Spirit from him.
In his confession, David sought the restoration of his relationship with God. Sin destroys the fellowship between man and God, while repentance aims to restore that broken fellowship. When problems occur in the relationship between man and God, human relationships will also have problems – people begin to relate merely to benefit from one another – friends use each other, spouses use each other, parents and children use each other.
About a thousand years ago, the Song Dynasty’s Chen Yuan Jing made a famous remark: `Raise children to provide for old age.’ And this became the reason for which parents took care of their children. During China’s May 4th movement, Lu Xun said, “Raising children to provide for old age is a most selfish mentality.” He says if parents raise children so that when they grow up they can in turn take care of their parents, then this philosophy turns raising children into a form of long-term investment. Isn’t that very selfish? Lu Xun makes sense. It is but reasonable for children to take care of their aged parents, the 5th commandment in the Ten Commandments says: Honour your father and mother.
Actually, there are two kinds of money we cannot keep for ourselves: first, that which belongs to the Lord, and second, that which is meant for our parents. But parents, please do not harbour the selfish motive of seeking to benefit from our children’s lives. My mother passed away after I have been married for 19 years. In the past 19 years, I would go home and see my mother every year. My mother never asked me for money. The first time I went home to HK (I was still unmarried then), I gave her US$ 1000. She took it but returned it to me after two days. She refused to keep it, saying, “You live alone in the Philippines and I can’t take care of you. Keep the money.” After I married, every time I went back, I would give my mother an amount of money so that she can buy food and stuffs for herself. My mother did not raise me to provide for her old age, our relationship was one of love. However, where does love come from? Love comes from God. Sin broke the relationship between man and God, repentance restores the relationship between God and man. When the relationship between God and man is restored, relationship between men will also experience restoration.
3. He Openly Testified of His Repentance. V. 12-13 “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you.” David asked the Lord to allow him to stand back up, so that he may testify for the Lord, that he may teach transgressors to turn back to the Lord. John 4 records a Samaritan woman who went out to draw water at noon. Women in the east went out to draw water either very early in the morning or at dusk, because it is too hot during noontime. But this woman was not a good woman, she already had five men and none of them were her husband, now she has a sixth who is not her husband either. Her desires made her unable to control herself, yet she was still human and in her heart she felt shame. Thus, she didn’t fetch water at dawn nor at dusk for she didn’t want to meet the other women.
Jesus shared the gospel to this woman, and she came to know the Lord. After she came to know the Lord, she did something she had never done before- John 4:39 “Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” If you were a Samaritan then and this woman tells you `Jesus told me everything I ever did’, you will probably ask `what indeed have you done?’ The woman must have told people “I was bound by my lust, I needed men to fulfil my needs, I had not one, not two but six men. But I had been miserable, I knew it wasn’t right, but I couldn’t pull myself out of it. Jesus however knew everything about me and not only did he not condemn me, he gave me living water so now I have true fulfilment. You must go see him, he will make you find true contentment.” A man who truly repents of his sins will not only confess his sins, he will be willing to testify for the Lord so that other sinners may also turn to the Lord. This is one of the reasons we repent of our sins.
The Chinese have a saying: `Do not wash your dirty linens in public.’ That is right, but for God’s glory, are we willing to lose face? David was willing. David had a truly repentant heart. This is the first reason God was delighted with David.
II. God Delighted in David’s Reverent Heart
The second reason God delighted in David was: he had a reverent heart. To revere means to fear. Reverence for the Lord is at the heart of the Old Testament. The books from Genesis to Malachi all talk about the consequences of reverence and irreverence towards God. Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil because they did not revere God, they did not treasure God’s Word in their hearts. When God told Noah I will bring floodwaters to destroy the world, his heart became afraid, the Book of Hebrews says `Noah in holy fear…’ built the ark that saved his whole family. During Abraham’s time, the Lord wanted him to offer Isaac, Abraham didn’t argue at all and brought his only son to Mt. Moriah to offer him. When Abraham was about to slay his son with the knife, a voice from heaven said, “Do not lay a hand on the boy. Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God.” God didn’t say `now I know that you truly love me’; He said `now I know that you fear me.’ Abraham feared the Lord.
When the Lord wanted Isaac, Abraham didn’t withhold him from God. In his heart, he may have disagreed, still he did it because he had a heart that feared God; in the end, the Lord blessed Abraham mightily. The Lord delighted in David because he feared the Lord too. We can see his heart of reverence from three incidences:
1. He Didn’t Dare Kill Saul – When Saul was envious of David and wanted to kill him, David went on the run. This was very difficult for David, he could not go home though he had a home, he couldn’t worship though the tabernacle was there. Saul refused to let David go, he pursued David with 3000 men; meanwhile David had two chances to kill Saul but did not. The first time was in 1Samuel 24. As Saul pursued David, he felt the call of nature and went into a cave to relieve himself. Unknown to him, David and his men were in the cave. It would have been easy for David to kill Saul then, but David said to his men, “The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD’s anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the LORD.” David didn’t want to lay his hand on Saul, not because he wasn’t tempted to, but because he did not dare to.
I tell you, this was a test sent by the Lord – there were countless caves there, David and his men were hiding in that cave, and Saul suddenly felt the need to relieve himself in that very cave too – this was arranged by the Lord. The Lord tested David, just as he tested Abraham, to see whether David feared the Lord or not. Praise the Lord, he didn’t dare touch the Lord’s anointed. David passed the first test. The second time was in chapter 26, where once again Saul brought 3000 men to pursue David. The Lord caused all 3000 men to fall into a deep sleep, they didn’t even sense the enemy moving inside their camp. This was impossible because soldiers are very alert; the 3000 were elite troops, thus the only explanation would be that the Lord caused them to sleep deeply, just like when the Lord made Adam fall into a deep sleep to take a rib bone to create Eve. When David and his man came to Saul, David’s general asked for permission to kill Saul, but David did not allow it, saying (1Sa 26), “Don’t destroy him! Who can lay a hand on the LORD’s anointed and be guiltless?” Saul was unrighteous, he promised to stop pursuing David but turned back on his word. Still, David didn’t dare kill him, not because it didn’t cross his mind, but because he recognized Saul as the Lord’s anointed. David passed the second test because his heart revered God.
2. He Dared Not Take the Liberty of Making Himself King – `After Saul died, the men of Judah came to Hebron and there anointed David as king. He was king for seven years and six months.’ This verse is saying that David waited for seven years and six months before he stepped up to be king of the whole nation of Israel. Saul’s death had made taking the throne easy for David, if he had wanted to. The Bible tells us David grew stronger and stronger, while the house of Saul grew weaker and weaker. David didn’t need seven years and six months to unify the nation, but he was willing to wait because he feared God. He didn’t dare exalt himself as king. If he had used military strength to gain the throne, there would have been a civil war, there would have been fighting among God’s own people.
David feared God, he didn’t want to do it that way, he was willing to wait for God’s time. Nowadays, many believers seem to have no fear of God at all. Whenever they feel some discontent towards the church, they would rebel; thus, we see many believers fighting each other and churches divided. They fear not, because they do not revere God in their hearts. O Church! We must have a heart that fears the Lord. Someone once said that in the Philippines, the Lord uses church divisions to found new churches, but I do not agree completely. They say that when there is fighting within a church, before long a new church would come up. Yes, we do see such situations happening but I do not believe this is God’s will. I believe it is only God’s mercy, not God’s will; because the Lord’s will is for the church to be united. May we have hearts that fear the Lord.
3. He Didn’t Dare Say `NO’ to God – There is a famous incident recorded about David, that is, when he proposed to build God a temple. This was truly a beautiful aspiration. While enjoying his beautiful palace, he remembered that the Lord lived only in a tent; and so he asked the prophet about building a temple for the Lord. Nathan told him, “Whatever you have in mind, do it, for God is with you.” But that night, the word of God came to Nathan, saying, “Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the LORD says: You are not the one to build me a house to dwell in.’” From this instance, we realize that we cannot take the word of pastors as absolute. Sometimes God’s ways are beyond man’s ways. The different viewpoints we gather from our fellowmen are for our reference only, in the end we have to make our own decisions.
When David’s offer was rejected by the Lord, he went into the tabernacle and prayed, he obeyed the Lord’s will about not building the temple. Nevertheless, he prepared materials for his son to build the temple. Let us consider this further – we are about to build our new church building, let us say you come to see me and tell me: “Pastor, I want to offer 100 million for the church expansion project, may I?” Without praying, I will tell you, “Yes, you may”. So, you go home to get the money, but the Lord tells me, “Tell him I will not accept his money.” How would you react if upon your return, I tell you, “Sorry, the Lord doesn’t want your money.”?
I believe you may react in any of these four ways:
1. You will be very angry and say, “What do you think of your church, that CBCP is the only church in the world? You don’t want 100 million, we’ll see if there is a church that will turn me down.” And then you leave.
2. You will not say anything and simply leave the church angrily, thinking, `This church doesn’t know how to appreciate people, from now on I will not come back to this church.”
3. You will go and found a church of your own, thinking, “You don’t want my 100 million, I will build a church of my own.” In the Philippines I have seen a lot of this.
4. You submit, “Since the Lord doesn’t want me to make this offering, I will simply pray for the church construction.”
David responded with the fourth response. He submitted and did not dare say `No’ to the Lord. Actually, he was very capable of building the temple, he didn’t need anyone’s consent; but he didn’t dare push through with it, because he had a heart that feared the Lord. How about you?
God delighted in David because he had a repentant and reverent heart, how about you? Let us pray!