It has always been about the heart.
David knew that. A quick read of Psalms makes it obvious why he was called “a man after God’s own heart.”
(Who am I kidding? The words “a quick read” and “Psalms” don’t belong in the same sentence.)
Psalm 119—the longest one in the book—is especially revealing. Let’s take a look at some key verses:
“I will praise thee with uprightness of heart, when I shall have learned thy righteous judgments.” (v.7)
“With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments.” (v.10)
“Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” (v.11)
“I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart.” (v.32)
“Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart.” (v.34)
“Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not to covetousness.” (v.36)
“I intreated thy favour with my whole heart: be merciful unto me according to thy word.” (v.58)
“The proud have forged a lie against me: but I will keep thy precepts with my whole heart.” (v.69)
“Their heart is as fat as grease; but I delight in thy law.” (v.70)
“Let my heart be sound in thy statutes; that I be not ashamed.” (v.80)
“Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage for ever: for they are the rejoicing of my heart.” (v.111)
“I have inclined mine heart to perform thy statutes alway, even unto the end.” (v.112)
“I cried with my whole heart; hear me, O Lord: I will keep thy statutes.” (v.145)
“Princes have persecuted me without a cause: but my heart standeth in awe of thy word.” (v.161)
These verses all have one thing in common: they show how David sought with his heart to keep YHWH’s commandments.
David sinned. He fell short. We all do. He committed adultery and murder. Yet he was called “a man after God’s own heart.” Why?
Because it was always about the heart. He sought with his heart to know the heart of God, so that he could walk out his Father’s commandments.
Many people say the law—the Torah (or what I prefer to call God’s loving instructions to his children)—was given to us to demonstrate that we couldn’t follow it. Yet the Old Testament is filled with passages stating that His people would be blessed for obedience and cursed for disobedience. Why would a loving God give us a set of instructions—a constitution for how to live in His Kingdom, if you will—command us to keep those instructions for our own well-being, and then tell us we’d be cursed for not keeping them if they were never meant to be kept in the first place?
The church has been teaching this for many years, and we wonder why so many people fall away from the faith! It doesn’t make any sense. Who wants to follow a God, who by the illustration given above, would seem to delight in cursing people for failing to follow a set of rules he knew would be impossible to keep?
“But that’s what Jesus died for. He gave us the law just to prove that we needed a savior.”
That sounds a bit manipulative, doesn’t it? Imagine being a parent and giving your children a long list of impossible rules that you know they can’t keep simply to prove that they need you to save them from the eternal damnation that would result from their failure to follow those impossible rules. Imagine commanding them to obey those rules regardless of how difficult they may seem and telling them they’ll be cursed if they choose to disobey. Then when they continually break those rules over and over again (as you knew they would), you send them a savior to suffer and die the most gruesomely horrible death one could possibly endure. He resurrects from the grave, and BOOM!
“Those rules no longer apply. In fact, they never applied in the first place. They were only given to prove that you needed ME to save you from your failure to keep them—even though I’ve come and gone and you still can’t keep them! So you might as well just go on living according to your own desires because your sins have been forgiven anyway, and as long as you believe in me, you’ll go to heaven when you die.”
Is this really what we believe? That Jesus was crucified and resurrected so we could disregard His Father’s Sabbath, stuff our faces with bacon after Sunday service, and indulge in every other abomination known to man, because he said we’d be forgiven anyway?
I don’t know about you, but to me, that sounds more like the cunning voice of the lawless one (2 Thess. 2:8) than the voice of our loving, Heavenly Father whose desire is for His people to worship him in Spirit and in truth.
“For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace…” 1 Cor. 14:33
I know this sounds harsh, but I have watched former Christians fall away from the faith for this very reason. Because what we think we believe makes no sense. And the God we’ve been told to follow seems like a manipulative tyrant whose original mission was to convince us we needed him and should love him and do what he says—regardless of the condition of our hearts. And, despite the fact that His Word says He does not change (Mal. 3:6), that mission was somehow magically altered at the cross… we still need Him, but doing what He said and living according to his instructions no longer matters. All that matters now is that we believe that we needed Him to save us from the curses He said would happen when we disobeyed.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that we didn’t need a savior. We absolutely needed a savior, but not because His law was bad or impossible and needed to be taken away so that we could finally be free from having to follow it. We needed a savior to redeem us from the curse of our disobedience. It wasn’t the law that cursed us. It was our rebellion against Him and His loving instructions. Go back to the fall of man in Genesis 3, and this becomes very apparent.
What if—instead of giving us the law to prove that we needed a savior because we couldn’t keep it—He gave us a savior so that we could follow his instructions? I know, it sounds completely outrageous and probably goes against everything we’ve ever been taught. But Scripture seems to back this up.
We couldn’t follow the law with our stony hearts. He gave us a new heart of flesh, so that we could walk according to His statutes:
“A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.” Ez. 36: 26-27
Moreover, we played the harlot by worshipping other “mighty ones.” Yeshua came to bear the curse, that according to God’s law would have been ours to bear as a result of our transgressions. He could not break His law; in fact, He kept it, and endured its consequence in our place, so that we could be redeemed.
(The following teaching, “Nailed to the Cross,” by 119 Ministries explains what I mean by that in much more detail than I have time to explain in this post. I highly recommend you check it out when you’re finished reading this.)
We also made things complicated by adding our own man-made traditions to that which He never intended to be burdensome. When Yeshua came, he demonstrated through his ministry how to practically walk out His Father’s commandments. And we are called to follow his example.
“My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.” 1 John 2: 3-6
You might be thinking, “but that’s impossible…”
Is it? Or is that an excuse to continue following after the desires of your flesh? After all, these are the very words of Yeshua…
“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” Matt. 19: 23-26
“And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.” John: 14: 16-21
With Him all things are possible, and His Spirit dwells in us, thereby enabling us to follow His example and to walk in righteousness. And it starts with the circumcision of your heart. Only then can you truly know what it means to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” (Luke 10:27)
So, what does it mean to love Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength? According to 1 John 5:3,
“For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments…”
This verse could be interpreted in two ways:
- “For this is the love of God by us, that we keep his commandments…”
- “For this is the love of God to us: that we keep his commandments…”
If we let Scripture interpret Scripture, according to 1 John 4:19, both are accurate:
“We love him (and keep his commandments), because he first loved us.”
That is why He writes His law on our hearts. Because He loves us, and He desires that we walk in the path of His righteousness:
“Observe and hear all these words which I command thee, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee for ever, when thou doest that which is good and right in the sight of the LORD thy God.” Deut. 12:28
Father, in this season of repentance, may we have the heart of David, to seek You and Your ways, to walk after the example of Yeshua our Messiah, and to boldly proclaim the good news:
It has always been about the heart.
This is day 22 in my 40 Days of Repentance series. Click here to read day 21.