There is a great danger when Christians today talk about knowing God apart from his Word, as if they have some sort of mystical experience, or they think they can simply know God in nature, or through some sort of direct magical connection, or through their own reason. No—we come to know God first and foremost through his Word.
When King Saul sinned against the Lord and forfeited his rule over God’s people, the prophet Samuel said to him,
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 over his people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.”
1 Samuel 13:14
And the Lord did find that man after his own heart. The apostle Paul said in Acts 13,
And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, “I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.”
David: A man after God’s own heart. What a description! A man whose heart follows God’s heart. This is a man who truly knew the Lord.
What would it take for that to be a description of you? What kinds of qualities characterized David such that God described him as a man after his own heart?
We know it certainly wasn’t external qualities that characterized David this way. When God sent Samuel to anoint a new king from among Jesse’s sons, Samuel assessed the sons on the basis of their outward qualities—surely Eliab the eldest is the Lord’s anointed. “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.’mmm” God was not seeking height of stature; he was seeking a man whose heart followed his heart.
And he found such a man in David. What qualified David as such?
We could go to 1 Samuel and look at some of the narratives of David’s life to discover such qualities, and we will do some of that. But the narratives mostly focus on what David did—the outward appearance; if our goal is to truly discover David’s heart, then there is no better way to do that than to look at the God-inspired window into David’s heart, the Book of Psalms.
At least 73 of the 150 psalms are attributed to David—David is a major focus of the psalms. But this is not just a randomly compiled collection of songs by David and a few others. Christians today often don’t recognize that the 150 psalms were intentionally organized by Ezra or someone like him following the Babylonian exile into five books, and these five books of psalms were arranged to teach us some very important truths, largely centered on David and his relationship with God.
The psalms don’t trace David’s life chronologically—that’s the purpose of the historical books; David did write the psalms during particular experiences in his life, but the psalms primarily unfold David’s inner life. They communicate his heart to us. And so if our goal is to uncover David’s heart, to discover David’s deep inner knowledge of God, then it is fitting that we explore his heart in the Psalms.
The Law of the Lord
Almost every psalm in Book I of the Psalter—the first forty-one psalms—was written by David. Most of these psalms are characterized by songs of lament about the wicked; uncertainty; conflict. The wicked are surrounding David; they are prospering, and the righteous are suffering.
Think about experiences in David’s life that could be characterized like that. King Saul is chasing David through the mountains, intent upon killing him. Bloody battles against the Philistine armies. David’s own son, Absalom, tries to kill his father and take the throne. And what is perhaps the most famous story about David? His battle with Goliath! A huge giant threatens God’s people.