Becoming a Man after God’s Own Heart

Becoming a Man After God’s Own Heart:

The life and legacy of David

Dr. Jim Denison

1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22

Scholars find some 1,181 different men named in the Bible. Of all these, only one is described by God as “a man after my own heart” (Acts 13:22).

What an unusual choice! Consider what everyone knows about David:

•The youngest son of his father

•Overlooked by his father when the prophet came for a visit

•Ridiculed by Saul and Goliath

•Rejected by Saul, his life endangered

•Bathsheba

If this man could be “after God’s own heart,” there’s hope for us all. But we must do what he did. We must seek God as he sought him, and engage in the spiritual disciplines which forged his soul.

Do you want to know God better than you know him today? More intimately and personally? Do you want greater assurance that he hears and answers your prayers, and that you hear his Spirit’s voice in your soul? Do you want the Bible to be more alive in your life, its light more a guide for your decisions and future? Do you want to know that you are fulfilling God’s purpose for your life and work? In short, do you want to know God as David knew God? This study is for all of us who do.

Let’s get acquainted with the man who will be our guide for the study. Then we’ll follow where he leads us, until he leads us home.

Seven facts about David

“David” apparently comes from the Hebrew verbal root d-w-d, “to love.” So his name probably means “beloved,” apparently by God.

Attractive: “He was ruddy, with a fine appearance and handsome features” (1 Samuel 16:12). “Ruddy” apparently means red-haired.

Athletic and courageous: “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God” (1 Samuel 17:34-36).

“Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on his forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground” (1 Samuel 17:49).

A great soldier: “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands” (1 Samuel 18:7). Survived as a guerrilla leader in the Judean wilderness before Saul’s death (1 Samuel 22-25).

“The king and his men marched to Jerusalem to attack the Jebusites, who lived there. The Jebusites said to David, ‘You will not get in here; even the blind and the lame can ward you off.’ They thought, ‘David cannot get in here.’ Nevertheless, David captured the fortress of Zion, the city of David” (2 Samuel 5:6-7). This action united the southern and northern tribes under his rule.

Because of his wartime success, “God said to me, ‘You are not to build a house for my Name, because you are a warrior and have shed blood'” (1 Chronicles 28:3).

Artistic: A harpist and musician of known reputation (1 Samuel 16:15). A great poet (cf. Psalms 8, 19, 23). A convincing actor (1 Samuel 21:10-15).

A spiritual man: Samuel told Saul, “But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command” (1 Samuel 13:14). “David had done what was right in the eyes of the Lord and had not failed to keep any of the Lord’s commands all the days of his life–except in the case of Uriah the Hittite” (1 Kings 15:5).

Sinned horribly: Speaking of the future king, Moses warned that “he must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold” (Deuteronomy 17:17). However, “after he left Hebron, David took more concubines and wives in Jerusalem, and more sons and daughters were born to him” (2 Samuel 5:13).

The king was not where he should have been: “In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem” (2 Samuel 11:1).

Ease led to lust: “One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her” (vs. 2-3a).

Lust led to adultery: “The man said, ‘Isn’t this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite?’ Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (She had purified herself from her uncleanness.) Then she went back home” (vs. 3b-4).

Adultery led to pregnancy: “The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, ‘I am pregnant'” (v. 5). Pregnancy led to deceit (vs. 6-13). Deceit led to murder (vs. 14-17). Murder led to further deceit (vs. 18-27). Deceit led to exposure by God and the death of their child (2 Samuel 12).

Repented with genuine contrition (Psalm 1).

His life before the throne

He grew up on his father’s farm at Bethlehem, the youngest of eight sons (1 Samuel 16:10-11). Their family was traced to Perez, Judah’s son by Tamar (Ruth 4:18-22; Genesis 38). Ruth was David’s great-grandmother and a Moabitess. Thus see the challenges in his background.

•He worked as a shepherd defending the flock (1 Samuel 17:34-36).

•He was chosen by the prophet Samuel to succeed King Saul, but his election was kept quiet (1 Samuel 16:12-13).

•He became the king’s harpist and court musician (1 Samuel 16:14-23), then returned to the farm (1 Samuel 17:15).


Becoming a Man after God’s Own Heart

Becoming a Man After God’s Own Heart:

The life and legacy of David

Dr. Jim Denison

1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22

Scholars find some 1,181 different men named in the Bible. Of all these, only one is described by God as “a man after my own heart” (Acts 13:22).

What an unusual choice! Consider what everyone knows about David:

•The youngest son of his father

•Overlooked by his father when the prophet came for a visit

•Ridiculed by Saul and Goliath

•Rejected by Saul, his life endangered

•Bathsheba

If this man could be “after God’s own heart,” there’s hope for us all. But we must do what he did. We must seek God as he sought him, and engage in the spiritual disciplines which forged his soul.

Do you want to know God better than you know him today? More intimately and personally? Do you want greater assurance that he hears and answers your prayers, and that you hear his Spirit’s voice in your soul? Do you want the Bible to be more alive in your life, its light more a guide for your decisions and future? Do you want to know that you are fulfilling God’s purpose for your life and work? In short, do you want to know God as David knew God? This study is for all of us who do.

Let’s get acquainted with the man who will be our guide for the study. Then we’ll follow where he leads us, until he leads us home.

Seven facts about David

“David” apparently comes from the Hebrew verbal root d-w-d, “to love.” So his name probably means “beloved,” apparently by God.

Attractive: “He was ruddy, with a fine appearance and handsome features” (1 Samuel 16:12). “Ruddy” apparently means red-haired.

Athletic and courageous: “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God” (1 Samuel 17:34-36).

“Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on his forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground” (1 Samuel 17:49).

A great soldier: “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands” (1 Samuel 18:7). Survived as a guerrilla leader in the Judean wilderness before Saul’s death (1 Samuel 22-25).

“The king and his men marched to Jerusalem to attack the Jebusites, who lived there. The Jebusites said to David, ‘You will not get in here; even the blind and the lame can ward you off.’ They thought, ‘David cannot get in here.’ Nevertheless, David captured the fortress of Zion, the city of David” (2 Samuel 5:6-7). This action united the southern and northern tribes under his rule.

Because of his wartime success, “God said to me, ‘You are not to build a house for my Name, because you are a warrior and have shed blood'” (1 Chronicles 28:3).

Artistic: A harpist and musician of known reputation (1 Samuel 16:15). A great poet (cf. Psalms 8, 19, 23). A convincing actor (1 Samuel 21:10-15).

A spiritual man: Samuel told Saul, “But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command” (1 Samuel 13:14). “David had done what was right in the eyes of the Lord and had not failed to keep any of the Lord’s commands all the days of his life–except in the case of Uriah the Hittite” (1 Kings 15:5).

Sinned horribly: Speaking of the future king, Moses warned that “he must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold” (Deuteronomy 17:17). However, “after he left Hebron, David took more concubines and wives in Jerusalem, and more sons and daughters were born to him” (2 Samuel 5:13).

The king was not where he should have been: “In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem” (2 Samuel 11:1).

Ease led to lust: “One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her” (vs. 2-3a).

Lust led to adultery: “The man said, ‘Isn’t this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite?’ Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (She had purified herself from her uncleanness.) Then she went back home” (vs. 3b-4).

Adultery led to pregnancy: “The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, ‘I am pregnant'” (v. 5). Pregnancy led to deceit (vs. 6-13). Deceit led to murder (vs. 14-17). Murder led to further deceit (vs. 18-27). Deceit led to exposure by God and the death of their child (2 Samuel 12).

Repented with genuine contrition (Psalm 1).

His life before the throne

He grew up on his father’s farm at Bethlehem, the youngest of eight sons (1 Samuel 16:10-11). Their family was traced to Perez, Judah’s son by Tamar (Ruth 4:18-22; Genesis 38). Ruth was David’s great-grandmother and a Moabitess. Thus see the challenges in his background.

•He worked as a shepherd defending the flock (1 Samuel 17:34-36).

•He was chosen by the prophet Samuel to succeed King Saul, but his election was kept quiet (1 Samuel 16:12-13).

•He became the king’s harpist and court musician (1 Samuel 16:14-23), then returned to the farm (1 Samuel 17:15).


Get Rid of Guilt

Get Rid of Guilt

Genesis 6:1-8

Dr. Jim Denison

My brother was the kickoff speaker for this fall’s Men’s Bible Study. Mark began with a mind trick I want to try on you today. It worked when he did it–let’s see if it works this morning.

Pick a number between one and ten. Double it. Add eight. Now divide that number in half. Subtract your original number. Do you have your final number?

Now match that number to the alphabet. If it is one, your letter is A; if it is two, your letter is B; and so on. Do you have your letter? Now think of a country which begins with that letter. Then think of an animal which begins with the second letter of that country’s name. Then think of a color which describes that animal.

The only problem is, there are no gray elephants in Denmark.

Our minds are God’s greatest gifts to us. Our intellectual capacity is the only attribute which enables our superiority on this planet. Other animals have far better eyesight, hearing, strength, stamina, and so on. Our minds are our best friends, or our worst enemies. “As he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7, KJV). What we think is what we become.

How do we keep our minds holy? What do we do when we don’t? No subject is more crucial to living in a way God can bless today. This morning we’ll investigate one of the most perplexing texts in the Bible, and find that it is actually one of the most urgent, practical, and relevant passages in all of God’s word.

Admit your need of grace

Our passage begins with one of the more confusing sentences in all the Bible: “When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose” (Genesis 6:1-2). Who were these “sons of God” and “daughters of men”?

Some interpreters believe that the “sons of God” were angels (cf. Job 1:6; Psalm 29:1). But Jesus told us that angels “neither marry nor are given in marriage” (Mark 12:25).

Some believe the “sons of God” were kings, but the Bible never makes this connection.

An interesting approach suggests that the “sons of God” were descendants of Seth, the godly child of Adam and Eve, and the “daughters of men” were descendants of the evil Cain. But the text doesn’t say this.

I think the clues we need are found in the text immediately surrounding our passage. Scripture intends to be clear, and was very clear to its original audience. So we must ask ourselves, what did they understand these words to mean?

Genesis 2 says that God formed man from the ground, and woman from man (vs. 7, 23). So calling men the “sons of God” and women the “daughters of men” was simply repeating what the readers of Genesis already knew, and what the rest of the Bible teaches as well.

The Bible refers to men as “sons of God” in nine different places (Deuteronomy 14:1, 32:5, Psalm 73:15, Isaiah 43:6-7, Hosea 1:10, 11:1, Luke 3:38, 1 John 3:1-2, 10). The text here seems simply to refer to men and women. And nothing in these verses ties these “sons of God and daughters of men” specifically to the flood which follows. They were simply populating the earth as God had commanded them (Genesis 1:28).

Now we come to another confusing reference: “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown” (v. 4).

They are among the children produced by the “sons of God and daughters of men,” but nothing in the text ties them specifically to the coming Flood. They are simply figures in the biblical narrative.

So we have “sons of God and daughters of men,” probably men and women who are marrying and having children. Among them were mighty warriors and heroes in the ancient Near East. Perhaps you’re wondering how any of this could be urgent, practical, and relevant, how it could apply to our lives today. Let’s read on.

As our text proceeds, we move quickly from confusion to clarity, from ancient history to life today. Verse 5 comes home: “The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.”

God reads our minds and knows our thoughts. He knows how sinful they can be. He knows that we don’t put our thoughts into action because of legal restraints and fear of being caught. But he knows what we would do if we could. Think about your thoughts for a moment, and you’ll see what God sees every moment of every day.

When Mark spoke to the Men’s Bible Study on the subject of our thoughts, he asked this sobering question: if you could project on a screen what has been in your mind the last 24 hours, what would we see? How embarrassed and ashamed would you be? That’s what God sees every moment of every day.

Such sin “grieves” the Lord and fills his heart with pain (v. 6). He is holy and cannot countenance or condone our sin. He must bring it to judgment, as he did with the Flood.

But now the good news dawns on the black horizon: “Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord” (v. 8).

He “found” it–he didn’t earn it. He found “favor”–the Hebrew word means “to bend or stoop,” and describes the condescending and unmerited favor of a superior for an inferior. This is the Old Testament’s primary word for grace; this text is its first use in all of Scripture.

Through Noah, God extended this favor to the rest of mankind, as Noah warned the race of the coming judgment and Flood. Finally God had to judge humanity, after mankind refused his grace and salvation. But only after he had given them every chance to be saved.


Prospering in All We Do

Prospering in all we do:

How to start the day with God’s word

Dr. Jim Denison

Psalm 1

My first Bible was a red New Testament distributed by the Gideons at James Butler Bonham Elementary in Houston, Texas on March 27, 1969. I know because I wrote that information in its flyleaf. When I received it, I began carrying it in the hip pocket of my jeans, accounting for its tattered condition today.

While I was pleased to have my own Bible, I couldn’t do much with it. Like most first-time Bible students, I opened to the first page. And found the “begats.” After three or four, I gave up. Clearly I didn’t know enough to understand this book, I thought.

I was both right and wrong. There are principles and practices which guide all effective Bible study. But these tools are intended for every person who wants to meet God in his word. Even a fifth-grader in blue jeans.

As we begin our study of a specific passage, first we will ask important background questions. Then we will read the text in question, preferably in several translations. Note what seems to be the major idea of the passage, and its relation to the author’s intended purpose for the book.

Now ask basic questions of the text:

Who is speaking, writing, and/or acting?

What is the subject of the text?

Where is it happening?

Why and/or how?

With this information in mind, we are ready to proceed. We will follow the “four-fold” approach to Bible study:

Grammar: what do the words mean?

History: what are the circumstances behind the text?

Theology: what spiritual and theological truth does the text intend to communicate?

Practical: what applications does the text intend to make in my life?

Grammatical principles

Word study (“lexicography”)

Begin with the words themselves. We want to know that the author intended them to say, not just what they seem to say to us today. Word which survive long in any language acquire added meanings and implications. We want to know that meaning which the author intended.

For instance, Jesus told us of a man who entrusted his servants with “talents” (Matthew 25:14-30). Today the word refers to gifts or abilities. In Jesus’ day it was a measure of money (worth more than a thousand dollars in our currency). We misinterpret the parable if we think it relates to our God-given abilities and spiritual gifts.

The King James Version tells us that Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus “and could not for the press, because he was little of stature” (Luke 19:3). We picture this short man trying to see around the reporters who are interviewing Jesus on his way into Jericho. Of course, “press” in the 17th century means “crowd”. Luke is not condemning the media.

How do we do a word study? Ask these five questions.

First, how was the word defined? With the help of a Bible dictionary, look up all unclear words in the passage. Be careful to confine your work to the definition of the word as it was intended by its original author.

Second, what is the context of the word? Often the sentences surrounding the term will explain its meaning. For example, Jesus referred to the Kingdom of God in the Model Prayer (Mt 6:10). What was this “kingdom”? Our Lord defined it himself: “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Jesus used parallelism, a kind of Hebrew expression where the second line repeats or defines the first. The “kingdom” is where God’s will is done. The context defines the term.

Third, what is the history of the word? A dictionary or encyclopedia will provide its background and root meanings. But again, be careful to confine your interpretation to the intended meaning of the author. And work with the word in its original languages, as the commentaries enable such study.

Note that the history of the translated word may have little to do with the author’s intended meaning. Consider “blessed,” the word with which Jesus begins each of his Beatitudes. The English word may come from the Old English “bliss,” meaning “joy.” It could come from “blod,” referencing “blood sacrifice”–someone is “blessed” if they have been atoned for by sacrifice. It may come from “benedicere,” a Latin word meaning “to wish well.” When I first preached on the Beatitudes as a college student, I used each of these definitions in my explanation of the word.

Only later did I realize that Jesus did not use our English word “blessed,” but the Greek word makarios. And it has none of this background in its history. “Makarios” describes a happiness which transcends circumstances, a joy beyond words or the world. By importing definitions from the English translation, I missed the meaning of the original word. Don’t do that.

Fourth, what are other biblical uses of the word? A concordance or dictionary will help here. Since Scripture interprets Scripture, other passages can often help clarify the meaning of the words of the text.

For instance, remember that Jesus warns us that one who calls someone a “fool” is in danger of the “fire of hell” (Matthew 5:22). Why? Because “fool” in the Bible describes a person of the worst moral deficiency, someone who rejects God for a life of terrible corruption. This is the person who “says in his heart, ‘There is no God'” (Psalm 14:1). To call someone a “fool” was to malign their character and value, the worst form of insult. Other texts make clear Jesus’ intention.

Fifth, what is the cultural background behind the word? What practices current in the author’s day affect his use of the term?

Jesus told us, “If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two” (Matthew 5:41). Was he talking about joggers out for a run, or bikers on a trail?

Actually, he referred to a Persian custom taken over by the Romans, by which a subject could be forced to carry a soldier’s pack for one mile. This was done not to help the soldier so much as to remind the subject that he serves the Empire. Jesus is saying, If someone humiliates you, allow him to humiliate you even further. Don’t return slander for slander, insult for insult. Treat even your enemies with humble service. The cultural background clarifies the intention of the phrase.