from sermon series
“Standing on the Shoulders of Giants”
by Pastor Dave Strem
Used by permission
The heart—it’s an amazing muscle. It is about the size and shape of your fist. It beats day in, day out, awake, asleep, a million and a half times a year. It pumps close to a gallon of blood every minute; 500,000 gallons a year. It’s a tremendous muscle and vitally important to physical life. The heart in biblical literature refers to something different. In Scripture, the heart is the spiritual core of our being. It is the life force of our spiritual nature.
Every heartbeat is a gift from God and someday there will come a day for each of us when that heartbeat will finally stop. And our lives will be judged not by the number of beats per minute, not by the quantity of blood it pumps, but by the quality of our spiritual heart before God. As water reflects the man’s face, so the spiritual heart reflects the whole man. The ‘heart’ is the hub of decision-making, the place where our spirit discerns God’s will and presence. It is where God meets us. It is where God nudges us to change and guide our lives.
“Just follow your heart” is common advice heard these days. They mean: “Do what you feel is right. Listen to your inner voice. Do what you feel like, what you think you should do. What do you want to do? Listen to that inner child within you and be true to yourself.” I do not know about your inner child, but I will not be a better person if I listen to my inner child; he is rather selfish, insecure, and petty. Is your heart really a good guide? Should we listen to our heart?
The very first time the word heart is used in Scripture is in Genesis 6. It is used both of God and man. Verse 5 says that the Lord saw how great human wickedness had become. Every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was evil all the time. And He was grieved in His heart. It is not a very good description of the human heart. God’s heart is filled with pain because of our heart. Every inclination of our heart is evil from childhood. What does that mean? It means there is a downhill slide in humankind. Evil comes all too easy. Sin comes all too easy. Taking the short cut comes all too easy.
Proverbs 28 describes people who trust their heart without self-examination. Things like partiality, lying, greed, flattery, and murder are the fruits of listening to the inner heart without self-examination. Verse 26 calls such people fools. “Trusting oneself is foolish, but those who walk in wisdom are safe.” Jeremiah 17:9 says it vividly: “The human heart is most deceitful and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? But I know! I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives.” Deceitful means crooked, fraudulent. Your heart even promotes self-lies. We lie to ourselves in order to do the evil we really want to do. We lie to ourselves so that we can live with evil in our lives.
In Mark chapter 7:21, Jesus says from within, out of a person’s heart, comes evil thoughts, sexual immorality, death, and murder. The list goes on: adultery, wickedness, deceit, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within. They make us unacceptable to God. But God did not give up. God’s love motivated Him to seek a way to fix the problem. Every year we celebrate Christmas. Christmas is the beginning of God’s plan to redeem our hearts. Easter is the completion of that plan. Communion celebrates the process of cleansing and redeeming our hearts.
David is described as a man after God’s heart. If David were here this morning, he would say: “Do not follow your heart. Do not follow your heart. I followed my heart three distinct times and it caused nothing but heartbreak. Long term heartbreak for my life and for others around me.” David speaks from firsthand experience. More written space is given to David’s life than any other biblical character. We will focus on three incidents in David’s life that will help us understand the folly of following an unexamined heart. We will focus on the story of Michal, the story of Bathsheba, and the story of Absalom.
Michal was Saul’s daughter and she was the love of David’s life. She saved David’s life when Saul was trying to kill him and David asked for her hand in marriage. She was the wife of his youth. But as they grew older together something started to happen in the relationship. They didn’t seem to fulfill each other quite as much and they started becoming a little critical of each other. When David brought the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem he danced with the people, including some servant girls. Michal saw what happened and thought it was undignified for a king to mix with common people. “When David returned home to bless his family, Michal came out to meet him and said in disgust, ‘How glorious the king of Israel looked today! He exposed himself to the servant girls like any indecent person would do!’” She did not understand what David was doing, or the joy he felt. David answered her charge: “I was dancing before the Lord, who chose me above your father and his family! He appointed me as the leader of Israel, the people of the Lord. So I am willing to act like a fool in order to show my joy in the Lord. Yes, and I am willing to look even more foolish than this, but I will be held in honor by the girls of whom you have spoken!” David saw himself as the leader of all the people and he was not afraid to mingle with them. They, too, were God’s people, that designation was not reserved for royalty. Michal was into the pomp, ceremony, and public image. She did not value the things of the Lord, she did not grasp the significance of the arrival of the Ark of the Covenant. She criticized David with such a severe spirit that a wedge was driven between them. He put her away. He cut her off. She remains his wife, they don’t get divorced, but he puts her away and they never had a child together. Their life together ended.
Unfortunately, instead of trying to restore the relationship David had children with other wives and concubines, but never had sex with Michal again. God designed us to live together as husband and wife. Designed us to grow together, to work things through. But David responded with bitterness and resentment toward Michal. She rejected him–pushed him away. It takes two to have a healthy relationship. If one rejects the other, it makes it difficult. Hosea, the prophet, also experienced rejection from his wife (Hosea 1-3). But Hosea did not run to other women in response. He waited for the Lord to work in her life. There were many lonely years, but eventually the Lord brought her back to him. Despite what Hosea’s wife did to him, he refused to find comfort in the arms of other women, in illicit relationships. David followed his heart and responded badly. He put his wife away and sought sex with many other women.
The second story relates to the first. The second story concerns Bathsheba. “Late one afternoon David got out of bed after taking a nap and went for a stroll on the roof of the palace. As he looked out over the city, he noticed a woman of unusual beauty taking a bath. He sent someone to find out who she was, and he was told, ‘She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.’ Then David sent for her; and when she came to the palace, he slept with her. Then she returned home” (2 Samuel 11:2-4). If he had reconciled Michal to himself, or refused to relieve his loneliness in the arms of other women, like Hosea, he would have turned his eyes from Bathsheba. He did not. He committed adultery, and caused her to commit adultery on her husband. David followed his heart and it led him to adultery.
Tragically, the story does not end there. Verse 5 continues the story. “Later, when Bathsheba discovered that she was pregnant, she sent a message to inform David.” Now what was David going to do? He was known as a righteous king, who loved his people. His reputation was at risk. Fear gripped his heart. David followed his heart and hatched an evil plan. He sent Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, into battle unprotected. He was killed. David then married Bathsheba. Any child born to them would appear to be legitimate.
This incident plagued David’s reign for many years. His reputation was damaged and God’s holy cause was hurt. “Nathan replied, ‘Yes, but the Lord has forgiven you, and you won’t die for this sin. But you have given the enemies of the Lord great opportunity to despise and blaspheme him, so your child will die’” (2 Samuel 12:13-14). Although the people of Israel did not know the truth, they may have even seen him as a hero for marrying a widow, and bringing her into his house, but God knew the truth and He sent Nathan, His prophet, to rebuke David. After initially denying Nathan’s charge, he confessed. David’s heart led him to adultery, lies, and murder.
The third story revolves around one of David’s sons, Absalom, born to him by one of his other wives. After David left Michal, he attached himself to many other women, some were wives and some were concubines. 1 Chronicles 3:1-8, 9b record all the children David fathered by his wives. These verses name 19 sons and 1 daughter born to David. This list does not include the children he fathered with concubines (v. 9a). David fathered many children but he was a Dad to none. He was always too busy with matters of State to spend time with his children. As one of these neglected sons, Absalom rebelled against David. Absalom led a political and military revolt against David. The revolt failed but many people died in the battle. David was not a good parent. He did not have a heart for his children. When Paul taught that fathers should bring-up their children with care, discipline (Ephesians 6:4), and comfort (1 Thessalonians 2:11), he was not teaching a new truth. To be a good father, David would have to conform to Paul’s picture of a father devoted to his children. He did not. He followed his own heart and desires instead. His role of king overwhelmed his role of father. He did not force himself to pay more attention to his children. To have God’s heart in this part of his life, he should have forced himself to spend more time with his children!
David was a complicated man. He had glaring weaknesses of character. But he also had many successes in his life. Read the Psalms. Many of them were written by David. Only someone who was inspired by God could have written the Psalms. The level of insight and devotion seen in them are extraordinary. They are not mere exercises in poetry writing. They came from a heart and mind that had spent many hours contemplating God and His works. Psalm 51:1-12 is a good example of David’s basic heart’s direction. This psalm records David’s response after Nathan revealed his adultery with Bathsheba. David could have responded defensively, but he did not. “Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins. Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin. For I recognize my shameful deeds—they haunt me day and night. Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just. For I was born a sinner—yes, from the moment my mother conceived me. But you desire honesty from the heart, so you can teach me to be wise in my inmost being. Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me—now let me rejoice. Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt. Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.” If you read the other Psalms written by David you will find the same heart and wisdom you find in Psalm 51. When David followed God’s heart all went well. But when he followed his own heart sin and trouble dogged his life.
How is your heart? Have you had a heart checkup lately? Like a physical heart problem, our spiritual heart can also show symptoms of ill health. 1) Numbness. In your life do you have a sense of numbness? Do you sit through services, do you open your Bible, do you hear someone talking about spiritual issues and you just grow cold. A sense of not feeling the things you should feel, not feeling a sense of love, of compassion, of care. You have got a heart problem. 2) Dizziness. Is there a loss of equilibrium in your life? Do you lose your balance? Have you become extremely tolerant or extremely judgmental? Are you overly proud or ashamed, over confident or have a total lack of confidence? If so, then you need a spiritual checkup. 3) Shortness of breath. You can’t pray, you just have no heart for prayer. You don’t have any spiritual stamina to keep going. Did you lose your strength to fight the good fight? 4) Fear. You sense something might be wrong but you do not want to check it out. Is there a sense of fear that, “I just do not feel as spiritual as I think I should be? There must be something wrong with me. I am afraid of what I might find!”
If you sense something is wrong, how do you check it out? 1) Go to God’s Word, and let His Word shape your heart. Bow before God’s wisdom, even if you do not understand it all. 2) Go to God in prayer. “Lord, I want you to disciple my heart. I want you to put in my heart what should be there, replacing what should not be there.” Delight yourself in the Lord, Scripture says (Psalm 37:4), and He will give you the desires of your heart. If your heart is listening to God, follow your heart. Your desires incline you in a specific direction. Delight yourself in the Lord and your direction will be right. Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Want to follow your heart? Make sure your desires are godly, and your actions will also be godly. But always examine yourself first. Your natural heart can be deceptive. “Examine yourselves to see if your faith is really genuine. Test yourselves” (2 Corinthians 13:5). If the writer of the Psalms can have blind spots, then surely you can , too!