1 Samuel 13:14 “…the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart…”
Acts 13:22 “…I have found David son of Jessie a man after my own heart…”
I’ve been stuck on the life of David lately, the small-time shepherd turned warrior, poet, king. Such an unlikely tale, but I’ve always liked the underdog, except when the underdog is playing UK in basketball. Then, all my allegiances run true blue.
David was one of Israel’s greatest military leaders. He was certainly Israel’s greatest king, and one of the world’s greatest song-writers. Such a wild mix embodied in one person. I mean, who would expect Barak Obama, or any other American president, to be a political genius, a tactician in war AND a bleeding heart song-writer? It’s pretty incredible.
At the center of this unique man was a heart permanently bent toward God. When the bible says that David was a man after God’s own heart it means that David liked what God liked, desired what God desired and thought what God thought. David liked God, agreed with God and found pleasure in the things that God found pleasure in. David and God were friends.
We currently live in a world that is increasingly “connected”. We have built social media cobwebs into every corner of our lives. I have 850 “friends” on facebook, yet I hardly really know any of them. It’s easy to be surrounded by people and still feel alone. I have several good friends, but when it comes to “friends of the heart”, I have three, and that makes me rich.
We are all looking for friendship.
Friendship of the heart is more than just shared experience. This kind of friendship is about exchange, meaning that each friend, by simply being who they are, is able to change the other. In heart friendship life is lived uncensored. Nothing is hidden. It simply isn’t necessary.
This isn’t common, it’s rare. These kinds of friendships are the veins of gold buried beneath rock and rubble, deep within the bowels of the most remote mountain – to find them is to risk all. Sadly, it’s just as uncommon with God. Most of us, like Adam and Eve, tend to hide from God. We put on the fig-leaves, and jump in the bushes, all the while God pursues. Why? Because he’s looking for friends.
David never asked to be king. David never set out to be a great military war hero. I don’t think David ever thought, “I’m gonna write the hits that the kids will be singing for the next couple thousand years.” David pursued God. David was a friend. Everything flowed out of that single connection.
Songwriters, worship leaders, pastors – want to write something great, do something great or be something great? Are you willing to become a friend of the heart with God?
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,[a] I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
These are the lyrics to one of the worlds most famous songs. Though the words are over 3,000 years old, they remain fresh and alive. You might say they have an eternal quality about them.
Grieving sons and daughters have read these lines at a parent’s funeral. Single mothers, kept awake wondering where this months rent money will come from, have taken refuge here. Trembling alcoholics, whose wrecked bodies cry out for the numbing effects of one more drink, have found strength and courage in these lyrics. We’ve all walked through dark valleys of one sort or another, and during those days we are apt to look for the good shepherd.
It’s stunning that a shepherd boy from the sticks, so insignificant in his own house that his father fails to call him by name when the mighty prophet came to visit his family, could write something so universal and timeless. What could an ancient Hebrew boy possibly know about modern life? Apparently, everything. In the past 3,000 years lots of things have changed – we drive cars and carry iPhones in our pockets. We have streamlined and sanitized everything, right down to life and death, but one thing hasn’t changed – the human heart.
The human heart is still a mysterious mixture of desire, love, pain, insecurity, laughter, disappointment, and hope. Life is still happening at the cross-roads of my own choice and divine providence, and I have discovered that what I really need is a shepherd, someone to guide me. David caught it, distilled it, and sang it with such conviction that it’s truth is still abundantly present with us today. Sitting atop the reverberating echos is the original cry.
What lasts? Songs last. Especially songs that have been processed through life with God. When you sit at the piano or pick up the guitar there is always the chance that eternity could come through.
Also, David wrote about what he knew – tending sheep. Psalm 23 wasn’t a contrived attempt to “come up with something pretty”, it was a marriage of everyday life and meeting with God.
Psalm 144 begins with “Praise be to the LORD my rock…” – Where did those lyrics come from? They were no doubt born on the day David took five smooth stones from a brook and used one to strike Goliath dead.
Want to write something timeless? Organize your whole life around the timeless one. The truest life is the one lived with God. Want to write something that others can feel and know? Tell the story of your actual life, use your own words.
Here’s the deal, it’s Wednesday, the day that I’m supposed to post something new here on Indigenous Worship, and I just don’t feel like it. Truthfully, I’ve been avoiding it for the better part of four hours. Days like today ruin my concentration. At issue is the fact that it is absolutely gorgeous outside, and has been since early this morning. Right now, its 67 degrees. There is nothing in life more perfect than 67 degrees, especially after a long, cold Kentucky winter where snow was as common as a snotty nose in a kindergarten class. Now I realize that our “long, cold Kentucky winter” is just the kid brother to the “long, cold Minnesota winter”, but that isn’t the point. I’ve never lived in Minnesota, nor do I want to. The last thing I wish to begin is a “one-up” discussion about how long and cold winter can possibly be. I give. The two readers from Alaska win. The point is, in Kentucky, winter hangs like heavy, gray draperies, until, at long last, it doesn’t. And today is the first beam of light breaking through the curtains of endless days. It’s mood altering. It kills some motivations. It encourages others.
The sky is perfect post-card blue. Photoshop blue. And there isn’t a cloud anywhere to be seen. The grass has exchanged it’s muddy, brown, winter-soaked garments for lively emerald-green robes that rise and fall like great waves on the ocean. Geese are flying north, guided by the magnetic call of home. And there is a smell in the air that only happens this time of year. It’s a perfume of water, warmth, soil and growth. Intoxicating.
Days like today cause the birds to sing, and who can blame them? I’ve even noticed that I’ve hummed an unrehearsed melody all day long. My heart has been beating with nervous excitement all day long, and I’m pretty sure its not just the coffee. I know this feeling. I’ve had it before. It’s inspiration.
There is joy in knowing that winter is losing it’s icy grip. There is even greater joy in knowing the God who has perfectly orchestrated creation. One thought: as spring emerges, and nature resurrects right before our eyes, why not step outside and meditate on the greatness of God? The psalms are full of lines written in reflection of the God who sang the world into being. Go out. Listen to his song. Let it’s wonder go deep, and respond with your own verse.