After God's Own Heart

This morning I was listening to Phil Wickham’s song, “After Your Heart,” which got me questioning the meaning of that phrase, “After God’s heart.”

David was called a man after God’s own heart in 1 Sam 13.14:
“...The LORD has sought out a man after his own heart, and the LORD has commanded him to be prince over his people..."
My first question is whether “after” is positional or directional. Here's what I mean: If we take it as positional, we assume that from a young age, (Samuel spoke those words of David before he was even anointed) God saw something special in David's heart that was somehow like His own. But if it’s directional, it’s not so much something he was born with as what he sought after. His desire was the heart of God.

So which is it? Check out Numbers 15.39, which talks about tassels for remembrance:
“And it shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the LORD, to do them, not to follow after your own heart and your own eyes, which you are inclined to whore after.” (See also Jer 13.10; Eze 6.9; 11.21)
See the similar language here? This is the “default state” of humanity: Following (whoring) after our own hearts! David was different. Even before he was anointed, before he killed Goliath, he “followed after” God’s heart; his direction was toward Yahweh.

There’s another reason I now believe it’s directional, but it took a bit of digging find it. For a journey into the semantics, read on…

Generally whenever I’m struggling with the meaning of a text, my first step is to pull out my Tanakh and translate the Hebrew. So you can imagine my dismay to find that the word “after” in 1 Sam 13.14 is the Hebrew prefix key which is practically the most versatile word in Hebrew; it can mean over, against, upon, before, toward, after… basically any preposition. Luckily, in Acts 13.22 we find a little window into Luke’s understanding of this verse. He quotes 1 Sam 13.14 in Greek, and the Greek word he uses for “after” is kata. Thayer’s Lexicon defines kata as “A preposition denoting motion, diffusion or direction from the higher to the lower.” Motion. Direction. Thank you Luke!


What does all this mean? And why does it make a difference? I think a modern tragedy is that we tend to see all the great men of old as having attained something we could never attain. When we assume that being a "man after God's own heart" is positional, all we see is how we don’t measure up. But knowing it’s directional—that means something very different to us: It's desire. It's passion. And it's repentance when we stray. This is what I want my life to be defined by.

Oh God, give me a heart after Yours.

Solo Deo Gloria

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