In my last post in this series I asked what it was exactly about David that was ‘after’ or ‘according to’ God’s heart. In answering this question we obviously need to look at both God and David and look for some similarities in their character. I believe a clue to at least a portion of the question is tucked away in the use of this phrase elsewhere in the Old Testament.
In the first 11 verses of Jeremiah 3, Israel and Judah are accused of spiritual adultery and prostituting themselves to other gods… then God calls and commissions Jeremiah:
“Go, and proclaim these words toward the north, and say:
“Return, faithless Israel…
I will take you, one from a city and two from a family,
and I will bring you to Zion.
And I will give you shepherds after my own heart,
who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.”
– Jeremiah 3:12-15 ESV.
There is actually quite a lot more in the Old Testament that talks about God as a Shepherd of His people – the most famous probably being Psalm 23.
Over in the New Testament Jesus calls himself “The Good Shepherd” and dedicates a good chunk of John 10 to this teaching about himself. Jesus uses more shepherding language as he approaches Jerusalem in Luke 13:34 saying, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!”
Now, when we look at David, we know he was a shepherd as a young boy but there’s actually a lot more to it than just that. When it comes to the Bible’s teaching on worship and David’s leadership a commonly used portion of scripture is this one from Psalm 78:
“He chose David his servant
and took him from the sheepfolds;
from following the nursing ewes he brought him
to shepherd Jacob his people,
Israel his inheritance.
With upright heart he shepherded them
and guided them with his skilful hand.”
– Psalm 78:70-72 ESV
I’ve often heard and, in turn, used this portion of scripture to introduce the concept of two aspects to leadership and service in a local church: the heart and the hands of service. These are important concepts for us to understand (and we’ll come back to these in a later post) but we often get caught up on those points and miss out on something that is actually the main key to this scripture. I believe that this key is also vital to understanding the Biblical heart of “leading worship” and, in fact, to the heart of any kind of leadership and service in the church.
David is saying that from when he was a young boy right through to being the king of Israel his job description didn’t change, just who he was looking after. He went from shepherding sheep to shepherding people.
We always teach about the importance of an upright or integrous heart and skilful hands in service but miss the actual point of this verse. The integrity and skill are the ‘hows’. The ‘what’ of the scripture is shepherding!
So what makes David a man after God’s heart? I don’t believe scripture honours David with this acclaim because he was a great leader or because he was a very talented writer, poet and musician. I don’t even think it was because he had some amazing measure of desire for God. I’d like to argue that it is for this reason: from the hills and sheep pens of his childhood right through to the height of David’s illustrious political career, at heart he was a shepherd. And God likes that because that what He has in His own heart.