The Father’s Heart
By Dave Butts
I have been so blessed to have Christian parents who brought me up in the ways of the Lord. My father told me that he named me David because he wanted a son who was a man after God’s own heart, like King David in the Old Testament. That’s a wonderful heritage to have, but it is also a personal challenge. What does it mean to be a man after God’s own heart?
To answer that question accurately, we first have to know what God’s heart is like. Only then can we examine our own heart in the light of who God is. The Bible teaches us much about our Heavenly Father’s heart.
The first clear biblical reference to His heart is found in Genesis: "The Lord was grieved that He had made man on the earth, and His heart was filled with pain" (Genesis 6:6). To understand this Divine heart-pain, we need only read the previous verse, "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" (Genesis 6:5). The Creator, looking at the crowning piece of His creation, saw "only evil all the time" and His heart was filled with pain. If we are to understand the Father’s heart, we must first of all know clearly that sin brings pain to His loving heart. Knowing the horrible consequences of sin upon His beloved creation, God’s heart hurts as He watches people turn from His ways and walk in rebellion.
As I studied and prayed over this passage, my heart began to hurt over sin as well. Not only my own, but the pervasive sin that is so devastating to our world and so grievous to our Father’s loving heart. When we begin to understand just a bit of the Father’s heart-pain, it should create within us a longing for holiness and righteousness. We become eager to put away anything that might hinder or entangle us in sin. We find ourselves longing to ascend the hill of the Lord with pure hands and clean hearts.
The second thing that came to my heart as I grieved over the pain in God’s heart over sin, was the realization that what had happened in Noah’s day in Genesis 6 is reoccurring in our day. The words of Jesus came with clarity to me that as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be when the Son of Man comes again (Matthew 24:37-39). When the heart of man is filled with "only evil all the time," then once again the Father’s breaking heart will bring about the end of time. May we who are part of His family find our hearts totally aligned with His heart in these critical days that lie ahead.
The next time God’s heart is spoken of is much more encouraging. We find it in 2 Chronicles 7:16 where, referring to the Temple as a place of prayer, God says, "My eyes and My heart will always be there." The Father’s heart is with His praying people. God so desires intimacy and communication with His people that His Father’s heart is always inclined toward a place of prayer.
This matches many other Scriptures that show us how much God desires to be in constant connection with His people. When, through the gift of the indwelling Spirit, our bodies have become a temple of the Living God, Jesus promises that He and His Father will come and make Their home with us. No longer content with the occasional prayer, the Father now comes to live with us that we might always walk in close communion. When this desire for close communion with God becomes the desire of our own hearts, we will find ourselves lining up with the heart of the Father.
It is the prophet Isaiah who next reveals to us something of the Father’s heart. "He tends His flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart" (Isaiah 40:11). The Father’s heart is filled with compassion and love for His flock. God has a special concern and care for the weakest among us…the lambs who are defenseless. These are the ones He lifts up and carries close to His heart. Our hearts are never closer to the Father’s than when we, too, find ourselves taking up the cause of the least among us. Whether it is the unborn, little children, the handicapped, the elderly, or the oppressed, the Father picks up His little lambs and carries them, and we who share His heart must do the same.
The last Scripture I want to look at regarding the Father’s heart is found in Jeremiah. This is a bit different from the previous ones because it deals especially with leaders and their need to align their hearts with God’s: "Then I will give you shepherds after My own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding" (Jeremiah 3:15). I believe that God is even now moving to fulfill His Word by raising up a new generation of pastors and leaders whose focus is on following after God’s heart rather than simply church administration or maintenance.
These shepherds of the Lord’s people will have God’s heart within them, and Jeremiah explains that this means they will lead with knowledge and understanding. No longer will it be the blind leading the blind. The Father always leads with knowledge and understanding. He knows the ways we should walk and understands what it will take to lead us onto those paths. His end-time leaders will walk in such intimacy with Him that they will lead from what they hear from their Father. Like Jesus, our Chief Shepherd, they will say what they hear their Father saying and will do what they see their Father doing.
In the Old Testament, when God rejected the kingship of Saul and selected David, He spoke through the prophet Samuel and said, "…the Lord has sought out a man after His own heart" (1 Samuel 13:14). God is still looking for men and women today who are "after His own heart." Hanani the seer said it this way, "For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him" (2 Chronicles 16:9).