From the Desk of Cheryl Hauer
What a beautiful time of year. The hot, stuffy days of late summer are giving way to cool days and even cooler evenings, gentle breezes and the smell of autumn in the air. As the leaves begin to turn, our eyes are dazzled by the incredible beauty: green, yellow, brilliant red and orange, even pink that turns to bronze in the sunlight, all appearing before us as if by magic. It is fall and we are in the month of Elul.
It is rather fitting that this month that God set apart as a time for self-examination comes at this time of year. What starts out as an uncomfortable journey, looking honestly into our often dark and ugly hearts and accepting responsibility for every sin and misstep of the past, ends with the dazzling beauty of forgiveness. It is a transformative time of year, when the countless barriers we have erected between ourselves and our God are cleared away and we are again drawn into His passionate embrace. We are face to face with our King, sheltered by our Father, walking with our Friend once again.
Abraham knew what that meant as did Moses, two men who were expressly called “friends of God.” But do we, today, as 21st century believers, really understand what it means to be a friend of God? Friend is one of those words like love, so overused that it has lost its meaning, at least in the biblical sense. So, what does this friendship with the God of the universe look like? I think, more than any other, King David has the answer. Although God does not expressly refer to him as His friend, He does say, “I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will” (Acts 13:22).
We find a similar statement in 1 Samuel 13:14, when the prophet, speaking of David, declares, “The LORD has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the LORD has commanded him to be commander over His people…”
It is easy for us as Western thinkers to read these verses and minimize their depth of meaning. Heart for us relates primarily to emotions, so we assume it means David loves with the same passion as God. We might even take it a step further and determine that David has a “right” heart, that he is a man of integrity and obedience. However, the Hebrew word levav (לבב) and the Greek kardia (καρδία) both refer to the entirety of the inner man: his emotions, his knowledge and wisdom, his mind, his desires and inclinations, his thoughts, plans and actions. The heart stands for the man himself, not just a characteristic or two. As such, it is the fountain of all he does. All his thoughts, desires, words and actions flow from deep within him, from his “heart.” And David’s “heart,” sinful man that he was, was like God’s. But how can this be? How can God say that a man who lied, committed adultery and ultimately murder, is like Himself?
David lived a very difficult existence. He was the least among his brothers, a lot of brothers, small and less attractive than his siblings, so insignificant that he was the last one his father would recommend to be anointed as king. I think it is pretty safe to assume his relationships with his brothers resulted in a fair amount of mistreatment, harassment, hounding, even bullying, a lonely and painful childhood. He was chased for years by King Saul who was insane with jealousy and only wanted to see David dead. His marriage to Michal was disastrous; he succumbed to temptation with Bathsheba, resorted to murder to satisfy his lusts, was hated by his own son and betrayed by trusted companions. Though we find all these stories in the books of Samuel and Kings, we find David’s levav, his heart, in the Book of Psalms. Here we find a man of honesty, candidness, rawness and the courage to reveal his frailties and fears, a man committed to truth. We find a man of intense yearning to be close to God at all times, a man willing to expose himself without embarrassment and trust His God to be true to His promises. He was a leader and a fighter, a poet and a singer. He was a man of passion, love, trust and devotion, whose life was marked by humility. He wanted nothing more than to be in right standing with the God He loved, to confess his sins and bask in God’s forgiveness (Psalm 51), to be restored to purity–a heart like God’s.
It's Elul, and God is giving us the opportunity to examine our hearts and see how they compare to David’s. His passionate embrace awaits us if we can just be honest with ourselves and with Him. No more making excuses, no more blaming, we have sinned and there is only one pathway to forgiveness. Let the hallmarks of this Elul be surrender, sincere repentance and a dazzlingly beautiful start to the new year. I think it’s a win-win, don’t you?
Blessings and Shalom,