We don't intend this to be a comprehensive study of characters and events in the biblical text. This however captures a chronology and an essence of persons who, through time, encountered the Spirit of God and thus gained a relationship with Him. His presence then, as His presence in our lives now, leads to life choices through varied and unique life experiences. Knowing purpose in life is to know a fullness that is poetically captured in the prose presented here.
Their Name Adam
When God made man, He made him in His own likeness. He blessed man.
''So Elohim created man in His own image, in the image of Elohim created He him; Male and female created He them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.'' (Genesis 5: 1-2)
This is a hint... a glimpse of the 'Heart of God.'
God made man to resemble Himself. He blessed His creation. He loved man—giving us a place in His plan—a good place.
Yet we know man sinned, thus distancing and separating himself from God.
by proving themselves lawless,
are not destroyed,
but are offered
God's given laws.
The ultimate goal:
that man be restored to God’s
fellowship and Presence...
the Heart of God.
Enoch, Noah, Abram
Enoch (7th generation from Adam) knew the heart of God. He walked with God. God took Enoch away (Genesis 5:24). Enoch was restored to God’s fellowship and Presence.
Noah (10th generation from Adam) knew God, walked with God (Genesis 6:9), and was righteous and blameless among the people of his time—which is not saying much, since everyone else was evil all the time (Genesis 6:50). So evil were they that God wiped everyone out... all but Noah, for he knew the Heart of God. God demonstrated His heart by keeping Noah and his family safe through a disaster that has no equal throughout history. He kept Noah safe while all that was corrupt was removed. Noah was given the chance to start over.
After Noah, man began the decline into sin and separation from the fellowship of God—forgetting that He exists and that He brought man into being. God’s heart was unchanged. He still longed for men to know Him and have fellowship with Him... uncorrupted fellowship. So much so, that God reached out to Abram, blessing him, and befriended him—just because Abram would listen and would obey (more or less). Abram was not blameless, for even he made worldly choices at times. He lied and made carnal choices that caused others grief. Even though he made some worldly choices, he did not reject God. And God did not reject Abram and wanted Abram’s fellowship.
After seeing the consequences of worldly choices, Abram began to make Godly choices. God blessed him and even his friends and acquaintances.
God reaffirmed Abram through events, blessing of a son, wealth, and the favor of other men. Lot was saved from destruction (again a destruction of corrupt people), because he was Abram’s kin. Another man of God comes from seemingly nowhere to reaffirm Abram for making Godly choices (see Genesis 14:18-20).
Abram was starting to know the heart of God. God made an honest to goodness covenant with Abram, to bless him and greatly multiply him. All Abram had to do was to walk before God and be blameless. And God revealed His desire to Abram:
''And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.'' (Genesis 17:7)
This desire is revealed to men over and over and is a glimpse into the heart of God. And Abram is just the man to carry it out. God makes His covenant, and gives Abram a new name, Abraham. The terms of the covenant: circumcision, that’s it, just circumcision of every male. God keeps His promises, and Abraham has a son, Isaac.
Isaac, Joseph, Moses
Isaac learns to trust God, and to obey Him. God blesses and protects Isaac. He also is successful like his father and he has two sons, Esau and Jacob. Jacob—after a rocky start, twisting his brother’s arm, and deceiving his father—has to leave town. In spite of this, God is with Jacob, keeping His promise to Abraham. Jacob learns to know God, and to trust Him. He has twelve sons, including Joseph.
Joseph, after being threatened with death by his own brothers—sold into slavery and shipped to a foreign land—still seeks to make Godly choices, for he knows the worldly ones end in disaster and separation from God. He is willing to pay a worldly price for making Godly choices. God reaffirms Joseph, uses him mightily, even to rescue and save the brothers that had threatened him with death. Joseph must have known something of the Heart of God.
A later descendant of Abraham, Moses, a murderer [but let's qualify this: for no particular reason other than Moses was put there by God], is chosen to humble Egypt, reveal Pharaoh as a mere man, free Abraham’s descendants, and reveal God’s sovereignty. God reveals Himself to Moses (you remember the burning bush), and speaks to him, much like a man-to-man. He reveals His purpose to Moses. He reveals some of the desires of His heart:
''I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God.'' (Exodus 6:7)
This is what He promised to Abraham. This is God’s desire and He states His intent to redeem, deliver, set free, and next take as His own people these sons of Israel.
Through Moses, God reveals His awesome power to the sons of Israel. Because of His friendship with Abraham, God reduces Egypt to a shambles. He reveals their gods as 'fictations' of the imaginations. He brings the sons of Israel out of slavery and out of Egypt. The Egyptians pay the Israelites to leave. He allows the Egyptian army to be suckered into a trap. He opens the Red Sea so the Israelites can cross through, then by an incredible display of power and command, draws the Egyptians in, and then dumps the sea on them to wipe them out. God reveals His judgment on those who curse His people. His keeping of the promise He made to Abraham (Genesis 12:3)—to a people who were at times unruly and ungrateful—reveals a measure of the Heart of God.
He brings Abraham’s offspring through a trackless wasteland to meet with Him face-to-face at Mount Sinai. He provides food and water in the desert for their benefit. There can be no doubt that He is the God of Creation, and that He is watching over the sons of Israel. The only true God.
Moses goes up to God to receive instructions. The Israelites are prepared to meet the God that has blessed them and He then comes down the mountain to give His words of life (the commandments, Genesis 20). He speaks the ten commandments. In essence, love God, and love your neighbor as yourself. God wants to dwell with them and be their God. He wants them to be His people—this is His desire:
''And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.'' (Exodus 25:8)
God is keeping His promises. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.
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The Holy God Living Among Us
He has Moses prepare a Tent of Meeting which God said He would consecrate, and where He would dwell among them. And again He stated, ''I am the Lord their God.'' (see Exodus 29: 45-46)
Later, God expressed it again to Moses. He gave Moses the command He had given Abraham many years ago:
''I am the Lord your God. Be holy because I am holy.''
He gave instructions requiring them to discriminate between what was clean and unclean. He brought the sons of Israel out of Egypt to be their God. He didn’t want them to make themselves unclean and unacceptable. The rest of men had already done that. (see Leviticus 11: 44-45)
He wanted to have fellowship with them. He said:
''Keep my commandments. Do not profane My Holy Name.''
God must be understood as being holy. God is the one who makes them holy. He brought the Israelites from a land where men made gods in their image. (See Leviticus 22: 31-33)
''I am the Lord your God Who brought you out of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan, and to be your God.'' (Leviticus 25: 38)
God said He would make His dwelling place with the Israelites. He will walk among them and be their God. They would be able to hold their heads high; and do this in a land of hostile, lawless people. (See Leviticus 26: 11-13)
Reject Him or Confess Sin
If the sons of Israel were to reject God in spite of His provision, in spite of His protection, in spite of His very Presence in their midst, He said if they reject God:
- He would bring terror
on them in the form of disease
- Enemies would eat their crops
- God’s face would be set against them. Enemies will hate them and rule over them
- He would punish their sins seven times over
- The blessing on the ground would be removed (Leviticus 26: 14-39)
But, if those who remain confess their sins, confess their treachery and hostility towards God... if they humble themselves before God, then:
''I will look on you with favor and make you fruitful and increase your numbers, and I will keep my covenant with you. You will be eating last year’s harvest when you will have to move it out to make room for the new. I will put my dwelling place among you, and I will not abhor you. I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.''(Leviticus 26: 9-12)
But at the mountain of God, the people of Israel are afraid and won’t approach Him. They don’t want to commune with God face-to-face, except that is, through Moses who serves as an intermediary. They want something less good, and less scary. They turn down the best for something less. Because of His promise to Abraham, God accepts their plea. His dealings with the sons of Israel are now conducted through Moses and Aaron... and later still through Joshua. He now gives them laws covering every aspect of life.
Instruction in the Wilderness Leads to Promise
He instructs them to avoid perverting justice and to have mercy—even on those they might consider their enemy. He gives instructions about caring for the land that they are about to enter. He dictates how they should celebrate the mighty works He has done. All through the laws given to Moses can be seen the Heart of God.
He brings them through adversity and barren places where they are forced to rely on Him. And He never fails them. Not even when they rebel, whine to return to Egypt, and even fear to take the land He leads them to. He would have been fully justified on more than one occasion to have dumped them all and start over, but for Moses’ pleading, and because of His promise to Abraham, God carries them through. When they refuse His provision, He raises up the next generation to be the people of His inheritance. He brings them to the Promised Land. (See Deuteronomy 31)
Joshua Seeks the Heart of God
Joshua is a man who longs for the Presence of God. He stood by the tent of meeting when God spoke to Moses, and would linger there after Both had left. Joshua was always ready to trust in the Lord. Joshua had a heart for God. He is given the leadership at Moses’ death, and continues following God’s instructions for the sons of Israel. Under him, they enter the land and drive out the inhabitants. They begin to take possession of the land.
God continues to provide leadership for the Israelites. He gives them judges to lead, and prophets to speak the Word of the Lord. Even when the people rebel against the authority of the judges, and even when some worship the gods of the indigenous people, God preserves the sons of Israel.
He allows them to suffer the consequences of unrighteous choices—He returns to them when they turn to Him—when they cry out to the Lord to be relieved of their distress. He worked miracles through men like Gideon to show that God was still with them, and still remembered His promise to Abraham.
He worked in ways that could not be mistaken as natural, or could not be accounted as the work of any man.
Gideon, Samson, Samuel, then Saul
But the people would soon go back to being like the rest of the world. Men like Gideon and Samson seemed to stand out for they seemed to be close to the heart of God for a time—eventually they too fell away. They made worldly choices which excluded them from God’s fellowship. Choices which turned them away from God. (Gideon made an ephod which many worshipped instead of the God of their deliverance, Samson married a Philistine and broke the covenant of the Nazirites).
But at times, there were men who would stand out... these men were close to God. Samuel was such a man. God set Samuel aside, sanctified him. Samuel always seemed to be in touch with God. Samuel was the kind of man God wanted. One who would trust in Him and obey Him. Samuel said it himself when admonishing the people of Israel when they were overcome by enemies:
And Samuel said to the whole house of Israel, ''If you are returning to the Lord with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the Lord and serve Him only, and He will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.'' (1 Samuel 7:3)
God was calling Israel back to the greatest commandment, to love God with all their heart. That was His desire. The people would respond for a while, and then revert to being like those around them. Many times, because they failed to pass the lesson on to the next generation. Even Samuel, who never turned away from the Lord, had sons that did not walk with God.
The people became discouraged that their relationship with God didn’t seem to last. They asked Samuel for a king like that of the rest of the nations. This was really a blow to the heart of God, but He gave them their request. The Israelites needed to experience the consequences of their choices. Saul seemed like a good enough king at first, but eventually he turned out to be a worldly man who made worldly choices. He was not a man who knew God’s Heart.
Jesse's Son David
God spoke to Samuel and had him go and find the next king of Israel. He was to go and anoint a son of Jesse as king. God would reveal to Samuel which man he wanted. Samuel goes and meets each of Jesse’s sons. He tries to guess which son is God’s choice, but God’s criteria are different from anything Samuel has to go by.
- God, who made man, looks on the heart of man and does not choose according to physical appearances.
- God wanted a man (or boy) who would make Godly choices. One who was close to the heart of God.
- God’s choice was David, Jesse’s youngest son, and a shepherd boy.
Samuel anointed David (as God told him to), and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David.
David had a heart for the things of God. He trusted God to protect him as he took care of the flocks. He stood up against the bear and lion when they raided the sheep. Grabbing a lion by the mane takes uncommon courage. Killing a bear or lion with a club is no minor accomplishment. He knew that God wanted a straightforward and unpretentious heart. God is merciful to those who love Him completely. David wrote:
''Many O Lord my God are the wonders You have done. The things you planned for us, no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare. Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but my ears You have pierced; burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require. Then I said, ''Here am I, I have come. It is written about me in the scroll. I desire to do Your will O my God; Your law is written on my heart.'' (Psalm 40: 5-8)
David knew that God loved him and protected him. God was with him as he tended sheep. As he did the chores that were his to do. David knew that he had done nothing special to merit God’s favor. He had not sacrificed while he was a shepherd. He had not followed some written or memorized code. He merely loved God with all his heart and trusted Him. And God had watched over him and protected him. He worshipped God in music and praise. Unpretentious and fervent worship. This is what God looks for. Someone willing to be a man of God. Someone who loves Him, who trusts Him. So God chose David—a man after His own heart—to be king over Israel.
David Stands Tall Before Saul
Saul, meanwhile, is king. The Spirit of the Lord has left him. God has rejected him because he didn’t trust in the Lord. He would do things his way, not God’s. David comes into Saul’s service as a musician. Saul liked him and made him an armor-bearer. David is now in a position where he can study kingship first hand.
He shows that faith and trust in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is stronger than armed might. He is offended when the Philistine champion, Goliath, defies the armies of the Living God. His attitude is noticed by some of the Israelites—those cowering in the presence of Goliath—and David is taken to Saul. He offers to kill the Philistine champion. Saul tries to talk him out of it, but David is absolutely convinced that God will fight for Israel. Even Saul is moved by David’s faith, and agrees to let him try. David goes out to Goliath and defies him, and ridicules the idea of flesh and blood fighting against the Living God (1 Samuel 17:45-47):
David said to the Philistine ''You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that there it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give all of you into our hands.''
Of course, Goliath never stood a chance. He is killed and the Philistine army is routed. The Israelites, as well as the Philistines see the difference that the power of God makes in a man. They see that God has His favor on David. The Israelites even see the difference between David and Saul, much to Saul’s displeasure. A rift now develops between Saul and David.
The Humble King Knows the Heart of God
David knew God’s heart (2 Samuel 7:24). He knew that God had established Israel as His own people—to be their God and to have fellowship with them. After God established him as king over Israel, He gave David victory over the enemies of Israel. As a king, David did what was just and right for his people, the sons of Israel. He had the ark of the Lord brought to Jerusalem and celebrated the Presence of God among the people of Israel. This is the kind of king God wanted for His people—with justice, mercy, and humility.
Of course, David is an imperfect man, and sins. He tries to cover over one sin with others. But when confronted with his sin, he humbles himself, confesses his sins, and throws himself on the mercy of God. This is how God wants all of His people to be. Even in the midst of rebellion, rebellion that cost David one of his sons, he praised God. This was a man who put God above all other things in his life. This is an example of what God is looking for in His people.
Solomon Next in Line
When Solomon became king, he built a temple for the Presence of the Lord to dwell in. God appeared to Solomon in a dream, and asked him what he desired as king. Solomon asked for the wisdom to be king over God’s people. This also shows a man with a heart for the things of God. God blessed Solomon with wisdom, great wealth, and peace from his enemies. And peace from enemies is really a blessing to God’s people, as is wisdom in a ruler. God appears to Solomon a second time, and renews the blessings and curses spoken by Moses so long ago. Even men of wisdom can have short memories, and need reorientation from time to time.
When Israel rebelled against Judah, and against God, He sent prophet after prophet to speak His Word, and to give Israel chances to return to God and to avoid curses. Israel fell into pagan worship and turned away from God. God, however, was slow to bring about the punishment due such rebellion. He replaced ruler with ruler, giving opportunities for the Israelites to turn back to righteousness. However, Israel fell more and more away from being God’s people, and became, more and more, just like the people of the world.
Ahab Falls Short in a Crowd of gods
Judah, remained faithful to God—more or less—and remained under God’s protection. Eventually, one of the greatest of the prophets was sent to Israel. Elijah was sent to Ahab, a detestable king of Israel, to warn him of his sinfulness and of God’s judgment. At God’s command, Elijah shut up the rain for three years to get Ahab’s attention—to get the people’s attention. He didn’t just destroy Israel. He wanted to turn them back to Him.
Fellowship with His people is always His desire, not judgment Here, Ahab, who married a pagan, a Baal worshipper, made her queen of Israel. This evil ill-tempered king, ruthless and lawless, is given chance after chance to repent and turn to God. God desires repentance. HE desires that Israel turn away from doing and worshipping evil, and turn back to Him. His judgment is preceded by warning.
To demonstrate that God is the true God; to show the futility of wasting time and devotion to Baal, Asherah, and other fake gods; Elijah challenges Ahab to a display of power. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob against Baal AND Asherah. One prophet of God Most High against 450 prophets and priests of Baal, and 400 prophets/priests of Asherah. God’s desire is to demonstrate His Presence to Abraham’s descendants, and to show the folly of worshipping the gods of the world. To recapture the hearts of His people. For Israel had gone the way of the world and turned from Him.
It was no contest.
- With many of the people of Israel watching, Elijah goes before the people and exhorts them to make their decision
- To commit themselves and not be undecided
- To choose between God or Baal
The test begins.
The prophets of Baal and Asherah waste their time, effort, and life trying to call down fire from Baal to consume a sacrifice. Something a powerful god should be able to do. But to no avail. Baal is a fake. God lets these prophets of a false god waste all of their time and effort in futility.
Then Elijah sets up the abandoned altar of God and offers a sacrifice to Adonai. God displays His power and presence in an unmistakable way. He sends His fire from Heaven to consume the sacrifice, the altar's stones, and the water previously poured on top. The prophets of Baal and Asherah are prostrate by this time. Elijah has them killed. He then tells Ahab that rain will be coming. Jezebel, Ahab’s pagan queen threatens Elijah’s life in retaliation for killing her prophets.
Elijah expected Ahab and his kingdom to return to God at this display of power. Jezebel’s reaction is outside of his reckoning. He decides to run for his life. He runs south through Judah to the desert. He despairs for his life and wants to die. Elijah, mighty prophet of God—the man who seemed to be connected to God—is without hope. He travels to the mountain of God. God speaks to him there, saying:
''What are you doing here Elijah?'' (1 King 19:9)
Elijah makes his case, trying to justify his behavior, but having a major pity party. The man who should have known the heart of God is in despair. And yet, God experiences such disappointment time after time after time. In this respect, Elijah is touching the Heart of God.
God tells Elijah that He has saved a remnant for Himself, as He always does. God’s desire is for people to:
- know Him
- obey Him
- serve Him—not rulers to command people to obey Him
Each man must choose to obey God instead of the desires of his own heart. Each must choose to know God’s heart above their own. Not an easy choice for selfish people to make.
History is His Story
I srael’s history is filled with king after king who did not obey God.
Even the kingdom of Judah began to turn away.
Turn away from the One who established them in the land.
God sent prophet after prophet to speak for Him,
to exhort the kings,
and the people to return to God.
Eventually the Assyrians overthrew Israel
and sent the people into exile.
The kings of Judah eventually turned away and many either ignored God or began worshipping false gods. The prophet Isaiah warned them of the fulfillment of the curses God promised the sons of Israel just before they entered the land. Isaiah spoke boldly and confronted the people with their:
- neglect of following God’s commandments
- failure to know and serve God
- failure to love Him at all, let alone with all of their heart, mind, and strength
Isaiah wrote what God spoke to him:
The Lord says 'These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.’ (Isaiah 29:13)
The sons of Israel are breaking God’s heart.
Jeremiah Speaks of a New Covenant
Jeremiah, prophet to rebellious and unruly kings, kings under siege, looked ahead, beyond the fall of Judah, and exile. He looked ahead beyond the return of the sons of Israel to the land. God revealed to him His desire for His people, and the keeping of a much older covenant than the one broken by the sons of Israel. He revealed to Jeremiah the promise He made to Abraham.
''But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.'' (Jeremiah 31:33-34)
Hosea—a prophet to the final kings of Israel before the Assyrians conquered the northern kingdom—spoke God’s word, appealing to a doomed people to turn back to God before it was too late. In Hosea 6:4, Israel’s love for God is compared to morning mist and early dew, temporary and long gone. Even Judah’s love for God is evaporated. God sent His prophets to speak His word, in order that Israel realize their separation from God. That they might realize that they have turned away from the covenant He made with them. He wanted their loyalty, their love, and not the performance of rituals. (Hosea 6:6)
''For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.''
God sent prophet after prophet speaking His word, warning about the curses to come, desiring that the people turn to Him before it was too late. The prophets warned of impending doom. The Book of the Law would be 'rediscovered’ so that the leaders would read it, and realize that they had failed to keep the covenant with God. He gave them chance after chance to turn back to Him. That was what He wanted. That’s what His heart desire was. Not to punish for breaking the covenant.
Eventually, the kingdom of Israel was overrun by the Assyrians, and the people killed or taken away. Then Judah was conquered by the Babylonians, and the temple destroyed. Many are carried off to exile.
But God did not cause all of the sons of Israel to be destroyed. He saved some in the land, and He saved some in exile. God did not forget His promises to Abraham. After the time of punishment had been fulfilled, He returned some of the people to the land. They began to rebuild. While the gentile empires rose and fell, contended and struggled, with the land of Israel in the middle of the turmoil, He kept a remnant of His people. Even when the enemy raised up incredible persecution against the Jewish people and tried to remove them from the earth, He saved a remnant. And fulfilled His promises.
But the sons of Israel had lost their glimpse of the Heart of God. They were far from Him, even though many were still zealous to serve God.
This is a primary phase of the biblical accounting of man identifying, understanding, and embracing the Heart of God. But a second phase of the story is yet to be told. We invite your reading the concluding portion of The Heart of God: Part 2 - Now Face To Face.
Before you go on to Part 2, or elsewhere, we want to ask a question. Do you see a bit of yourself in the struggles that were encountered by those who lived long ago? To know the Heart of God might take a moment's reflection, for you, now, right now. To approach personal humility and admit to a short fall in life—much like King David—is worth your time, especially if it brings the Heart of God to your life. We encourage you to look at the section entitled ''Step Up To Life.'' Likewise, you may wish to read more articles in this feature area at Window View. This may further define a need to make such a personal reflection. To be aware that you have the option to 'step up' to a life where the Heart of God is ever present is simply our heart-felt challenge to you!