Your Vision for 2020 – Part Four: Begin with the Heart.

Deuteronomy 28 begins with this promise: “’And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God’” (v. 1-2, ESV).
The phrase “faithfully obey” is translated from the Hebrew word shama, which means to listen and understand in order to know how to be obedient. In this, God was not speaking of a kind of blind obedience, but that he should be approached with a hearing and obedient heart. We find an example of a hearing heart in the story of King Solomon’s accession to the throne of Israel:

Solomon showed his love for the Lord by walking according to the instructions given him by his father David… At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”
Solomon answered, “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day.
 “Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”
 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.” Then Solomon awoke—and he realized it had been a dream. (1 Kings 3:3-15 NIV)
What do we know about King Solomon from the verses above? First, that he loved God, and he put that love into action by being obedient to the principles his father King David (who was a man after God’s own heart) taught him. Second, Solomon understood that it was his destiny to step into the position that God had promised. Third, Solomon admitted that in relationship to God and his plan, he was both a servant and a child. Fourth, Solomon comprehended that ministering to God’s people was the focus of God’s plan for him. And finally, the new king realized that he could not accomplish this daunting task without God’s help.
Because all of these things were apparent to Solomon, when God asked him what kind of assistance he wanted the king didn’t ask for wealth or might, but wisdom. He asked God for an understanding heart.
Sometimes when we picture God, we have the incorrect idea that he is sitting on his throne up in heaven, scrutinizing our every move and just waiting for us to make a mistake so he can smite us with a heavenly hammer. But this could not be further from the truth! As we can see from the verses above, the desire of God’s heart is to bless us! He’s not a cranky old man, he is our good, good Father, and not only does he desire to bless us, he also wants to teach us and develop us. Why? Because he loves us and has already created a plan for us that will bring glory to his name and demonstrate his grace to the world. God’s desire is for us to succeed and not to fail, to be the head and not the tail!
Notice that when Solomon asked God for a discerning heart, not only was God pleased with his request, but he also said that he would give him wealth and honor, as well as wisdom. Jesus says this in another way in Matthew 6:31-33:
“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (ESV)
Jesus was describing what Solomon demonstrated. When God asked him what he wanted, Solomon replied, “But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties.” Solomon realized that there was no way that he could do what had to be done in his own strength. He knew he had to depend on God every step of the way. Because God has already built into his plan everything we need to accomplish it, we begin each day and each task by asking God for wisdom, discernment and guidance. Contrary to how things operate in the world, God is not teaching us to become self-sufficient. He is teaching us to depend exclusively on him. When we begin by seeking wisdom, then God provides everything we need to keep his plan moving forward. To succeed, we must surrender.
Paul wrote about this in his first letter to the church at Corinth:
…but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (ESV)
By worldly standards, Solomon was not of noble birth. His father was a shepherd boy, an adulterer and a murderer and his mother was an adulteress. Those ignoble beginnings could have canceled God’s plans for Solomon before they even got started. BUT Solomon had something in his favor! He knew that whatever God asked him to do, he didn’t have the ability to do it, and he was humble enough to ask God for help. The destinies that God had planned for David, and Bathsheba, and Solomon were much bigger than they could manage. But God called them anyway. God asks us to do things that are too big for us, because he never intended for us to do them alone.
We don’t have space to add it all here, but when you have a few minutes, please turn in your Bibles to 1 Corinthians and read what Paul (who before his conversion was a fire-breathing, church persecuting Pharisee) wrote  in chapter 2 about how he came to preach the gospel in weakness, fear and trembling, and notice how he instructs the church that “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (v. 9 ESV).
When our hearts are right with God, when we seek first his kingdom, his wisdom, and his righteousness, he will supply what we need to fulfill his design for us. King David gives us a picture of this in Psalm 23 as Christ, the Shepherd of our souls, leads us on paths of righteousness, for his name’s sake.
In Part Five of our series, we will explore how our blessings in Christ help us accomplish our God-given destiny. God Bless and please stay tuned!
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