What exactly did the shepherd boy David accomplish to acquire the title,“man after God’s own heart?” How can we too have a heart like his? What are the principles David followed also seen in the life of Christ? Beth Moore ponders these questions and carries the women in her study verse by verse on a historical walk through the scripture. Christ is rightly acknowledged in the life of David, the word of God is properly recognized as sufficient for all life and Godliness, and the listener is suitably directed toward a praiseworthy relationship with the Father.
What does the word of God say about pursuing A Heart Like His? Would God find our pursuit of His heart glorifying? Did God inspire the story of David in the Bible’s record so that we will have an accurate understanding on our own trek?
Beth Moore is beyond passionate about her relationship with the Lord. She loves Him with an amazing intensity and, through her distinctive and engaging personality, shares that love with the listener. The audience readily identifies with Beth. She is well educated and versed in scripture, while simultaneously vulnerable and honest. She writes beautiful poetry filled with sorrow, praise, and enthusiasm; with each recitation the audience draws a collective sigh. Who wouldn’t love a woman that doesn’t just shed tears, she openly “kraaz?” Witty, heartfelt, and faithful stories from the scripture as well as the speaker’s life are recounted; each designed to press upon the listener an equivalent heart for the Lord.
Seven goals “in the order they appear in Scripture” are set out for the listener to follow, in an attempt to achieve A Heart like His. Through the 10 sessions that follow one will hope to achieve:
- A fresh recognition of God’s authority
- A deepened relationship with God through prayer
- A ready response to authentic worship
- A reliable reception of God’s word
- A greater reluctance to judge by appearances
- A personal readiness to repent and be restored
- A heart remodeled after his own
The first Group Session shows that Christ can be seen in two “complexities” of David’s personality. Beth defines these traits as lionhearted and tenderhearted. The lionhearted Christ is a “brave warrior,” acting on our behalf from days of old until the end. The tenderhearted Christ walks with his friends (ex: Mary and Martha), listens to our prayers, our requests, and our contempt and is moved by our suffering. And while the believer still must endure times of suffering or unanswered prayer, Christ’s tender heart proves His love for us is trustworthy.
Session Two identifies both the “vulnerability of leaders” and the believer’s appropriate attitude toward them. Leaders can be enticed to compromise truth in an effort to “enlarge their audience” or avoid difficult “confrontation.” Believers are responsible to “release leaders from being God.” When and if our leaders do fall, we are to take a humble attitude, pray for them and address our disappointments to God.
Session Three parallels the life of David with the listener in respect to Satan and his attacks. Similar to David, we have an enemy “we did not choose; he chose us.” Our enemy is likewise due to our “appointment,” and he is every bit as fortified and powerful as David’s enemies. By observing how David handled Saul, we can learn what to expect from Satan as well as how to counteract his assaults in our life.
Session Four illustrates the 5 types of relationships Christ risked during His life on earth. Here, Beth emphasizes that relationship is also one of our most important risks. She states it is “why Christ was here.” Christ interacted on a variety of levels; first, with the multitude of crowds for the purpose of witnessing. Next, He engaged the 72 as an example of those He served. He then chose the 12 for a discipleship relationship. The 3 He pursued as an exercise in transparency at a deeper level, and finally, He was alone for times of intimacy with the Father. In this last relationship, the author outlines a way in which it is possible to proceed “further still.” This particular time with the Father is for when “we are in need of the most intensive care.” Ms. Moore calls it a “place of honesty where you may wrestle with the will of God.” In doing so she suggests that this place is one in which the listener “must emerge changed.”
In Session Five, the similarities we share with David in regards to a change process are revealed. Like David, “we have been promised a kingdom.” We likewise will reign with Christ and are being prepared by way of “time plus conflict.” “God desires to conform us to the likeness of His Son,” and we are to participate with God and recognize that this change is both good and a work that will have an end.
The virtues of David that made him a “choice King” are the reference for praise that the author teaches in Session 6. Identified as an outward action, authentic praise is a choice and can be performed in a variety of ways. The Hebrew words used to describe these actions are Yadhah, Tehillah, Zamar and Halah. Translated they make clear that as a people who praise God we speak out, confess, sing, make noise (instrumental) and shine. “Focus” is paramount in approach to the Father, and Beth emphasizes that praise is not meant solely for a worship service. In her opinion praise “has no bounds.” Praise is also described as a habit, contagious, not based on feeling, and the opportunity to “sit and dwell” at the feet of the Father.
Session 7 begins with a challenge derived from the life of David. Ms. Moore spells out 10 safeguards David utilized to protect himself from the cycle of sin. She mentions that, “if he can, we can.” These safeguards reveal poverty apart from God and suggest ways in which to avoid that separation. An honest approach, guarding against potential weakness, and accepting forgiveness are some of the tangible actions to employ. Being acquainted with God’s mercy, seeking joy from the Lord, and walking in the truth denote a life attitude that protects. Knowing sin tendencies will be imperative in order to follow the safeguard of “call on God at first sign of trouble,” and an “undivided heart” vital to acknowledging the supremacy of Christ.
A shift away from the focus on David toward the prodigal son happens in Session 8. These lessons yield 13 principles for heart change. In studying this Biblical character, the listener can see several of the prodigal son’s unacceptable attitudes and motives. As well, the attributes of God are identified in the prodigal’s father. The author warns against inappropriate requests in both “time and motive.” She mentions that the listener be advised, “one may get exactly as one asks.” Ms. Moore paints a picture of a wild child, devoid of all wisdom and discernment; one who mistakes liberation as freedom. Conversely, the author portrays the longing and emptiness of the father as he waits patiently for his son’s return and celebrates wholeheartedly when it happens. She states, “we can never over estimate our value to God.” Ms. Moore then tells a moving story of her separation from her children due to the ministry she is called to. She compares her heart wrenching disconnection to that of the prodigal’s father, and emphasizes how valuable we are as His children, “He yearns for us.” The session ends with a note of warning regarding a correct attitude toward the prodigal son, for “we have no idea what that child suffered.”
Returning to the examples from David in Session 9, listeners learn of his complete exhaustion. For the purpose of this lesson, the exhaustion David suffered during the time Saul pursued him is examined. “Fighting the same enemy for too long,” is a contributing factor, as well as unmet physical needs and a sense of fighting battles all alone. Likewise, when God “desires to change our roles,” He will make us aware by causing us to be weary. Practical remedies are suggested; retreat, fast and pray, even perhaps consider taking a nap. Belief is key; God promised to care for physical needs. He also provided us with the body, complete with a wealth of gifts. Ultimately, Ms. Moore says, tell Him your need, “His word works, try it you’ll see.”
Finally, with Session 10 the Shepherd carries David to his final rest. Throughout his life, God the Father was to David as he in turn was to his sheep. Similarly, the audience is able to recognize God. “In your roles, God is teaching something of Himself…He wants to lead us so that we can share in His Holiness.” Ms. Moore concludes the lessons from the life of David by reiterating that, “The Lord had been David’s guide,” and that He also guides us in righteousness by His Word and chastisement. The Lord was with David through his life and led him through the valley of the shadow of death. He now accompanies him through the reality. David nor the listener have reason to be afraid, however, as “God conquered the fear of death.” The author also shares part of her heart in that she wants “the Lord to catch me in mid sentence with praise” when He returns.
I so appreciate the goals Beth Moore seeks to accomplish in this study. She accurately pinpoints several areas in which our hearts are desperately in need of purification. She then promotes looking in the precise place where the solution can be found, God’s Word. Ms. Moore doesn’t simply showcase excellent teaching skills; she boldly challenges each listener head-on when pointing out sin areas. Specific examples from her own difficult lessons level the ground from which she confronts. Her journey is continuous; she has no attitude of condemnation for she is well aware of the proclivity of her own heart. Likewise, Beth doesn’t sugar coat when she exhorts. While speaking about the situation when our leaders fail she urges us to “remind ourselves of our own humanness and fallibility.” She expresses plainly to the listener that they should have an appropriate attitude toward leaders, and that our womanly “feelings” belong first and foremost at the feet of the Lord. By participating with Ms. Moore on any one of her journeys women would be blessed simply knowing that Beth’s heart, her overriding passion is that we all would grow in holiness.
Regrettably, I don’t recommend taking such a journey. Let me explain. This is actually my first foray into the world of the Beth Moore series. For years I had heard that these studies were difficult, not simply due to the gravity of time commitment, rather that they would encourage radical heart change. Perhaps that is why I stayed away! As time progressed and I grew in the knowledge of the foundation of my faith, I heard that Beth’s teaching did not quite line up with what I believed. Still, that did not prohibit me from listening; we do, after all, believe in the same God. After listening to this particular series, however, I’m afraid I must conclude that what she teaches deviates from the central message of the Bible.
As previously stated, Beth loves the Word of God; it is the bedrock of her teaching. Her method for utilizing the Bible in reference to this study, however, employs a moralistic approach to scripture. For example, in order to achieve this new heart the listener is directed to the life and lessons of a man…David. “A heart like His is illustrated perfectly in the heart of David.” This approach is designed to “study the life of David [in order] to lead us to Christ.” David’s story, then, inevitably leads us to discover how he respected his leaders, fought off the enemy (in his case Saul; in ours, Satan), handled conflict, praised the Father, protected himself from sin, combated exhaustion, and faced the reality of death in his effort to develop a heart like God’s. While none of these pursuits are essentially wrong, the Biblical character the study uses to model them was a sinner who, apart from Jesus Christ’ death and resurrection, could not achieve holiness. And rather than the story lead the listener to Christ and illustrate this act of redemption, Beth assures spiritual success by following the same faulty principles. Another fundamental problem with Beth’s interpretation is that David was called a “man after God’s heart” in 1 Samuel 13:14, while Saul was still King. David had not yet lived the life we use as an example in this study for our own quest toward a heart like His.
When using humanity as an approach to scripture, the wrong standard is imposed. “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; yet these are they which testify of Me.” John 5:39 Examples from the Biblical characters’ life then unavoidably develop into statutes. As well, the Bible becomes simply a teaching tool outlining what we must do to achieve holiness and Christ is the helper who serves us on the path that gets us there.
As the ideas in the sessions develop, this subtle mind-set is observed and it dangerously diminishes who Christ is and what He did. The bulk of my greatest concerns lie within this thinking. For example, Christ is portrayed as a comrade to Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Beth’s interpretation has Martha speaking in a tone of contempt with Jesus when He finally arrives after Lazarus’ death. The lesson for us is that “Christ is trustworthy to take your complaint.” Additionally, the author states, “Our sharing those emotions frees Him to explain through His word the glory he wants to work in your life.” In this attempt to portray Christ as tenderhearted, Beth refashions Christ into something of a pawn. The author’s reasoning for Jesus hesitance in raising Lazarus from the dead was so that, “greater glory could be seen in Mary, Martha and Lazarus,” not God.
Rather than confess that we question God’s sovereignty, we’re told to share our disappointments with Him to “get them off our chest” and “so we don’t slander.” The place of “further still” is a place that Christ went to wrestle with God and beg to be released from His earthly assignment, “Christ was desperate to get out of His task.” Conversely, Hebrews tells us that Christ endured the cross for the joy that was set before Him. The lesson from this session is that we too have “permission to fight with Him.”
When exhaustion sets in, Ms. Moore suggests that the listener is serving in the wrong place. In order to know for sure, however, she states, “Ask Him, He will be obligated because of His great name to tell us.” While God has obligated Himself to do as He promised, He did not promise to answer all of our questions.
Ultimately an assessment of the life of any Biblical character and the development of principles deduced from said life leads one to believe that we as humans are capable of moving toward Christ. In the words of Michael Horton, “If the law is rendered powerless by human sinfulness, how on earth could we possibly believe that humanly devised schemes and principles for victory and spiritual power could achieve success?”1 David’s life and lessons must point to his and subsequently our need for a crucified Savior. Anything less minimizes Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.
Although Beth Moore’s “A Heart Like His” beckons us to a higher place in the call to holiness it does not offer us the power to get there. As I listened to the sessions I felt a weight of responsibility to perform at a greater level, burdened by the knowledge of my transgression. I spent the greater part of my spiritual life following principles, and at the end of the day wondered why I did not then receive the blessing. What relief there is in knowing “not a single spiritual blessing can be pried from God’s hand by obedience; it is all there in the Father’s open, outstretched hand.” 1
1. Michael S. Horton. “Preaching Christ Alone.” Monergism. 22 May 2009. <http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/preachChristalone.html>
Review by Ann Maree Goudzwaard