In the exercise of the work of Pastors and Elders an unfortunate repeated experience comes to mind. I believe it is one in need of study and understanding in the work we are asked to undertake. We have the pleasure of examining confirmands as well as examining new members. Yet we also have the difficult task of helping believers to confront both their and our failings. I hope to explore two biblical persons, their behavior, the confrontations they received from men of God, and their responses in light of the question posed in the title of this article: “Who owns your heart?”
The first person we will look at is Ahab.
30 Now Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him. 31 And it came to pass, as though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took as wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians; and he went and served Baal and worshiped him. 32 Then he set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal, which he had built in Samaria.” (1 Kings 16:30–32, NKJV) What we see in this passage is the reason for God’s anger is idol worship. Thus, God sends Elijah to confront Ahab. God will not ignore this sin.
We then find the punishment God decreed announced, “1And Elijah the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word.”” (1 Kings 17:1) We will explore the response at the conclusion of this article.
The second person we are looking at is David.
“2Then it happened one evening that David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of the king’s house. And from the roof he saw a woman bathing, and the woman was very beautiful to behold. 3 So David sent and inquired about the woman. And someone said, “Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” 4 Then David sent messengers, and took her; and she came to him, and he lay with her, for she was cleansed from her impurity; and she returned to her house. 5 And the woman conceived; so she sent and told David, and said, “I am with child.”” . . . 14 In the morning it happened that David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by the hand of Uriah. 15 And he wrote in the letter, saying, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retreat from him, that he may be struck down and die.” 16 So it was, while Joab besieged the city, that he assigned Uriah to a place where he knew there were valiant men. 17 Then the men of the city came out and fought with Joab. And some of the people of the servants of David fell; and Uriah the Hittite died also.” . . . 25 Then David said to the messenger, “Thus you shall say to Joab: ‘Do not let this thing displease you, for the sword devours one as well as another. Strengthen your attack against the city, and overthrow it.’ So encourage him.” 26 When the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she mourned for her husband. 27 And when her mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.” (2 Samuel 11:2-5, 14-17, 25–27)
Here we find God’s declaration of guilt
Ahab’s guilt: Ahab made a wooden image. Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him.
David’s guilt: when Bathsheba’s mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.
This look into the word of God shows two leaders in Israel who have sinned and caused God to be angry. The list of sins is long and very ugly: adultery, murder, idol worship, and in general being ungodly examples for the people of Israel. God sends a man of God to confront both of them and pronounce judgment. Both men had been made king in God’s providence and both were sinners deserving of God’s judgment.
Today, elders need to be aware that God calls men to be elders who are unafraid of the consequences of confronting sin when calling on the sinner to repent. We all are mere men and of course do not desire the confrontation that is required by God, but it is an integral part of the work God has called us to. If we are to be faithful in our duties we have no other option.
Remember what Ezekiel says to the watchmen, 7 “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me.8 When I say to the wicked, ‘You wicked person, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade them from their ways, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. 9 But if you do warn the wicked person to turn from their ways and they do not do so, they will die for their sin, though you yourself will be saved.” (Ezekiel 35:7-9)
Let’s explore the men God sends to confront Ahab and David.
Elijah is a fearless man of God who has been sent to confront Ahab, the most powerful man in the kingdom. Elijah is warned by God to flee the area. We read in 1 Kings 17:1-6,
“1 And Elijah the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word.”
2 Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, 3 “Get away from here and turn eastward, and hide by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan. 4 And it will be that you shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.”
5 So he went and did according to the word of the Lord, for he went and stayed by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan. 6 The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the brook.”
Next we read that Elijah announces deliverance to Ahab. “ 1 And it came to pass after many days that the word of the Lord came to Elijah, in the third year, saying, “Go, present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the earth.” 2 So Elijah went to present himself to Ahab; and there was a severe famine in Samaria.” (1 Kings 18:1–2)
We need to note several things for us as we consider God’s warning to Elijah. First, God does not promise this will be easy. God hardens the king’s heart. Second, in spite of the difficulty God does not leave room for excuses. Third, God provides for the faithful servant Elijah to be cared for and protected.
Let’s also look at Nathan who is sent to confront David, who also is the most powerful man in his kingdom.
“1 Then the Lord sent Nathan to David. And he came to him, and said to him: “There were two men in one city, one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had exceedingly many flocks and herds. 3 But the poor man had nothing, except one little ewe lamb which he had bought and nourished; and it grew up together with him and with his children. It ate of his own food and drank from his own cup and lay in his bosom; and it was like a daughter to him. 4 And a traveler came to the rich man, who refused to take from his own flock and from his own herd to prepare one for the wayfaring man who had come to him; but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.”” (2 Samuel 12:1–4)
Then, Nathan proclaims God’s judgment.
“ 14 However, because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also who is born to you shall surely die.” . . . 19 When David saw that his servants were whispering, David perceived that the child was dead. Therefore David said to his servants, “Is the child dead?” And they said, “He is dead.” 20 So David arose from the ground, washed and anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then he went to his own house; and when he requested, they set food before him, and he ate. 21 Then his servants said to him, “What is this that you have done? You fasted and wept for the child while he was alive, but when the child died, you arose and ate food.” 22 And he said, “While the child was alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who can tell whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ 23 But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.”” (2 Samuel 12:14–23)
We need to note several things for us as we consider God’s warning to David as Nathan delivers it. First, David meets the same kind of anger, “5 So David’s anger was greatly aroused against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this shall surely die!” Second, this is the same response Ahab had but God does not tell Nathan to run. Third, God provides protection for his servant Nathan. God softens the king’s heart.
The confrontations are very much the same: both Elijah and Nathan speak God’s word to kings and then let God’s Spirit do the work. This gets to the heart of the question in the title of this article. “Who Owns Your Heart?” What is different between the response of Ahab and of David?
The first response we discussed is Ahab. Ahab sends out his armies to find and kill Elijah because he has pronounced God’s judgment on him. As the king, Ahab believes he has every right to eliminate the antagonist. He is never recorded as having remorse for his sins and continues for years to try to find and kill Elijah. He also by his behavior causes much suffering to come on the entire people of Israel.
The second response we discussed is David. With one sentence God through Nathan brings David to his knees. “7 Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. 8 I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your keeping, and gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if that had been too little, I also would have given you much more! 9 Why have you despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in His sight? You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the people of Ammon.” (2 Samuel 12:7–9)
In both the cases of Ahab and David we learn that sin has consequences and death will follow. God does not wink at sin in kings, pastors, elders, deacons or any of mankind. Both sinner and saint, indeed all fall short and are under his judgment. The only difference is the response which comes once a sinner is confronted. That response reveals the condition of that individual person’s heart.
All of us as Christians, but especially pastors and elders, are not to flee from this confrontation. We do not know how God is working in the heart of the sinner. Remember fellow church members, that elders and pastors are sinners like you and may also need to have someone hold up the mirror of Scripture to show others what can be seen. Everyone needs to remember to consider your response because the owner of your heart will be revealed. Pray that God will soften your heart when the time comes.
All of us have this duty to our brothers and sisters but particularly elders and pastors. We are all Prophets, Priests, and Kings. As Prophets we must bring God’s word to others—especially those lost in sin. This is not easy, but if we care for our fellow Christians we will do what needs to be done in the hope that God is the owner of their heart.
The conclusion that must be reached as pastors and elders is reflected in the following statement from Elijah “the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand” (1 Kings 17:1). We stand before the Lord and can do nothing else. It is our calling.
In His Service,
Elder Dick De Groot
Sioux Falls, SD