Eternal Security: The Heart of the Matter
Written by Judy Kenagy
“And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to fight the armies of the aliens.” -Hebrews 11:32-34 (NKJV)
In this chapter of his letter to the Jewish believers, the writer of Hebrews began strong in verse one with his thesis of what faith can achieve. He then moved on to specific examples to illustrate the meaning of faith. The patriarchs lead the way, hailed for their acts of faith. But then, the author seems to run out of time before he could list the Judges, much less the Kings or Prophets of Israel. Starting in verse 32, the writer hastily adds David and others, then a list of faithful acts, rather like a footnote. The reader is left to rediscover which faithful act each person exemplifies.
Following the pattern of previous verses, if we could fill in the phrase: “By faith, David….” What would we add? There is much to choose from. As much as we love David’s psalms, his bravery facing Goliath, and being chosen as King of Israel in his early years, it is not as easy to read about the battles, family disunity and choices David made later in his life.
Yes, David was a great King, but what about his personal sins?
There is every indication in Scripture that David will experience eternal life. He boldly committed adultery and planned the death of one of his own “mighty men.” Yet, David clearly writes about assurance of his eternal destiny in one of the most often uttered psalms of all time.
“…And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” -Psalm 23:6b (NKJV)
Where does David’s confidence come from? The key is found in the first portion of this very same verse:
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life…” -Psalm 23:6a (NKJV)
How could David have assurance that God’s goodness and mercy would be upon him all the days of his life?
Before and after the COVID pandemic, nine ladies and I studied the life of David. Over those 2 years, we pulled from the book of Psalms and the Bible books of the history of Israel, words and deeds of the shepherd boy who would become king. To get to the heart of his life we found just that…heart! Chapter after chapter and psalm after psalm we encountered the word “heart.” I challenge you to find them for yourself, beginning with the psalms of David–they are easy to find.
But what does David’s heart have to do with his sure expectation that he will spend eternity with God? After all, “the heart is deceitful…and…wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9). Assurance doesn’t come from one’s heart. It comes from the promises of Jesus.
My sheep hear my voice and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; Neither shall any one snatch them out of My hand.
John 10:27-28 (NKJV)
As a shepherd, leading a rather lonely life in his early years, David knew sheep well. He would have identified with the assurance written by the Apostle John 2000 years later that parallels a sheep’s confidence in his shepherd.
How could David’s heart be near to the heart of God?
David was human. David was a sinner. David committed gross sin. He could not always trust his heart. #MeToo! He was not the exception. He knew he had violated the 6th and 7th Commandments, if not more! Superior author of psalms and military leader that he was, David, a follower of Yahweh for many years, was not immune to the consequences of his sins and suffered greatly for them. But God’s promise for eternal life is sure and certain, not based on works. Many years later, Jeremiah would pen these encouraging words, for all us sinners:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23 (ESV)
And there it is. Assurance is not about David’s heart, nor his acts as a follower of the LORD. And as modern-day disciples of Jesus, It’s not about our hearts either. Not one of us deserves the mercies of God that are new each morning. They are a result of His faithfulness; it’s about God’s merciful heart.
One day in high school I felt brave enough to talk to a close friend about believing in Jesus. It saddens me to this day when I recollect her response. “God could never forgive me for what I’ve done.” I tried to convince her that God forgives every sin, but to no avail. I wonder, had I directed her away from the issue of her sin and toward the promise of eternal life with Jesus, perhaps she would have believed in Him.
We could include all these actions of a follower of Yahweh to fill in the blank. By faith David:
- Wrote & sang psalms to God through all the ups & downs of his life
- Stepped forward when called by God to become King of Israel
- Gathered his mighty men for battle
- Trusted God that he would see his dead son again
- Believed God’s covenantal promise
- Cultivated his friendship with Yahweh by repenting of his sins (Psalm 51:1-3)
But most important to remember, it began with David’s first step: David believed in the LORD’s promise for eternal life.
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