God often takes on human characteristics in the Old Testament. For example, He walks in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3:8. Isaiah 5:25 indicates He has a hand while Daniel 9:18 makes it clear that God has eyes and ears. These attributions of human characteristics to the Lord are known as “anthropomorphisms.” The on-line Cambridge Dictionary defines anthropomorphism as “the showing or treating of animals, gods, and objects as if they are human in appearance, character, or behavior.” Anthropomorphisms help us (humans) better understand the divine Spirit who created the heavens and the earth and everything in them.
The incarnation – when “the Word became flesh and dwelt among” men (John 1:14) – temporarily removed this need for anthropomorphisms. The apostle John opened his first epistle with his testimony to the physical manifestation of the Word (1 John 1:1-2). Our faith is based on these eyewitnesses of the resurrected Jesus. We tend to rely less on the physical characteristics of “God in the flesh” and more on the fact that He “was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Therefore, I know that God Himself can sympathize with my weaknesses (which are too numerous to mention)!
But there is one anthropomorphism which we need to retain and emulate – and that is the heart of God. Remember the words of Samuel in 1 Samuel 13:14 – as he informed Saul that his kingdom was going to end? “The Lord has sought for Himself a man after His own heart.” As John Willis suggests in his commentary, the context suggests that David, unlike Saul, “would submit his will to God’s will and not take matters into his own hand.” The Lord still seeks such today which begs the question, “Are we people after God’s own heart?”
In addition to being submissive to God’s will, do we love like God – seeking what is best for others without expecting anything in return (1 John 4:7-11)? Are we merciful (Matthew 5:7)? Are we compassionate like Jesus (Matthew 9:36)? Are we forgiving (Matthew 6:14-15)? To have a heart like God’s requires constant effort. David failed in so many ways and we will too. However, we can change as the prayer in this song suggests:
My eyes are dry, My faith is old,
My heart is hard, My pray’rs are cold.
And I know how I ought to be,
Alive to You and dead to me.
What can be done to an old heart like mine?
Soften it up with oil and wine.
The oil is You, Your spirit of love.
Please wash me anew in the wine of your blood.