He Said in His Heart: David and Jeroboam
From recent Bible readings in my Genre reading plan, I’ve noticed certain phrases often mentioned throughout the Bible. One to consider this time: “Said in his heart” and similar variations such as “say in your heart.”
The phrase occurs first in Genesis 8:21, telling what the Lord said in His heart, in reference to God’s receiving Noah’s offering after the flood. All other uses of the phrase tell us the human reasoning of certain individuals, indicating the person’s inner, secret thoughts: the thoughts of the spirit within a man, which we cannot know (1 Cor. 2:11) — except that in all these cases through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in the writing of scripture, these thoughts are revealed to us.
I notice that whenever the phrase “said in his heart” refers to a person or people, the idea expressed comes from human reasoning not directed by the Lord God, an error in the person’s thinking. The phrase, or similar wording such as “say in your heart,” is found in many passages including Deuteronomy 7:17, 8:17, 9:4, and 18:21; in Obadiah, about Edom, and Zephaniah 2:15 about the exultant and wicked city; Isaiah 47:8, about the wicked, and Isaiah 49:21 about God’s people when they return to Him; also in Jeremiah 13:22, Ecclesiastes 2:1, 15; and finally in Romans 10:6, quoting an Old Testament passage.
Two such occurrences are especially interesting, in the similar wording yet the great contrasts: David, and Jeroboam.
“Jeroboam said in his heart” (1 Kings 12:26) — Here we see Jeroboam’s human reasoning, a fear that the people of Israel would go up to Jerusalem to worship and turn against Jeroboam — and the disastrous result, the introduction of idolatry to Israel. It’s also the same phrase used of David in 1 Samuel 27:1 (Then David said in his heart, “Now I shall perish one day by the hand of Saul.”) which introduced David’s declension and backsliding away from the Lord for the next year and a half in Philistine territory.
Both men faltered, thinking something in their own heart that was contrary to the word of God. Yet in David’s case, by God’s grace, David was later restored to fellowship with Him: 1 Samuel 30:6, “But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God,” indicating David’s return to a right relationship with the Lord. God did not do that for Jeroboam when Jeroboam said something in his heart. I’m reminded also of the common contrast between Peter and Judas: they both committed a sin against the Lord, one denying the Lord, the other betraying; and yet one was saved, the Lord interceding for and restoring him to right relationship, and the other (Judas) was not.