David: A Man after God’s Heart (1)
Scott Bayles, pastor
Blooming Grove Christian Church: 2/21/2016
Most everyone who has ever been to Sunday school or Vacation Bible School as a child knows the familiar story of David and Goliath. We know David as the young shepherd boy who slew a giant with one stone and a simple slingshot. We know that this brave shepherd boy grew up to be a great king of Israel. But there’s much more to David’s life than just slaying giants.
Much is written in our Bibles about David. More has been written about David than any other person in the Bible other than Jesus himself. In the Old Testament there are sixty-six chapters written about David and in the New Testament there are fifty-nine references to this great man. We can read about David’s life in 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 Kings and 1 Chronicles, but we can also glean insight into what he thought and felt by reading many of the Psalms he wrote. Seventy-three Psalms are attributed to David.
Shepherd boy, king, mighty warrior, musician, poet, sinner, saint. These words all describe David, but perhaps the most captivating words about David were spoken by God himself. These words are inscribed in the New Testament:
God removed Saul and replaced him with David, a man about whom God said, “I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart. He will do everything I want him to do.” (Acts 13:22 NLT)
David’s life was a portrait of success and failure, and highlights the fact that he was far from perfect, yet God calls him a man after my God’s own heart. So what was there about David’s heart that distinguished him from his contemporaries, setting him apart as God’s man, a man in whom God chose to confide, sharing both His secrets and times of intimate communion? What did God see when He looked at David's heart? How do we become a man or woman after God's own heart? To help answer those questions I’d like to spend the next few weeks getting to know the heart of David and, perhaps, in the process we’ll get to know the heart of God as well.
David’s story begins, not on the battlefield with Goliath, but on the ancient hillsides of Israel as a silver-bearded priest ambles down a narrow trail. A heifer lumbers behind him and Bethlehem lies ahead of him. The priest is Samuel. And the tale is told in 1 Samuel 16, so if you have a Bible in your lap or an app on your phone, you can open it there.
Before we get to the story, however, let me provide a little background. King Saul—Israel’s first King—isn’t the king he used to be. He’s grown ever more prideful and arrogant. He’s openly defied and disobeyed God. Saul’s downward spiral from saint to sinner has left Samuel heartbroken. Samuel mentored Saul. He tried to teach Saul to follow God’s path, but Saul’s heart is growing harder, his eyes haughtier. So God decides it’s time for a change. The Lord says to Samuel:
“You have mourned long enough for Saul. I have rejected him as king of Israel, so fill your flask with olive oil and go to Bethlehem. Find a man named Jesse who lives there, for I have selected one of his sons to be my king.” (1 Samuel 16:1 NLT)
So Samuel walks the trail to Bethlehem. His stomach churns and thoughts race. It’s hazardous to anoint a new king while the old on still sits on the throne! But unlike Saul, Samuel was obedient. He journeyed to Bethlehem—a seemingly insignificant town, nestled in the foothills some six miles from Jerusalem. His arrival turns the heads of the townsfolk. There were problems in the palace, which made the people in the countryside uneasy. Genuine fear stretched across the land at that time. You can see it reflected in the immediate reaction of Bethlehem’s inhabitants: “What’s Samuel doing here?” “Why is he coming to Bethlehem?” “What’s wrong?” “What’s happening?” They don’t know why Samuel is there, so they’re fearful. “Do you come in peace?” they ask.
Samuel replies, “Yes, in peace; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord” (1 Samuel 16:5 NIV). Samuel then invites these locals, including a man named Jesse and his sons, to join him. The following scene has a dog-show feel to it.
As it turns out Jesse brings seven sons with him to participate in the sacrifice and the following feast. Then the Bible says, "When they arrived, Samuel took one look at Eliab and thought, “Surely this is the Lord’s anointed!” (1 Samuel 16:6 NLT)
Hey, that must be the one, Samuel thought. He didn’t say it out loud, but that’s what he was thinking. Why? Because Eliab looked like the type you’d normally choose for a king. No doubt he was tall and impressive—a real warrior. Later, Eliab joins Israel’s army and marches off to war. Samuel is impressed, but God isn’t. So the show continues:
Then Jesse told his son Abinadab to step forward and walk in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “This is not the one the Lord has chosen.” Next Jesse summoned Shimea, but Samuel said, “Neither is this the one the Lord has chosen.” In the same way all seven of Jesse’s sons were presented to Samuel. (1 Samuel 16:8-10 NLT)
Samuel examines the boys one at a time like canines on a leash. Seven sons strut their stuff, but all seven fall short. Keep in mind; none of these guys even know what prize they’re competing for. They must have been confused, maybe even a little creeped out. And Samuel… discouragement and frustration covered his face.
Suddenly, in the midst of this parade of possibilities, God whispers a reminder to Samuel: “Do not consider his appearance or his height…The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7 NIV). Aren’t you glad God says this?
Aren’t you weary of society’s surface-level system, of being graded according to the inches of our waist, the square footage of our house, the color of our skin, the make of our car, the label on our clothes, the size of office, the presence of diplomas, the absence of pimples. Don’t we weary of being judge by our outward appearance?
Hard work ignored. Devotion unrewarded. The boss chooses cleavage over character. The teacher picks pet students instead of prepared ones. Parents show off their favorite sons and leave the runts out in the field. At least, that’s what happened to David.
Just to be sure, Samuel takes a quick headcount and asks Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?” The question likely caused Jesse to squirm like Cinderella’s step-mother, but then he responds, “I still have the youngest son. He is out taking care of the sheep” (1 Samuel 1:16 NCV).
That’s where we find David, in the pasture with the flock. In time, David will go on to slay giants and conquer kingdoms. The Son of God will be called the Son of David. The greatest psalms—many of which we still sing today—will flow from his pen. We’ll call him king, warrior, minstrel, and giant-killer. But on this day, he wasn’t even invited to dinner with the family. He’s just a forgotten, inconsequential kid, performing a menial task in a map-dot town. The word translated youngest in this verse implies more than just birth order; it suggests rank: smallest, least significant, last place.
Maybe you can relate. Lucky for us, God doesn’t see what we see. God doesn’t judge by outward appearances. God looks at the heart. When Jesse sent for David, Samuel saw a gangly teenager enter the house, smelling like sheep and looking like he needed a bath. But God saw something more. And so the Lord whispered to Samuel, “This is the one; anoint him!” (vs. 12). Then the Bible says,
“So as David stood there among his brothers, Samuel took the flask of olive oil he had brought and anointed David with the oil. And the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David from that day on” (1 Samuel 16:13 NLT).
David didn’t understand it at the time, but his life was forever changed in that moment. And it’s because God saw what no one else saw. So what did God see? Scripture doesn’t say, but it hints. As I look at this story I see three qualities of David’s heart that God certainly saw as well.
First, David had a hardworking heart.
• A HARDWORKING HEART
Although Jesse had seven other sons, David was the only one out in the fields that day. Being low man on the totem pole meant that David was expected to do the jobs the rest of the family didn’t want to do. That’s just was David did, and without complaint.
The Bible is rife with commands to work. God views work worthy of its own engraved commandment: “Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest” (Exodus 34:21). We like the second half of that verse. Most people would love to work less and rest more. But emphasis on the one day of rest may cause us to miss the command to work: “Six days you shall labor,” God said. Whether you work at home or in the marketplace, your work matters to God.
And it matters to society. One reason I think God commands us to work is that we need each other. Sheep need a shepherd. Cities need plumbers. Nations need soldiers. Stoplights break. Bones break. We need people to repair the first and set the second. Someone has to raise the kids, raise the crops, and raise the gross national product.
Another reason I think God wants us to work is because He is a worker! Not only was God working the first six days of creation, but Jesus once said, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working” (John 5:17). God doesn’t take a day off. He never calls in sick. He doesn’t go on vacation and leave the universe to run itself. God is always working. Whether you log on or lace up for the day, you imitate God when you work. God saw that David had a heart for hard work.
Furthermore, David had a humble heart.
• A HUMBLE HEART
After Samuel anointed David’s head with oil, the historian Josephus says, “Samuel whispered in his ear the meaning of the symbol, ‘You will be the next king.’” What do you do in a situation like that? I mean, it doesn’t come along every other day, you know. What did David do? Well, I’m happy to report; he did not go down to the nearest department store and try on crowns. He didn’t order a new set of business cards, telling the printer, “Change it from shepherd to king-elect.” Didn’t shine up a chariot and race through the streets of Bethlehem, yelling, “I’m God’s choice . . . you’re looking at Saul’s replacement!”
Let me show you what David did after he was anointed king, because it tells us a lot about why God chose him. As the story continues, King Saul seeks out an assistant and someone recommends David. So then Saul sent messengers to Jesse and said, “Send me your son David, who is with the sheep” (1 Samuel 16:19 NIV).
Don’t miss those last three words. He went right back to the sheep . . . even after being anointed king. Then in the next chapter, even after being going to work for the King, we read: “David went back and forth from Saul to tend his father’s sheep at Bethlehem” (1 Samuel 17:15 NIV). He’s still tending his father’s flock!?
Well, when you have a heart like David’s, that’s what you do. That was his job and he was faithful to do it. It made no difference that Samuel had anointed him with oil or that Saul appointed him as his personal attendant. He didn’t expect special treatment from others. He didn’t demand respect or brag about his position.
No, he just went back humbly to his sheep.
I think that’s one of the reasons he was a man after God’s heart. He was always approachable, always faithful in the little things. David had a humble heart and we should, too. Finally, David had a hallelujah-filled heart.
• A HALLELUJAH HEART
Do you know what David was doing out in the fields all day? When he wasn’t tending to the sheep, he was making music. David spent his days gazing up into the clouds writing worship songs. That’s actually why Saul sent for David.
Saul wrestled with depression and anger. In fact, the Bible says, he was being tormented by an evil spirit. But, as the Victorian playwright William Congreve famously said, “Music has charms to soothe the savage breast.” Saul wanted a musician to play soothing music for him whenever he felt troubled, so one of Saul’s attendants said, “One of Jesse’s sons from Bethlehem is a talented harp player. Not only that—he is a brave warrior, a man of war, and has good judgment. He is also a fine-looking young man, and the Lord is with him” (1 Samuel 16:18 NLT).
David’s passion for praise and worship earned him a place in the palace. Of course, we’re not all harpist or psalm writers like David. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have a heart for worship.
The longer I continue my walk with God, the more I appreciate the importance of music in ministry. I think Martin Luther was exactly right when he wrote: “Next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise.” God seems to have cast His vote in favor of music, too. In His Book, the Bible, the longest of all the sixty-six books is the one dedicated to the hymns of the Hebrews—the book of Psalms.
When was the last time you sang your heart out for God? Was it in a church pew, alone in your car, or maybe even the shower? Never mind how beautiful or how pitiful you may sound. SING OUT! You’re not auditioning for the church choir; you’re making melody with your heart to the Lord! God loves a heart brimming with hallelujahs!
David, for all his foibles was a man after God’s own heart. Others may measure your waist size or wallet. Not God. He examines hearts. When he finds one set on him, he calls it and claims it. When God looked at David’s heart that day, he saw what no one else saw: a hardworking, humble, hallelujah-filled heart—a God-seeking heart. What does he see when he looks at yours?
Next week, we’ll examine another key moment in David’s life to see what else we can learn about being a man and woman after God’s heart.
In the meantime, if you could use a hand drawing near to the heart of God today, I’d like to help. Please talk with me. You can pull me aside after church, call me at home, or come forward now while we stand and sing.