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A Man after God's Own Heart
From the Sheep Pen to the Palace
A Man after God's Own Heart
I Samuel 16:1-13
 
For the last several weeks we've been studying about the Kingdom of God.  On several occasions, I've referenced the fact that we will be privileged to rule and reign with Christ in the coming kingdom.  I don't know about you, that's a little difficult for me to wrap my brain around. 
 
And yet in more than one place, this idea of the saved of God having reigning privileges is mentioned.  For instance, in Revelation 1:6, John, speaking of Christ says He has "made us kings and priests to His God and Father". 
 
Later, in chapter 5:10 the thought is expanded to say not only are we kings and priests, but we shall reign on the earth.  
 
And Revelation 20:6 clarifies it even more to say this reign will occur on the earth during the Millennial Kingdom of God and will last for 1,000 years. 
 
So whatever it includes and however it will be demonstrated, Scripture makes clear it is going to happen. 
 
And I will tell you, when I think about that my head nearly explodes!  I can't even take care of my yard, much less the Kingdom of God.  I can't think of anybody less qualified to serve as a king alongside Jesus than me!  I can't even remember to get the oil changed in the car on a regular basis! 
 
Me, a king?  And chances are you feel the same way.  And most likely, when others look at us, they don't think in those terms either. 
 
But we aren't the only ones who were that way.  There was another person who lived centuries ago and when everyone looked at him they never dreamed he was appointed by God to serve as a king either.  His name was David.  And over the next few weeks I want us to follow the early years of David as he rises from obscurity to become the king of Israel and see what lessons we can learn from his life and experience.
 
It may interest you to know that David is mentioned in the Bible more than any other person. His name occurs three times more often than either Abraham or Moses. He is mentioned more even than the Lord Jesus Christ. Over 1100 times his name is mentioned in the Bible, including 58 times in the New Testament.
 
Four books (and 61 chapters) of the Old Testament tell his life story. He wrote at least 73 psalms. In the 30 centuries since his death, he has been painted, sculpted, idealized and immortalized. To this day parents name their children after him.
 
His resume was very full: Jesse’s youngest son. Teenaged shepherd. Saul’s court musician. The giant-slayer. A fugitive on the run. Jonathan’s closest friend. A hero to thousands. Israel’s greatest king. A poet of exceptional skill. A gifted architect. Handsome. Powerful. Charismatic. Loved by multitudes. Adulterer. Murderer. Father to a son who turned against him.
And from obscurity, he rose to lead his nation to their greatest days. And yet, through his own foolish choices, he destroyed his family and ended his reign amid trouble and intrigue. A glorious triumph and a very human tragedy. Called and gifted, human to the core. A paradox. Strong in battle, weak at home. He danced before the Lord, he had trouble with his kids. He wept, laughed, cried, and poured out his heart in worship before the Lord. He is not like Michelangelo’s polished marble statue in Florence, Italy. He is one of us, entirely human, made of flesh and blood.
 
And yet, what God said of him catches us totally off guard.  God said of him, and of no one else in Scripture, here is a man after my own heart.
 
My goal in this series is simple. I want us to see how an obscure young shepherd became king over Israel. By what path did God lead him from the sheep pen to the palace?  And once I discover that path, I want us to see ourselves as we travel it also
 
Because in learning about David we are really learning about ourselves.  And in learning how God worked with him, we are really learning how God works with us. And in learning about his struggles, we are really learning about ours.  And just as a God made a king out of David, He is at work to make kings of us. 
 
As the story begins David is tending sheep on the rocky hills near Bethlehem. And what I want us to see, first and foremost is that David rising to be king was entirely God’s choice. From a human point of view, he was the least likely person to ever become a king.
But as we are about to see, God very often chooses the most unlikely of candidate, those whom the world overlooks, to do his will.  Notice what we read in
 
1 Samuel 16:1
 
We pick up the story with a conversation taking place between
 
1. God and Samuel
 
Now, to understand these verses we need a bit of biblical background. Saul had been the people’s choice for a leader. They looked around at the culture of the day and saw that all the other nations around them had a king. 
 
God's design for Israel was different.  He would be their king.  He would take care of them and protect them and provide for them, and over and over again, he had demonstrated he was well-equipped for the job.  But they wanted a king so they could be like the other nations.
 
They had pestered Samuel, the resident prophet among them, until he finally said, “Lord, these people really want a king,” and the Lord said, “Fine, I’ll give them a king.”
 
Now to his credit, there probably wasn't a better man for the job than Saul.  He was an impressive young man and a born leader. For a while, it was all wine and roses until something happened inside Saul. There was an impulsive streak that made him act without thinking.
And unfortunately, it wasn't minor things or side issues.  He was guilty of big things like deliberately  disregarding the word of God.  And ultimately the day came when God said, “I’m going to remove your kingdom from you and give it to a man after my own heart.”
 
And one of the saddest commentaries in all the Bible is found in the closing verse of 1 Samuel 15 where we discover Samuel mourning for Saul and God regretting that He ever made Saul king over Israel.
 
But in verse 1 of chapter 16, as we saw a moment ago, there comes a time when God says to Samuel, you've cried long enough and Israel needs a king, so get up, fill your horn with oil and get ready to travel because I'm sending you to the home of a man named Jesse who lives in Bethlehem and I have chosen one of his sons to be king.”
 
Now understand, when Samuel goes to Bethlehem, he doesn’t know how God’s choice will be revealed. He is just supposed to go to Bethlehem to the house of Jesse and the rest will be made clear when he gets there. 
 
And there we discover one of the first great lessons from this story before we ever even meet David.  If you want to know God’s will for tomorrow, get up, wash your face, brush your teeth, have a good breakfast, and then go out the door and do God’s will today. And in the doing of God’s will today, you will discover God’s will for tomorrow.
 
 
 
Even while Saul was flaming out, God has already chosen his man. His failures didn't catch God off guard and they certainly didn't upend God's work. 
Listen:  my heart breaks when a man of God fails.  But always remember nothing of God ever fails.
 
If one man won't do God’s will, somebody else will.  If you don't tithe or give, somebody else will.  If you won't go make a visit, somebody else will.  Always remember, while we sit around and cry and tremble, God is always at work behind the scenes.
 
After World War II had been won, someone asked Winston Churchill what he was doing during the dark days of the Blitz when the Nazis were raining bombs on London. “I was in the basement,” he replied, “planning the invasion of Europe.”
 
What was God doing while Saul was self-destructing? He was preparing David to be king. No one knew it but God. Samuel didn’t know, Saul certainly didn’t know, Jesse didn’t know, and David himself had no clue.
 
Are you uncertain and worried about the future? In a state of panic? Fearful over what might happen next? Rest in these two words: God knows. And while you worry, he is up ahead of you arranging the details of your future. Let that thought lift your spirits. Wait on the Lord. Listen for his voice. Rest in him. And take the next step in front of you.
 
Be encouraged, child of God. We know not what the future holds but we know who holds the future.
 
The next scene we see is of
 
2. Samuel and Jesse’s Sons
 
I Samuel 16:6-10
 
In due course Samuel makes his way to the house of Jesse and asks to see his sons. The Bible doesn’t say if he told Jesse what was on his mind but it doesn’t matter because Samuel was well-known throughout Israel. It would be a great honor to have the prophet visit in your home. So Jesse gladly calls his sons.
 
They line up and the first one is introduced. His name is Eliab. Evidently he is a bit like Saul—tall and handsome. He must have impressed Samuel because when he sees him, he thinks, “All right, Lord, good choice. He even looks like a king.” And the Lord says to Samuel, “What are you talking about? That’s not the one. In fact, I’ve rejected him.”
 
So in comes the next son. His name is Abinadab. This time Samuel doesn’t do anything. And God says, “Nope.” Go to the next one. “Nope.” Next one. “Nope.” Next one. “Nope.” Next one. “Nope.” Next one. “Nope.” Pretty soon Samuel is 0 for 7 in picking the next king of Israel. He is utterly bewildered. He has come to anoint the new king but the new king is nowhere to be found.
 
Samuel assumed in advance that he knew God’s will but he was dead wrong. He was repeating the same mistake the nation had made earlier. He wanted someone who “looked” like a king. When he saw Eliab, he assumed he must be the man God had in mind.
 
 
There is something very human about this whole scene. One by one the brothers anxiously parade in front of the prophet. One by one the answer comes back: “No, not him.” Samuel should have learned from his experience with Saul. We all have the tendency to flirt with Eliab even when we’ve been burned by Saul.
 
We never seem to learn. We make the same dumb mistakes over and over again. We’re impressed by outward success, looks, appearance, money, power, names, titles, connections, clothes, cars, and degrees. But God places no value on any of that. 
 
By the way, we should ask what was wrong with the seven brothers? Nothing, really. The text doesn’t say anything negative about them. Eliab and the others were no doubt fine fellows who could qualify for any job in the world except one: King of Israel. God had already filled that position.
 
In reality, we’re not so different from ancient Israel after all. Even in church, or maybe I should say, especially in church we like to pay attention to how people look on the outside. We notice who drives the nice cars and how people dress and where they work and that sort of thing.
 
Occasionally someone will tell me about a certain person they have invited to church. And they will say, “I hope he starts attending here. He could do us a lot of good,” meaning he has money and influence. That’s never said about a homeless person or the unemployed.
 
Finally, the focus falls on
 
3. Samuel and David
 
I Samuel 16:11-13
 
Finally Samuel says, “By the way, you don’t happen to have any other sons, do you?” Just an afterthought, really. A shot in the dark. Jesse says a strange thing. “Yes I do, but he’s the youngest and he’s out tending the sheep.” Meaning, he’s just a kid and he really doesn’t count for much. You wouldn’t want him anyway. It was Jesse’s way of saying, “He doesn’t have the makings of a king.”
 
Every youngest child knows exactly what’s going on here. The firstborn comes along and gets everything he wants. All the privileges start with him. Then it goes, second, third, fourth, right on down to the baby. Good luck, kid, because you’re gonna need it.
 
And be sure and wear your nametag so we won’t forget who you are. If you have a photo album, the first 200 pictures are about the oldest child, then the next 50 are for the second, then maybe 10 for the third child. After that, it’s all group pictures. If you are a fifth child, your first picture comes the day you graduate from college.
 
While all his brothers are with Samuel, David is out with the sheep. He doesn’t know anything is even going on. His father didn’t even think enough of him to call him in from the field. But Samuel said, “Go get him.” No doubt Jesse shrugged his shoulders and said, “Whatever you say but he’s just a kid and I don’t think he’s what you’re looking for.”
 
 
In comes David straight from the pasture. He hasn’t had time to wash up or change clothes. Do you know what you smell like after working with sheep all day? It’s not exactly English Leather. It’s more like organic fertilizer.
 
There stands the future king of Israel. He’s maybe 16 years old. A shepherd. A poet. A dreamer. He doesn’t look like a king. But it doesn't matter because God has found his man.
 
God says to Samuel, “Anoint him.” And he does. That didn’t make him king. In fact, I’m not sure that David had any idea what it meant. It’s not clear that Samuel even told Jesse what it was all about. No matter. The anointing was God’s way of saying, “This is my man. When the time comes, he will be king.”
 
There is one detail in the story I want to make sure we don't miss.  The Bible tells us in verse 13 that "the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward."
 
I don't know all that means at the very least this anointing was God’s way of saying, “You now have my power.”
 
So what?  A day will come in the not-too-distant future when David will walk down into the Valley of Elah to face the giant Goliath. It will not be his wisdom that saves him or his education or his strategy. It will be God himself fighting on David’s side. That’s what the anointing and the coming of the Spirit really means. God has found his man and he is going to make him successful.
 
Perhaps David was thinking about this whole scene years later when he wrote in Psalm 27:10, “Though my father and my mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.” When God wanted to pick a leader for the nation, he didn’t choose the MVP (Most Valuable Player). He chose the LVP (Least Valuable Player). I imagine that when the boys chose sides to play stickball, David was always picked last.
 
And yet the truth remains. When God wanted to raise up a king whose name would last 3,000 years, he went out in a pasture and found a shepherd whose heart was open to him.
 
Today in Israel the national flag is called the “Star of David,” and when presidents visit Jerusalem, they stay in the “King David Hotel.” And what about Saul? He's all but forgotten
 
Now, as we began I said I wanted to look for the lessons David teaches us so that I could learn from them as well.  Since God has chosen me to be a king also, then what should I learn from David?
 
First, there is a message for the "forgottens" of the world. 
 
Be encouraged by David’s example. When God wants to prepare us for bigger things, he first teaches us to be faithful in small things. Those who are called to be kings will not stay with the sheep forever. The world may be wrong in its estimation but the voice of God still calls men and women today. When God wants a man to be king, he first puts him with the sheep. But he will not stay there forever. Sooner or later, he will be called to the throne.   In the meantime, just be faithful.
If you find yourself forgotten and overlooked, remember David on the hillside. Be faithful. Do what God has given you to do. Keep your eyes facing forward. Who knows what tomorrow may bring?
 
Second, there is hope for those who are confused about the future.
 
Not only should we be encouraged by David's example, we can be reassured by Samuel's questions.
 
Samuel had so many questions about the future.  Would he be in danger?  How would he know God's will?  How could he be sure about what he was doing? 
 
And when he arrived at Jesse's house, he had no idea which son would be king. But he got up and journeyed to Bethlehem anyway. And David certainly didn’t have a clue about what life would hold for him. He simply came to the house when instructed and stood silent while Samuel anointed him.
 
God’s will is like a sunrise, not a sunburst. It reveals itself to us a little bit at a time. Our job is to take the next step and trust God for the future. I love the words of Woody Allen: “If you want to know how to make God laugh, tell him your future plans.”
 
He’s right. And the reason you don’t know right now is because you don’t need to know. If you needed to know, you would know and when you do need to know, you will know. So if you don’t know the future, fear not. In due time, God will make the way plain. He always does. You can count on him.
 
Finally, there is encouragement for those who wonder what God is doing.
 
Israel’s future seemed bleak once God rejected Saul. But this passage teaches us that man’s disobedience cannot stop God’s plans. God will have his way in the end. Beware of prejudging God based on what you see. You see this little bit and another detail and this tiny string and maybe a little piece over there and something else over here and you think, “Aha! I’ve got the big picture.” No, you don’t. You barely see the ragged edge of God’s plan. Don’t judge God by what you can see.
 
Perhaps the key verse of this chapter is
 
verse 7
 
Eliab looked the part, but David had the heart. One was rejected, the other selected. In the end, what others think of you doesn’t matter. What God thinks makes all the difference. When God looks at your heart, what does he see?
 
That's a good question because our understanding of God's omniscience leads us to conclude that God knew the trouble David was going to get into before he was ever selected as king.  So how could God call a man like David to be king?
 
Didn’t God know about all the political maneuvering? Yes.
 
Didn’t God know about the marriages of convenience? Yes.
 
Didn’t God know about the affair with Bathsheba? Yes.
 
Didn’t God know about the murder of Uriah? Yes.
 
Didn’t God know how Absalom would turn out? Yes.
 
Didn’t God know David was prone to depression and discouragement? Yes.
 
Didn’t God know how David’s own family would disintegrate? Yes.
 
God knew all those things and a lot more besides. He knew what David would do and he called him anyway. That’s what grace is all about. All those things are trumped by one prior fact: God chose David to be king and he was going to stand by his man!
 
“David, you murderer.”
 
“David, you adulterer.”
 
“David, you bandit.”
 
“David, you poor excuse for a father.”
 
“How can you claim to be a man after God’s own heart?”
 
And the answer comes back: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” That’s God’s grace in action. Aren’t you glad that it was a man like David who wrote Psalm 23? The man who wrote those words had experienced the grace of God.
 
We study David’s life so that couples whose children rebel, and believers who have squandered one opportunity after another, and Christians who make the same stupid mistakes over and over again, and teenagers who feel forgotten and lonely, and everyone whose life has been less than perfect will know that God can be their shepherd, too.
 
Generations to come will say they don’t want David’s failures but they do want David’s God. That’s why he chose an unlikely shepherd to be Israel’s greatest king. That’s why his name appears in the Bible more than any other person. That’s why after 3,000 years parents still name their children after him.
 
He was a man who thoroughly learned the most basic lesson in God’s curriculum—all of life is lived by grace. And that, I think, is the meaning of the phrase “a man after God’s heart.”
 
It can’t mean sinless perfection or anything close to it or else David would never qualify. It can’t mean “above reproach” or “spotless reputation” because those words don’t fit David, either. To be a man after God’s heart means that because you understand that God never gives up on you, you never give up on God.
 
The bottom line on David is not his sin. The bottom line is God’s grace. David was God’s man. His heart belonged to God and that’s why God used him. King David is exhibit A in the museum of God’s grace.
 
In the beginning of his story, no one believes in David but God. Not Jesse, not Samuel. Only God.
 
In the end, his family broken, his nation troubled, his closest friends mostly gone, he discovers that God is still there. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” God never gave up on David. That’s grace. David never gave up on God. That’s what it means to be a man after God’s heart.
 
Let's pray.
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