The Life and Times of

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David: A Man After God’s Own Heart

#1 An Introduction: God’s Heart, God’s Man, God’s Way
Jesse’s youngest son. Youthful shepherd of Bethleham. Giant-slayer. Teenaged king-elect. Composer of psalms. Saul’s personal musician. Jonathan’s closest friend.
He rose from hunted fugitive to Israel’s king. And he fell from champion in battle to aged and troubled monarch.
David – a man of glorious triumph, yet great tragedy. Uniquely gifted, but human to the core; strong in battle, but weak at home. Why are we drawn to study his life? Because David isn’t a polished-marble personality. He is blood and bone and breath, sharing our struggles of spirit and soul.
Before delving into the events that sculpted the life of David – the man after God’s own heart – we’ll take some time to look at what’s important to God’s heart and how that led to David’s anointing.
Anyone who visits Florence, Italy, simply has to make a trip to the museum, which contains the 14-foot high masterpiece of Michelangelo – David. As magnificent as it is, however, the statute pales beside the subject: David, a man so important it takes 66 chapters in the Old Testament to tell the story of his life, a man mentioned 59 times in the New Testament, the only individual in the Bible called “a man after God’s own heart.”
Since David was the only person in all Scripture whose epitaph reads “man after God’s own heart,” we might think of him as some kind of spiritual Superhuman in a world without a trace of kryptonite. But he wasn’t studded with superhuman qualities. God doesn’t select His servants on the basis of Atlas physiques or Einstein intellects.
As Paul told the believers at Corinth: (1 Cor 1:26-29) "Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. {27} But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. {28} He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things--and the things that are not--to nullify the things that are, {29} so that no one may boast before him."

The Jews’ Historical Backdrop

This New Testament passage echoes the Old Testament truth that resounds throughout the life of David: God’s method of choosing servants runs contrary to human reason. That a young shepherd boy would be anointed Israel’s next king made no sense in the world’s mind. But in the mind of God, impressed not by brawn or brains but by a heart completely His, it made perfect sense.

Like the difference in taste between a twist of lemon and a drop of honey, man’s way and God’s way of selecting leaders stand in sharp contrast. God’s way was shown in the often sweet reign of David. And man’s way, in the bitter reign of Saul.
The people’s choice. From Eden’s forbidden fruit to 21st century democracy, “the people’s choice” has always been a podium for self-centered demands. Let’s take a look at how Israel’s choice became her curse.

Their times. Forty years before David’s inauguration, the period of the judges came to an end. Lethargy, apathy, compromise, and selfishness had swamped the Israelite camp. Eli, the venerable high priest, was long since dead.
And the one bright light on the horizon, Samuel, had eyes that were dimming: he was growing old.

Normally, the leadership would have passed down to Samuel’s sons, however, 1 Samuel 8:3: "But his sons did not walk in his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice." The Israelites were on a long drift from their God.

Their demand. Dissatisfied and disillusioned, the Israelites wanted a king. So they approached Samuel at Ramah, saying: (1 Sam 8:5) "They said to him, "You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have."" They wanted to be “like all the nations.” What they had forgotten is that the other nations were headed for hell!
Samuel’s response. The Israelites’ demand pinned and needled Samuel’s heart. (1 Sam 8:6-9) "But when they said, "Give us a king to lead us," this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD.” No doubt feeling rejected, Samuel fell to his knees in prayer. The Lord’s answer salved his sense of failure and granted the Israelites’ demand.
{7} “And the LORD told him: "Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. {8} As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. {9} Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do.""
They would have their wish, but at the high cost of their freedom. And as the Lord predicted (vs. 11-18), they ended up sorry they ever mentioned the word king.
Saul chosen. If Israel had been a car lot, Saul would have been Cadillac’s classiest model, loaded with all the extras – he was the tallest, most handsome man among them (1 Sam. 9:2: "He had a son named Saul, an impressive young man without equal among the Israelites--a head taller than any of the others."). Yes, Saul looked good in the Israelites’ eyes. But his height and good looks couldn’t hide his small and homely heart, which showed itself in selfishness, egotism, paranoia, depression, and violence.
The Lord’s choice. As the marks of weak character began to scar Saul’s life, God began to look for a replacement. This time it would be His choice – a choice based not on human reason, but on three essential qualifications of the heart.
David came from the tribe of Judah. In Jacob’s patriarchial blessing, Judah had been distinguished as the royal tribe. To this point, however, the tribe had done little to distinguish itself.
Much of David’s background is found in the beautiful little book of Ruth. Ruth was a Moabitess whose husband died; she moved to Judah with her mother-in-law Naomi. The book tells of the courtship of Ruth and Boaz. After Ruth and Boaz married, they had a son. As the women gathered around, Naomi took the baby into her lap. “And the neighbor women gave him a name, saying, ‘A son has been born to Naomi!’ So they named him Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of Davd.” (Ruth 4:17).
Ruth and Boaz lived in Bethleham, an obscure village 5-6 miles southwest of the present city of Jerusalem. Here their son Obed and his grandson, Jesse, lived – and here their great-grandson, David, was born. David was the youngest of 10 children (8 boys and 2 girls: 1 Samuel 17:12-14; 1 Chron. 26-17). As a child, he was not appreciated by others in the family and was even actively disliked by some (1 Sam. 16:11; 17:28).
His family was poor (1 Sam. 16:20; 17:28; 18:23). Boaz had been well-do-do with servants, but by the time of Jesse, the family had apparently fallen on hard times. As “low man on the totem pole,” David was assigned the dull, difficult, and despised jobs normally done by servants.
David was a nobody born in an unimportant village to a poor family, unappreciated, ridiculed by his brothers, stuck with jobs no one else wanted to do. How easy it would have been for him to be bitter! How easy it would have been for David to turn into a rebel, blaming God, his family, and society for his disobedience! This was not, however, David’s response. Rather, as a boy, David began a daily walk with God. Learnig to walk is an exciting milestone in the life of any child.
Far more important, however, is learning to walk in the ways of God. (2 John 1:4) "It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us."
1. Spirituality. God looks for those with hearts like His own. As Samuel told Saul: (1 Samuel 13:14) "But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord's command.""
Being a person after God’s own heart means living in harmony with Him; being burdened by His burdens; obeying His command to go to the right, or to stay right where you are. In a nutshell, it’s having a heart that’s completely His. (2 Chr 16:9) "For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war.""
It certainly does not refer to perfection! David was no marble saint in a museum. Hot blood flowed through his veins, strong passion through his body. David flew higher than most will ever fly; he also crashed harder. We’ll see his good days and his bad days in this study; we’ll see his ups and downs. Whether David was at his best or at his worst, his allegiance was always to the Lord. Though David’s spiritual compass was often shaken by the storms of life, when the tumult was over, David’s compass invariably pointed to his spiritual pole – to his God.
How to grow a man

after God’s own heart?

  1. Give your child spiritual roots.

  2. Give your child responsibility.

  3. Help your child develop self-respect.

  4. Teach your child to love God.
e don’t know all the factors that influenced David to commit his life to the Lord at an early age. It was customary for Jewish boys to receive instruction in the law. In addition, as David’s family gathered together, he would have heard the wondrous stories of how God had been with the nation of Israel and had brought them to the Land of Promise. He would have heard how God had blessed his own family: Ruth and Boaz, Obed, now Jesse and his children.
Every parent can find lessons here. Let us give our children deep spiritual roots. It is never too early to instill within our children a love for, and knowledge of, God’s Holy Book.

Some other lessons?

  1. Each of us is responsible to our God.

  2. We cannot blame others or circumstances for our failure to obey the Lord.

  3. Young or old, each of us needs to make a personal commitment to Jehovah, as soon as possible. It takes time to learn to walk with the Master.

2. Humility. As 2 Chron. 16:9 tells us, God seeks those with committed hearts that He might support them, because His choice is the one who is teachable, humble, dependent, and reliant on Himself. Mighty Saul, the people’s choice, failed. But David’s, God’s humble servant, was upheld by His hand. Servants are those who are genuinely unaware of themselves—completely unconcerned about who gets the glory, what image they’re projecting, or what people might say about them. The seeds of a servant’s heart grow best in the fertile soil of humility.
3. Integrity. David’s heart was wholesome and pure. He measured his life with the unbending yardstick of integrity. (Psa 78:70-72) "He chose David his servant and took him from the sheep pens; {71} from tending the sheep he brought him to be the shepherd of his people Jacob, of Israel his inheritance. {72} And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them."

God had little use for handsome, charismatic Sauls. What He values most are deeply spiritual, genuinely humble, honest-to-the-core servants. And he found these qualities in the character of the young shepherd boy David.

The Lord’s Method of Training.

Before David was lifted to his place of honor on the throne of Israel, God had been training him. Not in the pompous schools of royalty, but right where he was.

He was a “man after God’s own heart” because he was a boy after God’s own heart first. Turning his heart to the heart of God began years before David became king.
Solitude. When you live in the fields, tending sheep, it is solitude that nurtures you. F.B. Meyes writes: “Nature was his nurse, his companion, his teacher…The moorlands around Bethleham, forming the greater part of the Judean plateau do not, however, present features of soft beauty; but are wild, gaunt, strong – character breeding. There shepherds have always led and watched their flocks; and there David first imbibed that knowledge of natural scenery and of pastoral pursuits which coloured all his after life and poetry, as the contents of the vat the dyer’s hand. Such were the schools of schoolmasters of his youth.”
We have no stories in the Bible about David’s life as a shepherd boy. We can, however, reconstruct a picture of that life from David’s psalms and other Biblical references, plus what we know of that occupation from other sources.

  1. Shepherding was an honorable profession, but a lowly one.

  2. It was a solitary life, with no companions but the sheep.

  3. It was a responsible life: the shepherd had to know his sheep and how to care for them. He had to know the paths of Palestine, where the pastures were, where the still water was. He had to seek the sheep that went astray. He had to be tender with the sick and bruised. He had to help the ewes with their lambing, and care, for the new lambs (Psalm 23; John 10:1-18; Luke 15:4-6; Psalm 78:71).

  4. It was a hard life and also a dangerous life. Shepherding in Palestine was a hot, dusty, smelly, generally unappreciated job. He had to lead the sheep through ravines filled with danger; protect them from thieves, wild animals, and ravenous birds.

Obscurity. David’s character wasn’t built by the marbled columns of pride. It was built by the clay and straw bricks of faithfulness in the little things – the unseen, unknown, unappreciated and unapplauded.
Monotony. God allowed David to wrestle with insignificance and routine. And with no relief in sight, David carried on – faithfully, daily.
Reality. Solitude…obscurity…monotony. No, God didn’t train David to be some sort of irresponsible mystic who sits on top of a hill, pops birdseed, whistles Sunday-school choruses—and when he gets a sudden wave of energy, teaches the sheep to roll over. David’s training exposed him to the dangers and threats of reality (see 1 Samuel 17:33-37: "Saul replied, "You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a boy, and he has been a fighting man from his youth." {34} But David said to Saul, "Your servant has been keeping his father's sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, {35} I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. {36} Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. {37} The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine." Saul said to David, "Go, and the LORD be with you."")
While David was tending his sheep – in solitude and obscurity – God put steel in his bones. When faced with fighting all 91/2 feet of Goliath’s iron body, David told Saul with bold assurance: {37} The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine." Saul said to David, "Go, and the LORD be with you.""
When God looked for someone to lead His people, He did not look for a pampered darling who was used to being served. God looked for someone who knew how to work, someone who knew what responsibility was, someone who could endure hardship, someone who would do the job no matter what the cost. Those were the lessons David learned in the lonely pastures outside Bethleham. David learned how to shepherd the people of Israel by first learning how to shepherd sheep.
(Psa 78:70-72) "He chose David his servant and took him from the sheep pens; {71} from tending the sheep he brought him to be the shepherd of his people Jacob, of Israel his inheritance. {72} And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them."

Two important truths

Notice that David didn’t prove his character in that one-time battle with Goliath, but day in and day out in the fields, with the lion and the bear. Before we close, let’s home in on two truths we can take with US to the fields, where we live our lives.

  1. It’s in the little things that we prove ourselves capable of the big things. Before entrusting David with the lives of the entire nation of Israel, God first gave him a flock of sheep to protect.

  2. When God develops inner qualities, He’s never in a hurry. Although souls are saved in a mere moment, character is developed only with time. Giving us time to grow is part of His plan of grace. Just remember that no matter how much growth you have yet to do, no matter how out of place you might feel as His servant, you are – like David – God’s choice.

David: A Man After God’s Own Heart

#2 The Designation of David as King (1 Samuel 16:1-23)

(A nobody, nobody noticed)
The year 1809 was a very good year.
Of course, nobody knew it at the time, because every eye was on Napoleon, as he swept across Austria like a frenzied flame in a parched wheat field. Little else seemed significant; the diminutive dictator of France was the talk of all Europe. The terror of his reign made his name a synonym for military superiority and ruthless ambition.
That same year, while was was being waged and history was being made, babies were being born in England and America. But who had time to think about babies and bottles and cradles and cribs when Austria was falling?
Somebody should have.
In 1809, a veritable host of thinkers and statesmen drew their first breaths. William Gladstone was born in Liverpool. Alfred Tennyson began his life in Lincolnshire. Oliver Wendell Holmes made his first cry in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Edgar Allan Poe, in nearby Boston, began his poignant life. And in Hodgenville, Kentucky, in a rugged log cabin owned by an illiterate llaborer and his wife, were heard the tiny screams of their newborn son, Abraham Lincoln.
All this and more happened in 1809. But nobody noticed. The destiny of the world was being shaped by Napoleon over in Austria. Or was it? The “nobodies” nobody noticed were, in fact, the genesis of a new era. It was their lives, their brains, their writings that would dent the destiny of the entire world.
The year 1020 B.C. was also a very good year.
But not because of Saul, the Napoleon of that day. Saul, Israel’s elected king, had begun to fissure under the weighty demands of his role. Rashness, compromise, rationalization, and open disobedience to God soon began to seep into the cracks and saturate his shattered character with sin. Until, finally, Samuel confronted him, telling him that God had rejected him as Israel’s king (1 Sam. 15:23, 26).
The prophet Samuel, gaunt and haggard with the grief of his twilight years, sorrowed over the wayward Saul. The new monarch was like a spiritual son to him. He was not, like Samuel’s own blood sons, far away from God. All were a burden to bear, a cause for anguish of spirit to the grand old man of God.
That year was especially significant because, while everyone was watching Saul’s reign sink, in a secluded field in Bethleham God was raising up a youth named David – a nobody who would change Israel’s course forever.
To this point, David has not been mentioned in 1 Samuel. The attention has been on the flamboyant king by the name of Saul. All eyes had been on Saul…but he was suddenly stripped of his authority…God had rejected him as Israel’s king.
The reign of Saul has gone sour. Instead of depending on God, Saul depended on his own wisdom and strength. Early in his reign, he grew fearful of losing his troops and offered a burnt offering, instead of waiting for Samuel as the Lord had commanded (1 Sam. 13:13).
Later, instead of completely destroying the Amalekites as God instructed, he spared the king and the best of the animals (1 Samuel 15:1-3, 9). God then told Samuel, “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me, and has not carried out My commands” (1 Sam. 15:11).

Samuel, who had anointed Saul as king, was brokenhearted, but he delivered the Lord’s message to Saul: “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today, and has given it to your neighbor who is better than you.” (1 Sam. 15:28). 1 Samuel 16 tells of the anointing of the next king and subsequent events.

What must have been the look on the faces of the leaders of the village of Bethlehem when Samuel arrives (verse 4). “Do you come in peace?” they inquire. What do they fear? Why the white faces, sweaty palms, and trembling knees? What do they fear from Samuel? Why would a prophet come out of his way to this insignificant tribe and less-than-prominent place?
Samuel still functioned as a judge…Bethleham was not on his circuit…so when this famous judge made a surprise visit to this quiet hamlet, the first thought that crossed the minds of the city officials was that a Bethlehemite had done a great wrong.
This man had come for a reason, and the presence of a prophet may be viewed as the presence of God Himself. Perhaps their fear flows from their piety and a sincere fear of God. Perhaps not.
Perhaps their fear is of Saul, because Samuel’s pronouncements of divine displeasure with Saul appears to have been public:

13 And Samuel said to Saul, “You have acted foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of the LORD your God, which He commanded you, for now the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. 14 “But now your kingdom shall not endure. The LORD has sought out for Himself a man after His own heart, and the LORD has appointed him as ruler over His people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you” (1 Samuel 13:13-14).
22 And Samuel said, “Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. 23 “For rebellion is as the sin of divination, And insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He has also rejected you from being king.” 24 Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned; I have indeed transgressed the command of the LORD and your words, because I feared the people and listened to their voice. 25 “Now therefore, please pardon my sin and return with me, that I may worship the LORD.” 26 But Samuel said to Saul, “I will not return with you; for you have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you from being king over Israel.” 27 And as Samuel turned to go, Saul seized the edge of his robe, and it tore. 28 So Samuel said to him, “The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today, and has given it to your neighbor who is better than you. 29 “And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind” (1 Samuel 15:22-29, NASB).
If God has rejected Saul as Israel’s king and is about to appoint another to take his place, surely Samuel will designate the new king. Samuel is afraid of Saul, afraid that he will kill him (16:2). If Samuel is afraid Saul will kill him, is it unreasonable for the people to assume those who side with Samuel might also be put to death by Saul? After all, Saul will kill Ahimelech and the priests at Nob for simply providing David with food (see 1 Samuel 22). The Bethlehemites have good reason to fear Saul -- and anyone who comes to them who opposes Saul.
With a great sigh of relief, these elders of Bethlehem learn from Samuel that he has come to offer a sacrifice, and that they will be invited to the sacrificial meal. Of course, they do not know the rest of the story, which is what our lesson is really about. We have much to learn from this chapter which describes the designation of David as Israel’s king, the one who will eventually replace Saul.

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