But now your kingdom must end,
for the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart.
The LORD has already appointed him
to be the leader of his people,
because you have not kept the LORD’s command.”
1 Samuel 13:14
It’s a well known fact that David was called ‘a man after God’s own heart.’ He was far from perfect, he stumbled and failed, and sinned, like everyone else, but there was something in his heart that set him apart in God’s sight, that made him a vessel fit for the Lord’s use. He gave God the glory in his victories, and trusted Him in his times of testing and trial.
These qualities make an excellent example for us to follow, but there’s something else that’s equally important, and yet often overlooked. While we all know David did sin – it’s recorded in the Bible for all generations to read – yet when he was convicted about his sin, he confessed and repented. Not only did he repent, he accepted the consequences, understanding that even though those consequences were painful, yet the Lord was showing him great mercy by making him face his sin and giving him the chance and ability to turn away from it.
Contrast this with Saul, who disobeyed the Lord repeatedly, despite warnings, choosing to do things his own way instead of waiting on the Lord and doing things the Lord’s way. God rejected him as king because of his disobedience. And the Biblical record shows that he did not accept this consequence of his rebellion gracefully. Instead he added sin to sin by the things he did, including by trying to murder David on multiple occasions.
What’s more, there was an incident when Saul was commanded to kill the Amalekites – all of them, men, women, children, even their animals. While Saul did go to war against the Amalekites, take a look at what the Bible says he did:
Then Saul slaughtered the Amalekites from Havilah all the way to Shur, east of Egypt. He captured Agag, the Amalekite king, but completely destroyed everyone else. Saul and his men spared Agag’s life and kept the best of the sheep and goats, the cattle, the fat calves, and the lambs—everything, in fact, that appealed to them. They destroyed only what was worthless or of poor quality.
1 Samuel 15:7-9
We can see in this passage that Saul chose to gratify the lust of the eyes by keeping what was of value to them. They spared the life of the king, but this wasn’t an act of mercy. Most likely they did this to humiliate the conquered king. These things were motivated more by pride and greed than obedience to the Lord. And the Lord knew it. Samuel rebuked Saul for this partial obedience, which the Lord still sees as disobedience. Saul tried to argue and claimed that he had obeyed the Lord, but Samuel knew the difference of it, and more importantly, the Lord knew.
But Samuel replied,
“What is more pleasing to the LORD:
your burnt offerings and sacrifices
or your obedience to his voice?
Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice,
and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.
Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft,
and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols.
So because you have rejected the command of the LORD,
he has rejected you as king.”
1 Samuel 15:22-23
This should serve as a reminder that God wants us to serve Him and obey Him wholeheartedly, not swerving from the path in either direction when it would serve our own pleasure.
When we read further, we see Saul’s response to Samuel.
Saul replied, “I have sinned. But please honor me before the elders of my people and before Israel; come back with me, so that I may worship the LORD your God.”
1 Samuel 15:30
Saul admits he sinned, but even at this point, he doesn’t humble himself. Instead he pleads with Samuel to honor him before the elders of his people. His mind was more on how the situation looked, and how he himself looked, before the people, than the fact that his disobedience grieved the Lord.
When we compare this with David, we see that when David was confronted with his own sin, he was very troubled by the realization that he sinned against the Lord. He asks the Lord to create in him a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within him. Where Saul was prideful and more concerned about his own honour, David humbled himself before his God and grieved over his sin, repenting of it entirely.
Yes, a heart like David’s is a beautiful thing. A heart after God seeks Him wholeheartedly, seeks to do those things which please Him, and grieves when it displeases Him. And if we’re to have a heart like David, we need to be willing and eager to listen to the Lord’s voice, whether it’s a conviction in your spirit, or whether it comes in the form of a Samuel or a Nathan.
A heart like David will be willing to hear what the Lord has to say, and will learn from it. A heart like David is open to the Lord, welcoming Him to test and try it, to see if there is any evil way in it. And a heart like David seeks to root out anything in it that is unlike the Lord and actively does so when it recognizes that there’s something in it that isn’t right.
Yes, the heart of David was a heart after God. A heart after God’s is one that loves him, and demonstrates that love with obedience to His voice and His Commandments. A heart after God is one that humbles itself before the Lord, and is willing to repent when the Lord convicts it.
But 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.’