1 Samuel 16:1–13

“Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature . . . . For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (v. 7).

No discussion of Israel’s monarchy would be complete without a look at David, the most significant king of Israel during the old covenant period. David is a prominent figure throughout Scripture and his importance is developed in the Old Testament and into the New.

While Saul was the first king of Israel, his reign was but a brief intermission in God’s design to set a faithful king over His people. Illustrating the old adage, “be careful what you wish for because you just might get it,” the Lord responded to the pleas of the Israelites to give them a king like the other nations (1 Sam. 8:1–10:8). Saul later turned out to be a failure (15:10–11a) and the Lord rejected him, but this should not be a surprise, for our Creator’s order to Samuel that he “obey their voice and make them a king” (8:22) is begrudging compared to His “I have provided for myself a king” in 1 Samuel 16:1. With David, God was not “giving in” to Israel’s request, giving them exactly what they wanted as a judgment on sin (see Rom. 1:24–25); rather, He appointed David to bless His people.

The qualities the Lord prized when appointing David to lead His people are not necessarily the characteristics most people think of when they are looking for leaders. We might choose to elect officials based on their foreign policy experience, educational background, past political offices, and other such criteria. Yet while these things are not unimportant, their merit was only secondary when the Lord placed David and his descendants on the throne of Israel. As He told Samuel, the important qualities for a good ruler lie within the heart (1 Sam. 16:7) — that constituent part of the human spirit that is the seat of the intellect, moral judgments, piety, and feelings. When the Lord chose David, He wanted a man who understood his need to be a man “after [God’s] own heart” (13:14).

The Lord found this man in David, who was the least of his brothers and a humble shepherd who did not otherwise aspire to greatness (16:8–13). This David was a man after God’s own heart not because he was perfect, but because he was sensitive to the Holy Spirit and knew to repent when he had sinned (2 Sam. 24:10–25; Ps. 51). May the Lord make each of us a man or woman after His own heart.

Coram Deo

Men and women after God’s own heart are sensitive to the work of the Holy Spirit and strive not to quench Him as He convicts us of sin and guides us in righteousness. One of the best ways to be sensitive to the Spirit is to study His inspired Word that we might hear Him when He calls. We can also pray and join a church where members and elders alike will encourage us in holiness and even rebuke us for sin, if that becomes necessary.

For Further Study