Today’s reading: I Samuel 15-17.
Contrasting personalities are the lifeblood coursing through the book of I Samuel, and today the differences between Saul and David come into sharp focus. Their heart attitudes are key, driving them down very distinct paths and bringing very different reactions from God.
God looks on the heart. The key words from today’s reading come as God admonishes Samuel to do as he does and focus on the most important part of a person: his inner character and attitudes. Samuel has been looking for Saul’s successor, but looking at all the wrong qualifications.
But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” I Samuel 16:7
We look at the externals. Is a person attractive, do they dress well, do they speak well, do they stand tall, are they well off? God says, pay attention to what is most important: their character as revealed by their actions, their devotion to the LORD, their faith, and their integrity.
Saul had a rebellious heart. Previously Saul failed to wait on God, showing his lack of faith. When instructed to completely destroy the Amalekites, Saul carried out the assignment almost entirely, but then spared the Amalekite king and the best of the flocks and herds.
But Samuel replied: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.” I Samuel 15:22-23
Saul’s disobedience, his rebellion against God, caused God to take back his choice of Saul as king. Though it would be years before Saul lost his life and the throne, God moved quickly to ordain his replacement.
David had a heart for God. God chose David, a young and smallish shepherd, to replace Saul. God saw in David’s heart what all Israel soon saw displayed on the battlefield when he faced Goliath.
David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’s” I Samuel 17:45-47
In the brief encounter with Goliath David revealed the traits that would cause God to call him “a man after my own heart.”
- He lifted up the LORD’s name
- He hungered for the LORD’s honor
- He believed God would empower him and acted accordingly
- He understood that the battle was spiritual and that God determined the outcome
What do you think was the source of David’s godly heart? What attitudes caused the heart failures in Saul’s life?
Saul boasts to Samuel of his obedience. Thus sinners think, by justifying themselves, to escape being judged of the Lord. The noise the cattle made, like the rust of the silver, James 5:3, witnessed against him. Many boast of obedience to the command of God; but what means then their indulgence of the flesh, their love of the world, their angry and unkind spirit, and their neglect of holy duties, which witness against them? See of what evil covetousness is the root; and see what is the sinfulness of sin, and notice that in it which above any thing else makes it evil in the sight of the Lord; it is disobedience: “Thou didst not obey the voice of the Lord.” Carnal, deceitful hearts, like Saul, think to excuse themselves from God’s commandments by what pleases themselves. It is hard to convince the children of disobedience. But humble, sincere, and conscientious obedience to the will of God, is more pleasing and acceptable to him than all burnt-offering and sacrifices. – Matthew Henry
Image by Jay8085 on Flickr, CC by 2.0