It is a time of wickedness throughout the land of Israel. Samuel is the last judge over the people and he is a righteous man. However, “his sons did not walk in his ways but turned aside after gain. They took bribes and perverted justice” (1 Samuel 8:3). Because of Samuel’s old age and the wickedness of his sons, Israel asks Samuel to appoint a king over them to judge them like the rest of the nations. Saul is chosen by the people to be their king. The scriptures tell us that Saul “was a handsome young man. There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people” (9:2). However, Saul falls into a number of sins. The final straw is when Saul does not obey the Lord in destroying all of the Amalekites. The kingdom of Israel is taken away from Saul. His descendants would not sit on the throne. This background brings us to the sixteenth chapter of 1 Samuel. The first verse of the chapter reveals that Samuel is grieving over the dynasty being removed from Saul’s family. But God has a plan. God had selected Saul for the people. Now God was going to choose a king for himself.
Samuel comes to Bethlehem. Please notice that David is from Bethlehem, just as Jesus was born in Bethlehem. This city is important because Jesus would sit on the throne of David. Jesse brings his sons to Samuel to offer sacrifices to the Lord. The people of the city are fearful, but not because Samuel is a mean person. Because of the wickedness of Saul and the kingdom being removed from him, when a prophet comes to your town under such circumstances, there is fear that condemnation from the Lord is going to be on his mouth. Samuel consecrates Jesse and his sons to prepare to make sacrifices to the Lord.
Once the sacrifice is completed, Samuel is ready to anoint on of Jesse’s sons as the next king of Israel. Jesus presents his oldest son, Eliab. Notice at what Samuel thought: “Surely the LORD’s anointed is before Him” (16:6).
Eliab had everything that a king apparently would look like. I would have to imagine that Eliab was tall, muscular, and confident. He must have looked like a leader whom the masses of Israel would follow. Samuel is probably thinking about what he will say as he anoints Eliab as the next king. But the Lord surprises Samuel.
“But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart'” (16:7).
God says not to pay attention to the things that people pay attention to. God was not interested in having a leader who looked like a leader. God was not going to select a military warrior. God was not going to choose a political mastermind. God was going to choose a king for himself and God does not look at such physical things. Saul looked like the perfect king in the eyes of the people. He was tall, handsome, and strong. But Saul had failed in obedience to the Lord. Saul repeatedly showed for concern for the opinion of the people rather than the opinion of God.
God Looks At The Heart
It is the true justice we long for all of our lives. Each of us is constantly judged by our outward appearance. Humans look at these things, bringing about a prejudice. One thing we are taught in business when performing a job interview is that a person makes a judgment based upon your appearance within the first 10 seconds. We do the same thing with people that we see and meet. We make a decision based upon what we see, rather than the heart of the person. How many people have we not gotten to know or not decided to be friends with because of the appearance of someone? How many people here in this congregation have you decided not to meet or not to get to know because of their appearance? Maybe they seem different, act a little funny, or do not look the way you think a person should look. This is not the character of God. How well Jesus also looked at the heart rather than the external! How else could Jesus eat and converse with prostitutes, tax collectors, and sinners except that he looked at the heart and not the external. How else could Jesus be around the unclean, even around ten lepers who desired healing except that he looked at the heart and not the outward appearance! We look at all of the wrong things! God looks at the heart. We make bad decisions because we look at the wrong things. We make decisions based upon the physical rather than the spiritual implications.
What a blessing when we consider the impact of what it means for God to not look at the outward appearance. For all of the prejudging that we have endured in our lives, God looks at our motives and God knows what is in our hearts. God knows if we are earnestly seeking after him. God knows if we are trying to be his servant. God knows if we are rebellious against him or if we are just struggling with human weaknesses. God knows who are sitting in the pews as hypocrites. He is not fooled by external things that fool humans. God is examining the heart of each of us.
So Samuel continues to look at the sons of Jesse. Eliab, as much as he looks like a king to Samuel, is not the anointed one. The next son that stands before Samuel is Abinadab. However, Abinadab is not the one to be king over Israel either. So Jesse brings Shammah before Samuel but the Lord did not choose him. Jesse has seven sons pass before Samuel. However, none of these seven sons are the one God has chosen. So now we have a problem. Here are the sons of Jesse, yet God did not choose one. Samuel surely thought that Eliab was the one. Jesse brought his seven sons who had the potential to be king. But we have no king yet.
Then Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and get him, for we will not sit down till he comes here” (16:11).
Can you see the dilemma? “Do you have any other sons around here? None of the seven are the one?” Jesse responds that he has another son, but he is not here. He is keeping the sheep. He is no warrior. He is not be prepared for political glory like the Bush boys. He is not a military leader. He is the youngest, tending the sheep. While this may have been a derogatory statement, God would use the imagery of a shepherd to describe his future leaders, including the Messiah. Samuel instructs Jesse to send for David because he would not leave until David comes.
The description of David is rather interesting. Most translations say that David “was ruddy” in verse 12. This Hebrew word is hard to translate because it only occurs one other place in the scriptures. That place is Genesis 25:25 where Esau is born and he is described as “red.” So what does it mean that David was red? Some think he had red hair, or lighter (blond) hair than the typical Israelite. Perhaps he had a fairer complexion. In any event, this word is describing that he looked different. But he also has beautiful eyes and was handsome. He just wasn’t warrior/king material. The parallel to Jesus is again significant. There was nothing about Jesus that made him look like the anointed king, the Messiah. “He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him” (Isaiah 53:2). The Lord says that David is the one and Samuel anoints him.
Leaders Who Do Not Change
What would you do if you had been anointed as king? What changes would you have made in your life knowing that you were now the king? Especially consider what David could have done when we remember that he is probably about 15 years old. Do you quit tending sheep? Do you tell your father, Jesse, that keeping the sheep is beneath you now? Do you demand special privileges? Do you expect everyone to treat you differently? I want you to see that David does nothing different. He does not change. Saul is being tormented and Saul requests for David to come and play music to soothe him. Do you see where David is?
Therefore Saul sent messengers to Jesse and said, “Send me David your son, who is with the sheep” (16:19).
Are you surprised? David is still tending sheep, as if nothing has changed in his life. He has not become an arrogant snot, telling his brothers how he is going to be king one day. He is not ordering the family around. He continues to perform the same tasks that he did in the past. We see this characteristic in Jesus. How often we are impressed with Jesus, who is God in the flesh, yet does not take advantage of the situation! Jesus could have demanded his apostles to wash his feet because he is the Messiah. But he did not. He could have bossed his brothers around when growing up in the house, but did not.
We need to see the same thing in our leaders in a congregation. A leader is not someone who grabs power to himself. A leader is not someone who says, “I have been put in charge; you need to do things my way.” Leaders continue working as if they are nothing different than anyone else. The world should not accept a distinction between religious leaders and the average person. There is no difference. Every leader is just another Christian working together with others to reach the goal of eternal life with God.
Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock (1 Peter 5:1-3).
Leaders Who Still Serve
The other beautiful characteristic of David that we quickly see which makes him a person after God’s own heart is that, though anointed king, he will still serve. When Saul calls for David to play music to soothe him, David does not respond that he does not have to because he is the Lord’s anointed. David does not think that playing music is beneath him. David does not call for Saul to step down since Saul is merely a lame duck anyway. David still serves by playing music for Saul.
Jesus continued to serve while he was on the earth, though the Messiah. “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Jesus showed service by washing the disciples’ feet. Jesus showed service by giving his life on the cross to redeem us from sin. Leaders must do the same, viewing themselves as servants of God. Even the apostles viewed themselves as merely servants (2 Corinthians 6:4; 1 Corinthians 3:5).
Conclusion — Being People After God’s Own Heart
- Do not look at outward appearances. Get to know the heart of a person.
- Servants of God do not become arrogant when leading.
- Servants of God still serve.