January 19, 2014

A Man After His Own Heart - Jan 19, 2014

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In our sermon meditation today we continue our study of king David. This is the second in an eight part series dealing with the life of this Old Testament king.

While David was admittedly a sinner, just like every other human being born since the fall, David was also a faithful follower of the LORD. In the Bible God says,

“I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will” (Acts 13:22 NKJV).

In David we have a role model to look up to. That’s an amazing thing for God to say about a person, “He’s a man after my own heart.” Today we’ll begin to see what that means.
Before we read, we need to set the historical context. At this time in history, the LORD had brought the nation of Israel up out of slavery in Egypt, and had begun to settle them in their own new land. But the land that the LORD had given to Israel was inhabited by other nations when they arrived on the scene.

These other nations had abandoned the LORD and had pledged allegiance to false gods. They worshiped these false deities in many different and horrible ways. Some even gave their own children as offerings, consigning infants to the flames at the altars of their pagan idols.

And so the LORD had told Israel to destroy these nations completely and to take the land for themselves. They were not to be afraid even if these nations seemed powerful and intimidating, because the LORD would fight for Israel.
Until recently, Israel had been led by the LORD alone. That is, they had no central government or king. But when the people looked at the nations around them, they were unsatisfied. It wasn’t enough to be led by God, they wanted their own human king, just like their neighbors. So, God granted their request and anointed a man named Saul as Israel’s first king.
Now, before we read we also need to know a little about Saul. Saul was a head taller than most people in Israel, so at least he looked like a good candidate for the kingship. But from the beginning of his reign, Saul showed that he was a fearful man. But sadly, he didn’t fear the LORD as much as he feared the warlike nations around him. Over and over, Saul’s reign was marred by unfaithfulness to the LORD’s direct commands.

Saul prayed to the LORD and tried to listen to the LORD’s prophet Samuel, but when things didn’t go just the way Saul thought they should, he was quick to depart from God’s plan.

Once, when the Philistine army was threatening the nation, Saul called the armies of Israel to gather. Before going to battle, Saul was supposed to wait for Samuel to present a special offering to the LORD. But while Saul was waiting for Samuel to get there, the soldiers became uneasy and began to desert. So, Saul took it on himself to act as the LORD’s prophet and offered the prescribed sacrifices before Samuel ever arrived. Essentially, Saul panicked when he saw his forces diminishing instead of simply trusting that the LORD would give them the victory.
Another time, the LORD instructed Saul to go to war against the Amalekites and to totally destroy them. Even their livestock and animals were to be wiped out. But when Saul won the battle he decided to harbor the defeated king instead. He also decided not to destroy the best of the livestock, but to set them aside.

Over and over Saul’s reign was marked with fear, mistrust of the LORD, and disobedience to the LORD’s commands.

Saul was clearly not a man, “after the LORD’s heart.” Saul was a man who was more interested in following his own heart. And it was because of this that the LORD sent his prophet Samuel to anoint another man as king, even while Saul was still ruling. Samuel anointed the young David as God’s chosen king. And from that point on, the LORD was no longer “with” Saul, but was “with” David.
Our text begins after David had defeated the might warrior Goliath on the field of battle, and had begun to serve king Saul as a commander in his army. Here we’ll see just how different David’s character is from Saul’s.

1 Samuel 18:12-30 (NIV)

12 Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with David but had departed from Saul. 13 So he sent David away from him and gave him command over a thousand men, and David led the troops in their campaigns. 14 In everything he did he had great success, because the Lord was with him. 15 When Saul saw how successful he was, he was afraid of him. 16 But all Israel and Judah loved David, because he led them in their campaigns.
17 Saul said to David, “Here is my older daughter Merab. I will give her to you in marriage; only serve me bravely and fight the battles of the Lord.” For Saul said to himself, “I will not raise a hand against him. Let the Philistines do that!”
18 But David said to Saul, “Who am I, and what is my family or my clan in Israel, that I should become the king’s son-in-law?” 19 So when the time came for Merab, Saul’s daughter, to be given to David, she was given in marriage to Adriel of Meholah.
20 Now Saul’s daughter Michal was in love with David, and when they told Saul about it, he was pleased. 21 “I will give her to him,” he thought, “so that she may be a snare to him and so that the hand of the Philistines may be against him.” So Saul said to David, “Now you have a second opportunity to become my son-in-law.”
22 Then Saul ordered his attendants: “Speak to David privately and say, ‘Look, the king likes you, and his attendants all love you; now become his son-in-law.’ ”
23 They repeated these words to David. But David said, “Do you think it is a small matter to become the king’s son-in-law? I’m only a poor man and little known.”
24 When Saul’s servants told him what David had said, 25 Saul replied, “Say to David, ‘The king wants no other price for the bride than a hundred Philistine foreskins, to take revenge on his enemies.’ ” Saul’s plan was to have David fall by the hands of the Philistines.
26 When the attendants told David these things, he was pleased to become the king’s son-in-law. So before the allotted time elapsed, 27 David took his men with him and went out and killed two hundred Philistines and brought back their foreskins. They counted out the full number to the king so that David might become the king’s son-in-law. Then Saul gave him his daughter Michal in marriage.
28 When Saul realized that the Lord was with David and that his daughter Michal loved David, 29 Saul became still more afraid of him, and he remained his enemy the rest of his days.
30 The Philistine commanders continued to go out to battle, and as often as they did, David met with more success than the rest of Saul’s officers, and his name became well known.
Right away, we’re told that Saul was afraid of David. And we’re told why as well, because the LORD was with David but had departed from Saul. But instead of responding with humble repentance over his unfaithfulness to God, Saul responded with a murderous plan. He sent David out to lead his forces to war. His hope was that David would die in battle.

But the LORD blessed David instead, and he was successful in everything.

So, Saul redoubled his efforts. He offered his daughter Merab to David with the stipulation that all David had to do for her hand was to continue to fight valiantly in battle. Again, Saul was just trying to keep David on the battlefield. The more skirmishes, the more chances David might fall.

But David’s response to Saul wasn’t what Saul expected. David thought himself unworthy of such an honor. By this time, David has been secretly anointed by Samuel as the LORD’s chosen king. But David remembered that Saul had been anointed first. And to David this was a BIG DEAL. Saul was the LORD’s anointed king. No man ought to rise up against him. Only the LORD had the right to take this king down from the throne.

David thought, “Why should I be given such an honor as being closely related to the LORD’s anointed king? I’m poor. Nobody knows me. What Saul offers is too great an honor for me.”

And so when the time came, Merab was married off to another man.

But Saul wasn’t going to give up on his plan so easily. So, when he found out his daughter Michal was enamored with David, he offered her to David. Again, the hope was that David would try to fight valiantly for Saul because of this favor, and would do something foolish on the battlefield that would prematurely end his life.

Saul even told his men to encourage David to take the offer, “The king likes you, and everyone near the king LOVES you. Become the king’s son-in-law!”

But David was still hesitant. He still didn’t feel himself worthy to be so closely associated with the LORD’s anointed.

And that’s where Saul found his advantage. In David’s desire to honor the LORD and the LORD’s anointed. David would not accept a marriage from Saul as a favor, but if the matter was presented as a challenge to SERVE the king, then David would accept.

So, Saul said that the bride price would be 100 Philistines defeated in battle. You see, David had the heart of a faithful servant. If he could do some great service to the king and in this way to honor the LORD who had placed this king on the throne—well then he was going to do it!

This servant mentality was highlighted when David went out and defeated 200 Philistines instead of the required 100. He was serving the LORD’s anointed, not just winning a bride for himself.
And so Michal got her wish, and David became her husband. And then Saul realized how sideways his plan had slipped. Our text says,

28 When Saul realized that the Lord was with David and that his daughter Michal loved David, 29 Saul became still more afraid of him, and he remained his enemy the rest of his days” (1 Samuel 18:28-29 NIV).

Saul’s plan was finally working! But then Saul realized that his position was worse now than it had been before. He had hoped to lure David into battle and get him killed. But now David’s position was more secure than ever! Now David was an even greater threat to Saul’s throne! He was a mighty warrior before the people for his exploits in battle. He was now a member of the royal family by marriage. And he now had a wife who loved him!

Everything that Saul had done to destroy David had been guided by the LORD so that David was blessed instead.

In Romans 8, it says…

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 ESV).

We can see this happening in David’s life. As a faithful follower of the God, David had simply trusted in the LORD’s power and promises and had been greatly blessed as a result. All of Saul’s well laid plans had been turned upside down by the Almighty.
David was a man after the LORD’s own heart. Above all, he wanted to do the will of God. Do we have the same attitude? Or do our hearts look more like Saul’s? Do we pray to God, but then treat his commands loosely? Do we seek God’s will only until things get a little tight, and then seek other methods to get the result we desire?

We need to be more like David. When he saw Saul, he saw the LORD’s anointed. And to him, that was a BIG DEAL. He was going to do whatever he could to honor God by honoring Saul. Even if Saul was acting like a fool, or sinning against the LORD, David was going to honor him as God’s representative.

In the New Testament we’re told that our own government officials are placed in their offices by the LORD’s hand. In Romans 13 it says…

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Romans 13:1 ESV).

Do we treat government officials with the honor that God’s placement demands?

When we make decisions,  do we stop to think, “Will this bring respect and glory to God” Or do our decisions merely reflect what our own hearts want to do at any given time?

So often we fall woefully and sinfully short of God’s will for our lives.
Thank God that we have Jesus Christ as our great Savior. Every sinful decision we’ve ever made, every thought, every word, every action that wasn’t in line with what is right—those sins have been forgiven through the suffering and death of God’s greatest ANOINTED KING.

Think about that for a second. David was hesitant to become the son-in-law of Saul because Saul was the LORD’s chosen king. But you and I have been chosen by God to be HIS OWN CHILDREN through faith in Jesus. THAT is an even BIGGER deal than what David was thinking about.

You see, this whole Christianity thing isn’t just a social club, or a weekend hobby. Jesus is the LORD’s greatest CHOSEN ONE. And he suffered and died in our place. We’ve been forgiven and invited to belong to God’s family as a result of his sacrifice.

When we hear the amazing message of God’s free forgiveness in Christ, we might be tempted to think, “I’m forgiven? For free? Great! I guess the things I do in life aren’t really all that important anymore.” But instead we should think with David’s mind. “I’m forgiven? For free? Wow. I’ve been made an eternal child of the KING. That’s a BIG DEAL. Everything I do in life from this point forward will be done to honor my Savior.”

None of us deserve this great honor, this unconditional gift of forgiveness from God, this adoption into his family by faith. But in Christ that’s what we have.

PRAYER: Father in heaven, thank you for preserving the record of David’s life so that we can see what it means to be a “person after your own heart.” Thank you for connecting us to Christ through the waters of Baptism, and for continuing to build our faith in Christ through your Holy Word. Give us humble hearts which constantly asks, “How can I honor my God and Savior today?” Let our lives be songs to that praise your mighty and forgiving hand. Amen.

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