Israel's first king was a man named Saul. Saul looked like a good king. He was tall, strong, and a good military leader. God even gave him victory over some of the other nations that had been mistreating the Israelites and convincing them to believe in their false gods.
But inside, Saul’s heart did not look good at all. He didn’t love God with his whole heart, and he wanted to do things his own way instead of God’s way. So God decided to choose a different king. Your Trailbook (Bible) says God found “a man after His own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14). His name was David.
When we first meet David in our Trailbooks, he’s a shepherd boy taking care of his father’s sheep. His father’s name is Jesse, and he also has a bunch of older brothers who are stronger than he is and are soldiers in Saul’s army. God has appeared to Samuel, the same prophet who had anointed Saul as king. God has told Samuel to go to a place called Bethlehem and find Jesse, because He has chosen one of Jesse’s sons to be the new king. The first one of David’s brothers that Samuel meets is Eliab. Let’s read what happens: 1 Samuel 16:6-13 …Samuel took one look at Eliab and thought, “Surely this is the Lord’s anointed!” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Then Jesse told his son Abinadab to step forward and walk in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “This is not the one the Lord has chosen.” Next Jesse summoned Shimea, but Samuel said, “Neither is this the one the Lord has chosen.” In the same way all seven of Jesse’s sons were presented to Samuel. But Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these.” Then Samuel asked, “Are these all the sons you have?” “There is still the youngest,” Jesse replied. “But he’s out in the fields watching the sheep and goats.” “Send for him at once,” Samuel said. “We will not sit down to eat until he arrives.” So Jesse sent for him. He was dark and handsome, with beautiful eyes. And the Lord said, “This is the one; anoint him.” So as David stood there among his brothers, Samuel took the flask of olive oil he had brought and anointed David with the oil. And the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David from that day on. Then Samuel returned to Ramah.
David’s brothers were older, stronger, and looked like better choices to be the next king. They were soldiers in Saul’s army! Samuel thought for sure one of them must be the man God had chosen to be the next king. But as each one walked past Samuel, God said, “Nope. He’s not the one.” David didn’t even get invited to the party! In those days, it was tradition for the youngest son in the family to take care of the sheep. If another son was born, he would start caring for the sheep as soon as he was old enough, and the older brother who had been doing it could move on to more important things. In Jesse’s family, David was the youngest, and no more sons were being born. He was the family shepherd, and he would always be the family shepherd. So when Samuel asked to meet Jesse’s sons, Jesse didn’t include David. He didn’t think David was even worth introducing to Samuel. When he looked at him, he saw nothing more than a shepherd boy, definitely not king material. He thought it was better for David to just stay out with the sheep, where he belonged. Maybe you know how that feels. Maybe you’ve had people in your life who have made you feel like you’re not really worth much, and you’ll never be able to do anything special in your life. I want you to know, that’s not true. Because God is our true Father. He doesn’t look at us the way other people do. He created each of us for a very special purpose, and even though we might not know what that is yet, He does! When He looked at David, He saw more than the youngest son who was supposed to be a shepherd all his life. He looked right into his heart and saw a king. Maybe you’re wondering exactly what God did see in David’s heart. Yesterday we learned that when God chose Saul to be king, Saul didn’t follow God with all of his heart. He tried to do things his own way. David’s heart was different. Instead of doing things his own way, he said, “And now, O Lord God, I am your servant” 2 Samuel 7:25). Even though God was making David into a great king, he still called himself God’s servant. He was willing to do whatever God asked him to do. There’s something more. David actually knew God was looking at his heart, and he knew his heart wasn’t perfect. He said, “You know what your servant is really like, Sovereign Lord” (2 Samuel 7:20). But he loved God with all of his heart, and he knew God was the only one who could save him. Let’s take a look at Psalm 18 in our Trailbooks. This is actually a song that was written by David, and he sang these words to God: “I love you, Lord; you are my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety.” David said that the Lord was his savior because he knew he could never be good enough to save himself. No one can. We all do things that are wrong. But David also knew God loved him, and he trusted God to save him. That’s the most important thing God saw in David’s heart, and He made it possible for us to have that same trust in our hearts, too. God made a promise to David. He promised David that…
He was with David and would make him famous
He would give Israel peace with their enemies
David’s family would rule forever
When God promised that David’s family would rule forever, He was talking about something much greater than being the King of Israel. At the beginning of our story, I told you that Samuel went to a place called Bethlehem, and that’s where David’s family lived. Does anyone recognize Bethlehem? Do you know who was born there? Jesus was born into David’s family in Bethlehem, many years after David died. But Jesus wasn’t an ordinary man. He was God in human form, and he came to pay the penalty for everything we’ve ever done wrong. He died for us, and then He proved that He has power over death by coming back to life! He is the King over all kings who will rule forever! When we trust in Him to save us, our hearts are made right with God. Then when He looks at our hearts, He sees what Jesus did for us. It doesn’t matter what we look like, what we’ve accomplished, or what other people see in us. Those things don’t last, and God cares about us on a much more personal level than that. He sees what’s in our hearts, and that’s what really matters.