This sermon is part of the sermon series "Broken". See series.
It took Michelangelo four years to craft his statue of David. It is 13-feet tall. He used flawed marble. We know the exact quarry the marble came from. The same block of marble was rejected by another artist because it had breaks and impurities in it. But Michelangelo was able to see that the core of the marble was good.
That appropriately describes King David. He was broken and flawed. He had many imperfections, but God saw who he was at his core. The core of who we are is our heart, who we are when we are alone. It's the part of us that only God sees. It's where our passions, fantasies, desires, and commitments reside.
God looked at David's core, his heart, and found someone he could work with. So, like Michelangelo, he began to mold him into a masterpiece. God looks at all of us. He looks at our hearts and says, "I want you to have a heart that I can mold and shape into a masterpiece. I want to make you into a masterpiece. I want to make your marriage, your family, your life, your future, and your plans into a masterpiece. Will you let me? Will you allow me to mold and shape you into the person I want you to be?"
Today, we are going to look at David and Saul. We're going to look at both of their hearts. God rejected Saul because of his heart, but he chose David because of his heart. One man basically lived as if there was no God. Saul acknowledged God with his mouth, but he lived like an atheist. His heart revealed that he did not believe God. The heart of David, however, was much different.
And as we look at their hearts I want you to ask yourself, What is my default? It's not that we're not going to sin. We are going to sin. But if we have a heart given to Christ, we're not going to remain in sin. We're not going to stay there. We're not going to be comfortable there. Our default is going to be repentance. Our default is going to be obedience. Our default is going to be humility. Our default is going to be the things that mark the heart of David. Ask yourself what your default is. Is your heart right with God?
So when God rejects Saul as king, he sends the prophet Samuel to choose the next king (1 Samuel 16:7). Actually, God does the choosing. He sends Samuel to the house of Jesse, who has eight sons. He tells Jesse to bring his sons out because one of them will be anointed the next king of Israel. This was done in secret. The young man will not immediately become king, but he will eventually. And so Jesse brings out his seven oldest sons, and they all look great. Samuel even thinks they look like kings. But God says, "I haven't chosen them." When Samuel looked at the oldest son, the Lord said, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things a man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7).
God was looking at his core, his heart. God tells Samuel that none of these seven will be king. So Samuel asks Jesse if he has any more sons, and Jesse says he has one more—his youngest, David. He is out tending the sheep. And Samuel says, "I'm going to stay here until you bring him to me. I want to see if he's the one." David is probably about 15-years-old, and God says to Samuel, "He is the one. I have seen his heart. He is the one I will work with. Anoint him as the next king." It would be about 15 years before David would become king, but God set him aside.
Now let's take a look at Saul's heart. God rejects the heart of Saul. If our hearts default like Saul's, then God will say we need to get our hearts right. And that can only happen when we surrender to Christ and make him Lord of our lives. So ask yourself, Am I like David or Saul?
The heart God rejects
Saul lacked confidence in God. At one point, God tells Samuel to tell Saul to do something. He also tells Samuel that Saul will find some people prophesying, and God's Spirit will enable Saul to prophesy. In other words, God says he will do supernatural things in Saul, and he will speak for God. And Saul does. Saul obeys. He goes, and he prophesies. He actually speaks God's word, and supernatural things happen. God says he's going to empower Saul.
But Saul's faith is fleeting. First Samuel 10:21-22 says, "Finally Saul son of Kish was chosen [to be king]. When they looked for him, he was not found. So they inquired further of the Lord. 'Has the man come here yet?' And the Lord said, 'Yes, he is here. He has hidden himself among the baggage.'"
God already told Saul that he would do great things through him, that he was going to do supernatural work in his life. God wanted to show him that he is a God of power, that he would strengthen him. But when it comes time for him to be king, he's hiding among the suitcases. Why is he hiding, especially after God confirms that he will empower him? He's hiding because his confidence only goes as far as his own abilities. He placed his confidence in his own abilities. We see this in Saul time and again. His confidence extends only as far as his own strengths, gifts, and talents. He never trusts God, and he doesn't live a confident life.
You and I can act the same way. We can live life thinking it's all up to us. We can say with our mouths that there is a God, but in our hearts we might live as if there is no God. We might be functional atheists. We can live as if there is no God, because, like Saul, our confidence only extends as far as our own strengths and abilities. Like Saul, we might know that there is a God, but we're hiding among the baggage when we are supposed to face the things God puts in front of us. We can quickly forget that we are more than conquerors in Christ. We think it's all up to us, and we forget that anything is possible through Jesus Christ.
The second problem with Saul's heart was impatience. He didn't wait on God. When the Israelite armies were surrounded by the Philistine armies, Saul was waiting for Samuel to show up because they were not going to battle until Samuel offered a sacrifice to God, to ask God to be with them in battle. Samuel said he would show up when God told him to show up. Then he would offer a sacrifice.
Saul waits for seven days, and Samuel still doesn't show up. Some of Saul's soldiers start to leave the battlefield, and he's getting nervous. So what does he do? He decides to offer the burnt offering, to take Samuel's role upon himself. And so he does. And as soon as he lights the fire, Samuel comes and says, "What have you done?" Saul replies,
When I saw that the men were scattering, and that you did not come at the set time, and the Philistines were assembling in Micmash, I thought, "Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the Lord's favor." So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering (Samuel 13:11-12).
But what's the big deal? God had told him to wait. God told Saul he would lead him into battle. God was going to lead Saul in his own timing. But Saul didn't wait on God.
Sometimes we act the same way. Some of us might think, I've got sexual needs. You gave me these needs, God, but you haven't provided a spouse for me, so I'm not going to wait on you. Or, God, I've got this desire in my heart. Instead of waiting on you to come through in your way, I'm going to take matters into my hands. I'm tired of waiting on you. And so we jump the gun on God. We take matters into our own hands. But like he did with Saul, God says: I can't work with you if you won't wait. At your core you won't wait on me.
The third problem with Saul's heart is that he doesn't obey God. On another occasion, God gives Saul explicit instructions not to take spoil after battle. Saul defeats his enemies and takes a good portion of their flocks and herds. He keeps them for himself, thinking it's a shame to let these go to waste. In response to Saul's disobedience, Samuel asks Saul if he obeyed God. And Saul says yes. But Samuel hears bleating sheep in the background. So Samuel confronts Saul, and Saul says, "I have sinned. I have violated the Lord's command and your instructions. I was afraid of the people so I gave into them" (1 Samuel 15:24). This gives us a real glimpse into Saul's heart. He was disobedient because he was afraid of what people thought of him. He was afraid that people would reject him. He was afraid that people would think less of him. He was more concerned about people's opinions than God's opinion. That was the default of his heart.
If we are more interested in pleasing people than pleasing God, God says he can't work with us. The audience of Saul's heart was not God; it was people. He cared how he acted before people, not how he acted before God. We act like Saul when we make decisions based on the approval of others.
The fourth reason why God rejected Saul is he never learned to trust in God. We see this in the story of David and Goliath. When it comes time for Saul's armies to face the Philistines, the Philistines send out a nine-foot-tall giant named Goliath. He's a skilled warrior, and he could defeat the best of the best. He taunts the Israelites and makes a deal with them: If an Israelite defeats Goliath, the Philistines will serve Israel; but if Goliath wins, the Israelites will serve the Philistines. First Samuel 17:11 says, "On hearing the Philistine's [Goliath's] words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified."
How does Saul respond to this challenge, this conflict, this crisis, this giant? He's dismayed and terrified. Why? He never learned to trust God. All he could see was the giant, the problem, the crisis. He never learned to trust that God was with him. He faced his problems as if there were no God. He acknowledged God with his mouth, but in his heart he lived as if God did not exist.
That's what we do when we try to face our problems alone, thinking there is no God, or thinking that God is not powerful enough to help us face our addictions. We try to defeat our problems and crises with our own strength and abilities. The first step people take in Twelve Steps, Alcoholics Anonymous, and Narcotics Anonymous is recognizing their powerlessness. We need to do the same thing when we face problems. The second step we need to take is to recognize that there is a God. Thirdly, we need to recognize we need to surrender power over to him. That's what Saul needed to do. He needed to say, "There is a God of power, and I'm not facing this giant alone. I can face this giant with God." But he never learned to trust God.
When you face the giants, challenges, and crises of your life, do you face them with God, or do you think it's all up to you? In your heart, do you live as if there is no God? Are you like Saul?
The fifth reason why God rejected Saul is he never repented. He never came clean in his heart. Sure, Saul said he was sorry, but his heart never changed. In 1 Samuel 13:13, Samuel basically calls Saul a fool. "You acted foolishly," Samuel said. "You have not kept the command of the Lord your God. If you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time." If Saul had obeyed and surrendered his heart to God, Jesus would have been born in the lineage of Saul, not in the lineage of David.
I wonder if David had Saul in mind when he wrote Psalm 14:1: "The fool says in his heart there is no God. They are corrupt. Their deeds are vile. There is no one who does good, no, not one." With our mouths we might say there is a God, but in our hearts we may act like Saul, living as if there is no God. We face challenges as if there were no God. We operate as if everything is up to us. The fool is not just the atheist who says there is no God; the fool is also the person who mouths the words but lives with the heart of Saul.
The heart God accepts
Now let's look at David's heart. So God rejects Saul's heart and says: Saul, you might say there is a God with your mouth, but the default of your heart says there is no God. In your heart it's all up to you. In your heart you're still living to please others. You're not living to please me.
So God rejects Saul in 1 Samuel 13:13. Then God chooses and anoints David. David has the kind of heart God wants. We will look at five characteristics of David's heart. These characteristics distinguished him from Saul.
First, David was humble. He is anointed as the next king of Israel. David didn't boast to his brothers. He didn't gloat and think he was superior. He didn't say, "I'm not going to tend the sheep. You all go out to tend sheep. I don't know when it's going to happen, but one day you're going to bow down to me. I'm the next king, not you." After he was anointed, David returned to the field and tended the sheep.
God chose David because he was humble. But he also chose David because he had a shepherd's heart. He cared for sheep, which were dirty, defenseless, and dependent. He had to care for them, and he learned how to be a shepherd. He had a shepherd's heart.
Later on, when David was still a shepherd, Saul drafted him into his service because he was also a great musician. He played the harp for Saul. Additionally, he was a strong warrior. First Samuel 16:21-22 says, "David came to Saul and entered his service. Saul liked him very much, and David became one of his armor-bearers. Then Saul sent word to Jesse, saying, 'Allow David to remain in my service, for I am pleased with him.'" Notice David's humility as he serves Saul. He knows that God has rejected Saul and anointed him as the next king, but he serves Saul anyways. He never lifts himself up. Instead, David lives to lift up God. People look at David and say, "God is with him."
There is another character in the Bible about whom people say, "God is with him"—Joseph, in Genesis. His character is marked by humility. People see the same thing in David.
In his humility, David is patient. A part of patience, quite frankly, is humility. And we see this in David. David has to wait 15 years before he actually becomes king. For seven of those years he is a fugitive, hunted down by a maniacal, angry, jealous, insane King Saul, who is enraged at David. He throws a spear at David twice. David is on the run, hiding in caves from Saul. And he waits 15 years for God to fulfill his promise.
How many days did Saul wait for God until he finally took matters into his own hands? Seven days. He couldn't wait any longer than seven days. How many years does David wait for God to fulfill his promise? He waited 15 years, and for 7 of those years he was hunted by Saul. When God looks for someone that he can work with, he looks for someone who's going to wait, who's humble, who says, "I'm not going to take matters into my own hands. God, I'm going to wait on you. I know you've got a plan for my life. I know you know what's best for my life, so I'm going to wait. I am going to humble myself before you and wait for you to lead."
Is that the default of your heart? It doesn't mean that we're not going to sin. It doesn't mean that we're not going to drift away. It means that this is what's winning in our heart: humility and waiting on God.
Secondly, David had integrity. Psalm 78:70-72 basically describes why David was chosen. It says this, "[God] chose David his servant and took him from the sheep pens; from tending the sheep he brought him to be the shepherd of his people Jacob, of Israel his inheritance. And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them."
The Hebrew word for integrity is tome, meaning full and undivided. Basically, David had a heart that was filled up with God, not other stuff. It was undivided. When he made mistakes, he asked God to purify, cleanse, and renew him. His heart wasn't divided by pride. It wasn't divided by ego. It wasn't divided by jealousy. It wasn't divided by anger or resentment. He was hunted by Saul for seven years, but he never developed a hateful spirit against Saul. On two different occasions he had the opportunity to kill Saul, who was trying to kill him, but he didn't. He had a heart of integrity. He didn't have anger or hatred or resentment in his heart. When you and I are harmed by somebody, we can either act like Saul and harden ourselves against God and become bitter, or we can choose to release those resentments and forgive as David did.
As I was reading through 1 Samuel, preparing for this series, someone said something that made me upset. Initially, I responded by diminishing that person. I thought to myself, Why is this happening now? I'm working through the Book of Samuel. I'm preparing to preach a sermon. I realized that I responded with the heart of Saul. My initial response was like Saul's, not David's. I think this is the battle we all have. Are we growing in forgiveness or in bitterness? What is the condition of our hearts? Have you been wronged? Have you been able to forgive the person who hurt you? Jesus says if you don't forgive you won't be forgiven.
And I've always wondered about that. There is a throne in our heart, and our king sits on that throne. Our king calls the shots. He is our primary audience. Our king controls us. And if we don't forgive someone, guess what we do. We put them on the throne of our heart, and they end up controlling us. They end up calling the shots, and they become our primary audience. If you live with bitterness, you are being controlled by the person who wronged you, and you have a divided heart. You do not have a heart of integrity. But God tells you to forgive. He wants you to forgive so that he can sit on the throne of your heart. He wants your heart to be surrendered to him. God can't create something great out of you if you have a divided heart.
Thirdly, David was obedient. Acts 13:22 says, "After removing Saul, he made David their king. He testified concerning him: 'I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart.'" Luke, the author of Acts, adds, "I have found in David … a man after my own heart; he will do everything I ask him to do." In other words, God says that David is obedient. At his core he's going to obey. Is he going to make mistakes? Yes, but his default will be to return to obedience. He will submit his heart to God. God chose David to lead because David knew how to follow first. God wants us to be leaders, too. But if we're going to be leaders, we need to learn how to follow. We need to learn how to submit and obey. God wants us to have this kind of heart. If you're going to lead your family, if you're going to lead in the church, if you're going to lead in your community, you need to learn how to follow.
Why do we obey? At the core of obedience is a clear understanding that God knows best. Why do we disobey? The core of disobedience is a faulty mindset that we know best. Saul thought he knew best. David knew that God knows best. What is your default? What is in your heart? Do you truly come under the authority of Scripture, saying God knows best? Or do you think you know best? Jesus says the wise man is like a man who builds his house on a firm foundation. The wise man hears Jesus' words, practices them, and applies them. And when the rains come and floods rise, his house, his marriage, and his life stand firm. However, Jesus says the fool hears his words but doesn't apply them. The fool doesn't necessarily say there is no God. The fool might even like Jesus' teaching. But the fool doesn't apply it. The fool is like a man who builds his house on the sand. And when the rains come and the floods rise, his house is washed away. What is your default: obedience or disobedience? Do you think you know best, or do you acknowledge that God knows best?
Fourthly, David had incredible trust in God. Let's back up to the story of David and Goliath. Goliath is facing down the armies of Israel. Everyone is terrified, including David's brothers, but David is confident. David's brothers are terrified, just like King Saul. Why do you think God passed them over? The answer is simple: They trusted in their own power and ability. But David shows up and asks who is this guy taunting the armies of God? David says he will fight Goliath. People wonder how he has the confidence to face the giant. But David says, "The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine." David says that God has been faithful in the past. He faced giants before, and he knew God would be with him as he faced this giant, Goliath. David believed. He had faith in his heart, not doubt. He had faith that God would empower him.
God says to us: I want you to face life with faith. I want you to receive Christ as your Lord and Savior. I want you to understand that through him you are more than a conqueror. I want you to understand that with him all things are possible. I want you to face the giants of your life with faith. I don't want you to hide in fear. I want you to face them with faith. This is the heart that I mold, that I shape, that I do great things with. Do you have this kind of heart?
Fifthly, David was genuinely repentant. Having a heart after God's own heart doesn't mean you don't make mistakes. However, it does mean that you will be repentant. It means that when you sin, you won't remain in sin. First John says that those who abide in Christ do not remain in sin. John isn't saying that you're not going to sin. He essentially means that you're not going to be comfortable in sin. You're not going to stay there. You'll come back to repentance. That's what David did. He repented. After his affair with Bathsheba, he wrote, "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me" (Psalm 51:10).
So here's the main difference between Saul and David: one man had a heart that denied God; the other had a heart that was full of faith in God. What is your heart like? God wants to do great things in you. God wants to do great things in your future. God wants to do great things through your family, in your workplace, and through your education. God wants to do great things in you as you make plans to follow him. God wants to do great things in the church. But before God can do anything great, we need to give our hearts to him. Our cores, our hearts, should resemble that of David, not Saul. Some of you are more like Saul than David. You're comfortable with sinning and remaining in sin. You need a new heart, and God wants to give you a new heart.
Second Chronicles 16:9 says, "For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed." The text doesn't say "partially committed"; it says "fully committed." God wants your heart to be fully given to him. Is your heart fully given to God? If your heart is, God wants to strengthen you. He wants to use you. If it isn't, he can't. He can't use you.
We must return to Jesus Christ. First Peter 3:15 says, "But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord." Is Christ in your heart? Is he Lord of your heart? He can cleanse your heart. He can forgive you. He can purify you. Then he will sit on the throne of your heart. He will be your Lord and call the shots for your life. If God is Lord of your heart, he can do great things in you. He can do great things in your marriage. He can do great things in your workplace, in your future, and in your plans. But if you have not made him Lord of your heart, he can't make you into the masterpiece that he wants.
So, are you divided by resentment? Are you hardened by disobedience? Are you broken by conviction? If you want God to purify and change your heart, you need to pray.
Philip Griffin is the Senior Pastor of the Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin.