This story in I Samuel is after God had taken the Kingdom of Israel away from Saul. He was still officially king. He was still totally living in his narcissistic world, unaware of how bad his situation truly was. God, through Samuel, had offered forgiveness and grace to him over and over. But he continued trying to do things his own way, ignoring God’s commands. For example, He liked to live out a form of religiosity in terms of having Samuel come and bless the people before going to war, and make a sacrifice to God. But if Samuel got delayed, he wasn’t willing to wait so it was done the way God wanted it done. Saul would do it his way.
Then, when he was called on it, he tended to blame it on the people or the nearest person he could. He never took the blame for being impatient or disobeying God. This played out more than once in a variety of scenarios where Saul had the opportunity to obey God and he didn’t. He had the chance to confess that he had failed, and he never did. Blame shifting was often his way of dealing with his short comings…in other words, he didn’t deal with them at all!
Saul suffered for this way of not dealing with his sin and failure.Eventually, God gave him up to himself and his unwillingness to deal with his sin. In the end, God and the prophet Samuel walked away. It seems, Saul didn’t miss them. If you miss God and the people of God, it is a good thing.
In the end, Samuel and God walked away from Saul. I’m not even sure he noticed. Samuel never saw Saul again after that point. (See I Samuel 15.) Saul’s life goes downhill from that point to suicide in the end. His life is one sad story. It was a story of a man with much promise, privilege and opportunity. He looked so good at the beginning. He was handsome. He stood head and shoulders above everyone. He looked like just what the people wanted in a king. But he simply squandered his many opportunities.
And that is the sad part. God wanted to be the king of the nation of Israel. He wanted them to trust Him alone. They wanted to see someone handsome like the nations all around them had for their king. So He gave them what they wanted. Even then, God’s grace was offered to Saul personally. But he never accepted it. But for Israel, it was the beginning of the end in some ways.
“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.”
I Samuel 16:7 ESV
God’s choice of the next king…someone who looks good at the heart level.
Now for the contrast! God helped Samuel choose the next king. It was quite dramatic. They went to the family of Jesse and started with the oldest son. They worked their way all the way down from the oldest sons to the very youngest. Each time, even though some were extremely tall and handsome, God said they were not His choice. Finally, they ran out of choices, Were there no more sons? Well, actually yes, there was one more. His name was David, but he was watching the sheep. Who would have thought David would be considered to be a candidate for a future king? Samuel told them to go get David.
Sure enough, when David arrived, God told Samuel that this was the one who was to be king. I’m sure Samuel was almost as surprised as everyone else. Are you sure God? He reminded Samuel again of the words printed above.
So Samuel anointed David to be the next king of Israel. The reality of that kingship was to follow years later after many battles both against the enemies of Israel and battles with Saul. The years ahead would not be easy. But David matured in his relationship with God.
David’s years as king were not without failures either. But even in times of failure, David turned back to God, realizing that his sin was against God in the end. His heart toward God was tender. He was congruent in the sense that he was not fake. He was who he seemed to be. He didn’t pretend to be for God, then turn around and ignore what God told him to do.
Changing my heart is not a simple task. It is major surgery.
When I talk about God changing my heart to make it more congruent, it is no simple thing. The physical heart is central to almost everything in our body. The heart provides circulation, blood and oxygen to all the organs of the body. There are organs we can live without. The heart is not one of those organs. We must have the heart to provide nourishment to all the rest of our body. We can’t live without it.
That is why the heart is used so often to illustrate what happens internally in our thoughts and motives. When we are adopted into His family at the time we are justified, we receive a new heart. As we grow as a Christian, we grow into who we now. Before we had that new heart, we were unable to make those changes and have the ability to understand spiritual things or be alive spiritually. We still won’t be perfect, but now the Spirit makes us aware when we fail in ways that never happened before we belonged to God’s family. As we listen to the Holy Spirit and respond to Him, we become more and more sensitive to His promptings and the changes He is bringing to our hearts.
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses,
and from all your idols I will cleanse you.
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you.
And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
Ezekiel 36:25-26 ESV
Questions to think about
- Do you have a heart that is congruent to what you show to others or are you more inclined to be fake by trying to make a good impression on people? What would God say to Samuel if you were being considered for this position today (ignoring sexual differences of course.)
- It’s easy to think God wants perfect people for His children, but King David failed in a horrible way by killing a man who was in his band of close friends and the husband of the woman he committed adultery with. David was definitely not perfect, but in the end, he turned to God when he sinned and repented. God saw in him a man who was tender toward God. He was not fake. When his sin was pointed out, he truly repented. Would God agree that you are like this or are you more inclined to make excuses for your short comings.
- At our church, the teaching has been for our leaders that they don’t have to be perfect (not possible), but they need to be the chief repenters. I have appreciated that concept for church leaders. If that philosophy permeates the staff and leadership (elders, etc) of your church, it will have a dramatic effect on your church. I don’t mean that it will be what they say, but what they will do when confronted by their sin and short comings. It is a sign of a humble spirit. Do others see that in you?