Long before King Jesus was born, there was another king of Israel. Actually, there were many kings of Israel, but there was one who was special.
The first king of Israel was Saul. Tall and handsome, he looked the part. Initially, he obeyed God's prophet and followed God. But when pressure from their enemies the Philistines mounted, Saul ultimately disobeyed the commands of God, therefore being rejected by God as king (1 Sam. 13). In his famous words of judgment upon Saul, the prophet Samuel proclaimed, "But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought out a man after His own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over His people..." (13:14).
Who was this one, to be prince of God's people? Who was this one who God calls "a man after His own heart"? It wasn't immediately known to Samuel. King Saul continued to spiral out of control in his reign. Finally, God told Samuel to go to Bethlehem. Ah, Bethlehem. This tiny town sounds familiar, right? There, he was to seek out Jesse, a descendant of Judah (another familiar name?), to anoint from among Jesse's sons the next king of Israel (1 Sam. 16).
Samuel went to Bethlehem, and he invited Jesse and his sons to the sacrifice to the Lord, so that he might also anoint God's chosen one. God told 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" (vs. 6). One by one, Jesse presented his sons to Samuel, and one by one, they were rejected by God. Finally, Samuel asked if Jesse had any other sons. "There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep," Jesse answered (vs. 11).
Once again, God chose the unlikely one. David, not even considered by his father to be invited to the sacrifice. David, the after thought, the one who kept the sheep. But what man did not recognize, God knew: David's heart was bent toward God. Samuel anointed David once he arrived, "And the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward" (vs. 12-13). That day, a king was born.
Most people know of King David's highs and lows. As a boy, he defeated the Philistine giant, Goliath (17:31-58). As king, David united Israel and defeated his enemies with skill and valor (2 Sam. 5:1-5; 17-25). As a man, he allowed power and lust to take control in his heart. He slept with a married woman, murdered her husband, and sought to cover it all up (2 Sam. 11). To be sure, David was a human just like you and me. There was nothing super-human about David on the outside. Yet there was something about David that caused God to bless him and to set him apart. What was it? We don't need to look to David's highs and lows to find out, but to all of the middles of his life.
David was not a man unfamiliar with disappointment. God's blessing on David did not mean a life of ease or comfort; on the contrary, grief, loneliness, and betrayal became his familiar friends. Once David defeated Goliath and grew in fame, King Saul sought to kill him not once, but twice (1 Sam. 18:6-16; 19:1-24). Eventually, Saul's murderous jealousy drove David to flee his home. He lived for years in hiding, pursued by Saul. He lost the comfort of his family and the intimacy of friendship (1 Sam. 20). His first wife, Michal, was given to another man in marriage (1 Sam 25:44). David lost his firstborn son because of his sins, and a curse was brought upon his family (2 Sam. 12:7-15). He watched as his sons murdered each other for the throne, betraying even their own father, all resulting from David's sins (2 Sam. 13-18). And in the end, God denied David the greatest longing of his heart, to build God's temple, because there was too much blood on his hands (1 Chron. 22:1-10),
Yet here is where David set himself apart: in all of his disappointments, rejections, loss, and years of waiting without answers, David still praised the Lord. He honored God. When things took tragic or unexpected turns, he did not shake his fist at God and say, "How dare you let this happen!" Instead, he praised God. He worshipped. And he said:
"For the king trusts in the Lord..." Ps. 21:7
"You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever!" Ps. 30:11-12
"O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you. My heart throbs; my strength fails me, and the light of my eyes - it has also gone from me...But for You, O Lord, do I wait; it is You, O Lord my God, who will answer." Ps. 38:9-10, 15
"My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me continually, 'Where is your God?' ...Why are you downcast, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God." Ps 42:2-3, 5
"But I call to God, and the Lord will save me...He redeems my soul in safety...Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never permit the righteous to be moved....But I will trust in You." Ps. 55:16-18, 22-23
"When I am afraid, I put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?" Ps. 56:3-4
"Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation." Ps. 68:19
"But I am afflicted and in pain; let your salvation, O God, set me on high! I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify Him with thanksgiving." Ps. 69:29-30
Always, David kept his heart bent toward the Lord in humility and worship. Always, he turned the groanings and longings of his heart to thanksgiving and praise, even when he didn't feel like it. Even when God seemed silent, and when all hope seemed lost, he remembered God, and he let God's faithfulness in the past remind him of God's faithfulness in the present. David was a man after God's own heart, and this is where his heart's inclination was found: in a steady and faithful praising of God, not just in the highs and lows, but always.
In God's greater redemption plan, He chose to honor David, from Bethlehem, of the line of Judah. From David, another King would come, and God would establish the rule of David's line forever.
Why David? Because David genuinely followed God.