Having A Heart Like God's - 1 Samuel 13:13-14

On Having a Heart Like God’s

1 Sam 13:13-14


In the years following the leadership of the Judges (11th century), God raised up the prophet, Samuel, to rule over his people, Israel. However, the people grew weary of his bold rule and demanded a king “like all the nations” (1Sam 8:5).

Enter Saul. He was tall, good looking, a sharp politician, and youthful (9:2). He was a popular choice. But shortly into his reign Israel was in shambles. People were tired of God. Saul himself was tired of God. Even the sons of the aged and godly leader, Samuel, were spiritual renegades. Everything was collapsing.

So, God went looking for a king to replace Saul. What qualities was God looking for in a replacement?

Before we begin, it might be helpful to remember something about the way God picks his team.

NAS 1 Corinthians 1:26 For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world ... the weak things ... 28 the base things ... and the despised,... the things that are not.

This tells me that... God specializes in making a somebody out of a nobody so that nobody gets the idea he is somebody.

This was the case with Saul and it is also true with his second pick. His second pick turned out to be David. Trust me; David was a nobody - just a kid tending sheep. So why David? Our text says:

NAU 1 Samuel 13:13 Samuel said to Saul, "You have acted foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of the LORD your God, which He commanded you, for now the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. 14 "But now your kingdom shall not endure. The LORD has sought out for Himself a man after His own heart, and the LORD has appointed him as ruler over His people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you."

So, David is alluded to by the Lord as a “man after His own heart.” Here is my question: what does being a man after God’s heart look like?

In part, the answer is found in the circumstances surrounding King Saul’s demise.

The dates in 13:1 are not clear and thus precise chronology is difficult, but at some point following the war with the Ammonites and his ascension to the throne (1 Sam 11), things started to go badly for Saul and his kingdom.

The Philistines arrayed an overwhelming force. Many of the soldiers fled as discipline broke down. This prompted Saul to muster more troops for the impending war.

Furthermore, Samuel had given Saul some explicit directions as recorded in NAS 1 Samuel 10:8 "And you shall go down before me to Gilgal; and behold, I will come down to you to offer burnt offerings and sacrifice peace offerings. You shall wait seven days until I come to you and show you what you should do.” (See 1 Sam 13:8 as well)

However, the continued mass desertion of the troops coupled with Samuel missing the arrival date led Saul to make a rash decision. He decided he could not wait any longer for Samuel. He would offer the sacrifices himself rather than waiting for Samuel to do it as he promised. He was in hopes of gaining God’s mind and blessing for the impending battle.

I believe Saul’s wrongdoing helps clarify what “after God’s heart” means. In other words, what Saul wasn’t, David was. Let’s look.

I. A person “after God’s heart” generally avoids foolish behavior. 13a

Samuel rebukes Saul because he “acted foolishly” (lk's). “The verb usually expresses lack in a moral or spiritual sense...”(TWOT).
1. Foolish behavior includes acting in self-reliance or without a keen sense of dependence on God.

That is why David used this same term in describing his action of numbering his fighting force. NAS 2 Samuel 24:10 Now David's heart troubled him after he had numbered the people. So David said to the LORD, "I have sinned greatly in what I have done. But now, O LORD, please take away the iniquity of Thy servant, for I have acted very foolishly.” So, a man after God’s heart doesn’t act independently of God.

2. Foolish behavior often is simply not trusting God. Samuel had promised help! Saul apparently didn’t believe God would do what he said through his prophet. So, a man after God’s own heart trusts God fully.

3. Foolish behavior minimizes sin. Saul thought what he did was just a trivial deviation. He refused to come clean with sin. We also habitually call sin by another name (error in judgment; weakness; disease, mistake, slip of the tongue, and etc). So, a man after God’s own heart has a high sensitivity to sin.

II. A person who is “after God’s heart” lives a life characterized by obedience 13b

This is the key concept...

1. Contrary to Saul, an after-God’s-heart person values the small issues equally with the large ones. “Wait 7 days until I come...” (10:8). It was really a simple requirement; in fact, nothing notable at all. That’s the way it with God sometimes; just an innocent directive. Who would guess that such a small requirement would be the harbinger of Saul’s demise as King?

2. Contrary to Saul, an after-God’s-heart person is driven by an appreciation that God’s word is sacred. The issue was not that the king was prohibited from offering sacrifices (both David and Solomon did so). The issue was that God’s will was clearly communicated by his prophet and thus Saul had only one course of action. He chose to ignore it and do his own thing. As he would hear later on, “obedience is better than sacrifice”(15:22).

3. Contrary to Saul, an after-God’s-heart person refrains from good actions if such actions are acts of disobedience. Sacrificing per se, was good and pleasing to God. Seeking God’s favor was also a laudable act and mindset. In fact the verb “asked the favor” (hlx) means to become sick or weak before the Lord (v12)! Something akin to prostrating oneself before Him. So, Saul could have sought God without offering a sacrifice. The OT never requires sacrifice as a prerequisite to entreating God. Just bow down before him and plead.

4. Contrary to Saul, an after-God’s-heart person pays careful attention to details. In both v 13 and 14 a premium is placed on “keeping” God’s commands. We may define this term as primarily “expressing the careful attention to be paid to the obligations of a covenant, to laws, or statutes” (TWOT).

5. Contrary to Saul, an after-God’s-heart person refuses to shift the blame to others. Saul claims he was forced to proceed without Samuel because of his troops’ desertion, Samuels late arrival, and the enemies imminent attack (v12).

III. A person “after God’s heart” resembles God from the inside out 14a

We are not told when this selection of another king would take place. The prophet probably didn’t know who this man would be. David may not have even been born yet. But here is what we do know:
1. He patterns himself after God.The use of “after” (K) is quite stunning. One lexicon has it as “to express resemblance in respect of some attribute, action, character, or appearance” (TWOT). While another translates “as, or like.” (BDB).

2. He places strict control on his inner  life. So, David resembles God! How so? Like God’s heart.

When heart is mentioned I could think of the time a nurse put a stethoscope into my grandson’s ears so he could listen to the thump-thump of his newborn sister’s heart. His eyes lit up with awe. But he didn’t respond like another four year old I heard of whose face broke out in a wide grin "Is that Jesus knocking?" he asked!”

Well we are not talking about a physical heart. In its abstract meanings "heart" is the biblical term for the totality of man's inner or immaterial nature.” (TWOT). It is the essence of who a person is. Though it specifically may refer the inner aspects of personality we label thinking and emotions, I believe it uniquely refers to the seat of volition or will – the place where decisions are made.

This is an incredible statement in light of Isaiah’s declaration, NAS Isaiah 55: 8 "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Neither are your ways My ways," declares the LORD. 9 "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts."

Apparently, David did think God’s thoughts. David did reflect God’s passions. David did render judgments and decisions as God did. David patterned his values after God’s. David made God’s interests foremost. I know of no other human being of whom this is said. Was David in a class by himself?

The point is that we are not dealing with mere surface issues. It is not just that David did all the right things. This is not legalism on juice.

Listen to this description: He talked about the blessing of the Almighty and the Christian confessions which would become the pillars of the new government. He assumed the earnestness of a man weighed down by historic responsibility. He showed his tattered Bible and declared that he drew the strength for his great work from it as scores of pious people welcomed him as a man sent from God. Can you guess who is being described? Indeed, Adolf Hitler was a master of outward religiosity—with no inward reality!

It is that David’s heart was like God’s heart. That of course makes it difficult to trace out. In fact, we might need to conclude that we really can’t get our hands completely around what being a man after God’s own heart looks like.

Consequently, at the end of the day we need to come to grips with another critical thought...

IV. A person “after God’s heart” can not be such apart from God 14b

Thus far we have focused on what Saul didn’t do and what David did do. However, if that is all we have to say, we haven’t said much. This business of being a person after God’s heart must take into consideration the will and work of God Himself. And this is really the starting point.

1. God determines who makes the roster without consulting us. His choices are based on his will alone. God is in the “appointment” business, not the survey business. Often the term (hw"c) is translated “command”. It conveys authority. We get a flavor of this by its use in Psalm 33:9 regarding God creating the world – “For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.” There was no doubt about who was in charge that day!

Why was David selected? God could have chosen anyone. On one level it had nothing to do with David. As I mentioned, it is likely that David had not yet been born when these predictive statements were made. If so, this is stunning.

The prophet, Jeremiah heard similar words, Jeremiah 1:5 "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you (meaning “chose” you), And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations." Isaiah had the same understanding (Isa 49:1,5).

In fact, it is not dissimilar to the unconditional election of God in salvation - Ephesians 1:4 "...just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world..."

If God chose David before he was born and if he stated that his choice would be a man “after his heart”, then the issue of whether David would be “after his heart” is decided. This is staggering.

Make no mistake: we are responsible for our life choices. But it is impossible to have a heart like God’s apart from the sovereign intervention of God on our heart!

2. God alone receives glory. It is unfortunate that the NIV/ESV leave out (Al)) “for himself”.  It is the same construction as found in the account of Abraham offering Issac, Genesis 22:8 "Abraham said, "God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son."

Here is the deal. It is not about us; it is all about God. We are not the center of the universe. God is the primary player in this story.


If you fail to grasp these lessons the following little story could happen to you: “The Sunday School teacher was endeavoring to impress upon a class of junior boys the importance of living the Christian life. “Why do people call me a Christian?” the man asked. After a moment’s pause, one youngster said, “Maybe it’s because they don’t know you.” (source unknown).

God is not look for a king today. He has one. His name is Jesus! However, He is looking for people to use in His flock. I am naive enough to think He could still use people who are “after His own heart.”

© Copyright. Joseph Flatt. 2015. All rights reserved. May be used for educational purposes without written permission but with a citation to this source.