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                     of Almelund, Minnesota

         

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The Heart of David

Pastor Marla Amborn

Immanuel Lutheran Church

October 22, 2017

1 Samuel 16:1-13, Psalms 23, 27 & 51

 

What do we look for in our leaders? Experience? Character? Charisma? Some research would suggest physical height is a significant factor determining the leaders we choose. In US Presidential elections the taller candidate has won 60% of the time.

 

That preference for height in our leaders is deeply rooted. Saul, the first king of Israel, was said to have "stood head and shoulders above everyone else" (1 Samuel 9:2). So, when God told Samuel it was time to anoint a new leader from the sons of Jesse, Samuel thought he knew what to look for. When Jesse’s oldest and tallest son stepped forward, Samuel thought he had found the next king. But God had other ideas. Jesse’s sons were brought forth one-by-one, and God rejected each of them as king. The youngest son, David, hadn’t even been invited to this get together. Apparently, his father didn’t think he had a chance at being selected. He was out in the fields tending the sheep.

 

So, when God told Samuel “no” to each of the seven sons, Samuel asked Jesse if he had any other sons. Finally, little David was summoned. Though he didn’t look the part – he wasn’t tall, he wasn’t the oldest, he was still young – David was God’s choice for king. Others were taken in by outward appearances, but God looked in his heart.

 

What did God see in David’s heart? As we think about David’s life story, some traits become evident. He was a man of deep faith. He loved God. He trusted God. He devoted his life to serving God. Yes, he was a sinner like all of the rest of us, but his relationship with God was the thing that mattered more than anything else in his life. So, let’s take a look at the life of this man of God, and see what it has to say to us today.

 

The story we heard read in today’s scripture tells of the day David was selected to be king of Israel. You might think the next step for David would be to go to the palace and begin serving as king. But 13 years pass from the day he is anointed to when he actually begins serving as king of Israel. You see, Saul is still on the throne. Saul had initially shown great promise as king, but over time he had strayed from God and his life had begun spiraling downward. He had a mental illness that plagued him. He suffered from depression and anxiety and he ultimately committed suicide. In the meantime, he had a love-hate relationship with David.

 

David came to Saul’s attention shortly after the passage we read today. Following David’s anointing he went back to doing what he had always done, shepherding sheep on his father’s farm. There was a battle going on nearby with the neighboring Philistines. David’s brothers were fighting in the battle and David’s father sent him to the front lines with food to feed the troops.

 

When David arrived at the battle front he was appalled to see what was going on. The Philistines had this giant of a man who was trash talking the Israelites, challenging them to a fight. For forty days, Goliath had been threatening and intimidating the Israelites, challenging them to a fight to the death. He said he’d fight anyone they put before him. Whoever won would win freedom for his country. Whoever lost, his countrymen would become servants of the opposing side.

 

Goliath was big and mean and intimidating. The Bible says he was six cubits and a span – or 9 feet tall. No one wanted to take him on. Tall King Saul stood meekly on the sidelines as Goliath shouted his taunts. David’s oldest brother, the tall one, was also afraid to take on Goliath, as were all of the Israelites. David saw Goliath’s taunts as an affront to God. Someone had to stand up for God’s people. So, he decides “if no one else will do it I will.”

 

We all know how the story of David and Goliath goes. This teenage boy, too small to fit in the armor of a grown man, takes on the giant Goliath. He says, “The Lord who saved me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will save me from the hand of this Philistine” (1 Samuel 17:37). And with one well-aimed shot he downs the mighty Goliath. He then uses Goliath’s own sword to cut off his head, ending the tyranny of the Philistines, winning victory for his people, and vindicating God’s name. We see in David not some hot-shot-kid with a puffed-up sense of his own abilities, but a person of faith who trusted God to be with him.

 

After this incident life changes for David – for better and for worse. Saul gives him his daughter, Michael, in marriage. Saul invites David to live in the palace. There David uses his musical talents to calm Saul’s anxiety and sooth Saul’s troubled soul.

 

Over time David experiences more success on the battle field. It is said “Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands” (1 Samuel 18:7). Saul becomes worried that David is overshadowing him. David ends up fleeing for his life and spends years on the run.

 

Though David is well aware of Saul’s many flaws, since Saul is the original king who had been anointed by God, David respects God’s chosen King.

 

At one point while he is on the run from Saul’s forces, David is hiding in a cave. Who should come into that cave but Saul? Saul doesn’t realize David is there, so he lays down, relaxes, takes a nap. David goes to Saul and cuts off a snippet of Saul’s cloak. After Saul leaves the cave unharmed, David approaches Saul, shows him the fabric snippet, and tells him that he could have killed him, but that he didn’t and that he won’t, and that Saul doesn’t need to fear him. But Saul still continues to fear and pursue David.

 

David’s faith is what guides him every step of the way. He seeks to do God’s will. He seeks to live as God’s person.

 

This summer for my daily devotions I was reading through the Psalms. I got a bit frustrated by all of the “enemy language” in some of the psalms. I realized that David had written many of the psalms, so it might be enlightening to read about David in the books of 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings while I was reading the psalms. It quickly became evident why David mentioned enemies so much. He had lots of them! Saul was truly out to get him and had a whole army pursuing David. This was not paranoia on David’s part; his enemies were real.

 

Through all this trouble and adversity David grew closer to God. Reading the Psalms of David gives us insights into the heart and soul of this man of God.

 

Psalm 27 is a good example:

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?

The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

When evildoers assail me to devour my flesh—

my adversaries and foes— they shall stumble and fall.

Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear;

though war rise up against me, yet I will be confident.

 

He goes on for a while longer and then concludes:

I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord                                                                                  in the land of the living.

Wait for the Lord;

be strong, and let your heart take courage;

wait for the Lord!

 

David has profound trust in God. That trust gives him a strong center in tough times. What a powerful example of faith!  

 

Psalm 23, the most beloved psalms of all, was written by this shepherd boy turned king who knows what it means to trust in God as his shepherd.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He makes me to lie down in green pastures;

He leads me beside the still waters.

He restores my soul.

 

When God looked into David’s heart and soul, he saw a person of his own heart. One who trusted him even in the valley of the shadow of death, who feared no evil because he knew God was with him.

 

We know that David was not without his own failings. The whole incident with Bathsheba comes to mind. He let his desire for a woman lead him into adultery and also to having her husband killed in battle. That’s bad! Not what God would want David or anyone to do. But to David’s credit, when he was confronted with the sin he had committed, he took responsibility for it.

 

You may remember how David’s advisor, Nathan, came to him and told him a story of a poor man who had one beloved little lamb who was like his pet. There was also a rich man who had 100s of lambs and flocks and herds. When a guest came the rich man took the poor man’s one little lamb and had it slaughtered and served for dinner.

 

On hearing this David became incensed about the injustice of it all. Nathan said to him “You are the man!”  David saw the error in his way. He repented. David responds, “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Samuel 12:13).

 

He turned to God begging for forgiveness. He was fearful that by having done such a terrible thing God would abandon him. He wrote that heartfelt Psalm 51:

“Create in me a clean heart O God,

renew a right spirit within me.

Cast me not away from your presence,

take nor your Holy Spirit from me.

Restore unto me the joy of my salvation

and uphold me with your free spirit.”  (Psalm 51: 10-12).

 

Those heart-felt words of confession have given countless followers of God the language of repentance. For millennia, they have helped people face up to the errors of their ways and genuinely seek God’s forgiveness.

 

David is remembered as the best king that Israel ever had – not because he lived a perfect life but because he was faithful to God through all his many struggles.

 

As God chose David, God has chosen each of us. God named us and claimed us and marked us with the sign of the cross at the time of our baptism. God has looked into our hearts and souls and named us his beloved children. God sent his son, Jesus, to pay the price for our sins so that we might spend eternity with him.

 

When we face our own giants, who seem just too big to overcome, David can provide an example of strength and confidence that comes from trusting God. When we feel like enemies are all around us, out to get us, and we don’t know where to turn, David can provide an example of hope and courage that comes from knowing that the Lord is our shepherd who walks with us through even the darkest valleys and sits with us at the banqueting table in the presence of our enemies.

 

When we screw up, and do something we know God is disappointed in, David’s model of confession and repentance can embolden us to turn from our sin and prayerfully seek God’s forgiveness.

 

As God looked in the heart of David, he found a person of his own heart. As God looks into each of our hearts and souls, may he also find people who love and trust him and seek to live our lives as his people. May we join with David in saying “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord, forever.” Amen!