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A Man After God’s Own Heart

July 1, 2011 Speaker: Pastor Cameron Arensen

Scripture: 1 Samuel 13:14–13:14

Esther Ruth and I will be leaving tonight for a month of holiday. So this will be my last sermon for a while. For those who will be leaving permanently before I come back, this will be, literally, my last sermon. In deciding what to preach on this morning, I have decided to revisit a topic I last spoke on five years ago. Let me introduce it.

In the Old Testament, there are three characters that stand out from all the others. They are spiritual giants who cast a long shadow of influence. One is Abraham, one is Moses, and the third is King David. It is on David that I want to concentrate this morning.

Sometimes, for an ice-breaker when I am leading a Bible study, I ask people to share who their favorite Bible character is apart from Jesus. Almost always, the name that comes up most often is that of David. David plays a key role in the Bible. Did you know that his name actually occurs in the Bible more often than the name “Jesus”? There are 59 chapters devoted to his story. Over half of the Psalms are attributed to his authorship. King David represented the benchmark of Israel’s monarchy. He was the king by whom every subsequent king was evaluated: Each king was described as being either “like David” or “not like David.” Why is he given such an elevated place? Why does he still find his way into our hearts as our “favorite Bible character”?

There is a particular phrase that is used to describe David, which I think gives the answer to that question. It is found in I Samuel 13:14. In this verse, God is speaking to King Saul through the prophet Samuel, telling him that his kingdom will be taken away. But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people…

There is the phrase: the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart.  What does that phrase mean? What is a “man after God’s own heart”? When God went looking for such a man to be king, what was he looking for?

The first clue is found in I Samuel 16:7. Before we read the verse, let me set the stage. Samuel has gone to Bethlehem, to the home of a man named Jesse. He has been told that he will find the man there whom he will anoint as the next king of Israel. Jesse had a number of sons, and he assembled them in front of Samuel. When Samuel came to the first one, named Eliab, he was so impressed with him that he thought to himself, “Surely the LORD’s anointed stands before me.” But look at what God said in verse 7: But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

So we know that being a man or woman after God’s own heart is not related to the externals of appearance or height or good looks or anything on the outside. The things that are so important in man’s eyes, in man’s evaluations are irrelevant here. God is looking at our hearts, the condition of our inner lives. But that still leaves us with the question: When God looks at our hearts, what kinds of qualities is he looking for? What did he find in David that caused him to identify him as a man after his own heart? I have known the stories of David since I was child. I have read and studied his life and words. I have even preached a sermon series on his life and preached from many of his psalms. And always I have had the question in the back of my mind: What made David a man after God’s own heart? The message I am preaching this morning represents a distillation of that search. I have narrowed it down to six heart qualities.


As I studied the life of David, this one quality stood out: that David really loved God. I cannot think of any person in the Old or New Testament who more perfectly represents the Biblical ideal: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.

Just listen to the phrases in some of his Psalms: I love you, O Lord, my strength. (Psalm 18:1). O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you. My soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1)

Even as a boy, watching his sheep on the Judean hillside, his fingers would fly over the strings of his harp and he would sing. The songs he sang expressed his love for God. This love continued throughout his life. We find the same theme in his closing admonition to his son Solomon at the end of his life in I Chronicles 28:9: And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind. “Wholehearted devotion” comes from a heart full of love for God. This is the first thing God looks for when he searches for a man or woman after his own heart. A heart inflamed by love for God.


Turn to Acts 13:22.

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; he will do everything I want him to do.”

This quality of obedience especially set David apart as different from his predecessor, King Saul. Back in I Samuel 13:14, Samuel announces to Saul: But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart…because you have not kept the Lord’s command.

I think it is important to keep in mind that in many ways Saul was not that bad a king. In fact, compared to many of the kings who followed him, he was a good king. But on several significant occasions, he offered God only partial obedience. When he was told to wait for Samuel to come to offer the sacrifice, he waited – but not long enough. When he was instructed to destroy all the Amalekites, he killed most of them, but not all. He gave God only partial obedience. Do you know what God calls partial obedience?  He calls it disobedience. When God says he is looking for a man after his own heart, he says “I am looking for someone who will do all I want him to do.”

In his closing words to Solomon, he also picks up on this theme in I Kings 2:2-3:

I am about to go the way of all the earth, so be strong, show yourself a man and observe what the Lord your God requires: Walk in his ways and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and requirements, as written in the Law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go.

That brings us to the third heart quality God is looking for.


David’s relationship with the Word of God is probably best expressed in one of his wonderful psalms. Turn to Psalm 19:7-11:

7 The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.
8 The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
9 The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever.
The ordinances of the Lord are sure and altogether righteous.
10 They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold;          
they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.
11 By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

Our relationship with this book is one of the clearest indicators of what is in our hearts. I remember when I was a young boy growing up in Tanzania. There was an old, retired missionary named Nangi Maynard. Nangi is actually a Kisukuma word meaning “teacher”, a title of respect given to him by the Tanzanians. Nangi was going blind. But he had set himself the goal, before his sight was completely gone, of memorizing the entire New Testament. I still remember what an impression that made on me. It’s something I can see David doing. Are you in love with God’s word? David was. It was one of the qualities God was looking for when he went to choose a new king. It is one of the qualities he is looking for today in the man or woman he wants to use.


This was another hallmark of David’s life. We see it early in his life in the great story of his fight with the giant Goliath. All the rest of Israel’s army, including King Saul, were cowering in their tents at the giant’s challenge. But David went fearlessly to face him. Why? In his own words in I Samuel 17:37: The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of the Philistine.

We see this same trust in God in another crisis of David’s life. He and his men had been away at battle, and when they returned, they found their village of Ziklag looted and empty, their wives and families taken captive. David’s own men soon turned their despair and anger against David, blaming him for what had happened. In fact, they were so angry they talked of stoning David. But there is a wonderful little phrase, tucked away in I Samuel 30:6: But David found strength in the LORD his God. In the most desperate of circumstances, David always seemed to turn toward God and find strength in him.

One of David’s most famous psalms is Psalm 23. We sang it during our praise time. Psalm 23 is above all a psalm of trust: of the sheep’s confidence and trust in the Shepherd’s care.

It is found again in his last words to Solomon in I Chronicles 28:20: Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.

Where do we find strength? In what or in whom are we trusting?  One of the greatest compliments we can give to God is to trust him. Conversely, one of the greatest insults or acts of disrespect we can display is to fail to trust him, or to put our trust in other people or other things! The man or woman after God’s own heart has a heart sustained by trust in God.


During my study of David’s life, I found it much like a roller coaster ride. There were some exhilarating highs, but there were also some sickening plunges. But here is where I found another quality of the man after God’s own heart. When confronted with his own sinfulness, he fell before the Lord in broken-hearted repentance.

Psalm 51:3: For I know my transgressions and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.  Psalm 51:17: The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Here again, we find this is a marked contrast to his predecessor. When Saul was confronted with his sin, he offered only excuses. David’s heart was broken. How do we respond to sin in our lives?


So much of our Bible, the beautiful psalms of praise, we owe to David. He was a man who frequently lifted his heart in praise. When they brought the ark of God into the tabernacle in Jerusalem, he danced before the Lord. Obviously we could go just about anywhere in the Psalms to illustrate this trait of David. I have chosen to go once again to David’s closing words. In his last recorded, official act as king, he led his nation in worship.

Listen as I read I Chronicles 29:10-13: 

10 David praised the Lord in the presence of the whole assembly, saying,
“Praise be to you, O Lord, God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting.
11 Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor,
for everything in heaven and earth is yours.
Yours, O Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all.
12 Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things.
In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all.
13 Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.

From his days as a young shepherd boy, to his final official act as an aged king, David never lost the joy of lifting his heart and his voice in praise to the God he loved.

These are the six qualities that I believe set David apart, and that caused God himself to identify him as “a man after his own heart.”

Do you aspire to that same description? Do you long to be a man or woman after God’s own heart? Then search your heart for these same qualities:

A heart inflamed by love for God.

A heart bent on obedience to God.

A heart shaped by the Word of God.

A heart sustained by trust in God.

A heart broken by its own sinfulness.

A heart lifted in praise to God.


  1. In this message, Pastor Cam identified 6 qualities from David’s life which marked him as a “man after God’s own heart.” They are listed below with references. Go through each quality and discuss and/or share the following:
  2. How David demonstrated this quality
  3. Someone you know (or have known) who clearly demonstrated this quality
  4. Ways that you can develop or demonstrate this quality
  5. A heart inflamed by love for God. (Psalm 18:1, Psalm 63:1, I Chronicles 28:9)
  6. A heart bent on obedience to God. (Acts 13:22, I Kings 2:2-3)
  7. A heart shaped by the Word of God. (Psalm 19:7-11)
  8. A heart sustained by trust in God. (I Chronicles 28:20, I Samuel 17:37, I Samuel 30:6
  9. A heart broken by its own sinfulness. (Psalm 51:3, 17)
  10. A heart lifted in praise to God. (I Chronicles 29:10-13)