The description of David as a man after God’s own heart (1Samuel 13.14) is in the setting of kingship. Because of his unfaithfulness, the kingship of Saul and his heirs would not endure. But the Lord would make sure that the next king was of a different spirit than Saul, one who would meet the Lord’s expectations. So, before we begin examining the life of David it would be helpful to consider the expectations God had for Israel’s king, expectations He laid out in Deuteronomy 17.14-20.
The king would be one of them (vss. 14-15)
God envisioned the day when Israel would demand a king. This was not commanded by the Lord, but He would permit it. Jehovah, the true Sovereign of Israel, would choose her king! And the first requirement of Israel’s king was that he would be one of the people. Foreigners were likely excluded for two reasons:
- They would not be faithful to Jehovah, the God of Israel.
- They would not be able to identify with the people, and thus would care little for their needs.
The king should rely only on the Lord (vss. 16-17)
These verses warn of 3 ways a king might place his trust in something other than the Lord:
- He must not rely on military might (multiplying horses). As one commentator put it, the horse “was roughly equivalent to the modern tank as a symbol of military power in the second millennium b.c.e.” However, Israel had already experienced the Lord delivering them from an army of horse-drawn chariots (Exodus 15.1,4). Furthermore, trusting in horses would only hasten the destruction of God’s people. The Lord had promised that they would “never again return that way,” but if they put their trust in military might rather than in the Lord, they would return again to captivity (see Hosea 8.13; 11.5).
- The king must not rely on political alliances (multiplying wives). While on the surface we might conclude that this is another passage emphasizing the bond of marriage, it is likely that the Lord’s words were aimed at marriages made out of political expediency (cf. 1Kings 3.1; 16.31). But such wives would turn the king’s heart from the Lord!
- Finally, the king must not rely on economic strength (increase silver and gold). Such would give an illusion of self-sufficiency and lead them to forget that all blessings came from the Lord (see Deuteronomy 8.11-17).
The king should be guided by the Lord (vss. 18-20)
The king would not be a law unto himself, rather he would be bound by the same law as the people: the Lord’s Law! Thus, as soon as the king came to the throne he was to make his own copy of the Law. The process of writing the Law and then reading it (literally reciting audibly) would make him thoroughly acquainted with the Lord’s will. This would have four positive results:
- The king would fear the Lord.
- The king would be careful to observe all that the Lord commanded.
- The king would not view himself as better than his countrymen.
- The king’s kingdom would endure.
If a king met these expectations, he would truly be a man after God’s own heart. Likewise, if we desire to be after God’s heart we must 1) identify with our brethren, 2) trust only in the Lord and 3) be guided by His word.
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