King Saul disobeys God and offers sacrifice after a battle victory – without waiting for the priest Samuel. As a result,
… Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the command of the Lord your God, with which he commanded you. For then the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. 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, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.” 1 Samuel 13: 13-14
David is the man after God’s heart. But what does that mean?
What is a person after God’s heart?
Clearly it means to obey God, as Paul preached:
…[God] raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’ Acts 13: 22
But what more might it mean?
The Study Notes in my ESV Bible may hold a clue.
When Samuel asks what Saul has done, Saul says he just had to appease God with a burnt offering and “forced” himself to do it without Samuel (1 Samuel 13: 12).
The study notes say “Here Saul shows his tendency to be moved by circumstances and to rely on religious ritual to gain God’s favor rather than to trust and obey the word of the Lord.”
Saul didn’t know God’s heart. He obeyed in order to win God over. He bargained with God. He wasn’t interested in obedience borne of trust, arising from a relationship. His was not a friendship with God. He treated God like a king with whom he could negotiate: “I’ll serve you so that you’ll protect me.”
But David knew God’s heart. David trusted God. David loved God.
That’s the difference. It’s not just about obedience, but about the motive under the obedience.
Do we obey to get? Or do we obey because we trust God and want to draw closer to Him? As Jesus said:
If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. John 14: 23
“Make our home with him” is also translated “disclose myself to him” or “reveal myself to him.” If we want to know Jesus better and share His home, obedience is the key.
We don’t obey to get from God. We obey to get God.
And that’s the difference between Saul and David.
A man after God’s own heart obeys and trust, and above all, wants to know the God who is in his heart.
Dear Lord: Please show me when I am NOT acting like a girl after your heart. Amen.