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Lent 4A 1st Reading

1 Samuel 16:1-13

James Edlin

David’s heart was his primary qualification for leadership. It was not his height, his appearance, his age, or even his status in the family. Eliab had those qualities. Samuel could see that. But God “does not look at the things people look at … the LORD looks on the heart” (v 7). David undoubtedly had some natural gifts for leadership. But he possessed the most important quality of the kind of heart for which God looked.

The Hebrew term “heart” (leb) names that aspect of humans that drives us to do what we do. It acts as the seat of our will and emotions, the essential person. The heart encompasses the totality of our inner being that includes our convictions and perspectives on life as well as our passions and desires. It holds the vows we have made throughout life both constructive and destructive. Unfortunately, because of Adam’s sin, our bent is toward destruction. Our hearts tend to be arrogant and desperately wicked, leading us away from God, deceiving us, and seemingly having no cure (Jeremiah 17:9).

Yet God longs to give us a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26). When we set our hearts to love God completely and our neighbors as ourselves, God transforms our inner person enabling us to fulfill those commitments. The love of God is “poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:5). As Christ “dwells(s) in our hearts through faith” (Ephesians 3:17), his Spirit reshapes our aspirations, our propensities and our motivations. The Holy Spirit renovates the surrendered heart into a pure heart that reaps life’s greatest reward of seeing God (Matthew 5:8). Such transformation of the heart, writes Dallas Willard in Renovation of the Heart, is “the greatest need you and I have – the greatest need of collective humanity” (p 14).

Perhaps this is more of what the powerful rush of the Spirit of the LORD was about following David’s anointing (v 13). The Spirit enabled David to be successful militarily and administratively. But such success surely flowed from a transformed heart, one that was being aligned more and more with its Creator’s heart and determined to act only when “it is the will of the LORD” (1 Chronicles 13:2).

The stories of David in the books of Samuel as well as his songs in the book of Psalms reveal a man whose inner being was being formed by God. We can see illustrated in David’s heart a servant’s heart, a brave heart, and a devoted heart.

In the initial introduction to David in 1 Samuel 16:1-13 we begin to see David’s servant heart. As the youngest of eight sons, perhaps he had no choice. He remained behind tending sheep, while his father and brothers attended an important religious ceremony with the famous holy man Samuel. This was undoubtedly the event of the year in the little village of Bethlehem. Even “the elders of the town trembled” when Samuel showed up (v 4). But someone had to watch the sheep. Someone must do the dirty work, stay in the shadows and take care of the vulnerable. Someone must be a servant for the sake of the family. That would be David.

Throughout his life David maintained this heart of a servant.