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David — a Man after God’s Heart (Acts 13:22)

Ernst-August Bremicker

Most of the readers of the Bible know of David who started off as a shepherd in Bethlehem and ended up as king over all Israel. His story is retraced in many details in the Old Testament and he is also frequently mentioned and quoted in the New Testament. His life can be divided into two main parts:

·       As the one who was rejected and persecuted by King Saul;

·       As the king chosen by God to reign over Israel.

Clearly, there are a lot of practical lessons in David’s life but above all the man after God’s heart points to the perfect man after God’s heart — the Lord Jesus Himself. Indeed, David foreshadows Him in many respects. David became king of Israel but immediately after his great victory over Goliath he was rejected and hated. This is even more clearly seen in the true David. He is the great victor but He is refused by this world. Nevertheless, the time will come when He will reign over all the works of God’s hands. Hebrews 2:8 tells us that all things are already subjected to Him but that ‘we see not yet all things subjected to him’. The time before David was anointed king illustrates the present time when the Lord Jesus is still rejected. But the time will come when His Lordship will be publicly acknowledged on earth in the millennium.

But let us have a closer look at David. He is introduced to us in 1 Samuel 16 when Samuel was told to anoint him: ‘There is yet the youngest remaining, and behold, he is feeding the sheep’ (vs. 11–13). From the beginning of his story, there are many details which show that he was a man after God’s heart and point to the glorious person of our Lord Jesus:

1. The name ‘David’ means ‘the beloved one’. This was true in David’s life: his father loved him; his friend Jonathan loved him; his wife loved him; the people of Israel loved him. But above all he was the beloved of God. Of course, this is even more true of the Lord Jesus. He is ‘the Beloved’ (Eph. 1:6), the ‘Son of his love’ (Col. 1:13). He was God’s servant whom He had chosen, His beloved in whom His soul had found delight (Matt. 12:18). It was — and still is — the pleasure of the fulness of the Godhead to dwell in Him (Col. 1:19; 2:9). God the Father loved Him before the foundation of the world and the love of the Father to the Son will fill the eternity to come (John 17:24). When He was here on earth as man, the heavens opened twice and we hear the voice of the Father saying: ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I have found my delight’ (Matt. 3:17; 17:5).

2. Like others before him, David started his career as a shepherd. He was a good and reliable shepherd who took care of the sheep and even risked his life in order to rescue them (1 Sam. 17:34–36). In contrast to a hunter, a shepherd takes an interest in the well-being of his sheep. It is easy to see the fulfilment of this type in the Lord Jesus. He is the ‘good shepherd’ who gave His life for the sheep (John 10:11). This He did in the past. Now, in the present, He is the ‘great shepherd’ of His sheep (Heb. 13:20) who takes care of us continually. And the moment is at hand when He will be manifested as the ‘chief shepherd’ in order to give us the unfading crown of glory (1 Pet. 5:4). There is much to be gained in studying all the references in the Bible that speak of Him as the shepherd.

3. David was the eighth son of Jesse. When Samuel saw the first seven he had to realise that none of them was God’s choice as king over Israel. It was only when he asked whether there was another son that Jesse told him about David, the youngest. The number eight speaks of a new start or the introduction of a new order of things. When the Lord Jesus entered into this scene everything changed. There was the first man made of dust who spoilt everything. There is the second man from heaven who will restore everything (1 Cor. 15:45–47). Sin entered this world by the first man and Adam became the head of the human race, all of whom are sinners. By contrast, Christ is the head of all those who accept Him in faith (Rom. 5:15-21).

4. David was ruddy and of a lovely countenance and beautiful appearance (1 Sam. 16:12). Similarly, Moses was ‘fair’ and exceedingly lovely (Ex. 2:2; Acts 7:20), and Daniel was ‘of goodly countenance’ (Dan. 1:4). The real meaning of these descriptions is that the men were ‘fair’ or ‘beautiful’ in God’s eyes. But they only prefigure the one of whom it is said: ‘Thou art fairer than the sons of men; grace is poured into thy lips: therefore God hath blessed thee for ever’ (Ps. 45:2). For us Jesus had ‘no form nor comeliness’ (Isa 53:2). We failed to see his beauty. But the eye of God always looks deeper. What He saw was only glory and beauty. The Lord Jesus is unique and incomparable. He manifested all those wonderful traits that God wanted to see in man on earth, and there was nothing that could disfigure or distort this wonderful display of divine glories and excellences in Him.

5. When Samuel saw David for the first time he immediately received the instruction to anoint him. By this means David was clearly marked out by God. There was no doubt as to whom God had chosen to be king over Israel. We read in Psalm 89:19–20: ‘I have exalted one chosen out of the people. I have found David my servant; with my holy oil have I anointed him’. This prophecy was fulfilled on the banks of Jordan when Jesus was baptised and the Holy Spirit came down in order to remain upon Him. John said: ‘In the midst of you stands, whom ye do not know …’ (John 1:26). But God took care of Him. He could not allow Him to be placed on the same level as those who were in need of repentance. He publicly announced: ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I have found my delight’ (Matt. 3:17). There was no doubt — God honoured His Son.

6. David was anointed with oil (1 Sam. 16:1). He never forgot the moment when that oil was poured out upon him. His last words on earth began: ‘David the son of Jesse said, and the man who was raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob’ (2 Sam. 23:1). He was also anointed with a horn of oil in contrast to Saul who was anointed using a vial of oil (1 Sam. 10:1). The horn speaks of stability[1] whereas a vial is something fragile. All of the kingdoms of this world have come to an end or will come to an end. There is only one kingdom that will last forever, the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the anointed one whom God has designated to be the King of kings. Even the head of one of the greatest earthly empires had to admit that ‘his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion is from generation to generation’ (Dan. 4:3; see also 7:27).

7. David’s brothers were witnesses of this ceremony. It is expressly said that David was anointed ‘in the midst of his brethren’ (1 Sam. 16:13). We are not told what they thought when their youngest brother came to the fore and was thus honoured. Subsequently, at least some of them did not have friendly thoughts about him, and when he was sent to them by their father they rejected him (1 Sam. 17:17–30). The thought that one day he would be the king and ruler over Israel was not acceptable for them. Likewise the ‘brethren’ of the Lord Jesus said: ‘We will not that this man should reign over us’ (Luke 19:14). They could not tolerate Him and did not want to accept His authority. This world has not changed since then. People in general continue to reject and despise the one who is the designated king and who will one day receive the kingdom out of the hand of His Father. The moment will come when He will reign in glory and peace.

8. The results of the anointing were immediately apparent and could not be ignored. Immediately the Holy Spirit took hold of David ‘from that day forward’ (1 Sam. 16:13). Again we think back to what happened on the banks of Jordan. John the Baptist was told: ‘Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending and abiding on him, he it is…’ (John 1:33). It happened accordingly. When He came up from the water the heavens were opened and the Spirit, like a dove, descended on Him (Mark 1:10). Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:1) and He was driven by the Spirit (Mark 1:12). Thus the prophecy of Isaiah was fulfilled: ‘The Spirit of the Lord Jehovah is upon me, because Jehovah hath anointed me to announce glad tidings unto the meek’ (Isa. 61:1).

What is our appreciation of the true David, the man after God’s heart, our Saviour and Lord? How precious is He to us?

Ernst-August Bremicker



[1] Strong’s Concordance suggests that a figurative meaning of the word translated ‘horn’ in 1 Samuel 16:1 is ‘strength’ (eds.).