Why Did God Say That David Was A ‘Man After His Own Heart’?


To try and understand why David was a man ‘after God’s own heart’, we need to contrast the character of Saul who was Israel’s first king, with the character of David, their second king.

It wasn’t long after Saul had become king that we begin to see what was really going on in his heart. If you remember Saul and his army were about to go into battle against the Philistines and he wanted God’s blessings to be with him and his army.

I guess there was nothing wrong with wanting God’s blessings before going into a war. However, the problem came because he became impatient, he was told to wait seven days for the prophet Samuel to arrive but his patience ran out. So, he decided to go ahead and present a burnt offering to the Lord himself, 1 Samuel 13:1-9.

Like most of us who are impatient, he came out with an excuse, when Samuel finally arrived and asked him what he had done.

‘I thought, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the LORD’s favour.’ So, I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering.’ 1 Samuel 13:12

Saul’s excuse was that he ‘felt compelled’ to offer the burnt offering, when in fact he deliberately chose to offer the sacrifice knowing that this could only be done by the priests. Saul was then told by Samuel that he would no longer be king and his kingdom would be taken from him because of his actions.

‘You have done a foolish thing,’ Samuel said. ‘You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the LORD’s command.’ 1 Samuel 13:13-14

Saul was a character who only thought about himself, he totally ignored God’s commandments and God’s direction. He totally disobeyed God and as a result, this demonstrated that he certainly wasn’t a man after God’s own heart.

Notice that Samuel mentions that God was looking for a man after His own heart, a man who would become the new leader of Israel. A little later God sent Samuel to Jesse the Bethlehemite to find the next king from among his sons, 1 Samuel 16:1.

When Samuel arrived, he was impressed with several of the sons of Jesse but God didn’t want them and so He helped Samuel to choose the right person.

‘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 people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.’ 1 Samuel 16:7

We read here that God doesn’t judge people on their external appearance, but He looks at their hearts. In other words, God doesn’t fall for the facade that many people have today, with their false words and actions. God knew Saul’s heart and rejected him and then He looked at David’s heart and chose him, 1 Samuel 16:10-13.

What Made David Different From Saul?

1. God chose David because He knew David would obey Him and do what God commands.

Saul did his own thing, what he wanted to do, Jeremiah 7:21-23, but David was obedient to God and His commands, Acts 13:21-22.

Notice that God says that David, ‘will do everything I want him to do’, this implies obedience. Saul did his own thing and didn’t want to obey God because he wanted to please himself, but David felt compelled to obey God in order to please God.

In other words, David cared about what God cared about, he desired what God desired, and his heart sought after the things that God sought after. This is exactly what we see in Christ when He lived His life, Luke 2:49 / Luke 22:42. No one can have the heart of God if they don’t obey God and carry out His commands.

2. God chose David because He knew David would love Him more than anything else.

This was something else which Saul lacked. We can’t tell God that we love Him if we’re not willing to obey Him.

‘If you love me, keep my commands.’ John 14:15

These simple words of Jesus are very clear, but many people struggle to keep His commands. Many people claim that they love God but totally ignore His commandments. Maybe the reason they struggle to keep His commands is simply because they struggle to truly love God in the first place.

David loved Saul but he loved God more, hence why he obeyed God rather than obeying Saul. We only have to turn to the Psalms to find that many of them were written by David, not Saul.

Many of the Psalms which David wrote were all about God, there are many which are love songs, which reveal his heart’s desire and love for God. Many of the Psalms were written by David and they reveal that David had a real passion for God, he really wanted to know God, Psalm 42:1-2. It’s clear that David only wanted to worship God, whilst Saul just wanted to worship himself, 1 Samuel 18:8.

3. God chose David because He knew David would lead people and not follow people like Saul did.

We can always tell what kind of relationship a person has with God, by the way, their interactions with others around them. We see this difference in the character of Saul and David, Saul wanted nothing more than to be praised by those around him, and as a result, he ended up following people, rather than leading them, he ended up obeying people rather than obeying God, 1 Samuel 15:24.

While Saul desired the praise of men, David was the absolute opposite, he successfully led people because he was following God’s lead and was obedient to Him. As a result of following and obeying God, he successfully encouraged people to do what was good and right, in the eyes of God.

We see this on one occasion when he had an opportunity to kill Saul because His men were encouraging him to do so, but David encouraged them not to do so because he wanted to please God instead, 1 Samuel 24:4-7.

It’s in these verses that we see that David ‘persuaded his men’ while Saul was persuaded by men, we see that Saul wanted to carry out his own vengeance, but David left the matter in God’s hands, 1 Samuel 24:12.

David never tries to win the hearts of people, he only wants to win the heart of God and as a result, he became a great leader because he not only loved God more than anything else but he also fully obeyed Him.

4. God chose David because He knew David would come to hate sin as He hates sin.

People often wonder how David could be a ‘man after God’s own heart’ when he sinned many times against the Lord. The two most memorable sins were when he committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband, Uriah murdered on the battlefield, 2 Samuel 11:1-16.

David didn’t live a sinless life, but as His love for God grew stronger, he came to hate sin as God hates sin. Psalm 32 tells us of David’s repentance and sorrow over his sin. We see this especially in Psalm 51 after the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba, 2 Samuel 12:1-23, David is clearly repenting of his sin with Bathsheba.

While being a man after God’s own heart is about obeying God, having the same desires as God’s heart, and seeking to please God rather than people, a man after God’s own heart also repents deeply when he knows he’s failed.

Why Was David A Man ‘After God’s Own Heart’?

David deeply loved God more than anything else and he obeyed His commands, Jeremiah 9:23-24. He learned to hate sin as God hates sin, Romans 6:23, he grieved over his sin as God grieves when we sin, Genesis 6:6. He wanted to lead people in the ways of God, rather than allowing people to lead him into sin.


God knows that none of us can live a perfect life like His Son Jesus did, 1 Peter 2:22-24, but He still desires that His people will have hearts ‘after His own heart’. He still desires that we love God more than anything else, 1 John 5:3.

He still desires that we obey His commands, John 14:21, He still desires that we hate sin and refrain from sinning, Romans 6:1-14. He still desires that we lead people to Him and encourage them to obey His commands, Matthew 28:18-20. He still desires that we live a holy life because He is a holy God, 1 Peter 1:15-16.

Do You Desire What God Desires?

‘Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.’ Ecclesiastes 12:13


"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men."