The Heart of the Shepherd

Read: 1 Samuel 16:1-12

The LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart. (v. 7)

God called his people “sheep” because, like sheep, they did not always know what was best for them, as when the Israelites demanded a king. They did so wanting not to be godly but great—“like all the nations” (1 Samuel 8:5). God granted the request, but on the condition that he would choose the king. When God chose David, he did so not on the basis of appearance but character. David was “a man after [God’s] own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14).

We too want to be great—“like all the nations.” We seek leaders who embody all we desire to be: commanding, charismatic, prosperous, and powerful. Israel’s kings led them into disobedience and disaster. Many leaders we idolize are themselves idolaters, condoning the very greed and self-gratification God condemns. How do we guard against the allure of such leaders? How do we learn instead to “look on the heart”?

God has helped us by giving a model of perfect human leadership. Jesus Christ embodies God’s will and God’s ways. As Paul put it, though Jesus was by “very nature God,” he took “the very nature of a servant” (Philippians 2:6-7 NIV).

A trustworthy, godly leader demands not to be served but to serve. If we wish to be truly led as God’s people, we will embrace leaders who encourage us to do the same. —Ben Van Arragon

As you pray, ask God to give you the heart of a true shepherd—that is, the heart of a servant.

About the Author

Ben Van Arragon is a pastor, husband, and father of two teenage daughters. He has served the First Christian Reformed Church of Detroit since 2008. He writes and produces video teaching on the Bible and Reformed creeds and confessions. His writing for Words of Hope includes series on Jeremiah, Exodus, and Work and Rest.