Does God compare? I used to think not. But after reading and studying through the Book of 1 Kings this past summer, my thinking has changed. All throughout this book (and 2 Kings too), God continually held up King David as the standard by which all other kings were judged. He was God's standard-bearer for all righteous ruling and living. You did what was right in My eyes and walked in all the ways of My Son Jesus,
"David did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and did not turn aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite," God Himself said in 1 Kings 15:5. Aside from that sinful episode of adultery with Uriah's wife, Bathsheba, and the subsequent murder of that faithful commander, David's life and heart were wholly the Lord's, beginning in his teen years, no less.
Flashback to 1 Samuel 9. The prophet Samuel was under divine directive to seek out Israel's next ruler. When he clapped eyes on Jesse's eldest and apparently good-looking son, Eliab, Samuel thought he'd found his man. Who wouldn't follow this handsome hunk? he must've reasoned. Unfortunately, Samuel had fallen prey to appearances, as had Israel when they demanded a king and had chosen Saul, for "there was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he...he was taller than any of the people" (v. 2).
But the Lord had different criteria. "Do not look on [Eliab's] appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him," God told Samuel. "For the Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7; emphasis added).
The heart (Hebrew, leb) refers to "the inner man, mind, will." The Lord wanted someone whose heart — his mind and his will — would be completely given to Him in loyalty, love and obedience. Outward appearances meant nothing to God (whose own begotten Son, by the way, "had no form or majesty that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him," Isaiah 53:2).
A heart wholly surrendered to God was (and is) the most beautiful thing in His eyes.
And in David, God found it! (Okay, so David was "ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome," 1 Samuel 16:12. His appearance was just icing on the cake!)
Then, shortly after Samuel's anointing of the ruddy youth as Israel's future king, David's heart was tested and proven when the nation's army went up against the mighty Philistines. When no one stepped forward to challenge the Philistines' arrogant champion, Goliath, young David — fresh from the fields — did so, with this bold declaration, "I come to you [Goliath] in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied." And with a single stone launched from a well-worn slingshot, David silenced the giant for good.
That was just the beginning of a long, illustrious military career in which David chalked up victory after victory, vanquishing "tens of thousands" (1 Samuel 18:7) of Israel's enemies — all in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel.
He also proved to be patient, trusting and filled with integrity as he waited to ascend the throne that was rightfully his, even refusing to kill the deranged and deplorable King Saul when given the opportunity (1 Samuel 24). David recognized and honored Saul as "the Lord's anointed" (1 Samuel 24: 6). In killing Saul, David would've dishonored God ultimately. And he wasn't about to do that. And so he was able to applicably pen these words, "Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!" (Psalm 27:14).
Such was David's heart: courageous, trusting, faithful, fearless, patient, obedient. And thus God was able to genuinely say of this man, despite his failings, "I have found in David, the son of Jesse, a man after My heart, who will do all My will" (Acts 13:22).
Is it any wonder then that God held him up as His kingly standard-bearer, who all other kings were to emulate? Yet only about 1% of the 38 kings and one queen (Athaliah) did so. Most of them were found wanting. Some sorely wanting! Including David's own son, Solomon.
Take a look. (Note: I'm referencing only those verses in 1 and 2 Kings that mention David as a comparison.)
Solomon — "The Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods. But he did not keep what the Lord commanded, as his father David had done...this has been your practice, and you have not kept My covenant and My statues that I have commanded" (11:9-11).
Jeroboam — "You have not been like my servant David, who kept my commandments and followed Me with all his heart, doing only that which was right My eyes, but you have done evil above all who were before you and have and made for yourself other gods and metal images, provoking Me to anger, and have cast Me behind your back" (14:8-9)
Abijam — "And he walked in all the sins that his father did before him, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father" (15:3).
Asa — "Asa did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, as David his father had done...the heart of Asa was wholly true to the Lord all his days" (15:11, 14).
Amaziah — "He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, yet not like David his father...the high places were not removed" (2 Kings 14:3).
Ahaz — "And he did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord his God, as his father David had done, but he walked in the way of the kings of Israel" (2 Kings 16:2-3).
Hezekiah — "He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that David his father had done...He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him. For he held fast to the Lord. He did not depart from following Him, but kept the commandments that the Lord commanded Moses. And the Lord was with him; wherever he went out, he prospered" (2 Kings 18:3, 5-7).
Josiah — "He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and walked in all the ways of David his father, and he did not turn aside to the right or to the left" (2 Kings 22:2).
Did you notice that in every instance the comparison was to David's heart? Not to his appearance. Not to his military successes. Not to his kingly authority or wealth. His heart!
But why David? Why would God compare all others to this imperfect, somewhat neglectful parent, and one-time immoral man? He clearly wasn't perfect.
Because, as an earthly king David was the closest representation of the heavenly king, Jesus Christ. David epitomized the King of kings and the Lord of lords both in obedience to doing God's will and in his undivided loyalty. His heart again! And this is just one of many reasons why David is known as a "type" of Christ in the Old Testament.
In OT typology, people (like David), places (like the Tabernacle), and even things (like Noah's ark) are symbols, shadows, and representations of something future and greater, of the True Substance, Jesus Christ. In his "Types of the Messiah," Puritan preacher and evangelist Jonathan Edwards explains just how David and his life closely paralleled that of Jesus Christ. This is the abridged version:
Anointed — David was selected by God, anointed with oil and the Spirit prior to becoming king (1 Samuel 16:13); Jesus was sent by God, anointed by the Holy Spirit prior to beginning His three-year ministry (Matthew 3:16);
Beloved — David's name in Hebrew means "Beloved" ("dearly loved"); Jesus is the only begotten and beloved Son of God (Matthew 3:16);
Conqueror — David took on the enemies of Israel in honor of God and save his people; Jesus took on our enemies (Satan and our sins) to glorify His Father and redeem the lost;
Devoted — David was wholly devoted to keeping the commands of the Lord (1 Kings 11:4); Jesus was single-minded in His devotion to doing the will of His Father (John 6:38);
Servant — David was referred to by God as "my servant David" (Ezekiel 37:24); Jesus came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for our sins (Matthew 20:28);
Shepherd — David oversaw the care of his father's sheep as a young man and then as a king over the people of Israel (1 Kings 16:11, Psalm 78:70); Jesus is the Great Shepherd of the world's "lost sheep" and reigns as King of kings and Lord of lords over all peoples (John 10:11; 1 Timothy 6:15).
Given all this, the obvious question I then asked was: Does God compare today? And, if so, to whom?
To the first question, I have to answer: Yes. In my opinion, I do believe God still compares today. While there aren't verses that explicitly say it (as in the case with David), I believe it is implied in Romans 8:29, "For those whom [God] foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the Firstborn among many brothers."
And in that verse is also the answer to the second question: Our comparison is to Jesus Christ. Not to other human being. Just to God's beloved Son.
The idea of comparison to Jesus Christ comes from the concept of being conformed to Jesus Christ, to "be like" Him in every aspect of our lives (a.k.a. Christlikeness), just as the kings of old were to be David-like.
Now Jesus is God's righteous Standard-bearer and God now views our lives in comparison to His. And thankfully through eyes of grace! God knows "our frame, and remembers that we are dust" (Psalm 103:14). He knows that we are spiritually incomplete, lacking in maturity (though whole and healed in Christ). He knows that there are (and always will be this side of heaven) areas in our hearts, our thinking, our lives and our characters that are "unChristlike," areas that will continually need Divine refinement.
He also knows that we are stumbling, sinful saints (though redeemed for all eternity) still in constant need of His forgiveness and cleansing (1 John 1:9). And this is where grace comes in. From God. And from ourselves.
Just as God looks upon our dusty frames through eyes of grace, we too must view our own journeys (and those of others too) with this same kind of grace-vision. As we're daily striving towards Christlikeness — trying to live out His love, compassion, kindness, joy, peace, forgiveness, mercy, holiness — we must embrace grace along the way. Stumbling. Picking ourselves up. Repenting when necessary. Encouraging others. Pouring out grace upon grace. Pressing on. And on. And on.
All with our eyes on Christ.
All with the intention of becoming more like Him.
As best as we can. With the help of the Holy Spirit.
And then wonderfully hearing God say of us — like He did of Hezekiah and Josiah — on the day we stand before Him:
and you did not turn aside to the right or to the left. 2 Kings 22:2