GOD’S ANOINTED: The Boy Who Would Be King

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1 Samuel 16

The people of Israel wanted a King and they chose, in concert with God, a man by the name of Saul.  Even though Saul was technically Israel’s first monarch, it is accurate to say that because of his continued disobedience to the Word of the Lord, his rule was aborted and with the rapid rise of David, a true and lasting monarchy was finally established.  While Saul’s ascension to the throne was a complex combination of both Divine sovereignty and human desire, the choice of David was God’s alone.

Saul’s decline was long.  However, the fact that he would have no dynasty became apparent early in his reign.  Yet God continued to allow Saul to rule over Israel.  Of course, it is folly to attempt to discern God’s reasons for doing things when His Word is silent, but we may speculate, and our speculations involve all the parties involved in Saul’s kingship.  Clearly God knew that Saul would be a complete failure, but Saul needed to know the price of his disobedience.  Samuel also needed to know the truth about Saul, for Samuel genuinely loved him.  The people who chose Saul needed to see the results of his rebellion and the results of their choice.  So for those reasons, it seems to me, God allowed Saul to linger on and on as a king.

With chapter 16, the subject of the book changes and we now see David in stark contrast to Saul; we continue to see Saul’s decline and David’s rise, and there are many lessons to be learned, not the least of which would be taught by our Lord many centuries later, for Saul’s biggest problem is man’s biggest problem—

But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  (Matthew 7:26)

Saul was building his house on the sands of his own imagination and ambition.  If he had only been obedient to the Word of the Lord and tried to do God’s will instead of his own, how different things would have worked out for King Saul.  Man’s wisdom, no matter how clever he considers himself, will always be foolishness to God.

1.  God’s choice, verse 1

The LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.”

It is not known how soon the events of this first verse began after those of the concluding verse of the previous chapter, but the Lord’s words to His prophet Samuel, “How long” seem to be a kind of rebuke to him.  One can only imagine how deep and intense Samuel’s grief over Saul must have been.  But God’s will and His work is ever pressing forward, and now was the time for Samuel pick himself up and look forward, leaving the past behind.  “What might have been” would never be, so the prophet was encouraged to look to the future, in which God’s plans would come to pass.

There is a singular lesson here:  the will of God and our relationship with Him is far more valuable and important than anything else or anyone else in our lives.  As dear as the wants or supposed needs of our family and friends may be, if we deem ourselves followers of Christ, then what He wants must always take precedence.   Those special relationships in our lives are important, but putting them ahead of Christ reveals what you think of Christ and the cost of such an action may be expensive.

What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?  (Matthew 16:25—27)

The fact is, while Samuel was busy looking back, God had already been looking ahead and had prepared someone to take Saul’s place.  God’s statement to Samuel is interesting.  He tells the prophet:  “I have chosen one of his sons to be king.”  Literally the phrase means “I saw…for myself a king.”  It is true that “saw” here is related to “choose,” yet the phrase gives us a glimpse into the mind of the Lord:  He sees what we cannot.  Before David became king, God saw him as king.  Also of note is the first contrast between the choice of Saul and the choice of David.  Read carefully these two verses—

Of Saul, the Lord said:  And the LORD said to Samuel, Hearken unto their voice, and make them a king. (8:22, KJV)

Of David, the Lord said:  “I have chosen one of his sons to be king.”  (16:1, NIV)

Clearly, Saul was really the people’s choice, but David was the Lord’s.

David was being prepared, or groomed, to be God’s king over Israel by doing a most remarkable, if unimpressive thing:  he was faithfully tending and defending his father’s sheep—

But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock,  I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it.  Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. (17:34—36)

God frequently chooses the foolish things of this world, but He never chooses lazy things!  Nobody looking at David could see him as a king, but the Lord could.  David had two things going for him:  He was chosen by God and God saw the potential that lay deep within David because David was already a faithful son and worker.  Do you think for one moment it was David’s desire to be a shepherd for his whole life?  Of course not!  We have the benefit of knowing how David thought and lived and we can read a tremendous body of work that revealed a passionate, ambitious man.

It is fine to be ambitious, but what God wants are servants who will seek to do His will, not seek a promotion.  That is what He found in David.  When God looks at us, He sees the real person.  God knows our strengths and weaknesses.  God knows what we are capable of doing.  We should never be afraid that our “gifts” or “talents” or “wisdom” will go unused.   God knew that Paul would become the greatest missionary and preacher that ever lived, but it 12 years of living in obscurity before Paul would begin the work to which he was called.

2.  Samuel’s commission, verses 2, 3

The LORD said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.’  Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate.”

The Lord’s choice of Saul’s successor would be found among the eight sons of a man named Jesse, who lived in Bethlehem.  Jesse was the grandson of Boaz and Ruth.  You will recall that Ruth was not a Jew, but a Moabitess.  It is interesting that the mother of Boaz was also not Jew; her name was Rahab of Jericho.  David, like our Lord, has an interesting lineage!

Naturally, Samuel was concerned that Saul would seek vengeance, so the Lord arranges a clever cover for him.  When Samuel arrives in town, the townsfolk were afraid.  It seems that Samuel, as a reward for keeping the Word the Lord, became fearful and invoked fear in others!  In reality, circumstances were grim in those days, thanks to Saul’s state of mind.  It’s amazing how a country’s leader can change the whole mood of the citizenry.  Equally amazing is the authority a person has when they are a mission from God.

At any rate, what should be noted is the preciseness of the Lord’s directions to Samuel.  David, the son of Jesse, was God’s chosen one, and so God Himself will dictate how David will achieve what God has called Him to.  David may have had an earthly father, but his relationship with God took precedence over that, or any other earthly relationship; Samuel may have had his own good ideas about how to approach Jesse and how to choose the right candidate, but God’s idea about how to get the job done took precedence over any good ideas Samuel might have had.

God told Samuel to fill his horn with oil so as to anoint David as king.  It would take a while before Saul’s monarchy would whimper to a close, but the moment David’s head was covered with the anointing oil, he was, in God’s estimation, Israel’s king; he didn’t look like, and he may not have felt like it, but David was the king.  It took a long time for David to physically claim the throne, but that did not negate God’s will for David.

We tend to be very impatient even with God, but remember these words and remember them well—

[H]e who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 1:6b)

Samuel went to Bethlehem in God’s name, with God’s message, doing it God’s way.  That is real authority; for the man of God, true authority descends from heaven and is received through the Word of God.

3.  Looking for the king, verse 11

So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?”

“There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered, “but he is tending the sheep.”   Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.”

This verse always makes me chuckle.  Jesse had paraded all his sons past Samuel, but the Lord was not taken in with good looks.  How one looks and the charm they may possess means nothing to God.  It is with the heart man believes, so the Lord looks a man’s heart—

[T]he 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 man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”  (verse 7)

There are so me tremendous principles for Christians to latch on to throughout 1 Samuel.  Remember back in chapter 15, we read this—

“Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD ?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
and to heed is better than the fat of rams.”  (15:22)

Christians demonstrate their love for God, not by the may feel or by what theysay in their testimonies, but by whether or not they are obeying Him.  The Christian life is not a collection of Utopian ideologies, it is  seen in how we live.  When God looks at those who claim to love Him, he looks at the heart.  We are terrible at that; most of us are taken by a smooth talker, a clever turn of words or pleasing appearance.  But none of that has any effect on God because God is the original inside Man:  He sees us from the inside out.

2 Corinthians 10:18 says—

For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.

It is not what we think of ourselves, or what others think of us,  it is what God thinks of us that matters.  David, the young shepherd boy, the least of Jesse’s sons, was the very last one they thought of but he was God’s choice.  In man’s estimation, intelligence and appearance are of great weight, but when it comes to God’s scales, a humble, hard working heart is what tips them.

4.  The anointing, verse 13

So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the LORD came upon David in power. Samuel then went to Ramah.

In choosing David it is interesting that while “God looks at the heart,” the Scripture has this to say about David’s appearance—

He was ruddy, with a fine appearance and handsome features.  (verse 12)

Is this a contradiction?  Of course not; David was not only the “youngest,” the Hebrew word also means “smallest,” meaning that in terms of stature, David was a short man.  David was not a particularly impressive man, but he was no gargoyle, either.  In fact, David was probably just an average man.

Some scholars have pointed out a clever, but obscure bit of symbolism.  Consider this:  when we are first introduced to Saul, we see him looking for his father’s donkeys, but when we first meet David, he is tending his father’s sheep.  In the ancient world, it was common to refer to Kings as shepherds and their citizens as sheep.   Saul was no shepherd and he did not treat his people like sheep!  On the other hand, David would forever be known as “the shepherd king.”

When Samuel anointed David with the oil, symbolic of the Holy Spirit, we are told—

From that day on the Spirit of the LORD came upon David in power.

This is the very first time David is mentioned by name in the books of Samuel, and his brothers bore witness that he was anointed both by man and by God.  From time to time throughout the Old Testament, we are told that the Spirit of God came upon Godly men at times, temporarily, for specific purposes; however, David is the only man who, before Pentecost, experienced the permanent presence of the Holy Spirit in his life.   This one event changed David’s life and represented the triumph of Samuel’s long career.  The last sentence of verse 13 indicated that Samuel’s work in the nation was all but over, and although we read about him once in a while later on, he no longer plays an active role in his books.

The power of the Holy Spirit in David’s life, and in the life all believers for that matter, cannot be overstated.  Every life that is dedicated and consecrated to Christ is a life lived in the anointing of the Holy Spirit.  It is true that we have the gifts of the Spirit today and that at special times we may experience a special “unction” of the Spirit, but every believer may experience what David experienced.  God does not expect us to live our lives bereft of His presence, and He has given us His Holy Spirit to make living a life that is pleasing to Him possible.

What is particularly interesting about David’s relationship with God is this profound verse found chapter 13; fully three chapters before the events of this present chapter—

But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the LORD’s command.” (13:14)

David was a “man after God’s own heart” long before he was publicly chosen and anointed.  Long before God revealed His heart to Samuel and Jesse and to the people of Israel, His mind was made up about David because David was a “man after His own heart.”   How did God know this about David?  God knew because He and He alone is able to see into man’s heart, and even though for the present David was mere shepherd, God knew that inside David beat the heart of a king.  And even though years later when David sinned and experienced terrible setbacks, and the future looked bleak indeed,  God never forsook His king because David’s heart never changed.  God sees what we cannot.

(c)  2009 WitzEnd

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