From Shepherd to King (1)
“Chosen by God” 1 Samuel 16:1-13
David is one of the most popular names in our church. Just think of all the David’s we have! Well, David is also one of the most famous names in the Bible. There is more written about David in the Bible than about any other person, except Jesus of course. There are about 140 chapters in the Bible related to David – far more than about Abraham, Moses, Daniel or Paul or any other famous Bible character. We know more about David’s words, his thoughts, his prayers, his strengths & weaknesses than we know about anyone else. Despite some of his serious failings, God had a very high regard for David. In Acts 13:22 we read that God said of David “I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart.” David was God's man. He had a real heart for God.
Today we start a new series of messages looking at the life of this amazing man.
Although he lived 3000 years ago, we can learn a lot from David. Whatever situation we face it is quite possible that David has insights that will help us. Many of the precious truths we find in the Psalms David found true in his own experience. He speaks to young & old. He speaks to those enjoying success & those feeling deserted & alone. He speaks to those enjoying intimacy with God & to those feeling cut off from God. All through his life, in all the incredible ups & downs he experienced, David was someone with a passion for God. Yes, he made some terrible mistakes. He knew he needed God’s grace & forgiveness. Pleasing God was all-important to David.
After Moses led God’s people out of slavery in Egypt it was under Joshua that they conquered the Promised Land. After that for almost 400 years they had a series of judges or leaders of whom Gideon & Samson are perhaps the best known. The last judge was the prophet Samuel the nation’s undisputed spiritual & civic leader. This was when the people asked for a king, like other nations had. So in about 1050 BC Saul was anointed by Samuel as Israel’s first king. Saul started out really well but sadly did not continue that way. He became proud. Power corrupted him. He did not follow the instructions given by God through the prophet Samuel. We come to a very sad statement in 1 Samuel 15:26 where Samuel says to Saul, “You have rejected the word of the LORD, & the LORD has rejected you as king over Israel!”
This is where the story of David begins. Obviously Samuel was deeply grieved about Saul. Twenty five years earlier he had anointed Saul as king. Saul’s failure & rejection by God hit Samuel very hard. Well God had important instructions for Samuel. We read in 1 Samuel 16:1, “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 & be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.’” Samuel was told to get oil ready for an anointing ceremony. Just as Samuel had anointed Saul king all those years earlier, God now wanted him to anoint a new king. He was to go to the village of Bethlehem to the home of a man called Jesse. God had chosen one of Jesse’s sons as the next king & God would show Samuel who it was.
Samuel was very scared, however, & said to God, “How can I go? Saul will hear about it & kill me.” Yes, Saul had become a cruel, jealous man. He was no longer a leader who cared about his people. He was a law unto himself. God gave Samuel the following instructions in vrs 2 & 3, “Take a heifer with you & say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, & I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate.” Samuel lived in a place called Ramah where the tabernacle was set up, but used to travel around the countryside holding sacrifices for the people as he taught them about God. So, when God wanted to have a new king anointed, He told Samuel to take a heifer, that is a young cow, & go down & hold a sacrifice in Bethlehem. This would not in itself make Saul suspicious.
Each village or town in Israel had its elders (local leaders), probably the heads of influential families. When Samuel, the revered prophet unexpectedly arrived in Bethlehem, the elders were very surprised. In fact the Bible says “the elders of the town trembled when they met him. They asked, ‘Do you come in peace?’” (v.4) Samuel reassured them & invited them, including Jesse & his sons, to the sacrifice. They were to consecrate themselves before the sacrifice actually took place. Consecration involved washing themselves. This outward cleansing was a sign of the importance of inner cleansing. It reminded the people of the importance of coming to God with a pure heart. This is important for us too as we come to worship. We too need to ask God to cleanse our hearts & minds as we come into His holy presence.
After a sacrifice the men of a village would normally eat a feast with Samuel. During his visit to Bethlehem, Samuel must have been asking the Lord to show him who was the one he was to anoint. He already knew it had to be one of Jesse’s sons but which one? Samuel also knew if Saul heard about it there would be big trouble for all concerned. He had to be very careful. Samuel must have told Jesse that he wanted to meet all his sons. Most probably he did not say why, except that it was very important & that he would explain later. Jesse would have introduced his sons to Samuel one by one from the oldest to the youngest. The Bible tells us, “…Samuel saw Eliab & thought, ‘Surely the LORD's anointed stands here before the LORD.’” No doubt Samuel was very impressed with Eliab, Jesse’s eldest. Samuel immediately thought that he must be the one God had in mind. No sooner had such a thought entered his mind, however, than we read, “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 man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.’” (v.7) Saul, who God had now rejected, had also been very impressive. He was tall & handsome. Maybe Samuel thought the new king would have to be tall & handsome like Saul, but God warns Samuel not to judge by outward appearance alone.
When we judge by outward appearance we can very easily overlook unseen qualities that are far more important. The physical, outward things by which society judges a person are no measure of their true worth. A person may not have the looks of a movie star but they might have inner qualities, inner good looks, inner beauty that is far more lasting & of far greater value. Young people, remember this when you are thinking about romance & marriage. Girls, don’t let a guy’s good looks or charisma be the only things you notice. Look deeper. Look for someone who is reliable, honest, humble, hard-working, & who loves the Lord. Guys don’t just look for outward beauty. Look deeper. Look for someone who is pure, gentle, modest, faithful, & godly. Don’t judge by outward appearances.
The same applies to selecting employees. Don’t just look at the outward, seemingly obvious. Get honest references. Make sure their CV is genuine. Even the NZ Immigration Department & the Ministry of Defence have made mistakes, not adequately checking a person’s CV. We can do the opposite as well – that is, reject a really good person simply because of outward appearances. Judging people by their outward appearance is what a racist does. The racist looks at ethnic background, colour of skin, or language, rather than taking people on their merits. A well-known media personality recently got into serious trouble, & rightly so, over remarks he made about our Governor General. His remarks clearly reflected racial prejudice – judging a man not by character or merit but by ethnic background.
If looking deeper is important in all these areas just mentioned, how much more important it is in our Christian lives! Yes, God looks at the heart. He sees what we are like inside. Most of us spend at least some time in front of the mirror each day – making sure we look OK. If we take care of our outward appearance should we not also be concerned about how we are on the inside? We make sure our hair, if we have any, is in place. How about taking care of our hearts? Others may not know what we are like inside, but God knows.
It is also important to remember these things when we think about serving the Lord & when we think about church. It is easy to make a good impression, to look very spiritual, to be busy doing all kinds of things for God – while our hearts are not in a good place. We might be secretly holding on to bad habits, or ungodly attitudes, while at the same time leading worship or praying or preaching. I once got an email from a respected Christian brother, an elder in a church in South Africa, in which he confessed to me that his marriage was in trouble because he had become addicted to pornography on the Internet. He looked good on the outside but on the inside in his private life he was in deep trouble. Well my dear friends, God sees everything. He sees our hearts & He knows when we are sincerely seeking to please & obey Him. We may stumble & fall but God is looking at our hearts. He knows when we are sincerely sorry & when we are genuinely crying out for His forgiveness & His help.
Yes, it is wrong to judge others by what we see or don’t see on the outside. There are some people, for example, that we hardly notice & seldom praise who are truly pleasing to God. He sees their kind words & loving deeds, the things they do behind the scenes. One day they will hear His “well done, good & faithful servant.”
After God told Samuel that Jesse’s eldest, Eliab, was not the one to be anointed king, it seems that Samuel was not quite so quick to jump to conclusions with the rest of Jesse’s sons. V.8 says, “Then Jesse called Abinadab & had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, ‘The LORD has not chosen this one either.’” And so along came son number three. “Jesse then had Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, ‘Nor has the LORD chosen this one.’” (v.9) The three sons mentioned so far were all soldiers in the army led by king Saul. They were tough physically impressive young men. Yet none of them was chosen by God. Jesse introduced each one of his seven sons to Samuel. Samuel looked at each one of them carefully, but no matter how impressive they were, we read that Samuel told Jesse, “The LORD has not chosen these.” (v.10) Samuel had been introduced to all of Jesse’s sons, or so it seemed, but not one of them had been suitable. Had not the Lord told him that the one He had chosen was a son of Jesse? Well then, Samuel’s question to Jesse in v.11 is perfectly understandable. He asks, “Are these all the sons you have?” Maybe there was another son somewhere who had not yet been introduced to him.
And that is exactly what had happened. “‘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.’” It seems Jesse had not given his youngest son David so much as a passing thought. He was just a young lad. What use could he possibly be to the great prophet Samuel? “If Samuel has not found what he is looking for in any of my older boys,” Jessie may have thought, “surely he will not find it in David!”
All that Jesse & his sons could now do was to wait patiently, or perhaps impatiently, for David to arrive. The fact David was working as a shepherd may indicate that he had been despised by others in the family. He was not much good for anything else in their eyes, perhaps. But in God’s eyes things were very different. David may have been forgotten & neglected by his father. He may have been mocked & looked down upon by his brothers. But he had not wasted his time as a shepherd. He had become skilled with a sling. He was brave & with his bare hands had killed wild animals attacking the sheep. He had also become incredibly skilled as a musician. He had spent countless hours playing his harp singing the songs of praise & worship that he had composed, songs of praise to the God he loved. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.” The magnificent Psalm 23 is one of David’s songs of praise to God composed as he sat watching his father’s sheep. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.” Psalm 19, speaking of God’s creation & of His Word, was possibly composed as David sat under the stars meditating upon the Lord & His Word. His years watching the sheep were not wasted years. In God’s school they were essential training for the one who was to become shepherd over God’s people.
So finally along comes David, the smell of the fields & the sheep still clinging to his clothes. And this is how he is described, “He was ruddy, with a fine appearance & handsome features.” (v.12) David may have been the youngest. He may have been less impressive than his older brothers but he was still a very good looking young man. The moment Samuel saw David we read, “…the LORD said, ‘Rise & anoint him; he is the one.’” What a powerful statement! God had chosen the youngest, the least impressive in the eyes of the world. But this was the one God had chosen to be the future king of His people.
We read in 1 Corinthians 1:26-28, “Think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world & the despised things…” God chose unlikely David. He also chooses you & me. What a huge privilege!
The secret ceremony, attended only by Jesse & his sons, now took place. “Samuel took the horn of oil & anointed him in the presence of his brothers, & from that day on the Spirit of the LORD came upon David in power.” (v.13) People were anointed with oil when they were set apart for God’s service – as a prophet, a priest, or as a king. The oil symbolized holiness. Saul was still king & would remain so until his death but God had chosen David to replace him. Notice the very important phrase: “from that day on the Spirit of the LORD came upon David in power.” God’s Spirit had been withdrawn from Saul. Saul no longer enjoyed the favour & blessing of God. But young David was anointed not just with oil but, more importantly, he was anointed by Spirit of the Lord. David would not be able to fulfil God’s calling upon his life unless he was filled with the Holy Spirit.
In the Old Testament the Holy Spirit came upon certain people for certain special tasks. In the New Testament however the anointing, the infilling, of the Holy Spirit is God’s provision for every believer. Have you been filled with the Holy Spirit? Do not try to live the Christian life or to serve the Lord in your own strength. You will not be able to do it. Christianity becomes a burden without the infilling & the power of the Holy Spirit. It is like a car without fuel. It is like a gas burner without gas. It is like a lamp that is not plugged into the power supply – there is no light, no shining.
Has God chosen you? Has He anointed you? Do not think it is unlikely or impossible for God to use you. He sees your heart. He is able to prepare you for ministry. He is able to equip you with power. Praise His wonderful name. God does this by His Spirit. This is what He did for David, & what He can do for you & me.