Some years ago, European travelers journeyed across a barren desert in South Africa. To their amazement, as they crossed over a ridge, the valley below seemed to be glittering under the blazing sun. As they approached, they found the sparkle came from diamonds scattered about the desert surface. They had found acres of diamonds just lying on the ground. They simply had to reach down and gather them up. Families became instantly wealthy because of this desert diamond field.
Sometimes finding gems in the Bible is just as easy because they are just there on the surface and all we have to do is read the text. Such is the case in the sixteenth chapter of First Samuel. Here we find a great contrast between the nature of the infinite God and the limited ways of men and women. It is important when making such discoveries that we note them well and reminder ourselves how in so many ways God views things much differently than we do.
Last week, we saw how, in His providential grace, the Lord allowed Israel to have a king. They had rejected and forsaken God as their King and chosen to be like all the other nations around them in having a human king to reign over them. The king who was anointed to rule over them was Saul, the son of Kish from Israel’s tribe of Benjamin. Saul gave every appearance of being a good choice for Israel’s king, but he had a fatal flaw that continued to surface. It was for this flaw that the Lord eventually rejected Saul as being the king and raised up another to take his place.
Saul’s sinful pattern was seen when an enemy invaded Israel and he called up an army to confront them and drive them out of the land. Samuel had ordered Saul to wait seven days and then he would arrive to make sacrifices and call upon the Lord to grant Israel the victory. As Saul waited for the appointed time, parts of his army began to leave and return to their homes. Saul grew impatient and finally conducted the sacrifice himself. As soon as he was finished, Samuel appeared and confronted him for his disobedience. As a consequence of his action, Saul’s dynasty was ended and Samuel told him that God had found a man after his own heart to replace him.
Later, God sent Saul on a mission to destroy the people of Amalek because of their wicked ways. Saul was given specific orders to completely destroy Amalek because they had come under divine judgment for fighting against Israel as they journeyed from Egypt years earlier. However, when Saul saw the valuable sheep and oxen, he spared them, and later, when Samuel confronted him, at first he lied and then he blamed the people who were with him. Now, God completely rejected Saul because of his arrogant disobedience. At this time, God sent Samuel to anoint Saul’s replacement.
The rest of the book of First Samuel is an account of the decline of Saul and the rise of David. God’s Word gives a clear picture of the reason for Saul’s rejection. We read in 1 Chronicles 10:13-14, “So Saul died for his trespass which he committed against the Lord, because of the word of the Lord which he did not keep; and also because he asked counsel of a medium, making inquiry of it, and did not inquire of the Lord. Therefore He killed him and turned the kingdom to David the son of Jesse.” It was God’s will that the king of Israel reign under His sovereign control and Saul was rejected because he refused to obey God. Instead, he ruled as if he were autonomous and sovereign himself. So, God found a man who was willing to serve the Lord.
About David, the Apostle Paul would say, “After [God] had removed [Saul], He raised up David to be their king, concerning whom He also testified and said, ‘I HAVE FOUND DAVID the son of Jesse, A MAN AFTER MY HEART, who will do all My will.’” (Acts 13:22) What made David different was that he would obey God’s will.
David was not perfect. He was challenged by a sin nature as are all men and women. Long after his reign was over it was written about him, “David did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and had not turned aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, except in the case of Uriah the Hittite.” (1 Kings 15:5)
Today we will travel with Samuel to Bethlehem–yes, the very same Bethlehem where Jesus Christ will be born in just over a thousand years. It is the town of Boaz, Ruth, and Naomi and the home of Jesse, Boaz and Ruth’s grandson. It is also the home of David and he is out on the lonely hills tending his flock of sheep. It is David the shepherd that God summons to be the next king. David is God’s choice and we will discover four aspects of God’s choice.
GOD’S CHOICE SHOWS HIS PURPOSE. 1 Samuel 16:1-5
God Sent Samuel to Bethlehem. Even though Samuel knew God had rejected Saul, he still grieved over this loss and failure. He had high hopes for Saul, but Saul had small spiritual appetites and little interest in developing a relationship with the living God. Samuel had sorrow and contrition because of the bigger picture. What would this mean to the nation of Israel? What would this mean to their worship and obedience of the Lord?
God personally intervened in Samuel’s grief by sending him on another mission. By now, Samuel was old and yet serving the Lord was still his passion. God’s words are simple and direct, “Fill up your horn with oil and go to Bethlehem.” The purpose of Samuel’s mission was to anoint the next king. The darkness of Saul’s disappointing character faded and the blazing light of God’s purpose began to shine.
God Protected Samuel from Saul’s Revenge. Sometimes, serving the Lord comes with risk. Such was Samuel’s dilemma. How does he go about anointing the current king’s successor? What if Saul finds out? He will undoubtedly attempt to stop Samuel and probably kill him for treason or disloyalty. God protected Samuel from Saul’s suspicious nature and wrath by sending Samuel to make a sacrifice in Bethlehem. In those days, such sacrifices were common. People would often invite members of Israel’s priesthood to join them in consecrating a feast of thanksgiving for the Lord for His provision in their lives. Samuel could offer the sacrifice without drawing attention to himself.
Samuel Obeyed God’s Command. The ruling council of elders was apprehensive of Samuel’s visit. It was unusual for the prophet to show up unannounced at their small village. Had there been some injustice of which they were unaware? Had there been some wickedness in their village God had made known to Samuel? Was this a disciplinary visit?
The Bible tells us that just prior to traveling to Bethlehem, Samuel had executed Agag, the king of the Amalekites under God’s direction. The Bethlehemites had reason to be concerned. Samuel quickly relieved their fears and told them to consecrate themselves and come to the sacrifice and the feast that would follow. In this case, “consecrate” meant that each of the guests would clean up and change clothes because the sacrifice would honor the Lord. Samuel gave a specific invitation to Jesse and his family.
GOD’S CHOICE REVEALS HIS WISDOM. 1 Samuel 16:6-7
Man Looks At the Outward Appearance. While the sacrifice and the feast were being prepared, Samuel called Jesse and asked him to bring his sons. It had been revealed to Samuel that one of Jesse’s eight sons was God’s choice to be the next king. All but one was present.
Jesse’s first-born son was Eliab. Evidently Eliab was tall and had a robust and handsome appearance. He certainly looked as if he could be a king. But, Eliab was not God’s choice. Saul was also noted for being tall and handsome. Yet, the external appearance of a person does not necessarily reveal what kind of character he or she has. God looked at much more than the outward appearance.
God Looks At the Heart. God is omniscient and by that I mean that God knows everything there is to know. He has infinite knowledge. Those standing nearby seemed unaware that God spoke to Samuel, so we must conclude that God spoke only to Samuel’s mind. God’s omniscience is seen in its practical outworking by showing that only God knows what is in the heart of every person. The nature of this statement is universal–it applies to all people everywhere and in all times. God always knows what we are thinking. Always. God looked and Eliab’s heart and knew there was someone better suited to be Israel’s king. While men and women were not created with the ability to accurately know the thoughts of others, God knows precisely what each person thinks. Jeremiah 17:10 tells us, “I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways, According to the results of his deeds.” Not only does God know what each person is thinking, He also evaluates our thoughts according to His standards and laws.
The truth of God’s universal knowledge of the thoughts, intentions, and motivations of all men and women is also repeated in the New Testament in Revelation 2:23, “…all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.” Not one thought escapes God’s notice and there are no exceptions. People are often impressed by what they see on the surface of others, but God perceives what the person is really like. Samuel understood that God had made the choice of the next king. This was not Samuel’s choice or the choice of the people, but of God alone.
GOD’S CHOICE IS SOMETIMES UNEXPECTED. 1 Samuel 16:8-13
All But One of Jesse’s Sons Came Before Samuel. One by one, from the oldest to the youngest present, Jesse’s sons stood before the aged prophet. Abinadab, followed by Shammah, and they were followed by four more. But none were God’s choice. Despite outward appearances, God had chosen another. We must remember that sometimes God’s choices do not make sense to us; but, they are always the product of God’s infinite wisdom.
One More Son. Although Samuel had asked Jesse to bring forth all of his sons, Jesse neglected to call the youngest, a young teenager who was out tending his father’s sheep on the hillsides of Bethlehem, perhaps close to the place where future shepherds would hear the news of the coming of the Savior, Christ the Lord. Perhaps, being the youngest from a large family made David somehow insignificant in Jesse’s eyes. It may be that Jesse thought the chosen son would become king immediately and David was just too young. Now, Jesse sends for the youngest at Samuel’s request. Everything must wait until he arrives. The sacrifice and the feast must wait.
Arise, Anoint Him, For This Is He. Fresh from tending the sheep, the youngest son finally arrived. We are told he was ruddy, a term evidently used to denote a reddish tint to the hair. He had beautiful eyes and a hand-some appearance. These descriptions are not meant to show that he was remarkable in any sense. He was God’s choice and that was what mattered.
At that moment, God commanded Samuel to anoint David (whose name means “beloved”) which he did with all of David’s family present as witnesses. David was God’s unexpected choice and we marvel at God’s grace. It would actually be quite some time before David became king of Israel, but his journey had begun. That “the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David,” does not mean that was saved at that moment. It does not reflect any special merit on David’s part. It simply means that God’s Spirit would empower him to lead and rule God’s people. He would be given wisdom and insight to enable him to govern with prudence.
GOD’S CHOICE BLESSES OTHERS. 1 Samuel 16:14-23
The Spirit Departed From Saul. Because of his continued disobedience, the Holy Spirit, who had come upon Saul to empower him to rule well, departed. Saul’s profound stubbornness had spiritual and physical consequences. The Spirit’s departure evidently allowed an evil spirit to “terrorize” Saul, probably causing discouragement or depression. His sulky moods deepened and he had no spiritual discipline for relief.
Music Soothes Saul’s Troubled Soul. In his troubled state Saul could find relief only in music, so he commanded that a musician be found. In His providence God arranged that David be the one, so the shepherd boy was introduced to the palace of the king. We are not told when David learned to play the harp, but he had evidently developed great skill in playing. David composed hundreds of songs of worship; many are included in the Bible. It is more than likely that he had already composed a number of psalms already, based on his personal meditation on God’s Word and his worship of Yahweh. Now he was prepared to play for the king.
David’s Music Blessed Saul. The Holy Spirit empowered David to drive away the evil spirit that overwhelmed Saul. Saul was completely unaware that David had already been chosen to replace him and David seemed not to be affected by that knowledge. He came into Saul’s presence to serve the Lord, and he did. What an amazing irony. Saul was blessed by David, and David received personal tutoring on being a king from the king himself. Only God could have sovereignly provided like this.
The rejection of Saul did not force the Lord to a new course of action. Instead, God’s action followed His omniscient plan in such a way as to use Saul’s disobedience as the human occasion for implementing His higher plan. God had permitted the people to have the king of their choice. Now that that king and their mistake in choosing him had been clearly manifested, God proved the superiority of His own wisdom in raising up a king who would come in fulfillment of His perfect will.
God’s greatest benchmark for selecting special servants for mighty purposes is this: “Are you willing to do My will?” Despite all of a person’s other failings, if above all else his or her single consuming desire is to be a man or woman after God’s own will; God will use them for His glory.
David’s greatest legacy was that he was the ancestor of another Shepherd–Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd. Jesus was called the Son of David and He will sit upon David’s throne in His coming Kingdom. Have you received Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord? I spoke about choices today. The greatest choice I ever made was receiving Jesus as my Lord many years ago. Have you made that choice? If not, receive Jesus today!
Updated by Pastor Vernon Welkner, 6/29/2020