Summary: The people used in David's life and the people God uses in our lives. (Based on Book "Agents of Grace" by Robert Koester.
I’ve always been amazed at how an old tree like this (pictured) can turn into something like this (an artistically carved wooden chair that looks more like a throne). How does that happen? Does the rain and wind just whittle away the tree until it turns into something so delightful and useful? Of course not. There was an artist who had a design in mind, and who was skilled enough to turn the tree into a work of art. But this artist didn’t bring about the transformation with his bare hands. He used tools like chainsaw and chisel to get the effect he wanted.
King David confessed that God had worked a similar transformation in his life. He wrote: “It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure. 33 He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he causes me to stand on the heights. 34 He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze. 35 You make your saving help my shield, and your right hand sustains me; your help has made me great. 36 You provide a broad path for my feet, so that my ankles do not give way” (Psalm 18:32-36).
How exactly had God done all that for David? As far as we know, God never came down to earth to show David how to shoot an arrow. No, David’s father or perhaps his older brothers had taught him how to do that. Today we’re starting a new sermon series called Agents of Grace. It’s about the people God used in King David’s life to sculpt that individual into the man of God he wanted him to be. As we learn about the agents of grace in David’s life, we’ll want to recognize and thank God for the agents of grace in our lives. For it is through them that God sculpts us into the people he wants us to be.
The agent of grace in David’s life that we’ll talk about today is Samuel. Samuel is one of the few characters in the Bible whose life we get to follow from beginning to end. He was a miracle baby—the result of his barren mother’s ardent prayers for a child. Hannah promised God that if he blessed her with a son, she would dedicate him to the Lord’s work. True to her word, when Samuel was only about three years old, Hannah dropped him off with Eli the high priest. Samuel not only worked at the tabernacle, he lived there, becoming familiar with the ways of the priests. This would become important later in the advice Samuel could offer David. I’ll come back to that thought.
From early on, Samuel also functioned as a prophet—a spokesman for God. One night God appeared to Samuel and told him how he was going to punish the high priest’s sons for their wickedness. Samuel, who may have only been a boy of 10 at this time, was expected to pass that news along to Eli. The next morning Samuel told Eli everything the Lord had spoken—even though it must have been difficult for Samuel to do so since Eli had been like a father to him. But, as a faithful prophet, Samuel didn’t hold back any of the Lord’s words. He shared it all.
Yes, from the time he was a boy, Samuel gained experience as a prophet and priest. Then when he became a man, God used him as the last judge for Israel. Judges, like Samson and Gideon, and also Samuel, were people who would settle disputes and lead the Israelites in time of war. The way Samuel led as a military commander was interesting. He wasn’t a strongman like Samson, or a strategist like Gideon. One time when the Philistines attacked, Samuel didn’t call a council of war, but offered a sacrifice and called on the Lord for help. God answered by sending such a great thunderstorm that the attackers fled in a panic (1 Samuel 7).
Samuel was such an important and respected person that hundreds of years later God said that he wouldn’t change his mind about punishing the sinful, rebellious Israelites, even if Moses and Samuel were to intercede on their behalf (Jeremiah 15:1). We know just how important Moses had been. God had used him to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. And God had given to him the Ten Commandments. Well, in God’s eyes, Samuel was just as important as Moses.
It was this same Samuel who would serve as an agent of grace in David’s life. Ironically it was something Samuel had to do because someone else he had mentored turned out to be a failure. That person was King Saul. God had directed Samuel to anoint Saul as king, and at first the two seemed to have a close relationship. But after Saul enjoyed success on the battlefield, he became proud and didn’t think he needed the Lord, or at least didn’t need to do things God’s way. In time, God rejected Saul as king and directed Samuel to go to Bethlehem to the house of Jesse and anoint one of his sons as the next king.