Summary: The Lord's criteria for service.
ANOINTING A MAN AFTER GOD’S OWN HEART
Israel had demanded a king, just so that they could be like the other nations. Samuel had protested, but the LORD allowed it. After all, they were not rejecting Samuel: they were rejecting the LORD (1 Samuel 8:4-7).
This is the same response as when the people got angry with Moses and Aaron (Exodus 16:8). We cannot chide against the LORD’s anointed leaders except it will be rebellion against Him. This, incidentally, was why later David was so reluctant to assassinate Saul when the opportunity presented itself (1 Samuel 24:6; 1 Samuel 26:11) - but that is getting ahead of our present story.
So, against his ‘better’ judgment (what? better than the LORD’s?) Samuel anointed Saul (1 Samuel 10:1). Of Saul, the LORD had said - somewhat bluntly - ‘this shall reign over my people’ (1 Samuel 9:17). Yet Saul would soon reject the word of the LORD, and the LORD would reject him from being king (1 Samuel 15:23), much to the grief of Samuel (1 Samuel 15:11) - but the LORD already had another man in mind for Samuel to go and anoint (1 Samuel 16:1).
Samuel was fearful in the going (1 Samuel 16:2). After all, Saul and he had not parted on the best of terms (1 Samuel 15:34-35). Perhaps there was nothing strange about Samuel going to make sacrifice, but the city elders in Bethlehem were also a little puzzled and alarmed (1 Samuel 16:4).
Nevertheless, as Samuel had told Saul (1 Samuel 15:22), the best path is the path of obedience. Samuel instructed the elders to sanctify themselves for the sacrifice, and personally sanctified Jesse and the seven sons he had with him for the sacrificial feast. Yet they would not sit down, said Samuel, until his secret mission was fulfilled (1 Samuel 16:11).
With hindsight, we can surmise that it had been the LORD’s purpose all along for Israel to have a king. Samuel still had to learn that the ideal king was not the tallest (1 Samuel 16:7), as had been Saul (1 Samuel 9:2), but must be ‘a man after God’s own heart’ (1 Samuel 13:13-14). None of the seven sons of Jesse who passed before Samuel’s eyes was the accepted one - it must be that other one, tending the sheep out in the fields - “Bring him,” was the terse command of the Seer (1 Samuel 16:11).
How easy it is when the church finds God’s chosen man to slip back into our own criteria. The writer draws our attention to all the usual attractions: his healthy red face, his beautiful countenance (or is it ‘an eye for beauty’?), his good looks: but these are not what commend him to God - it is what is within, as we have learned (1 Samuel 16:7). “Arise, anoint him, for this is he,” said the LORD (1 Samuel 16:12).
Samuel obediently took the horn of oil and anointed the young man amid his brethren. Oil is associated with the Holy Spirit, and after the anointing the Spirit ‘rushed upon' David (named for the first time here). Significantly, considering Saul’s loss of the Spirit’s presence (1 Samuel 16:14), the Spirit remained upon David from that day forward (1 Samuel 16:13).