Summary: David in Saul's service in 1 Samuel 16:14-23 shows us how the Lord prepared David for his future service.


Last week we begin a sermon series on “The Life of David.”

David’s story begins in 1 Samuel 16, where we read that God sent Samuel to anoint David as the next king of Israel (16:1-13). When Samuel anointed David as the next king over Israel, David was just a young boy, perhaps as young as twelve years old. After the anointing, David went back to the fields to take care of the sheep, and Samuel returned to his home in Ramah. Meanwhile, King Saul was at his house in Gibeah.

Some time after this, we pick up the narrative in 1 Samuel 16:14 and learn how David entered into Saul’s service.

Let’s read about David in Saul’s service in 1 Samuel 16:14-23:

14 Now the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and a harmful spirit from the Lord tormented him. 15 And Saul’s servants said to him, “Behold now, a harmful spirit from God is tormenting you. 16 Let our lord now command your servants who are before you to seek out a man who is skillful in playing the lyre, and when the harmful spirit from God is upon you, he will play it, and you will be well.” 17 So Saul said to his servants, “Provide for me a man who can play well and bring him to me.” 18 One of the young men answered, “Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, who is skillful in playing, a man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a man of good presence, and the Lord is with him.” 19 Therefore Saul sent messengers to Jesse and said, “Send me David your son, who is with the sheep.” 20 And Jesse took a donkey laden with bread and a skin of wine and a young goat and sent them by David his son to Saul. 21 And David came to Saul and entered his service. And Saul loved him greatly, and he became his armor-bearer. 22 And Saul sent to Jesse, saying, “Let David remain in my service, for he has found favor in my sight.” 23 And whenever the harmful spirit from God was upon Saul, David took the lyre and played it with his hand. So Saul was refreshed and was well, and the harmful spirit departed from him. (1 Samuel 16:14-23)


In his novel, Jayber Crow, the Kentucky farmer and writer Wendell Berry has his character Jayber talk about the quiet work of God’s guidance in our lives:

Often I have not known where I was going until I was already there. I have had my share of desires and goals, but my life has come to me or I have gone to it mainly by way of mistakes and surprises. Often I have received better than I deserved. Often my faintest hopes have rested on bad mistakes. I am an ignorant pilgrim, crossing a dark valley. And yet for a long time, looking back, I have been unable to shake off the feeling that I have been led—make of that what you will.

Young David was watching his father Jesse’s sheep one quiet day. Perhaps he was playing his harp when a messenger, sent by his father, summoned him to the sacrifice where the great prophet—and former judge of Israel—Samuel wanted to see him. Undoubtedly curious as to why the prophet wanted to see him, David dutifully went to join his father Jesse, his seven brothers, and the elders of Bethlehem. Imagine David’s surprise when “Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers” (16:13a). David quickly learned that Samuel had been sent by the Lord to provide for himself a king from among Jesse’s sons (16:1). Although no-one knew it then, “this was the first of three anointings for David as king of Israel. The other two anointings occurred when he became king at Hebron over part (the tribe of Judah) of Israel (2 Samuel 2:4) and when he became king over all of Israel (2 Samuel 5:3) seven years later.”

The Lord had rejected Saul as king over Israel because of Saul’s disobedience (15:23). The Lord then sent Samuel to anoint David as the next king over Israel, although David would not take up the office of king for many years. Samuel obeyed the Lord, and the Lord showed Samuel that David was the one upon whom he had set his heart to be his king over a kingdom that would last forever (13:13-14). No sooner had Samuel anointed young David as the next king over Israel in this semi-private ceremony when “the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward” (16:13b).

This is the context for our lesson today.


David in Saul’s service in 1 Samuel 16:14-23 shows us how the Lord prepared David for his future service.

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