Summary: David’s life shows us what we can become, but it also shows us how far we need to go. He didn’t outwardly "look the part" but was God’s choice.
An Earthy Spirituality~the life of King David
“God’s Choice”, I Samuel 16 -Pastor Bob Leroe, Cliftondale Congregational Church, Saugus, Massachusetts
“People look at the outward appearance, but God considers the heart,” verse 7.
As we enter the story of David, we discover a man with an earthy spirituality. David’s life shows us what we can become, but it also shows us how far we need to go. David’s life displays not an ideal, but a real, rough-cut human being in whom God’s Spirit worked. In spite of David’s rough edges he is made into the ideal king of Israel against whom all subsequent rulers are compared, and who paves the way for the Messiah.
Israel insisted on having a king, and so God gave them Saul, who showed some promise, but wasn’t right for Israel. Saul failed to appreciate the importance of his office and the authority of God. He had been anointed, but was not letting God shape his administration. Saul impulsively overstepped his bounds, put self-interest first, and went his own way as if he answered to no one…and so it’s time for a change. God summons Samuel the prophet to anoint a new king. Samuel has been dealing with Saul’s failings and has taken it all very personally. He had invested a great deal of time and effort into advising Saul. God tells the prophet that it’s time to let go of the past and stop grieving over Saul. There’s no primary, no election, no political process involved. This is God’s choice, a sign of His electing grace.
Samuel is led on a secret mission to the house of Jesse, a Bethlehem farmer, to select Saul’s replacement. Jesse is the grandson of Ruth and Boaz. From this moment on, the name of Jesse, the city of Bethlehem, and the tribe of Judah will all be linked to Israel’s Messiah. Samuel’s journey is taken at some risk; he could be charged with treason. The prophet is fearful, but obeys. The town elders are also afraid that Samuel has come to pronounce divine judgment on them. When a prophet showed up at your door it usually wasn’t a good thing! In the previous chapter Samuel personally executed King Agag (after Saul failed to obey God). With a sigh of relief, the elders learn that Samuel has come to offer a sacrifice. The prophet tells the town elders to consecrate themselves. He tells Jesse to have his sons attend the ceremony.
David was such an insignificant youth that he was left behind to tend the sheep, while his seven older brothers were presented to Samuel, only to be turned down. The brothers appear as likely candidates, yet none are chosen. Appearances can be deceiving. Samuel is perplexed; he was sent to this home, but got no indication from Above regarding these young men. So he asks Jesse, somewhat desperately, “Are all your sons here?” He might have asked, “This is Bethlehem, isn’t it?” Did he approach the wrong family? He cannot proceed. To his relief, there’s one more sibling--David, the youngest, the “baby brother.” And the last became first.
It didn’t occur to David’s father that David was even a contender. He didn’t “look the part.” The key is verse 7: “People look at the outward appearance, but God considers the heart.” What made Saul stand out is not what God was looking for. In some respects, David is the “anti-Saul”. What David’s family could not see, is what God can do with those He selects for positions of leadership. Do we choose leaders by personality and appearance, or by their moral integrity?
Paul the Apostle notes: “God chooses what is ordinary and despised by the world, people counted as nothing at all, and uses them to bring to nothing what the world considers important, so that no one can ever boast before God” (I Cor 1:28-29). David is chosen, not for what anyone saw in him, not for any proven ability, but because of what God saw in him. David’s life proved that nothing in him--or us--can be understood apart from the presence and power of God, Who qualifies us. We are God’s handiwork; He uses us in spite of our flaws and imperfections. By this anointing, God obligates Himself to David.
What no one realizes is that God will equip David with everything he needs to be Israel’s king. David is given the Spirit of God to guide and empower him. In the providence of God, David is strategically placed in the presence of Saul as his armor-bearer, where he can learn how a king rules.
David is not chosen to immediately replace Saul; he’s placed in a kind of internship, to be groomed for the kingdom which will not be his for several years. He doesn’t walk in and take over; Saul is still on the throne. Saul doesn’t know he’s been replaced. David ascends to the throne of Israel gradually. He begins by being asked to perform a musical exorcism.