In the beginning – David 1 Samuel 16
I am not really an American idol fan. I have watched enough to catch on to the concept. I find the whole process to be just a little too much for me. You have 1000’s of people trying out all over the country wanting to become winners and amazingly famous. Over a period of months the cull the 1000’s down to 100 or so. Then the talented people are pretty much all that is in the running. The decisions get harder and I don’t know how many start the TV show portion of the process. But there is a transmission of power…that leaves the professional producers and the famous judges. The people that believe that they know what the people want can suddenly over ruled by the number of people that call in to some phone number and vote….
The choosing, the evaluation of the contestants talent happens however, their expertise is devalued by a bunch of teenagers that know how to use redial and have no better use of their time. The selection of a winner moves from a serious evaluation of appearance, talent and marketability to pure popularity.
Our scripture today describes a selection process which is completely different.
Last week we talked about an overview of the psalms. Last week I pointed out that the psalms are not a story and they aren’t history… they are poetry. Special poetry that uses word repetition and patterns to make a point. The authors also used visual images, emotional pleas and symbolic language to speak to the reader. I also mentioned that between the author and you the storey come alive. The author work and your personal experience make the psalms speak more clearly today that any other kind of literature that has been translated through one or more languages.
In the next couple of weeks we will connect David and some to the psalms in a very direct way. However, this week we are starting with some history reading from 1st Samuel 16.
I decided that we had better start at the beginning where the boy David suddenly becomes noticed. Without going into detail, Saul has been rejected by God for various reasons. And God speaks to his prophet Samuel.
1 Samuel 16:1-5 The LORD said to Samuel, "How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king."
But Samuel said, "How can I go? Saul will hear about it and kill me."
The LORD said, "Take a heifer with you and say, ’I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate."
Samuel did what the LORD said. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town trembled when they met him. They asked, "Do you come in peace?"
Samuel replied, "Yes, in peace; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD. Consecrate yourselves and come to the sacrifice with me."
Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.
Samuel has a bit of a soft spot for Saul, he has tried to help him and protect him and in verse 1, God is clearly telling Saul to move on. Pick up your ram’s horn filled with anointing oil and head out to Bethlehem.
I have chosen the next king.
Just a couple of points here: Samuel is afraid of what Saul might do if he finds out what God has asked him to do. He is afraid because Saul already has a history of protecting his throne and doing things his own way. He has a tendency not to wait on or even consult God in his decision process.
A second point, Samuel does trust and depend on God and he obeys.
The next observation, the people of Bethlehem tremble at the arrival of God’s prophet.
There is no mention of an entourage or guards traveling with Samuel, so what makes these country folks tremble at the arrival of the prophet?
Could it be that the people feared being guilty in God’s eyes and that the Prophet might be coming to pronounce a judgment on them?
….Guilt Causes Fear. Sometimes worry of guild causes fear too.
I imagine that the news about God’s rejection of Saul has preceded him even to this small town. Perhaps Samuel is trying to hide from Saul and the king might send troops to find him and kill him…because of his pronouncement. What would the king do to the them, the town, if the king thought that they were helping him.
Samuel explains that he has come in peace and to offer a sacrifice. A peace offering is not done to make peace with God it is a act of enjoying peace with God. A peace offering included offering a portion of the sacrifice to God and the participants, priest and people sharing a meal.
So, there is to be a celebration instead of a battle or some kind of judgment. I guess that does sound better. He tells them to consecrate themselves in preparation.
They seem relieved when they hear that Samuel has come to offer a sacrifice and that they, the elders, are to be invited to the event.
Consecration is a pretty big word to just leave hanging there. To consecrate themselves they would do some things we take for granted. They would take a bath and wash their clothes; these were not everyday events in ancient history. But, it there is to be a special sacrifice in the community it only seems right. However, the definition is probably a little more focused. It also means setting something or someone aside for special use. When we say that something is holy, it comes from the same word.
When Samuel tells the elders to consecrate themselves it is a voluntary request where they are preparing themselves to attend a worship service that included a sacrifice to God in their community.
Then the last item I want you to see in this first part of the chapter…. “Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.”
Samuel locates Jessie and his sons and personally consecrated them and invites them to the event.
That statement seems to say or hint that Jessie was not considered an elder of the village. Perhaps they lived will outside of town.
Or maybe this special treatment is because the prophet has gone to Jessie’s home as a guest and perhaps the family is actually facilitating the sacrifice and the meal.
No one there really knows what is going on.
I am sure the town is buzzing about the prophet’s arrival, and they are curious about what brings the prophet of God to their town.
The village elders and Jessie and his boys are going to a party an unknown blessing. Perhaps, the prophet is looking for an assistant. Maybe some even suspect that Samuel is searching for the next king of Israel….however, scripture does not give us any clear idea of what the elders or the family expected.
But I am not sure that they would be exactly happy to know what the full purpose of the visit is really. The danger that it could bring to the village and to Jessie’s family should Saul find out.
As Jessie’s sons arrive Samuel sizes them up as each son comes by. He thinks to himself.
Oh yeah, the oldest looks like King material. And God tells him to not look at the appearance and size…and each son present is rejected….
Samuel seems to have had a set of expectations for the characteristics of what a new king should be like and must have been confused with God’s rejection of all the candidates that were present.
They all looked good to him and yet each one was rejected and Samuel asks, Do you have any more sons?
“There is one more but, he is the youngest out tending the sheep.”
-- When the Prophet of God comes to town and Jessie and his family are personally invited to the event ….no one thinks to send for David or he was some how insignificant. He is out doing the boy’s job, and when everyone else goes to the ball he is left behind to work. David is sort of the Cinderella character in this scripture.
Samuel said, "Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives."
That sort of puts a strange since of urgency on the moment. The boy was overlooked, generally forgotten when the men of the house were invited to worship with the prophet. I ma not sure that this is an intentional act against David. Perhaps more cultural, more related to his age and ability than a direct disqualification.
“we will not sit down until he arrives “ I wonder if that is a literal statement…. Everyone is expected to just stand around for some unspecified time waiting on the missing boy.
Basically, I believe that it means that the dinner would not start until this last son arrived.
Someone has to run or ride out to the pastures and send the boy back as fast as possible. I doubt that he takes the time to cleanup or change clothes.
David arrives and is described as being ruddy with a fine appearance and handsome features.
We generally consider David to be a chick magnet from the descriptions we have of him in scripture. The word “ruddy” means red and some believe that means red hair or complexion.
It seems that Jessie has a bunch of good looking boys. The oldest ones may already be serving in King Saul’s army and perhaps have proven themselves as warriors or business men.
It also seems easy that Samuel would have trouble identifying God’s choice.
It appears that the older brothers looked the part. Samuel was probably still confused after David’s arrival. Looking at them all together may have confused his personal preferences even more.
The choice before him were, tall, strong, and capable looking young men or a boy, handsome enough but with little other experience because he was the youngest of the household.
And now Samuel gets a new direction from God. Rise up and anoint the new arrival because he is the one that God has chosen. Samuel does not argue or hesitate; he obeys and anoints David as the next king in the presence of his family.
In a way the sacrifice and meal seem to be some kind of a deception to keep everyone from knowing why Samuel was really there.
However, it also seems that this sacrificial meal was in a way of celebrating God’s selection. A meal that the main part, the meat, was provided by God via the prophet. It appears that the banquet could not take place without the guest of honor being present. We don’t know if this anointing happens as the end of the meal but it may as the elders are not mentioned.
I suspect that this was a more private moment because word does not get back to Saul about the status of David for quiet a while.
So the family has a secret, and from that day on the Spirit of the LORD came upon David in power.
Wow, David the youngest is suddenly breaking the mold and even though he is the least mature, less experienced, least important in the family he is suddenly going to be the most important. That is a breaking of the human perception of qualifications. David is not selected by popular or even traditional list of expectations and qualifications.
God’s representative may not have understood or even agreed with the initial selection but he understood who was in charge.
It seems that David immediately receives the Spirit of the Lord which changes his qualifications. The Spirit of God may be the source of his wisdom and his abilities with music in leadership.
If we read on in the chapter, we learn the spirit of God departs from Saul. He looses divine power and discernment and looses confidence and I believe was burdened with depression.
The servants describe this mood as an evil spirit tormenting Saul and suggest finding a natural anti-depressant…Music.
Let’s read another verse of scripture. (18 )
One of the servants answered, "I have seen a son of Jesse of Bethlehem who knows how to play the harp. He is a brave man and a warrior. He speaks well and is a fine-looking man. And the LORD is with him."
David’s qualifications are noticed. He has moved up a notch. Some say that 5 years may have passed since David was anointed. David is fine looking and he plays the harp. I am guessing that he is far more accomplished that I ever was in my 4 years of band. There is no way that he was any kind of a beginner or a second rate amateur otherwise how soothing would it be to hear bad notes and uncertain rhythms and words.
He is also known as brave man, and a warrior. He speaks well and most importantly the Lord is with him….In other words he is blessed in what he does.
I feel as if the Spirit has assisted him in his growth and qualifications.
But I find Verse 19 to be interesting.
Then Saul sent messengers to Jesse and said, "Send me your son David, who is with the sheep."
-- Wait, a second. David the NEXT king, the person anointed by God’s prophet…. resumes the role of the youngest son and tends sheep!
Some guys never get a break. After the party is over it seems that for some period of time everything is just business a usual. David’s status in the family does not seem to have changed at all.
The Spirit of the Lord did not automatically change David’s status but it does seem to change him.
That is different than the American Idol contestants. They suddenly end up in Hollywood living a hectic life. They are taught how to act and what to say. A group of professionals dress them and help them improve their appearance and voices. They have pictures made and rehearse every move and sound. Whatever natural talent they have is added to or remade into something new. I imagine it is glamorous and exhausting. I imagine that all that might tend to give you a big head and make your pride swell.
While I don’t personally care about that show, I do worry that it sets a precedent that the culture gets to make a popular choice about who is the best in every situation. Even the Judges on the show are really just trying to make a choice for what the people will like.
Samuel goes ready to make a popular choice. Tall, dark and handsome will win over smart, loyal and nice every time when you are selecting a king.
-- Our culture likes getting exactly what it wants; we live in a burger king nations…”have it YOUR way” is taken to a new level. For an American, a want seems to have become a “right” and not a gift or a privilege.
It seems to me that the Presidential campaign is just another popularity contest.
The candidates speak to the emotional wants of different segments of our population in order to get elected.
They play young against old…black against white….rich against poor playing to the segments of the population that will get them into office.
We can’t be sure of how any of them will act and what they will do should they reach power. Because right and wrong, moral and sinful have become moved to a point of being personal points of view instead of community and national standards.
After the election there are going to be lots of people that will spent 4 or more years spitting nails until the next election because the leader selected was not what they wanted. The will remain angry and divided instead of finding some grounds for unity and progress.
I know it is early still in the election process but, perhaps it is important that we become active before the election. Maybe we need to actively give our voices to what is important for our families, community and nation. Instead of listening for a candidate tell us what we want to hear, perhaps we need to inform all of them.
It may seem useless, but can’t we send off letters or make calls to all the candidates sharing what values are important to us…Morals, peace, family. The blessed American way of life that offers freedom to everyone.
As Christians we have the same influence as every other American and it is never more powerful than before Election Day.
When God chooses a leader….He is able to choose by looking at the inside. He knows the heart. I hope each of us will ask God for wisdom in choosing the leader that God wants to serve. Perhaps that person may not conform to what we expect and want but, our perspective should be to look forward to what God intends and to respond to his direction and will.
Perhaps we may need for God to help us to understand and change our hearts of we are not within His will. I believe that Samuel was changed to accept God’s choice over what he and others would choose.
All Glory be to God!