Saul has been officially rejected by God. Samuel is called upon to anoint a new king. Saul is NOT invited to this event and it is not made public. But it is official and from God.
This is one of my favorite stories. How Samuel went through every one of Jesse’s sons that were ‘important enough’ to be in attendance and none of them were the ONE God had singled out. It didn’t matter what importance or primacy the world offered. God looked beyond the surface layer to find the man who would follow Him.
I feel inadequate as we approach David’s life to tell his story in first person. I want to follow him like I have followed so many others but my story will surely pale beside the one I recently read; The “Davidic Chronicles” by Greg Baker. He starts with our story today and goes through the death of Saul and instillation of David as king of Israel. His stories brought me into the story to the point that I could feel the flames when David’s camp was burned, I could taste the dust of the roads as they moved from place to place, and I could see the hand of the Lord as He delivered David and his companions.
Just because I feel inadequate doesn’t mean I can’t present my story too, so here we go!
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It has been weeks since Samuel withdrew from Saul. Samuel has spent each of those days in prayer for Saul and for Israel. He honestly hasn’t known what to pray for concerning Saul. Should he pray the Lord changes His mind? Should he pray Saul finds forgiveness? Should he pray Saul steps down quietly? He has settled on praying that, while Saul is in the office of king, he walks in integrity. He has also been praying that Saul’s sins don’t get added to Israel’s account.
As Samuel is praying one night for Israel the Lord speaks to him.
“How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel” (verse 1b).
Samuel is surprised at the Lord’s response to his prayer. He didn’t realize he was ‘grieving’ for Saul. He was troubled and in turmoil over Saul and Israel’s state. But when the Lord voiced that word ‘grief’ Samuel realizes that is exactly what his soul has been experiencing.
The Lord has more to say. He has a plan to move forward. To get Samuel and Israel unstuck.
“Fill your horn with oil, and go. I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons” (verse 1c).
Another shock hits Samuel. This time it is fear of what Saul would do. Samuel knows he must obey the Lord but this could cost him his life!
“How can I go? If Saul hears it, he will kill me” (verse 2a) replies Samuel.
“Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ And invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do. And you shall anoint for me him whom I declare to you” (verses 2b-3).
“It will be done as You command Lord” affirms Samuel.
The next morning Samuel rises and chooses a heifer from the herd. He and this young lady will spend much of the day together in travel. Samuel will pass right by Saul’s city on his way to Bethlehem. He knows the Lord will keep him safe on this journey as He has a mission for him to complete.
Many eyes watch as Samuel makes his journey. He is approached by only a few. He greets them warmly but shares nothing of his mission beyond the fact that he is traveling to offer the Lord a sacrifice. He is so well respected that none pry beyond what he is willing to share, which does not include his final destination.
It is past midday but not yet to evening when Samuel nears his final destination. As Samuel and his charge approach the gates of Bethlehem he is approached by the elders of the city. They are afraid of what his arrival might mean. Is he here to offer condemnation or commendation? Is he on a mission from the Lord? Is he here in Saul’s name? If Saul knows he is here, will there be repercussions? There had been rumors of strife between the two men. What would this mean for the city of Bethlehem?
“Do you come peaceably?” (verse 4b) asks the head elder.
Samuel’s answer is immediate and warm.
“Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Consecrate yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice” (verse 5a).
Samuel drew aside Jesse, one of the town elders, and spoke privately to him. “I would have you bring your sons to me that I may consecrate you and them for the sacrifice. The Lord has chosen one of your sons to be king of Israel.”
Jesse is honored by Samuel’s request for his sons to attend the sacrifice. Jesse is proud of his sons. They are all men of distinction. But he is also a confused. What of Saul? He is king of Israel. Has something changed that? Wouldn’t one of Saul’s sons be Israel’s next king?
Jesse keeps his questions to himself and goes to gather his sons. Samuel is a mighty man of God and Jesse trusts the Lord with his sons.
Jesse and his sons arrive at the place where Samuel has chosen to offer his sacrifice. Jesse begins presenting his sons one at a time to Samuel. Samuel would consecrate each one for the sacrifice as well as reveal the one the Lord has chosen for Himself.
Samuel quiets his heart before the Lord. He will listen closely for the Lord’s command but his mind cannot help but provide some conclusions on its own.
Jesse’s first son, Eliab, is brought to stand before Samuel. He is very handsome and strong. His build reminds Samuel of Saul. Also as the first born he would also be a natural choice for a leader. “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before [me]” (verse 6b) thought Samuel.
In his heart Samuel hears the Lord speak as soon as his own thoughts manifest themselves.
“Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (verse 7).
“The Lord has not chosen this one” Samuel says to Jesse and to himself.
Jesse brings holds his hand out towards his second son, Abinadab, and motions for him to approach Samuel. Samuel blesses him for the sacrifice but tells Jesse of the Lord’s decision on Abinadab.
“Neither has the Lord chosen this one” (verse 8b).
Next Jesse motions for Shammah to approach Samuel. He receives Samuel’s blessing of consecration and the same answer his two elder brothers received.
“Neither has the Lord chosen this one” (verse 9b).
Four more times Jesse instructs one of his sons to stand before Samuel. Four more times Samuel offers the blessing of consecration but also the words of rejection regarding the Lord’s choice as His king.
Samuel sees no more sons waiting beside Jesse. He is certain of the instructions of the Lord. One of Jesse’s sons were called by the Lord as His own but none remain.
Jesse had remained silent as one after another his sons were rejected. He was confused and relieved. Samuel had told him that one of his sons would be king, yet all were eliminated. By rejecting them though they would not have to fear Saul’s reaction when he learned of Samuel’s actions.
Samuel turns to Jesse with a confused look on his face. “’The Lord has not chosen these.’ Then Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Are all your sons here?’” (verses 10b-11a).
Jesse replies readily to Samuel’s question. “There remains yet the youngest but behold, he is keeping the sheep” (verse 11b).
Samuel’s spirit quickens within him. “Send and get him, for we will not sit down till he comes here” (verse 11c).
Jesse sends two of his sons out immediately to summon his youngest son, David. One will take his place tending the sheep while the other will bring him to his father and Samuel.
David has spent the entire day in the fields with the sheep. He watches over them with great care. There is no more trustworthy shepherd in all of Bethlehem that David. He sees his brothers approaching. They are hurrying as they come and this brings concern to David’s heart. He suspects something may be wrong to bring them so urgently but he does not leave his sheep. He waits for his brothers to reach him.
Shammah is first to speak. “Father bids you come to him immediately. Samuel has come to Bethlehem to offer a sacrifice and will not sit down to eat until you have appeared before him.”
“Me? Why would Samuel wait for me?”
“We have not been told the ‘why’, only that you must come without delay.”
“But what of my sheep? Who will watch over them?”
“I will stand your watch” offers David’s closest brother.
In no time at all David passes the tools of the shepherd to his next elder brother and rushes off with his other brother. Shammah wants to go directly to the place where their father and Samuel are waiting but David insists that he at least wash first. He will not desecrate the Lord’s sacrifice by appearing with unwashed hands.
Freshly washed, David and Shammah approach where Samuel waits. David is full of questions during the journey but Shammah is not the one he needs to ask them of. David hopes that now those questions may be asked and answered.
As soon as Samuel’s eyes see David the Lord speaks to his heart.
“Arise, anoint him, for this is he” (verse 12c).
Samuel can’t help but notice that David has beautiful eyes, a ruddy complexion and is handsome. The Lord is getting the best, both inside and out. Samuel reaches inside his robe and removes the horn of oil he had brought. He approaches David and lays a hand on his shoulder.
“This is the one the Lord has chosen. He is to be king of Israel.” Samuel pours the oil over David’s head.
David immediately senses a difference in his spirit. He is filled with peace and a knowledge that the Lord is even closer to him than before. His love for the Lord has always been strong but now it feels as if he is immersed in love and power from the Lord.
Jesse and his sons are the only ones present at this event. This moment is for them alone. The rest of the nation will learn of this appointing in time. For now it will remain a well-guarded secret. David’s life could be in danger otherwise.
Jesse would cherish this moment when his son would be chosen by the Lord God. There could be no higher honor or calling for a man.
After Samuel, David, Jesse and the rest of Jesse’s sons have calmed their hearts they join the others for the sacrifice and meal. It is late in the evening before all is completed. Samuel will stay with Jesse this night and journey home in the morning. All will watch and wait for the Lord to bring about His purpose for young David’s life.
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Father God, I cannot imagine living with such an enormous secret! I’m certain I would wind up telling SOMEONE. I have a hard time keeping exciting things to myself. But it was crucial to David’s safety that Saul remained unaware. If Samuel’s life would have been in danger for anointing another king, just think how dangerous it would be for the one he anointed! You protected David until Your plan was completed.
I wonder what David’s brothers thought of being told, “Not this one either.” Were they relieved? Were they disappointed? Were they jealous when David was chosen? Did they wonder what he had that they didn’t? Or did they see what You saw? Was his heart so devoted to You that it shone through his every move? What an AMASING testimony that would be!
I long to have a heart as true as David’s. One that You recognized in the midst of all the others around him. One that You used to change a nation. Not a perfect one but one that loved You with all its being. That’s the heart I want!