Saul's reign as the first king of Israel was characterized by frequent and constant warfare. His first conflict involved the Ammonites whom he defeated at Jabesh-gilead. Soon thereafter he routed the Philistines near the pass at Michmash. Saul's son Jonathan played an integral role in this victory. After that he attacked and killed most of the heathen Amalekites, though some survived and fled. In each of these battles God had fought alongside King Saul and the Israelites, which led to their great success.
While these military accomplishments were truly impressive, they also revealed many of Saul's personal flaws. He was an arrogant and prideful man who built a monument for himself and esteemed himself worthy of offering sacrifices in place of the priest. He was also impatient, not willing to wait on Samuel or God's blessing before taking action. He was foolish to order his soldiers not to eat during their pursuit of the enemy. He took what he wanted and threatened his own people with harm if they did not comply with his commands. He was sometimes blatantly disobedient to God. For these and possibly many other reasons, the LORD rejected Saul as king and removed His blessing from him.
Samuel, the man who had originally anointed Saul, was now regretting his decision. He and the king's relationship was deeply strained and greatly deteriorated. The 2 men had parted ways, and Saul was now escorted by another priest. The warnings that Samuel had spoken to the tribal elders about the potential dangers of an earthly king had come to fruition. Samuel could have said "I told you so!", but instead he lamented for Saul and his countrymen. The bewildered prophet was broken and did not know what to do.
During our study of “Ancient Israel” this morning we will be introduced to a boy named David. This young man would represent the future of Israel. But as we will discover over the coming weeks, his ascension to the throne would be long and difficult.
I. SEARCHING (1 Samuel 16:1-5)
After a lengthy season of grieving, the LORD spoke to Samuel and told him it was time to move on. God instructed Samuel to go to the house of Jesse in Bethlehem where he was to anoint one of his sons as king. The LORD did not yet specify which of the sons He had selected. Upon hearing this, Samuel expressed fear over what might happen to him if he anointed a new king while Saul was still on the throne. Saul was an extremely jealous and violent man who wouldn't hesitate to kill Samuel or anyone else for that matter.
God told Samuel to take a heifer with him to Bethlehem and to offer it as a sacrifice. This ceremonial sacrifice would provide him with the cover to meet and speak with Jesse while not revealing his true intentions to the watchful king. Samuel arrived in Bethlehem and invited several people from the city, including Jesse and his sons, to attend the animal sacrifice. Those loyal to Saul thought nothing of it.
These verses demonstrate that God listens to and cares for the concerns of his children. Samuel was truly afraid for his life and was uncertain how Saul might react if he found out what was going on. When Samuel expressed his worries to the LORD, God himself devised a plan to protect the fearful prophet. In the same way, when believers cast their worries and anxieties upon the LORD He will take care of them also.
II. SELECTING (1 Samuel 16:6-13)
When Jesse and his sons showed up at the ceremony, Samuel began to observe and evaluate each of them. He began with Jesse's oldest son Eliab. When Samuel saw Eliab's grand stature and appearance he thought that surely he would be God's choice. But God had not chosen Eliab. Samuel moved on the Abinadab, but God had not chosen him either. Next came Shammah, and again God said no. One by one, Jesse's sons passed by Samuel from oldest to youngest but none were chosen. Samuel was confused and asked Jesse if these were all of his sons. Jesse replied that his youngest son was not present, but rather was tending the sheep. Samuel asked that he be brought to the sacrifice.
When the boy arrived, God told to Samuel to anoint him in the presence of his father and older brothers. As Samuel poured the oil upon him, the Spirit of the LORD fell mightily upon young David. This handsome lad was God's choice to become the future king of Israel. After the anointing, Samuel returned to Ramah and David stayed with his family. A few years passed by uneventfully.
Of all of the brothers, David seemed to be the least likely choice. All of the observable signs seemed to suggest that another son was more suitable. Samuel presumed that one of the older brothers would surely be God's pick. But during the selection process the LORD taught Samuel an important truth. He said, "God sees what man does not see. For man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." God knows the hearts of men, and He saw in David something that Samuel could not.
III. SOOTHING (1 Samuel 16:14-23)
Not only did the Spirit of the LORD fall upon David, but it also departed from King Saul. Instead, and evil spirit began to terrorize the lofty king. Saul became increasingly irritated and his servants thought that music might be helpful to bring him comfort. They suggested that a skilled harp player be found to play for the king. Saul agreed and ordered that such a musician be brought to him.
One of Saul's men stated that he knew someone who played the harp well. It was the son of Jesse, a godly young man named David. So Saul requested that David come to Gibeah and serve him as the king's musician. Jesse made the necessary preparations and then sent his son David from his home in Bethlehem to work in the royal court. David became Saul's personal attendant. The king loved David greatly and over time even named him as his armor bearer.
Saul sent word to Jesse to express how much he appreciated his son David. Whenever the king became restless or agitated by the evil spirit that came upon him, David would play the harp and Saul would be refreshed. The beautiful music calmed Saul's nerves, allowing him to relax and regain his composure.
Music is powerful. It can stir men to action and can help them find rest. It allows people to express their deepest thoughts and feelings when words alone are insufficient. It provides a means to worship God through songs of joyful praise. Music is one of the most beautiful creative expressions of God, and it is inherent to the heart of men.
One might ask why God would intentionally terrorize someone with an evil spirit. It doesn't seem very godly, does it? Well, let's consider for a moment that Saul had been very disobedient to the LORD and was deserving of judgment. Perhaps this was part of the reason why God allowed an evil spirit to pester the king. More importantly, let's also not forget that it was the presence of this spirit that paved the way for David to be brought into the royal court. So, upon reflection, it is evident that God used the evil spirit to accomplish His divine will.
Early on in their relationship, King Saul loved young David and showed him great kindness and favor. But Saul was still a very egotistical man who felt threatened by anyone who took away from his own personal glory. As David rose in prominence and renown, Saul's attitude toward him dramatically changed. We will see this unfold in the coming chapters...
The main idea of today message is this - while people see just what is on the outside, God sees what is on the inside. He knows the thoughts and intentions of our hearts. Samuel could only see a little shepherd boy who seemed unfit to be king, but God saw greatness and righteousness in David’s heart. What does the LORD see in you? Perhaps you should stop listening to the negative voices of those who don’t know the real you and instead cling to the truths of God. He has chosen us to be kings and queens because of the faith that resides within each of us.
Next week we will read one of the mostly widely known stories in the entire Bible. It tells of a boy, a sling, a stone, and a giant. You have probably heard this story and even told it yourself many times, and yet it never grows old. I trust you will join us as we read this passage again, and seek to discover how it applies to our lives today.