Do you have an important decision to make about your future? It could be related to your job, your health, your family, whether to move, where to go to school, who to marry or your children. God is always two or three steps ahead of us preparing and providing for our future.
In our passage today, God is (yet again) providing for the welfare of the people, just as God had previously provided deliverance from Egypt; bread, quail, water, and the law in the wilderness; a land during the settlement; and guidance and leadership during the period of the Judges.
At the start of 1 Samuel 16, God says to Samuel: “I have provided for myself a king among [Jesse’s] sons.” The Hebrew word that is translated as “provided” literally means “to see” or “I have seen to it.” This Hebrew term provides the key to this story. It signals that God has “seen” the people’s need even before they are aware of it. As God had done in the past, God was again venturing out ahead of the people, writing their story before it had come to be.
God’s guidance is usually not obvious at the moment as it is looking back. We may not sense what God is doing in our lives or how God is leading us. Even the great prophet Samuel did not know what God was doing at that moment. This story, with so much of the Old Testament, affirms that God’s “providence” operates beyond the scale of what we can see. Note also that God’s eye here is on the whole as well as the individual.
1 Samuel 16 is a much-loved story. Samuel is still grieving Saul’s downfall; He also unsure what the future holds since he is old, his sons have been rejected as leaders and now Saul is spinning out of control. God tells him to stop grieving and get moving. It’s interesting that grief like this has an expiration date. God gives Samuel two reasons why his grieving period should come to an end: because God has rejected Saul and is not changing his mind. Samuel’s grief will not change anything in regard to Saul. Sometimes our grief persists simply because we will not face the reality of a situation. When God closes the door, it’s closed. And secondly Samuel no longer needs to grieve because God has chosen a new king. Instead of grieving over what was, Samuel needs to be encouraged about what will be.
When Samuel gets to Bethlehem, the family of Jesse is gathered. Of course, there is only one problem with this idea of an anointing ceremony: who is Samuel supposed to anoint? Jesse has come with seven of his boys. Which of them is the king?
But we read that when Jesse’s family first arrives, Samuel seems convinced that God’s choice is as clear as day. It has to be Eliab, the firstborn. The guy just looks like a king. I like the way one commentator expresses this:
“One can understand Samuel’s thinking. Eliab was doubtless an impressive hunk of manhood. Around 6’ 2’’ perhaps, about 225 pounds, met people well, all man but with social grace, excellent taste in after-shave lotion, and so on. Perhaps he’d starred as wide receiver for Bethlehem High School football. Probably made the All-Judean All-Star team. Samuel was not alone in his estimate of Eliab. Many thought “Future” was Eliab’s middle name.”
When the eldest son Eliab, who was tall and fair, passed before Samuel, the prophet thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.” But as we see here, God is quick to correct Samuel’s thinking. God’s response has echoed down through the ages:
“Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
Jesse then paraded six more sons in front of Samuel, but each time God said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.”
There was one more son, but he was the youngest and of such little account that Jesse had left him out in the field tending sheep. In the most important gathering that this family would ever know, the most significant event in this family’s life, and David is not even given an invitation. He was such an afterthought; he is not even mentioned by name! He is called, “the youngest”
We might feel like no one in the world understands our struggles. But God sees your heart.
We might carry with us hurts and fears and scars and regrets that feel like a ball and chain around our necks. But God sees your heart.
He sees and he is working on your behalf.
When David was brought forth, the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.”
Also I hope that the study of David’s life in the next few weeks will be profitable to us all, but I hope it will be especially profitable to those who are teenagers and young adults. David was anointed as king by the prophet Samuel while he was still a teenager. He was probably in his late teens when he slew the giant Goliath (our passage next week!) He may have wrote Psalm 23 and perhaps other psalms while he was still a teenager, watching his father’s sheep. The trials David went through at the hand of Saul occurred while David was in his twenties. His life contains much instruction for those on the young side of life.
That’s especially important in our day when there is a common belief that teenagers are supposed to rebel. We expect it and it often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. But it’s not a biblical norm. In Scripture, there are many examples, David being foremost, of young people with a heart for God. Sure, David lacked the wisdom of experience. He needed trials to refine and mature him. There were “sins of his youth” that he later would regret (Ps. 25:7). But God began to use David in a significant way while he was still in his teens. He can still do that. It is my prayer that God would use the life of David in the upcoming messages to lay hold of many of our young people as well as adults, to help us all to develop a heart after God’s heart.
Everything is different in light of the fact that God sees our hearts.
We might imagine ourselves to be fairly good people, and because we are good citizens and have not killed anyone or robbed a bank, we pat ourselves on the back. But God sees your heart.
We might pacify ourselves with some kind of religious assurance because we don’t look like a “sinner” and do all the things “saints” are supposed to do. But God sees your heart.
We might commend ourselves when our anger does not spill over, when our lust does not act out, when our greed is never tangibly satisfied. But God sees your heart.
So how can any of us have this kind of confidence before God, in light of what we know about our hearts?
The Son of God, the Son of David, the Savior can save us from our hearts. He can give us confidence before God because he died to cleanse our hearts. What does God say to us in light of Jesus and His cross? He says:
“Let not your hearts be troubled…” (John 14:1) Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience… (Hebrews 10:22) For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (II Corinthians 4:6) [God] will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7). …That he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father. (I Thessalonians 3:13) …[That he may] comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word. (II Thessalonians 2:17).
Because of Jesus, everything is different in regard to our hearts and our future.
When Samuel is given the ‘green light’ to anoint this young man, we discover that the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon him. 13 So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David.
When the Spirit of God came upon David, it was a symbol that he was equipped and empowered by God to become the future leader of Israel.
Anointing is a biblical term and practice we may not be familiar with. In the Old Testament it was for prophets, priests and kings. Anointing meant to set apart for a special task. Did you know that all believers, all Christ followers are also anointed and set apart for a special task?
21 Now it is God who makes us stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, 22 set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. 2 Corinthians 1:20-22 (NIV)
The greatest gift in all the world is the gift of God’s Spirit. When we approach God through Christ, God places His own Spirit in us, in the very core of our being. We become indwelt by God’s Spirit. It is God’s Spirit who convicts and saves and gives us assurance of salvation. He guides, teaches, protects, and provides the necessities of life for us, meeting all our needs.
What more could a person ask? It is the Spirit of God who empowers us to conquer all the trials and temptations of life, who enables us to live a victorious and triumphant life day by day. I hope and pray that we all seek to live in this way: seen and known by God, saved and cleansed, anointed and empowered.
Bruce Birch, “The First and Second Books of Samuel: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections,” in The New Interpreter’s Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes (Nashville: Abingdon, 1998), 2:1097-1100