Saul had proven himself unwilling to shoulder the burden of faithful leadership as he chose to walk by sight, chose popularity, and chose himself over God. And it’s a shame, too, because it seems like Jonathan his son might have been an excellent king. But now it’s time to choose a king who will be “after God’s own heart”. As it turns out, it’s not what anyone expected.
God sent Samuel to Bethlehem to anoint a new king. Once they got past the details of how to keep this hidden from Saul’s jealous eyes, Samuel calls Jesse’s family together to ordain Israel’s next ruler. Jesse brings in 7 of his 8 sons for Samuel’s “inspection” at a feast. Had it been Samuel’s choice, he would have stopped with Eliab — he apparently just looked like kingly material. But to even Samuel’s surprise, none of the sons brought in by Jesse are chosen by the Lord. “And Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Are these all the children?’ And he said, ‘There remains yet the youngest, and behold, he is tending the sheep.’ Then Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.’” 1 Samuel 16:11, NAS95. And surprise, surprise — it’s David that God chooses. God gives to Samuel an important principle in the midst of all this: “But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at [Eliab’s] appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.’” 1 Samuel 16:7, NAS95.
How like Jesus is king David! Rejected by many in Israel, because they thought He was from Galilee… because He was a carpenter… because He didn’t look like a king. They wanted a king who looked like their version of the Messianic king. And doing so, many missed Jesus. But fantastic things come from what appear to be weak things.
“but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption,” 1 Corinthians 1:27-30, NAS95.
“And He has said to [Paul], ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9, 10, NAS95.
And then, interestingly enough, God positions David to be an observer in the court of king Saul — auditing the course Kingship 101, as it were — a way to have a quick start to leadership and the special world of ruling and defending a nation. Something usually only a son might get to do, but since David has been called in to be king Saul’s personal iPod (harp player), David gets to be a fly-on-the-wall to conversations, decisions, and politics of the kingdom. Never complain about the position you find yourself, it just might be the very position to learn what you need to know for the next big step.
The next chapter is the famous story of David and Goliath. This story is about far more than just the little guy taking down the big guy. It’s about faith and overcoming. David had come to the Israelite/Philistine battlefield to bring food at his father’s request. As he enters the camp Goliath steps out and does his daily trash-talk against the army of Israel. And despite the fact that Goliath is 9’6″, is well armored, and clearly has plenty of experience killing men, David is stirred to his core at Goliath’s challenge against Israel — and amazed that no one is volunteering to take him on. Seeing no volunteers — and hearing that there’s a reward — he inquires further about this among the soldiers standing around. As he does so, his older brother Eliab hears and scorns him…
“…Why have you come down? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your insolence and the wickedness of your heart; for you have come down in order to see the battle.” 1 Samuel 17:28, NAS95.
Why? Maybe he was embarrassed that his youngest brother had more courage than he did. Maybe he was jealous. Maybe afraid of being “shown up”. Did you get what he was saying in the quote above? “You’re irresponsible; your incompetent; you’re a nobody; and you’ve rudely disrespected the rest of us with your arrogant claims of courage. You have only wicked intentions!” Sometimes you get discouragement from the people closest to you — from the people you expected encouragement from! But we need to do what David did — keep faith; do what the Lord expect you to do! And here’s another lesson: be an encourager! Sometimes the passion of others can shame us; since we’ve failed you shouldn’t even try; why, what if you succeeded! We need to check our motives and be an encourager!
But David also overcame the pressure to rely on conventional means of solving a problem. Saul offered his armor, but it just didn’t fit David. And David had courage and faith enough to take them off and go do what needed to be done anyway! He picked up his staff, got some “ammo” in the local wadi (dry river bed), got out his sling shot, and got with it. God rarely uses convention to accomplish His great ends — Moses, Joshua, Jesus. We need to know that it’s OK to not have all the conventional “armor”, weapons, money, looks, talents, etc. When you have God on your side, you have all you need.
The last thing I wanted to point out is the ironic polarity of reactions by Saul and Jonathan. Saul hated him, because he overcame — and became more popular than the king. But Jonathan loved him (even gave him his own armor) because David overcame. Lesson? Do what’s right, and realize that you’ll have those who’ll hate you and those who’ll love you. We know that in our heads, probably, but we hardly ever learn this one in our hearts. Just be forewarned; you have to do what’s right (in love) and let the pieces fall where they may. David couldn’t escape it, Jesus couldn’t escape it; and you won’t either.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.