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“That We Might Have Hope” (Rom. 15:4)

First Samuel Chapter Sixteen

David Anointed King

Things were not looking good for the Israelites. Saul, their first king, whose reign had begun with such promise, had disobeyed and turned against God. Saul, the earthly king they had pleaded with God to let them have, would not have to bear the consequences of his actions. Samuel, the prophet of God, was now given the task of anointing Saul’s successor.

It was not a job Samuel was looking forward to. In 1 Samuel 16:1 the Lord says 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.”

There may be several reasons why Samuel was reluctant to anoint Saul’s successor. Primarily, he seemed to have feared Saul’s wrath if he found out what Samuel was doing. Saul was known for his mood swings and volatile temper. Once, after making a foolish oath, he had come very close to having his own son Jonathan killed. It would not take much for his anger to be turned against Samuel. So Samuel responded to the Lord: “How can I go? Saul will hear about it and kill me.”

One would think that, after serving God for so many years and seeing God’s power and protection, Samuel would not have feared Saul when given an assignment by almighty God. It may remind us of other servants of God who were reluctant to follow His commands–such as Moses at the burning bush and Jonah in going to Nineveh. These men struggled to obey God because of their sinful flesh which blinded them to seeing God’s ability to remove all obstacles.

We too have a sinful flesh which causes us to doubt God’s power and protection at times. Let us pray for strength to obey with confidence the commands our God gives us.

Samuel was told by the Lord to make a sacrifice to Him in Bethlehem, and to have Jesse and his sons assist him. From among this family the Lord would choose the next king. Those living in Bethlehem trembled when they heard Samuel was coming to town. No doubt they feared that Samuel was coming to execute a judgment on their town as he had done to King Agag of the Amalekites (cf. 1 Samuel 15). Samuel assured them he was coming in peace, and the sacrifice was arranged.

An Important Lesson

When everyone was gathered, Samuel saw Jesse’s eldest son, Eliab, and was sure this was the one the Lord had chosen. His outward appearance was what Samuel expected in a king. But God had not chosen Eliab, and Samuel learned an important lesson that day.

The Lord told Samuel: “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

It is wise that we take these words to heart as well. How often haven’t we made the mistake Samuel made and formed a judgment about someone based on physical appearance alone?

Too often in today’s world “image is everything.” Those who can package themselves to fit a popular image often become popular. For example, the average height of elected U.S. presidents is much taller than the average height. Why is that? Perhaps you can recall the televised Nixon-Kennedy debates. Kennedy’s more camera-friendly image gained him many supporters, while the majority of those who listened to the debates on the radio felt Nixon’s arguments were more convincing.

Isn’t it wonderful that God does not judge according to outward appearance? He sees the condition of our hearts. In believers He sees the wonderful robe of righteousness gained by Christ’s atoning sacrifice for sin.

In our country today an enormous amount of time, energy, and money is spent on altering one’s physical appearance for a variety of reasons. As Christians, let us not forget to tone and exercise our hearts so they are fit and attractively filled with the Holy Spirit. On the day we die, it will not matter what our outward appearance is like, but it will matter what is in our heart.

After Eliab passed by, six other of Jesse’s sons were brought. None was the chosen one of God. So Samuel asked Jesse: “Are these all the sons you have?” Jesse said he had one more, the youngest, who was busy tending the sheep. Jesse didn’t even mention this son by name. It seemed David wasn’t his father’s choice either. But he was God’s choice, and so Samuel anointed him king.

David is described as being healthy-looking and handsome. This tells us that sometimes God does use those with fine outward appearances to do His will.

But it was the condition of David’s heart that made him the right choice. David means “beloved,” and in this case the name fit perfectly. God loved David’s humble, obedient heart. He saw in David a heart of faith in the Savior to come and a heart of reliance on the Lord as his Shepherd.

May God grant us a heart such as this!

–Prof. Joseph Lau