AN EXPOSITION OF
1 SAMUEL 16: 1-13
A thousand years before Christ was born the land of Palestine was undergoing a national, economic, moral, and spiritual crisis. To make matters worse, the king was in an emotional revolt of the soul against the Lord. Personally selected by God, Saul had dared to disobey the Divine will. For his act of disobedience, the prophet Samuel had rebuked the king.
In dealing with the king’s sin Samuel did not spare words, but reminded the ruler “rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry” (1 Samuel 15:23). Because Saul had rejected the will of the Lord, the Lord had rejected Saul from being king.
Hearing that he was under the heavy hand of divine discipline, Saul tried to keep his kingdom. He pleaded with Samuel to offer a prayer of intercession on his behalf, but Samuel refused. Saul’s sin was too great, and his repentance was non-existence. Samuel plainly told Saul, “I will not return with thee for thou hast rejected the Word of the Lord, and the Lord hath rejected thee from being king over Israel.”
As Samuel turned to walk away, Saul grabbed at his clothing so tightly the garments of Samuel ripped. “And Samuel said unto him [Saul]. The Lord hath rent [torn] the kingdom of Israel from thee this day and hath given it to a neighbor of thine that is better than thou” (1 Samuel 15:28).
Saul paid a terrible price in time and in eternity, for his rebellion against the Lord. His life serves as a lesson for Christians. The judgment that fell upon Saul need not be repeated, provided God grants grace to repent of sin, wisdom to know His will, and the power of the Holy Spirit to restrain the heart, and cause it to act in a positive manner in the hour of temptation.
While Saul contemplated, in terror, the words of the prophet Samuel, another scene was taking place in the hills of Palestine. Far removed from the intrigues of the court palace, far away from the military and political drama in Jerusalem was a shepherd boy. He was the youngest of eight sons of a rich landowner named Jesse. Little did the young shepherd boy know that the God of all glory had looked down on him with favor. The Lord of the universe had looked deeply into the heart of the young shepherd, and saw a heart of righteousness.
God listened as the young shepherd made up songs to sing to the sheep to calm them in the middle of the night. With the twinkling stars above, the young boy began to quietly sing on one occasion, and said, “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” (Psalm 23:1-3).
This song, which was sung by the Shepherd of the Hills of Judea, reflected his absolute faith in the God of his forefathers, who included Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
The Lord was pleased with the Sweet Singer of Israel. It would not be long before the land of Palestine was familiar with the name of the Shepherd of the Hills. His father called him David (lit. beloved).
1 AND the LORD said unto Samuel, How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? Fill thine horn with oil, and go, I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite: for I have provided me a king among his sons.
There are several observations to be made, beginning with the absolute sovereignty of God in the affairs of this world. It is the Lord, who declared His rejection of Saul as king. It is the Lord, who became determined to establish a new king of His own choosing. It is the Lord, who controls all of our activities in a sovereign manner according to His own counsel and purposes.
When Reginald Heber realized this simple truth he wrote,
“Holy! Holy! Holy! Lord God Almighty!
All thy works shall praise Thy name
In Earth, and sky, and sea.”
Apart from the sovereignty of God, a second observation notices there is a harsh side in the dynamics of spirituality. In the opening verse Samuel is found grieving for Saul, despite the fact he had to issue strong words of judgment against the king. Breaking in upon the weeping prophet the Lord said to Samuel, “How long will thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel?” Samuel, how long will you cry?
These words seem almost cruel in their content, but a spiritual truth is manifested which is this: the God of love, is the God of justice. If individuals do not respond to the grace and mercy of God, then He shall visit them with justice. There is a harsh side of God, revealed in biblical theology.
Was it wrong for Samuel to weep for Saul? On one level, the answer has to be, “No, it was not wrong for the prophet of God to be distressed.” It is always good to have a tender heart. But there is a time when the teardrops must stop falling, the judgment of God must be recognized, and a new spiritual work must begin. The Lord Himself shall indicate when it is time to mourn, and when it is time to move on in life. For Samuel, it was God’s time for him to stop weeping, and move on to the next divinely appointed mission. Samuel was to anoint a new king over Israel.
2 And Samuel said, How can I go? If Saul hear it, he will kill me. And the LORD said, Take an heifer with thee, and say, I am come to sacrifice to the LORD.
3 And call Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will shew thee what thou shalt do: and thou shalt anoint unto me him whom I name unto thee.
Having discerned the will of the Lord, Samuel became very reluctant to comply, and so he began to resist. In his mind there was a valid reason why he should not obey God. “Saul will hear of it, Lord,” Samuel said, “and he will kill me.”
Suddenly, Samuel was faced with a temptation of his own to sin. Samuel was tempted to put his own selfish interests first. He was tempted to sin, in principle the same way Saul had, though not in the same manner. Samuel was tempted to rebel against God. A word of warning goes forth. Be careful. What grieves us about others, what is condemned in others, may be found in ourselves.
4 And Samuel did that which the LORD spake, and came to Bethlehem. And the elders of the town trembled at his coming, and said, Comest thou peaceably?
Unlike Saul, Samuel would obey the will of the Lord. What God commanded, would be performed. Samuel was instructed to take a heifer, go to Bethlehem, and let it be known he was there to offer a sacrifice. In Bethlehem Samuel would worship the Lord, and he would seek out the next king of Israel. Hearing that the prophet of God was coming to Bethlehem, the people of the town became somewhat agitated.
The people of Bethlehem had a reason to be concerned. Usually, when Samuel came unexpectedly to a place, it was for the purpose of rebuke, with instruction in righteousness. Therefore the elders of Bethlehem asked Samuel very pointedly, “Comest thou peaceably?”
5 And he said, Peaceably: I am come to sacrifice unto the LORD: sanctify yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice. And he sanctified Jesse and his sons, and called them to the sacrifice.
Not only would the prophet worship, but he would invite others to worship as well. However, in order for that to happen properly, the heart and life must be prepared. To that end Samuel instructed the people, “Sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifices.” Of particular concern was that the family of Jessie prepare to receive a blessing of the Lord.
In the house of Jesse, Samuel would stay, for it was there he was to seek the successor of Saul. The appointed hour came to recognize the next king of Israel. But who would be the king? Samuel did not know, but as he gazed upon the sons of Jesse he took hope. Here were a number of good-looking young men capable of leadership.
6 And it came to pass, when they were come, that he looked on Eliab, and said, Surely the LORD’s anointed is before him.
7 But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.
Beginning with the eldest son Eliab, the sons of Jesse were made to pass before Samuel. With each young man Samuel was impressed. When Eliab (lit. God is Father) stood before the prophet, Samuel thought to himself, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him.” But it was not Eliab that God had chosen. The Lord was not looking for another man of physical prowess. Saul was head and shoulders above other men physically, but in his soul he was a spiritual pygmy.
8 Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, Neither hath the LORD chosen this.
9 Then Jesse made Shammah to pass by. And he said, Neither hath the LORD chosen this.
10 Again, Jesse made seven of his sons to pass before Samuel. And Samuel said unto Jesse, The LORD hath not chosen these.
11 And Samuel said unto Jesse, Are here all thy children? And he said, There remaineth yet the youngest, and, behold, he keepeth the sheep. And Samuel said unto Jesse, Send and fetch him: for we will not sit down till he come hither.
Abinadab (lit. Father of liberality) came and stood before Samuel. Nearby sat Jesse with growing anxiety. He was not pleased that Eliab had been passed over, and now Abinadab was going to be set aside, and his brother, Shammah (lit. fame) as well. Seven sons soon filled the room. Seven times Samuel shook his head and said, “No, the Lord hath not chosen this one.”
For a moment there was silence. The tension grew. What had begun as a happy event, with high expectations was turning into a living nightmare. Suddenly, illuminated by the Holy Spirit, Samuel asked Jesse, “Are here all thy children?” Jesse replied, “There remaineth the youngest and, behold, he keepeth the sheep.” “Oh Jesse, how could you do what you are doing? How can you keep back from the prophet a child?”
It may be that Jesse was guilty of playing favorites. Perhaps he had lavished all of his energy and attention upon the older children so that now the son of his old age was being neglected.
It may be that Jesse was guilty of presumptuous sin, in believing he knew the mind of God. “Surely my last son could not be chosen by God to be king,” thought Jesse, and so the young Shepherd of the Hills was neglected. But God had chosen the youngest son. It seems the Lord is always surprising people with His selections. Word was sent to call for the Shepherd of the Hills. When called, he came.
12 And he sent, and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to. And the LORD said, Arise, anoint him: for this is he.
The godly prophet discerned immediately the young man before him, called David, was the chosen one. Concerning David, Samuel noticed several features.
First, David was very handsome. There was a reddish color to his hair, which was regarded as a mark of great beauty in the southern lands where hair was generally black.
Second, David was physically strong. The life of a shepherd demanded a strong body to move the flock from place to place, and protect the sheep from wild animals.
Third, David’s face held no deceit. There were no sullen, or hard, expressions on his face.
The relaxed, polite, sensitive features on the face of David radiated openness and friendship. “And the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Arise, anoint him: for this is he.”
13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah.
Samuel obeyed. With his brothers looking on, the last became first. The prophet Samuel anointed David king of Israel as the Holy Spirit came upon him. After the deed was done, Samuel went back to Ramah. And David, for the moment, he went back to being the Shepherd of the Hills.