God Chooses the King

091908-Ballot-Box

Life never just happens. It may seem like random events occurring randomly, but there is nothing random about life. The Bible tells us that God is intimately involved in the lives of His people.

The steps of good men are directed by the Lord. He delights in each step they take. If they fall, it isn’t fatal, for the Lord holds them with his hand. (Psalm 37:23, 24 TLB)

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. (Romans 8:14 TLB)

God’s ways of leading are as numerous as the number of people He leads. Sometimes His guidance is obvious, other times He speaks in a “still, small voice.” But lead His people God always does.

This is even true in our civic and spiritual leaders. We hold elections, of course, but the Bible decrees we get the leaders we deserve. That’s not to say our vote isn’t important, but God has a plan and He knows what, or who, is best for us. Sometimes it’s hard to understand why a certain person has been called by God to pastor a church or why another has been called to be a mechanic. For reasons and purposes known only to God, He puts the right people in the right place for the good of His people and the advancement of His plan on earth.

During Samuel’s time as Israel’s judge and prophet, the people clamored for a king. God Himself was to be Israel’s king, but He relented, gave them one, and the people chose Saul. Saul looked like he walked right out Central Casting. He looked like a king. His heart, though, was the heart of coward and a scoundrel. Saul was a disaster. Israel’s next king was chosen specifically by God Himself. David, apparently, didn’t look like a king at all. But David had one quality Saul never possessed: He met God’s spiritual standard.

Sadness leads to an opportunity

Samuel never saw Saul again, but he mourned constantly for him; and the Lord was sorry that he had ever made Saul king of Israel. (1 Samuel 15:35 TLB)

Saul was an unmitigated disaster as a king, but his sad state broke both the hearts of Samuel and the Lord. It no doubt sickened the Lord to see the damage one, rebellious man could inflict upon His people. Because of Saul’s stubborn refusal to do what he was told, Israel’s very future as a nation would be put in jeopardy. The unintended consequences of our disobedience to God can be equally as devastating. No wonder God and Samuel were so mournful.

Saul’s failure became an opportunity for God to act; for God to do something great for His people. He was fair. God gave the people a chance to choose their own king. Now He would choose one for them. God’s king would have a big job to do. He would not only have to lead a spiritually dull people, but he would have to clean up Saul’s mess.

Finally the Lord said to Samuel, “You have mourned long enough for Saul, for I have rejected him as king of Israel. Now take a vial of olive oil and go to Bethlehem and find a man named Jesse, for I have selected one of his sons to be the new king.”

But Samuel asked, “How can I do that? If Saul hears about it, he will kill me.”

“Take a heifer with you,” the Lord replied, “and say that you have come to make a sacrifice to the Lord. Then call Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you which of his sons to anoint.” (1 Samuel 16:1 – 3 TLB)

The Bible doesn’t tell us how long Samuel mourned for Saul; how long his bitter disappointment and depression lasted, but it had to come to an end. It ended with a new plan. This time, God Himself would choose Israel’s new king. The Lord didn’t intend to give Saul yet another chance to get it right. In fact, God had given Saul many chances, yet each time Saul acted in a rebellious manner. God was finished with Saul and it was time for Saul’s tenure on the throne to wind down. In chapter 16, we see God finding a way to slip His man into the royal house. God will brilliantly contrast David and Saul so that even the people will see the difference. The people needed to see how they failed in choosing a man based on something as slim as appearance, and Saul needed to see what God’s man really looked like.

It would be an awkward time, and Samuel was concerned for his life. Saul was, at best, highly unstable. He couldn’t be trusted. But Samuel had to trust God. His anointing of one of Jesse’s sons would take place in public, so the Lord concocted a stealth plan. B.B. Warfield observed,

Nothing, however small, however strange, occurs without God’s ordering, or without its particular fitness for it place in the working out of His purpose; and the end of all shall be the manifestation of His glory, and the accumulation of His praise.

God’s clever plan

Like it or not, Samuel was a sort of celebrity in his time, and his arrival in the little town caused quite a ruckus.

So Samuel did as the Lord had told him to. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the city came trembling to meet him.

“What is wrong?” they asked. “Why have you come?”

But he replied, “All is well. I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Purify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.”

And he performed the purification rite on Jesse and his sons, and invited them too. (1 Samuel 16:4, 5 TLB)

Jesse and his family lived in Bethlehem. Jesse, as it turned out, was the grandson of Boaz and Ruth, the Moabitess. In an ironic twist, the mother of Boaz was also not an Israelite. She was a prostitute from Jericho named Rahab, a point not missed by Matthew, who mentions it in his genealogy of Jesus.

Samuel knew that the next king would be one of Jesse’s boys, and he was pretty sure he knew which one it would be. He was wrong. As spiritual as he was, he was still not living by faith. He was undoubtedly obedient to God, but slightly carnal in his thinking. God set him straight, though.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by a man’s face or height, for this is not the one. I don’t make decisions the way you do! Men judge by outward appearance, but I look at a man’s thoughts and intentions.” (1 Samuel 16:7 TLB)

This is a classic verse that explains the inner workings of God’s reasoning mind. In this chapter we are given some powerful spiritual principles. In the previous chapter, we were given another classic verse:

“Has the Lord as much pleasure in your burnt offerings and sacrifices as in your obedience? Obedience is far better than sacrifice. He is much more interested in your listening to him than in your offering the fat of rams to him.” (1 Samuel 15:22 TLB)

Our love for Jesus Christ is measurable. We demonstrate our love for Him by being obedient to Him. There are lots of people, even Christians, who don’t understand this simple, yet profound principle. Telling Jesus that you love Him doesn’t count for a lot. You can say anything, but that proves nothing. What Jesus wants is precisely what Samuel told Saul. It not what we say about Jesus, it’s what we do. We manifest our love for Him by being obedient. The Christian life is reality, nothing else.

We learn something about God, too. He looks at us from the inside. He sees us as we really are, not as we appear to be. Character is vitally important to God. Samuel thought he knew whom God would choose, but Samuel couldn’t see inside Eliab, David’s older brother. Perhaps Eliab looked kingly, but he obviously didn’t have the heart for the job. It’s not that Eliab was a bad person, he just wasn’t God’s person.

God sees the heart. We human beings aren’t terribly good at doing that. Even Samuel, as close to God as he was, made the same mistake the people Israel did.

John Newton’s words are worth remembering:

God often takes a course for accomplishing His purposes directly contrary to what our narrow views would prescribe.

God makes His choice – the right choice

So Jesse sent for him. He was a fine looking boy, ruddy-faced, and with pleasant eyes. And the Lord said, “This is the one; anoint him.” (1 Samuel 16:12 TLB)

Given the fact that God looks at the heart and isn’t concerned with appearance, this is a very curious verse. After what we were told, it seems as though God would choose a homely, unattractive man to be king. But we are told David was a “fine looking boy.” God doesn’t despise beauty. He can use anybody, and obviously there was a quality or qualities in David that nobody else saw, save the Lord. David may have been handsome, but that is not why God chose him. David is an interesting character. Of course we know that he failed God a number of times. Yet David possessed a faith that never failed.

So as David stood there among his brothers, Samuel took the olive oil he had brought and poured it upon David’s head; and the Spirit of Jehovah came upon him and gave him great power from that day onward. Then Samuel returned to Ramah. (1 Samuel 16:13 TLB)

At the moment God’s Spirit came upon David, He left Saul. It seems as though David’s brothers were unaware of what this anointing ceremony was all about. Why would they even suspect that their younger brother had just been anointed king? He’s not the type they would have chosen.

But when David’s oldest brother, Eliab, heard David talking like that, he was angry. “What are you doing around here, anyway?” he demanded. “What about the sheep you’re supposed to be taking care of? I know what a cocky brat you are; you just want to see the battle!” (1 Samuel 17:28 TLB)

God more than qualified David for the job to which he had been called.

Saul’s decline

Even though David had been anointed king, Saul was still on the throne. It wasn’t yet time for David to succeed him. Saul’s days were numbered, and he was in decline.

David continued to succeed in everything he undertook, for the Lord was with him. When King Saul saw this, he became even more afraid of him; but all Israel and Judah loved him, for he was as one of them. (1 Samuel 18:14 – 16 TLB)

As was noted earlier, it was important in God’s scheme of things for the people to see a clear difference between Saul and David; between their choice and His, between a man overcome by his passions and one full of the Spirit of God. After the Lord’s presence left Saul, his decline seemed to speed up. Saul was now completely forsaken of God, a choice Saul made and God honored. David was brought in the palace to play his harp. The people don’t know it yet, but they were listening to their new king.

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