By Al R. Hodges
Retired IMB Missionary
Focal Passage: I Samuel 16:4-13
Saul had been chosen as Israel’s first king, but had failed miserably as he repeatedly disobeyed God. God rejected him as king, and revealed to Samuel that He would choose another man to be king, a man after His own heart (I Samuel 13:14). The new king was not immediately identified, and Saul continued to reign. Only God knew who, when, and how the transition to the new king would take place. In His perfect timing, God called the Prophet Samuel into action. It was a dangerous assignment to anoint a new king while there was a sitting king. God told Samuel to go to Bethlehem and anoint as king one of Jesse’s sons (I Samuel 16:1). Samuel was obedient to God’s call, even though he knew he would be risking his life (16:2). God gave him instructions to go to Bethlehem and organize a sacrifice (worship), specifically inviting Jesse’s family. Samuel was to anoint a son of Jesse whom God would reveal ( vv. 2-3).
When Samuel showed up in Bethlehem unannounced and uninvited, the elders of the town were frightened (vv. 4-5). Why had the Prophet of God come to their town? Was there trouble brewing of which they did not know? Samuel reassured them that he had come in peace, and was there to call the town to a sacrifice. They were to “consecrate” themselves, to make ready for worship. Samuel also made certain that Jesse’s family was invited and made ready for the event. The type of sacrifice could have been a fellowship offering (Leviticus 3:1-17), where the best part of the meat was burned on the altar fire to God, and the rest was cooked and served to the worshipers. The Lord always desires fellowship with us (Revelation 3:20).
Samuel was impressed by the stature of Jesse’s son Eliab (I Samuel 16:6), but God had a different perspective. Jesse had seven sons, none of whom were God’s choice (v. 10). God said to Samuel something we all must keep in mind: “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (v. 7). Listening to God is absolutely necessary when we vote for a pastor or an elected government official. We really cannot know God’s will by simply judging the appearance of someone or something superficially. We must pray and listen to God.
Samuel wanted to know if he had seen all of Jesse’s sons. There was one more, the youngest who was tending the sheep. “Bring him here, for we will not start the meal without him,” said Samuel (v. 11). When David came, he was young and handsome, and the Lord spoke to Samuel saying, “That’s the one, anoint him!” (v. 12). Who would have believed that the next king, God’s anointed, would be a shepherd boy from Bethlehem? God was preparing for the time when He would send His only Son to be born in Bethlehem. As soon as David was anointed, God’s Spirit came upon him, empowering him to serve as the next king. This is the combination of heart and Spirit which God desires: A man after His own heart filled and empowered by His Spirit. Today, every believer is given a new heart and the Holy Spirit empowering us to do God’s will.