God’s king, God’s choice

Chatswood Baptist Church https://www.chatswoodbaptist.com.au

1 Samuel 16

Choosing a leader

Choosing a someone to lead any group of people is a difficult task.

It’s a difficult task

It must be a difficult task because we so often get it wrong. Often the very leader we thought that we wanted is the one that a year or two later we are looking to get rid of. The one who we thought would be better turns out to be worse. The one that we would thought would make a difference does nothing. The one we believed would right the wrongs becomes the one doing the wrongs. History is littered with stories of people who started out claiming to be their people’s liberators who ended up just became their next round of oppressors and dictators.

We often put our hope in the wrong people and that’s partly because all that we have to go on is how they appear to be outwardly. We often appoint people who look like that they will be able to deliver our hopes and dreams and who then turn out to be more concerned about their own hopes and dreams than ours. They tell us whatever they think they need to tell us usually promising security and prosperity and then end up disappointing us. We get duped by them for we have no way of telling what they are really like.

It was time to choose a new king

Today we are starting a series of talks looking at the leadership of David, the greatest of OT leader of Israel.  At the beginning of chapter 16 in verse 1 and 2 we see that the time had come for a new king to be appointed. The Lord had rejected Saul, the leader that the people had asked for, and he had chosen one of Jesse’s sons to be his king.

1 Samuel 16:1-2

The Lord said 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.”[1]

It was roughly about 1000 or so year before the birth of Christ. King Saul was Israel’s first real king and he reigned from around 1050 to 1010BC. But, Israel’s first king quickly proved to be a tremendous disappointment failing to lead his people as he ought to have done with the consequences that the Lord had rejected him as king.

The Lord had rejected Saul (Saul = asked for)

The problem with Saul was that he had been the type of king that the people had asked for. They had asked for a king to lead them just like all the other nations (1 Samuel 8:5) and the Lord had given them exactly what they asked for. The people wanted an impressive strong leader like the ones they saw the nations around them had and Saul was an impressive young man that stood head and shoulders above the rest. We are told that he was without equal among the Israelites and that his father was a man of standing (see 1 Samuel 9:1-2). Ironically, the name “Saul” was derived from the Hebrew word “to ask” and his name could be translated “asked for”. The Lord had chosen Saul because this was the leader that they had asked for.

But, so often what we ask for isn’t necessarily good for us and this how Saul turned out to be.  In chapters 8 to 15 of 1 Samuel what we see is that whenever Saul was under pressure and situation appeared grim, he did whatever he felt that he needed to do to get out of trouble, even if it meant disobeying the Word of God, which he repeatedly did. He made sacrifices that only the priest should have made. He made foolish vows that endangered his own people and nearly resulted in the death of his son. He built monuments to himself, instead of honouring the Lord. He disobeyed the word of the Lord and then made excuses for it or he blamed the people that he was meant to be leading. He didn’t trust the Lord, so the Lord rejected him as king and told him that he was going to take the kingdom from him and give it to another, one of his neighbours, “one better” than him (1 Samuel 15:28).

The Lord had chosen a son of Jesse (16:2)

Chapter 16 opens with the Lord telling Samuel that it was time to stop mourning over Saul and take his horn with his oil and be on his way for he had chosen one of Jesse’s sons to be king. In Ancient Israel you didn’t crown kings, you anointed them with oil. It is from the word “to anoint” that we get the words “Messiah” and “Christ”.

Samuel was to anoint the king that God had chosen to replace the king that they had asked for and that he had given them. This time the Lord would give them his king the one that he would choose for them[2].

Samuel was reluctant at first to go. He was afraid for he knew that Saul wouldn’t be pleased to hear about him anointing another king. But the Lord told him to invite Jesse to a sacrifice and he would show him what to do once and Samuel headed off and did what the Lord told him to do. Samuel here displayed the sort of faith that was necessary for leadership of Israel. He trusted the Lord taking one step at a time not knowing exactly how it would all turn out. Faith is like that. It is trusting what the Lord has said without knowing how it will all work out in the short term. It isn’t coming up with your own plan but doing what you know the Lord has said you ought to do knowing that God is in control of everything.

The Lord’s choice

But which son of Jesse had the Lord chosen and on what basis was he judged to be suitable to be the next leader of Israel? This is what Samuel did not know when he arrived at Bethlehem. He was told that the Lord would show him what to do when he got there. When the family arrived, Samuel thought that Eliab was surely the Lord’s anointed. But the Lord corrected Samuel.

1 Samuel 16:7

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. 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 wasn’t about the outward appearance

Samuel suffered from the problem that most of the Israelites suffered from. They were always tempted to be impressed by what they saw, the outward appearance of a person. We are all far too influenced by what we see, and the temptation is always to live by sight and not by faith – to believe our eyes rather than what God has said.

When it came to the people of God, Israel saw the nations around them and they wanted to be led by strong and powerful leaders like the nations had. They wanted a king always on hand to lead them going out before them to fight their battles (see 1 Samuel 8:19-20). Eliab was the firstborn son and perhaps the tallest and to Samuel he looked to be the best candidate to be king. But, Samuel was only looking only at the outward appearance and he shouldn’t have been.


If anyone should have learnt that you can’t tell a book by its cover, it should have been Samuel. Saul had been an impressive looking young man. We are told that he was without equal among the Israelites. He was a head taller than any of the others (9:2). But Saul had proved to be a great disappointment and if anyone ought to have known this it was Samuel. But it appears that Samuel just could not help himself. Living by what we see is wired into us. We are easily impressed by things that ought not to impress us. Saul saw Eliab and was impressed with him. Eliab was the eldest son (see 1 Samuel 17:13) and probably the tallest among the brothers. Samuel had been impressed even though he knew nothing else about him. But the Lord doesn’t look on the outward appearance.

It was about the heart

The Lord said that he looks at the heart. He doesn’t see as we see. He sees what is going on inside a person for he looks at the heart. Each of Jesse’s sons who had come to the sacrifice was made to pass by Samuel but none of them were the one that God had seen. Finally, Samuel asked Jesse whether these seven were all his sons and Jesse was forced to send for the youngest son who was out minding the sheep. When David arrived, the Lord told Samuel what to do. He was to get up an anoint this shepherd boy for he was the one.

Saul had been “the anointed one” and now David is anointed because he turned out to be the one whose heart the Lord had seen. But what it was about David’s heart that made him a more suitable king than Saul, the king that the people had asked for?

It was about trusting the Lord

I want to suggest that the problem with Saul had been that his heart wasn’t inclined to trust and obey the Lord. Tim Chester writes that what the Lord was looking for “was humility or lowliness” and I think that such humility involves trusting the Lord and not ourselves.

Proverbs 3:5-6

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight” (Prov. 3:5).

Saul failed to trust in the Lord. When it came down to it Saul did whatever he thought was necessary at the time leaning. He leant on his own understanding of things, even if it went against the word of the Lord and what God had told him to do. He did whatever he thought was necessary to get him out of the trouble that was immediately at hand. He only obeyed the word of the Lord when it suited him.

When the Lord told Saul, he was rejecting him as king over Israel, he told him that it was because he had rejected the word of the Lord (15:23).  When Samuel told Saul that his kingdom wouldn’t endure and that the Lord would appoint a man after his own heart he explained that it was because Saul hadn’t kept the Lord’s command.

1 Samuel 13:14

14 But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.”

Presumably, the man after his own heart would be one who would be more inclined to trust the Lord and keep the Lord’s commands. It would be the one who wouldn’t lean on his own understanding but acknowledge the Lord in all his ways. This was the sort of king that the people of God needed to lead them and the one that God had now chosen for himself. The book of Acts seems to confirm this as it recounts the story of Saul and David.

Acts 13:21

21 Then the people asked for a king, and he gave them Saul son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, who ruled for forty years. 22 After removing Saul, he made David their king. He testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’

What was most important about the king was that he had a heart to do everything that the Lord told him to do. He trusted the Lord. The problem with Saul was that he wasn’t like this. David would be better, but even David would prove to be far from perfect and would ultimately fail horribly at different points in his life as we will see. David too would need to be replaced by someone better than him. It would take more than a thousand years, but one would eventually come. David was just the foretaste or the foreshadowing of the king that would reign forever.

The Lord’s presence

When Samuel anointed David that day another significant thing happened. The Spirit of the Lord came on David for David was now the Lord’s anointed. The Lord was with his king. At the same time the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul. The chapter pivots around verses 13 and 14 where it sets up our understanding of what we see happening in the rest of the chapter. Without the Lord with him Saul is now a tormented man who really cannot function without David by his side.

1 Samuel 16:13-14

13 So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power. Samuel then went to Ramah. 14 Now the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him.

The Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul

The Spirit of the Lord had come upon Saul after Samuel had anointed him (10:10). But now we read that the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul and instead Saul found himself being troubled by an evil spirit from the Lord[3]. Saul might have worn the crown, but he no longer had the Lord’s backing as king. The Lord was no longer with him and without the Lord present with him Saul became a tormented man.

The Spirit of the Lord was with David

On the other hand, the Spirit of the Lord was now with David and David found himself being brought into the court of Saul. He was there to play the harp to relieve Saul’s torment. But, what was is clear is that the Lord was with David and he was working getting David ready to replace Saul as king. Even Saul, without knowing approved of his own replacement.

1 Samuel 16:21-22

21 David came to Saul and entered his service. Saul liked him very much, and David became one of his armour-bearers. 22 Then Saul sent word to Jesse, saying, “Allow David to remain in my service, for I am pleased with him.”

We need to see as God sees[4]

There are just several things that I would like to point out today that this passage teaches us. The first is that this passage teaches us that we need to see as God’s sees. We need the Lord to reveal to us what we just don’t see. Our understanding of things is flawed because our sight is limited. Even Samuel didn’t know what he was looking for when he turned up in Bethlehem to anoint Saul’s replacement. He would have got it wrong that day if it has been up to him to choose a king and Samuel was a great prophet with a life time of experience.

We need the Word of God to see

You and I need to see what the Lord sees, and we need the Word of God to see what he sees. We need the Lord to tell us what we are looking at so that we can see things through his eyes and that’s why the Word of God is so important. It helps us to see things as they truly are not just as they appear on the surface.

By ourselves we can never see enough to go beyond the mere appearance of things and even what do see we often distort for sin interferes with the way we see things. That’s why we can’t lean on our own understanding, but we must trust in the Lord and what he has revealed in his Word. Fortunately for us the Lord has revealed the things that we need to see and know and do.

We need to trust in the Lord

Samuel was told to go Bethlehem and invite Jesse and his sons to the sacrifice and the Lord would show him what to do. He was afraid and he didn’t know what the outcome would be, but he took that step of faith and trusted the Lord waiting until the Lord showed him the next step that he was to take. Often faith means stepping out and trusting in his word even though we don’t know what will come of it. At work it will mean oing things his way rather your own way even though you don’t know sometimes what others around you we make of it. It means leaning not on your own understanding but trusting in him.

We need to see beyond David to Jesus

Lastly, what we learn through David story is to see beyond David to Jesus. David was always just warming up the seat for another. David was the one that God had chosen to replace Saul, but he was never meant to sit on the throne forever. He was just keeping the seat warm for a time for someone far greater than he. David might have been better than Saul, but even David will fail terribly. He was a man after God’s own heart but unlike God’s heart, his was still flawed and he would not reign forever because of it. He was just a little foretaste of an even better king who was to come.

Of course, we don’t have to guess who this king is for the Lord has made him known. When the time came the Lord also sent a prophet that he might be revealed to us.

John 1:29-34

29 The next day John saw Jesus coming towards him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptising with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”

32 Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. 33 I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptise with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptise with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.”


Like with David God sent his prophet so that Jesus might revealed to Israel. John the Baptist saw the Spirit of the Lord come down from heaven like a dove and remain on the Lord’s anointed. John, like Samuel, did not know who he would be, but John said that it was why he came baptising with water that he might be revealed.

The Lord had promised David that he would raise up an offspring of his whose throne would be established forever (2 Samuel 7:13). Jesus was the one that David was keeping the seat warm for. Jesus is truly the man after God’s own heart for he is the Son of God who came into our world to deliver us from our greatest enemy, sin. In the case of Jesus, he always did his father’s will. He did all that his father commanded. In the garden of Gethsemane with his biggest test before him, he did not flinch but said “not my will, but yours be done”. He trusted his father and did everything His father would ask of him, even to the point of being obedient unto death, even death on a cross. He would do all this to be the king that his people needed – the one who would save them from their sin. He would be the shepherd who would lay down his own perfect life for the sheep.

When we look at David today, you and I are meant to look beyond David and see Jesus. We need to see that Jesus is the king that God has appointed for us. We are to follow him and put all our hope in him and humble ourselves which means trusting him and his word. It means not leaning on our own understanding (not relying on what we see with our own eyes) but acknowledging him in all our ways (Prov 3:6).

We need to see what God is showing us. We need to see the king that he has chosen to lead his people and we need to trust him.

[1] Unless otherwise indicated all Scripture references are taken from The Holy Bible: New International Version—Anglicised. (1984). (electronic edition). London: Hodder & Stoughton.

[2] His king would be a man after his own heart (see 13:13), one of Saul’s neighbours, one better than Saul (see 15:28).

[3] Several scholar suggest that the word “evil” that is used to describe the spirit could be translated ‘harmful’ or ‘injurious”[3] and they argue that we aren’t necessarily talking about an “evil” spirit coming for God, but a spirit who had a harmful effect on Saul.  This could be the case, but I don’t see any need to try and soften the language. The Bible makes it clear that Satan whose name in Hebrew means “accuser” is the accuser of God’s people (12:9-10). I don’t believe it is problematic to think that that the Lord might have allowed Satan to have troubled Saul with his accusations.


[4] This is one of the chapter heading in John Woodhouse’s commentary called “1 Samuel: Looking for a Leader (Preaching the Word), Location 5616.