Saul was chosen to be the first king of Israel. But he was disappointing as a king. He was disobedient to the Lord and he didn't have much respect for Samuel. And he had a habit of lying about what he had done. He was still in office but not fit to lead the nation, and Samuel had broken off any relations with him. It grieved Samuel that Saul was such an abysmal failure as a leader and when we read that Samuel mourned because of Saul the Hebrew word for mourn was the same word used when someone was mourning one who had died. However, there was a point when the Lord rebuked Samuel for his grief and told himthere was a new king just waiting to be anointed. This time God would choose a real king who would obey His commands and laws.
Samuel was to go to Bethlehem, to the house of Jesse and anointone of his sons as king. Bethlehem was a small town but there was a rich history there. This was where Jacob's favorite wife Rachel died giving birth to Benjamin. It was the home of Naomi, Ruth and Boaz. Samuel was fearful of going to Bethlehem because he and Saul were at odds. And when Samuel arrived there the people were afraid, thinking Samuel was recruiting people to fight against Saul. For Jesse and his sons to be invited to a banquet was a high honor but no one knew why they had been invited but Samuel. As the sons of Jesse filed in, Samuel sized them up, trying to figure out which son would be anointed king. But like many of us, Samuel was looking at their physical characteristics while God looks at the heart. Turns out the son God wanted to be king wasn't even at the banquet. He was out watching his father's flocks. He was a shepherd! He was the youngest and probably the least significant of Jesse's sons. In that day and age kings and other leaders were looked at as shepherds of the people. David was a man with the heart of a shepherd.
Interesting that you can drive cattle and oxen, but you must lead sheep, or they will scatter. The shepherd needs to know each of his sheep individually, love them and take care of them. Sheep are for the most part defenseless. They do not see well so they need the shepherd to guide and protect them. Jesus calls Himself the good shepherd and He calls us His sheep. What does that say about us?! Sheep learned the voice of their shepherd and would follow him anywhere. Jesus tells us He knows His sheep and His sheep know Him and His voice. He knows each of us by name, just like a shepherd would. David was exactly the kind of leader Israel needed. And David was the kind of person who would attract people to him and win their confidence.
Once David was anointed, the Spirit of the Lord left Saul and was replaced by a distressing or troubling spirit. His servants prescribed a harp player to calm him down when the spirit struck Saul. David was the harp player they brought into Saul’s house to calm and sooth him. In the beginning, Saul loved David and wanted him to live with him full time. But David went back and forth between Saul and his father’s sheep, moving where he was needed. It was clear Saul had no idea David the harp player was his successor.
What comes next is one of the most beloved stories in the Bible...David and Goliath. David was a spirit led man and he served in the will of God and for His glory. God's handprints are all over this story. Saul and the Israelite army were set to battle the Philistines...again. This time the Philistines had a champion who came to fight. Goliath was HUGE! He stood nine feet; nine inches tall. He wore a coat of mail that weighed 125 pounds and his spear weighed 15 pounds. Every morning and evening he appeared before the Israelite army and challenged them to fight. If he won, they would serve the Philistines. If the Israelites won, the Philistines should serve Israel. Saul and his army looked on this spectacle with fear and trembling. Serving in the army in those days required you to provide your own provisions, or if you were fighting close to home your family would bring you food when it was safe. Jesse sent David to bring food to his three fighting brothers and a gift for their commander. David was there early enough in the morning to hear Goliath's challenge and it angered him. David was indignant. Who did this uncircumcised Philistine think he was, blaspheming the name of Israel's God?
Remember David was too young to serve in the army, but he was acting as though anyone who had faith in the Lord could challenge Goliath and defeat him. Yet what David saw was men from the Israelite army fleeing from the field of battle. We will read in the Book of Esther that she was in her position as queenfor such a time as this. David had come to the camp for such a time as this. His brothers were disgusted with him, much likeJoseph whose brothers didn't have much use for him. But David had faith. He had plenty of time while he was out in the fields with the sheep to encounter the Lord and build a relationship with Him. And David volunteered to fight the giant. His brothers scoffed at him. The army looked on in horror. Saul gave David his armor to wear but it didn't fit, and David went to face Goliath in his shepherd clothes, carrying his sling and five smooth stones. Take a listen to David's faith. He stood his ground in front of the giant and proclaimed, ”You come at me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel whom you have defied.” It took one well-placed shot. Goliath was hit in the forehead, fell forward and died. David used the man's own sword to cut off his head, a sigh of great humiliation for the one who had fallen. The Philistines were terrified and fled with Israel giving chase.
And then there is a head scratching question. David has been serving in Saul’s court, playing the harp. But after David slew Goliath Saul wondered aloud whose son to his was...as though he didn't recognize David. There are a couple of explanations. First of all, Saul’s mental condition may have been very unstable and affected his memory. Saul may have recognized David as a court musician but forgotten the name of his father. He would need to know that to reward David's family. It is possible that Saul’s interest was not so much David's identity but the possibility that David was a contender for the throne. Little did Saul know; David had already been anointed as his successor.There is also the fact that in those days a son was identified by who his father was. Think about Simon bar Jonah...Simon, son of Jonah. Since David went back and forth between his father's sheep and playing the harp for Saul when the troubling spirit overtook him, he may not have recognized him.And Saul may have been asking to see if David had any more brothers at home just like him who could fight.
David becomes the hero that Saul once was. Saul is jealous and seeks revenge on David. That will be the pattern of their relationship until Saul dies and David assumes the throne. Someone once said there are people who make things happen, people who watch things happen, and people who don't know that anything is happening. David realized this battle was not between two armies but a spiritual battle between truth and error, faith and superstition, and the one true living God and dead idols. It is a battle that continues to rage today.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W