David: Man After God’s Own Heart
Part I: “The Anointing

A sermon by Dr. Jim Somerville, Pastor
Richmond’s First Baptist Church
Richmond, Virginia
June 10, 2012

from 1 Samuel 16

This summer, the Lectionary walks through the Books of First and Second Samuel in the Old Testament, and the story of King David, the greatest king who ever lived in the land of Israel. 

It seemed to me that if I were going to approach this series, it would be better as a storyteller and not as a preacher and so as you can tell, I have removed the pulpit completely.  I’ve thrown away my sermon notes.  I’ve unbuttoned my jacket.  Today, we will find out if you can hear the word of the Lord from someone who is not wearing a necktie.

It will be an adjustment for everybody, but for some more than others, I just want to ask you to give it a try.  And to understand this – that by the end of the summer, we will have worked our way through nearly fifty chapters of the Biblical narrative.  If it’s true what God says in Isaiah 55, that his word does not return to him void, but accomplishes the purpose for which he sends it out, something could happen this summer in your life and in mine.  And maybe the thing to do is to prepare the soil of your heart to receive the seed of the word so it can take root and grow up within you. 

Instead of coming to me afterward and saying, “Well, that didn’t sound much like a sermon.  It sounded like a story.”  Maybe, maybe you could say, “The seed of the word landed on fertile soil today.”  I’m going to be telling the story of David but I need to begin with some back story to let you know how David became the greatest king who ever lived, a man after God’s own heart.

Times were hard in the land of Israel.  Nahash, the king of the Ammonites, was terrorizing the people of God who lived on his side of the Jordan River, the East Bank.  He would send his soldiers out in raiding parties and whenever they found one of the Israelites, a man, they would gouge out his right eye.  Until half the men on that side of the river were walking around wearing eye patches. 

It terrorized all of Israel and a delegation went to see Samuel at Ramah.  They said to him, “Samuel, you have been judge over us all these years and in all these years, you have judged among us faithfully, truthfully, you have prayed for us and protected us from our enemies round about, you have been a good and faithful judge.  But, you are old.  And your sons do not walk in your ways.  Therefore, give us a king to rule over us, one who will lead us into battle and protect us from our enemies all around.” 

And do you know, it hurt Samuel’s feelings just a little bit to hear it.

Not so much that he was old, but that they were trying to replace him.  And he went to the Lord, and said, “Look what they want to do.  They want a king instead of a judge.” 

And the Lord said, “Listen to their voice and do what they ask.  They aren’t rejecting you from being their judge.  They are rejecting me from being their king.  They’ve been doing it since the day I led them up out of Egypt and brought them to the promised land.  Only do this, tell them what the ways of a king will be among them.” 

And so Samuel did.  He went to the people and said, “You want a king.  I’ll give you a king but I need to warn you, these are the ways of a king.  He will be a taker and not a giver.  He will take your sons and make them drive his chariots and work in his fields and craft his implements of warfare.  He will take your daughters and make them his bakers and cooks and perfumers.  He will take the best of your lands and your vineyards and your olive orchards.  He will take your male servants, your female servants, your sheep, your cattle, your oxen, your donkeys, finally, he will take you yourselves and make you his slaves. These are the ways of a king.  Do I have to even remind you of this?  Do I have to say the word Egypt.” 

And yet, they said “We don’t care about that.  We want a king.  We want somebody who will lead us into battle, someone who will protect us from our enemies.” 

People will give up almost anything for the illusion of security.  Sometimes, even their faith in God. 

And so Samuel said then, “Go, go back to your own homes and I will look for a king.” 

Now there was a man named Kish from the tribe of Benjamin.  He was a wealthy man.  He had lands, he had livestock, and he had a son named Saul.  Saul was a handsome young man.  In all the land of Israel, there was no one more handsome than Saul.  And tall: he was head and shoulders above every other man in the land of Israel. 

If you saw him today, you would say that he looked presidential.  Now whether he was a Democrat or a Republican, I don’t know but there is a long story in the Bible about a time when he went looking for some lost donkeys.  That could really go either way, couldn’t it? Lost donkeys, Democrat, Republican... I don’t know. 

But Saul took with him one of the young men from his father’s farm and they went looking for these donkeys.  They went up through the hill country of Ephraim.  They traveled across the territory that belonged to Benjamin. They came all the way to the land of Zuph, and Saul said to the young man who was with him, “Perhaps we should turn back, my father is going to stop worrying about the donkeys and start worrying about me.” 

But the young man said, “There is a man of God who lives in the village just ahead of us.  He is a reputation as a seer – he can see things nobody else can see. Maybe he can tell us where the donkeys have gone.” 

And so they went on into the village and as they were going in, some girls came out carrying water jars going to the well to fetch water. 

Imagine that for just a moment, if you can, these girls from the village who were suddenly approached by Saul.  The tallest, best looking man in all of Israel.

And he said, “Can you tell me where the seer lives?” 

I don’t know what was going on inside their heads but what they saw, they liked,  and they said,  “Well, yes, he’s just, just inside the village, you’ll see him.  He’s offering a sacrifice to … you can’t miss him.  You’ll see him. I’m sure you will see him.”

And off they went to the well, thinking about what they had just seen. 

But Saul went into the village and there was the seer, on his way to make a sacrifice, and the seer was none other than Samuel.  And when Saul approached him, Samuel said, “You’re looking for something, aren’t you?” 

“Yes,” he said.

“You’re looking for some lost donkeys?”

“Yes, I am.” 

“Don’t worry about your donkeys.  They’ve been found. But let me tell you, I am  looking for something, too.  I’m looking for the new king of Israel, and I believe you are he.” 

And Saul said, “Me?  I’m from the smallest tribe in all of Israel and my family is the least in the tribe.  You couldn’t be talking about me.” 

But Samuel said, “I am.  And I want you to kneel down and receive the anointing.” 

So Saul knelt right there in front of Samuel.  He would have to kneel down. He was head and shoulders taller than any other man in the land.  But he knelt down and Samuel poured out the oil of anointing on his head. 

And the Bible says that when Saul stood up, the Lord gave him a new heart.  And that from that day on, he was a different man than he had been before. 

Those of you who know Saul’s whole story may wonder if he was a different man from that day on.  What kind of man was he before?  God only knows.  But he went back to his father’s farm where he found the donkeys, all recovered, and he lived there and worked there in the days that followed. 

But in the meantime, Nahash. King of the Ammonites, continued to terrorize the people on his side of the river, the tribes of Rubin and Gad, until there were only seven thousand men left in the nation who hadn’t had their right eye gouged out. They fled to the city of Jabesh-Gilead for refuge.

And about a month later, Nahash came and laid siege to the city, planning to conquer it and kill them.  But they pleaded with him and said, “Please let us live.” 

He said, “I will if you will serve me the rest of your lives and let me gouge out your right eye so that shame will cover the nation of Israel.” 

It was kind of his trademark, really. 

And they said, “Give us seven days, seven days, and then we will let you know.” 

Well, in those seven days, they sent out messengers all across Israel and some came to Gibeah where Saul lived, where he was working in the fields for his father, and when he brought the oxen in from the field and got to the family farm, he found everybody weeping when they had heard the news that seven thousand in the city of Jabesh-Gilead were about to perish under the hand of Nahash, the Ammonite king. 

This thing infuriated Saul and then and there, he slaughtered his oxen, he cut them into pieces, sent the pieces to all the tribes of Israel, and said, “May the Lord do so and more to your oxen if you do not follow me into battle.” 

Well, they came.  They came from every corner of the land and when they mustered at Vezax, there were three hundred and thirty thousand of them.  So that Saul sent a message to the people of Jabesh-Gilead saying that by the time the sun is hot tomorrow, you will be delivered. 

Early the next morning, he divided that group into three companies of a hundred and ten thousand each.  Some went straight ahead toward the city of Jabesh-Gilead.  Some came around on the left flank.  Some on the right.  They slaughtered Ammonites until the heat of the midday sun so that no two of them were left standing together. 

The people of Jabesh-Gilead were free.  The people were overjoyed.  They practically carried Saul to Gilgal on their shoulders, shouting, “long live the king,” and Samuel was there and he blessed the kingship of Saul and told him, “You have done well.  The next time you lead your troops into battle, meet me here and I will come and offer the sacrifice of well-being so that things may go well for you and for the troops. Wait for me as long as it takes, even if it takes seven days, wait for me here.  And let me come and offer the sacrifice.” 

And then Samuel delivered his farewell address.   He said to the people, “Now you have a king. You don’t need a judge anymore.  I will be leaving, but I ask you to do this.  Fear the Lord and serve him with all your heart.”  

And all the people said that they would. 

But Samuel had heard these kind of promises before.  He said, “No, fear the Lord.  Serve him with all your heart.” 

But Saul wasn’t a wholehearted kind of person. 

He had enough heart to go after the Philistines.  He took two thousand soldiers with him, his son Jonathan took another thousand.  Jonathan encountered a garrison of Philistines and he conquered it and it was like hitting a hornet’s nest with a stick.  It stirred up all the Philistines and they began to come up from the shores of the Mediterranean.  Thirty thousand chariots, six thousand men on horseback, and foot soldiers as numberless as the sands of the sea.  They came up into the hill country of Judea and the people were terrified.  They were hiding in holes, and in cisterns, and in caves, and in tombs, and Saul blew the trumpet in Israel and called the soldiers together.

They all gathered at Gilgal.  There were thousands of them but even they were terrified, trembling in fear.  Saul waited for Samuel to come and offer the sacrifice of well-being.  He waited seven days and still Samuel hadn’t come.  And some of the soldiers began to slip away, they were so scared.

So Saul took matters into his own hands.  He offered the sacrifice of well-being and no sooner had he done it than Samuel appeared.  “What have you done” he asked. 

And Saul said, “Well, you didn’t come and you didn’t come and you didn’t come and the troops were slipping away and I was afraid I wouldn’t have anybody to fight with so I forced myself and I offered the sacrifice in your place.” 

And Samuel said to him, “Do you not understand that the Lord desires obedience above sacrifice?  More important to him than anything else you could give is that you do what he asks you to do. And for this reason, the kingdom that would have been yours forever will be taken away from you and given to another, to a neighbor after God’s own heart.” 

And with that, Samuel turned and left. 

Saul went into battle against the Philistines and largely, through the help of his fearless son, Jonathan, he routed the Philistines and sent them running back down to the Mediterranean coast.  He was successful in battle not only against the Philistines, but against the Edomites, the Moabites, the Ammonites. Wherever he went, he prevailed in battle.  It seemed that the Lord was with him. 

He went down to fight against the Amalekites, those who had made life so difficult for God’s people when they were coming up from Egypt to the promised land.  He sought revenge against them, Saul did,  and he went and attacked and when he consulted Samuel, Samuel said, “Yes, do all that you have it in your mind to do.  Wipe them out utterly, every man, woman and child among the Amalekites.” 

And Saul went into battle and he did what Samuel had said except that he did not kill the best of the sheep and the cattle and he kept Agag, king of the Amalekites, alive as a prisoner of war. 

Samuel heard about it and he was none too pleased.  He came down to the southern part of Israel where he found Saul and Saul came out to meet him, saying, “Everything you asked me to do I have done.  I have wiped out the Amalekites completely. There is nothing, no one left.” 

And Samuel said, “Then, what’s that sound I hear?  That sounds like cattle mooing and sheep bleating.”

Saul said, “O, well, I did spare the best of the sheep and cattle so that we could offer them as a sacrifice to the Lord. What could please him more?  And, of course, Agag, the king of the Amalek…., I’ve kept him alive as my prisoner of war.” 

Samuel said, “Did you not hear?  Do you not remember that I told you it is obedience more than sacrifice that the Lord desires?  Why could you not simply do what I told you to do?”  And he said, “The kingdom will be taken away from you as I told you.  It will be given to someone better than you.  A man after God’s own heart.” 

Samuel turned to walk away.  Saul reached out and grabbed the hem of his robe and it tore away in his hand.  And Samuel turned around and said to Saul, “In the same way, the kingdom will be torn away from you.” 

Saul said, “Please don’t disgrace me in front of my troops. Please go with me to offer the sacrifice” and for whatever reason, Samuel went. 

They offered up the best of the sheep and the cattle.  It was a wonderful thing, a beautiful experience of worship.  The smoke rose up to the heavens, and then Samuel said to Saul, “Bring me Agag, king of the Amalekites.” 

Now, I need to warn you, these stories from the Old Testament are often quite violent.  Parental guidance is suggested and if you are sitting on the pew next to someone who needs you to hold their hand, maybe this would be the time.  Because Agag came to Samuel and as he came, his heart was light.  He thought, “They are not bringing me to Saul, the destroyer.  They’re bringing me to Samuel, the priest of Israel.  Maybe he wants to give me a blessing and send me on my way.” 

But when Agag stood before Samuel, Samuel asked for a sword and he said to Agag, “As you have made mothers childless, so shall your mother be childless,” and with that he took the sword and hacked Agag into pieces, and turned and went back to his home in Ramah. 

He did not grieve for Agag, but he grieved for Saul. He had seen so much promise in that young man, had believed he would be the greatest king who ever lived in Israel.  And now the Lord was taking away the kingship from him and giving it to another. 

But who? 

That’s when Samuel heard the word of the Lord and he said, “How much longer will you grieve over Saul?  I have chosen someone else to take his place.  One of the sons of Jesse, the Bethlehemite, so get up, fill your horn with oil and go to Bethlehem.”

Samuel said, “Lord, if I go to Bethlehem, what will they say?  What will Saul say when he knows that I have anointed another?” 

“Don’t say a word,” the Lord said.  “Simply fill your horn with oil, go, tell them that you are offering a sacrifice.  Take a heifer with you on a rope.  They’ll never suspect a thing.” 

And that’s what Samuel did.  He led a heifer all the way down to Bethlehem and when he got there, the people came out.  The village elders, they said, “What are you coming for?  Is there trouble?” 

“No,” he said, “I’ve simply come to offer a sacrifice.  Prepare yourselves to worship with me and make sure that the sons of Jesse are consecrated and ready.” 

And so they came, Jesse and all those boys.  He had a lot of boys.  And the oldest one came before Samuel.  Eliab.  He was tall, he was handsome.  He, like Saul, looked presidential.  And Samuel said, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before me.” 

And that’s when the Lord said, “Don’t you know by now, Samuel, I don’t look on the outward appearance.  I look on the heart of a person and this person is not the one for the job.” 

Eliab moved on.  Abinadab came next, and he, too, was tall and good looking, but the Lord did not choose him.  Nor did he choose Shammah, who came next.  Or the next son, or the one after that, or the one after that until seven of Jesse’s sons had passed before Samuel.  None of them was chosen. 

Samuel said to Jesse, “Do you have any other sons?” 

“Well,” he said, “just the youngest. He’s out in the field watching over the sheep.  Surely you can’t mean him.” 

“Send for him,” Samuel said, “for we will not sit down until all of your sons have passed before me.” 

And so they brought in David from the field where he had been watching the sheep.  And he stood in front of Samuel and Samuel looked at him.  He was not much to look at.  Suntanned and swarthy, handsome boy, he had beautiful eyes, but the Lord doesn’t look on the outward appearance. The Lord looks on the heart.  And he said to Samuel, “This is the one.  Anoint him.” 

And so David knelt down in front of Samuel and Samuel poured the anointing oil on his head.  And when he was finished, he lifted him up and where just moments before, it had been only David, only the shepherd boy, now there stood in front of him David, the new king of Israel.  The anointed one.  Or in Hebrew, the Messiah. 

If there is a moral to this story, it may only be this.  That the Lord desires obedience more than sacrifice.  That of all the things you could give him, the thing that he wants from you is for you to do what he tells you to do. 

Do you remember the story from the Gospels where Jesus is speaking to people and someone tells him that his mother and his brothers and sisters have come?  And Jesus says to those people, “Who is my mother?  Who are my brothers and sisters? But those who hear the word of God and do it.  Obedience is more to be desired than sacrifice.” 

This is the word of the Lord.  Thanks be to God. 

—Jim Somerville 2012

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