David was the greatest king of Israel. He was a hero admired by the people and celebrated with singing and dancing because of his fight against the Philistines (1 Samuel 18:6). David’s name appears 947 times in the Old Testament, more than any other person in Israel. The greatness of David is reflected in the way David is portrayed in the narratives. David is presented as a humble shepherd, as a sweet musician, as a brave warrior, and as a powerful king.
The anointing of David to become king of Israel happened after Yahweh had rejected Saul as king and after Samuel had told him that Yahweh had chosen someone to succeed him. Samuel said to Saul, “The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this very day, and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you” (1 Samuel 15:28).
The Search for a New King
When the Lord appeared to Samuel, Samuel was grieving over Saul because of his failure to obey God’s command. The Lord told Samuel to stop mourning for Saul because he had already chosen another person to take his place. The Lord told Samuel to go to Bethlehem, to the house of Jesse, for he had chosen one of Jesse’s sons to be the next king of Israel.
Bethlehem was a small town situated about five miles south of Jerusalem. Bethlehem was the place where Ruth settled after she and Naomi came from Moab. Ruth married Boaz and she became the grandmother of Jesse and the great-grandmother of David. Bethlehem became known as “the city of David” (Luke 2:4) and the place where the Son of David was born (Matthew 1:1).
When the people asked Samuel to give them a king, Samuel was against the appointment of a king, but at the approval of Yahweh, Samuel selected Saul to be king in Israel. Now, Yahweh is commissioning Samuel to select a new king. God told Samuel to go to the house of Jesse in Bethlehem. God told Samuel that he had selected one of Jesse’s sons to be king. Although Samuel was not told who God had selected to be the next king, God had already chosen the person to be anointed.
Samuel was reluctant to go and anoint a new king. Saul was still the king of Israel, and the anointing of a new king would send a message to Saul that he, Samuel, was promoting the overthrow of Saul’s kingship. Yahweh dismissed Samuel’s reluctancy by instructing him to take a heifer with him and tell Jesse and the elder of Bethlehem that he had come to offer a sacrifice to the Lord.
Samuel took a horn filled with oil and the heifer for the sacrifice and went to Bethlehem, to Jesse’s house. When Samuel arrived in Bethlehem, the elders of the city came to meet him. They were afraid when they met him. It is possible that the elders believed that Samuel had come in the name of the king to demand something from them. It is also possible that the elders of Bethlehem knew that Samuel had told Saul about God’s rejection of his kingship and they were afraid Samuel was fleeing from Saul. It is doubtful that they were aware that Samuel had come to Bethlehem to anoint a new king.
The Anointing of David
Samuel told the elders to consecrate themselves in preparation for the sacrifice. He then consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice. It seems that the consecration of Jesse and his family was done in private and that the sacrifice of the heifer occurred after Samuel had anointed the one Yahweh had selected to be the new king.
Samuel told Jesse to bring his son to appear before him. Jesse brought his elder son, Eliab. Eliab probably was tall, good looking, and looked royal. When Samuel saw Eliab, he said, “Surely the LORD’s anointed stands here before the LORD.” Samuel believed that Eliab was to be chosen as the new king because that was the way Saul was selected. Saul was “a handsome young man. There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he; he stood head and shoulders above everyone else” (1 Samuel 9:2).
But Eliab was not the one God had selected to be the new king. God told Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height.” The new king would not be selected by his appearance. God had a different standard for the selection of the new king. God told Samuel, “The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7 NLT). Samuel was judging by the external appearance of the one before him, but God was looking at the heart.
When Samuel rejected Eliab, Jesse called Abinadab who came before Samuel. Samuel told Jesse that the Lord had not chosen Abinadab. Jesse then had Shammah come before Samuel, but Samuel told Jesse that Shammah was not the one. Jesse had seven sons; each one came before Samuel and Samuel told Jesse that the Lord had not chosen any of them.
Samuel asked Jesse, “do you have another son?” Jesse responded that there was another son. He was the youngest, only a child, and he was tending the flock. Samuel told Jesse to send for him; “we will not sit down until he arrives” (1 Samuel 16:11). Jesse does not mention the name of his youngest son. The young man was not invited to come before Samuel for the ceremony because Jesse did not believe that he had the potential to be a king. Jesse knew his sons, but he did not believe that David had the qualities or abilities to become a king in the future.
At the insistence of Samuel, Jesse sent for his young son. It is unknown how long they waited, but “Samuel would not allow anyone to sit down until the missing son arrived. David could have been far away as he watched over the flocks, but Samuel insists that everyone stand and wait. Samuel waits. Jesse waits. The brothers wait . . . all await the arrival of David, the son who was not invited” (Cartledge 2001:202).
David was brought into the house, and he came before Samuel. David was a handsome young man, “He was ruddy, with a fine appearance and handsome features” (1 Samuel 16:12). Then the Lord told Samuel, “Rise and anoint him; he is the one.” “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.” (1 Samuel 16:13).
The ceremony of anointing was the act of pouring oil on the head of a person in order to set that person apart for the work of God. Samuel anointed David to become the king of Israel. David was God’s anointed. The Hebrew word for “the anointed one” is “messiah.” After David was anointed, “the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David from that day forward” (1 Samuel 16:13).
The Selection of David
When the Lord rejected Eliab as the next king of Israel, the Lord told Samuel that in selecting a king, he looks at the heart, “People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
The heart plays a prominent part in Hebrew psychology. The heart was considered to be the seat of emotions. It was also considered to be the center of the moral, spiritual, and
intellectual life. God is represented as searching the heart when dealing with individuals (Jeremiah 17:10).
Samuel told Saul that his kingdom would be taken away from him because he had disobeyed the Lord’s command. Samuel also told Saul that “the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people” (1 Samuel 13:14). David had a “right heart” toward God and he was the right person to sit on the throne of Israel. “Yahweh needs, wants, and will have a king with a rightly committed heart” (Brueggemann 1990:133). When Solomon became king, he asked God for the right kind of heart. He prayed, “give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong” (1 Kings 3:9).
David was a man after God’s own heart because David had a heart for God. When the Lord selected a man to replace Saul as king, the Lord was seeking a man with a heart like his own heart. David was chosen because David had a heart like the heart of God
God is looking for people whose hearts desire God, “The LORD’s eyes scan the whole world to find those whose hearts are committed to him” (2 Chronicles 16:9). The Lord looks upon all the earth because there are not enough people with hearts that are committed to his service. David had a heart for God and God had an assignment for David. God is seeking faithful people to give them an assignment, a work that must be done. God has more assignments than he has people whose hearts are committed to him.
A Heart Like God’s Heart
David has chosen to replace Saul as king in Israel because David was a man after God’s own heart, “the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people” (1 Samuel 13:14). What does it mean to have a heart like the heart of God?
Paul says that God explained the reason he chose David. The Lord said, “I have found that David, son of Jesse, is a man after my own heart. He will do everything I want him to do” (Acts 13:22). To have a heart like God is to embrace God’s way of life. David was a man of integrity humility, and love. Notwithstanding David’s major moral collapse with his affair with Bathsheba, David’s commitment to God was genuine.
David walked in the ways of Yahweh. When David was a new king, he brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. David danced and praised God with all the people. His wife Michal rebuked him, but David had a commitment to God, and he wanted to praise God with the people.
To have a heart like the heart of God is to have the same purpose God has. Paul said of David, “when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he died” (Acts 13:36). God chose David to be king; David built a kingdom whose throne would last forever (2 Samuel 7:13).
During the transfer of the Ark to Jerusalem, David danced before the Ark, in order to teach the people how to worship God. David was modeling for them how to follow and how to praise God.
To have a heart like the heart of God is to have the same passion that God has in relating to people. David loved God with all of his heart, soul, and mind. Because of his love for God, David had a profound desire to live in fellowship with God. David had a special relationship with God. David said, “The one thing I ask of the LORD–the thing I seek most–is to live in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, delighting in the LORD’s perfections and meditating in his Temple” (Psalm 27:4 NLT).
David had a heart for God. David wanted to live God’s way of life. He wanted to accomplish God’s purpose in the world. David had a passion to live in fellowship with God.
On February 20, 2022, my pastor Jeff Griffin, Senior Pastor of the Compass Church, preached a sermon titled “The Lord’s Anointed: Growing a Heart that Loves God,” a sermon based on 1 Samuel 16:1-13. The post above is based on Jeff’s sermon.
In his sermon, Jeff emphasized that God is looking for people whose hearts are right. God is looking for people who have chosen to love with God’s love; people who are willing to share with others God’s way of life; people who have the same passion for having a relationship with God; people whose purpose is to build God’s kingdom in the world.
The Lord’s Anointed: Growing a Heart that Loves God – A Sermon by Jeff Griffin
Other sermons on the early life of David, see David: The Making of A King.
Brueggemann, Walter. First and Second Samuel. Interpretation. Louisville: John Knox Press, 1990.
Cartledge, Tony W. 1 & 2 Samuel. Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary. Macon: Smyth & Helwys, 2001.
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
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