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Back to all sermons The Life of David

Date: February 10, 2019

Speaker: Eric Stillman

Series: The Life of David

Scripture: 1 Samuel 16:1–16:13

This morning, we are beginning a new sermon series on the life of David, which is found in the books of 1 & 2 Samuel in the Old Testament. Let me set the background – after being rescued from slavery in Egypt in the exodus, the Israelites have settled in the Promised Land of Canaan. God has raised up leaders called judges to lead the people. Judges were not kings, but were God’s chosen men (or women in the case of Deborah) – they were a leader in battle, a ruler in peace, a spiritual power and prophet, and counselor of the people. The real leader was of course God, but the judge was God’s human leader. Samuel, who the books were named after, is a man who becomes judge over Israel in the 11th century BC, and will end up being the last of the judges. Samuel has two sons who are not godly men, and so as Samuel is getting older, the elders of Israel come to him and ask him to appoint a king to lead them, like all the other nations.


1 Samuel 8:6 - But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. 7 And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. 8 As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. 9 Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do.”


The Israelites tell Samuel that they do not want God as their King any more, but they want a king they can see and take pride in. Samuel goes on to warn the people that the king will oppress them and enlist their sons in the army and their daughters to serve the kingdom, that the king will take the best of their fields and vineyards and servants and livestock for his own use, and that one day they will cry out to God to save them from the king they have chosen.


 1 Samuel 8:19 - But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. 20 Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.”

21 When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the Lord. 22 The Lord answered, “Listen to them and give them a king.”


And so Samuel anoints a man named Saul, who 1 Samuel 9:1-2 says was “an impressive young man without equal among the Israelites – a head taller than any of the others”.


1 Samuel 10:23-24 - They ran and brought him out, and as he stood among the people he was a head taller than any of the others. 24 Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see the man the Lord has chosen? There is no one like him among all the people.”

Then the people shouted, “Long live the king!”


Saul is the tallest, strongest man and so naturally the people are excited about him as king.  Remember of course that in those days, fighting was done with swords, and so the tallest man had the best chance of being the greatest warrior, because he could keep people at a distance while fighting them. Saul starts his reign strong in battle, but he proves to be not so good at listening to the directions of the Lord, and so Samuel eventually lets Saul know that the Lord has rejected him as king and that his kingship will eventually be given to someone else.


1 Samuel 13:13-14 - "You acted foolishly," Samuel said. "You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time.  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."


Saul has been rejected for an unnamed man after God’s own heart. That leads us to 1 Samuel 16:1-13, which we will look at today, God’s anointing of the next king:


1 Samuel 16:1-13 - 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."  2 But Samuel said, "How can I go? Saul will hear about it and kill me." The LORD said, "Take a heifer with you and say, 'I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.'  3 Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate."  4 Samuel did what the LORD said. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town trembled when they met him. They asked, "Do you come in peace?"  5 Samuel replied, "Yes, in peace; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD. Consecrate yourselves and come to the sacrifice with me." Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.  6 When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, "Surely the LORD's anointed stands here before the LORD."  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."  8 Then Jesse called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, "The LORD has not chosen this one either."  9 Jesse then had Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, "Nor has the LORD chosen this one."  10 Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, "The LORD has not chosen these."  11 So he asked Jesse, "Are these all the sons you have?" "There is still the youngest," Jesse answered, "but he is tending the sheep." Samuel said, "Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives."  12 So he sent and had him brought in. He was ruddy, with a fine appearance and handsome features. Then the LORD said, "Rise and anoint him; he is the one."  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.


I love the artistry of this passage, as the author does not reveal who the young man and future king is until the very end – David. There are three things I think we need to learn from this passage:


  • We are focused on the wrong things


There is a word in this passage that is repeated often and is incredibly important: “ra’ah” – to see. The root of ra’ah appears nine times in this chapter. In v.1, “I have chosen a king” is literally “I have seen me a king.” Jesse’s sons are brought to Samuel, and immediately Samuel sees the oldest, strongest son, Eliab, and says “this must be the king.” But God replies "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." Even though Eliab looks kingly, God sees his heart, and he is not the king. Say it with me:  Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. We focus primarily on what we can see with our eyes, but God looks at our heart, our true self, our character, our motives. Man sees with the eyes, looking on what it noticeable with our eyes, but God looks with the heart.


What God is saying here is that as humans, we are blind to what really matters. By looking primarily at the outward appearance, we are obsessed with things that are not spiritual reality. We are captivated by things that are not of primary importance. We spend our time worrying about things that in the end are inconsequential. In 1 Samuel 16, the prophet and judge Samuel, the most godly man in all of Israel, looks at the physically impressive, tall man, and is convinced that this man should be the king, because he looks like a king. David is not even invited to be a part of this occasion, but is left out tending the sheep because he is the runt of the litter. The saddest part of this is that Samuel does this even after Saul, who was similarly a tall and strong man, has been rejected by God as King. We are so blind that even the judge, the prophet, Samuel, can’t see correctly.


We are blind to what is really important. And what is really important? The heart. Internal character. Remember what Samuel said to Saul in ch. 13 - 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." God has sought out a man after his own heart to be king, and that person is David. What this means is that a person’s character is a million times more important than appearance. Who you are on the inside is so much more vital than what you look like and what you do on the outside. 


We are focusing on the wrong things. Think about our obsession with outward appearance. Our nation, more than any other in history, is obsessed with the outward appearance, what we can see with our eyes – a person’s looks and talents. We choose people who we think look presidential (think Nixon & Kennedy). We unconsciously think more highly of the tall, dark, and handsome, assuming that they are better people and make better leaders. But we do not see as God does, and do not realize that a person’s character is of so much more importance than their appearance, that a short, fat, bald man of character is preferable to a tall, dark and handsome man with questionable character.


We are focusing on the wrong things. Think about what our obsession with outward appearance is doing to you. Think about what it does to women, obsessed with the way they look, fed a steady diet of lies about what the ideal woman should look like. Think about the destruction our obsession has caused in the lives of women and girls everywhere, the depression and disease and eating disorders and the amount of energy and money spent on industries that focus on outward appearance. Think about what it does to men, with the steady diet of half-naked women thrown in their face every day, with a pornography industry reinforcing this focus on external appearances. Pornography is wrong for so many reasons, but one is that it trains your heart to judge a person in the exact opposite way that God does. No man looks at pornography because he is looking for great character. Who cares about the women’s character? All that matters are her measurements.


Think about how this affects dating. How do the majority of people look for a mate? You begin by eliminating the uncool, the not good-looking, and then hope that some of the ones that are left have character. But what the story of David does is tell us is that by doing that, there is a very good chance that you just eliminated the true prince, the true princess, because character can not be judged by a fleeting glance.


We are obsessed with outward appearance. Think about how it affects your self-worth as you age, as you look in the mirror and see an aging person looking back at you, or how it can affect your relationship as you look at your spouse and see an aging spouse. 


The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."  We are focused on the wrong things, and it is killing us. If we are going to be Jesus’ disciples, if we are going to follow His will for our lives, then we need to be renewed in our mind and in our vision, to see this world as God sees it.


Romans 12:2 - Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.


Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. God is looking at you right now. And He is not concerned about your appearance. He sees right through you. Right through your posing, your humor, your attempts to appear competent, your makeup, right into your heart. He is looking square at your heart, your character. That is what really matters to God.  He doesn’t care that you got dressed up in your Sunday best if your heart is not right with Him, nor does He care if you’re dressed in sweatpants if your heart is right with Him. He knows the motives of your heart. He knows how you spoke to your wife this morning, how you treated your child on the car ride here, what you spent your time doing last night. He sees right through you to your heart. He sees right through me to my heart. He does not care if my words come out right. He cares if my heart has been formed by the words I am speaking. He cares if I am living out what I say.


God is looking for a man or woman of character, one who is after His heart. As Jesus said in Matthew 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord is looking today at your heart. What is He seeing?


2 Chronicles 16:9 - For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.


Drop the act. Quit your posing, quit your show, and quit your pretense, because God is not fooled.  Be real, and if people can not handle it, then that is on them, God can handle it. Come just as you are to worship. I would rather you be real here than put on a show. God had a name for people like that – hypocrites. Actors. Putting on a show, pretending to be spiritual while not engaged with the heart.


The first thing we learn from this passage is that we are focusing on the wrong things. The second thing we learn is this:


  • Character is forged through trials


God’s concern is not our outward appearance, but the character of our heart. And character is forged mainly through trials. This means that if you decide to follow God, your life will most likely not be easy. When God anoints David, the Spirit comes on him, and for the rest of his life, David sees trouble after trouble. In the very next chapter, he is fighting a giant, and then he is avoiding King Saul’s attempts to murder him. He has to run for his life again and again as a fugitive. Often when the Spirit comes on people, it is followed by trials, persecution, and struggle. Why is this? Partly because there is an enemy, and once you decide to follow God, he is against you. You have entered a battle. But also because what God wants to see the most in you is your character. He’s not after nice appearances. He’s after your heart, after your character. And character grows in times of testing, in times of trouble. Nobody became a person of great character sitting on the couch eating chips and binge-watching Netflix (slide). 


When I look back on my life, it is the trials have made me more humble, empathetic, patient, dependent upon God, more committed to those around me, more grateful for what I have, harder-working, more disciplined. The easy times made me lazy, self-centered, and useless.


Character is forged through trials. When the Spirit enters into us, God will allow us to go through trials that will make us like Jesus. Trials happened for Jesus – the Spirit came upon Him, and immediately he was driven out into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. Similarly, Paul became a Christian and then experienced hardship after hardship. And as he wrote:


Romans 5:3-4 - Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;  4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.


James 1:2-4 - Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.


Trials build up our character. According to Hebrews, as a good and loving Father, God brings trials into our life to discipline us into maturity


Hebrews 12:7-12 - Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?  8 If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons.  9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live!  10 Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.  11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.  12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.


In David’s case, his character was even being forged through seemingly inconsequential work of tending sheep. As we will find in the next chapter, protecting the sheep from wild beasts helped forge him into a courageous and talented fighter. Often it is what God does with us in obscurity that prepares us for the spotlight.


God will use trials to make you into a man or woman of character. The danger with suffering, of course, is that it doesn’t necessarily make you a better person. If you receive and deal with it the wrong way, it can harden your heart instead of maturing you. How do you get this character?


  • True spiritual sight and character come through believing the gospel


How do you reach a place where you look at character first, where you are more concerned about your heart than your appearances? How do you reach a place where you do not shrink back from trials, but recognize that God is working to forge your character?


In 1 Samuel 16, Jesse brings out seven sons, but God says no to all of them. Samuel asks if there are any other sons, and Jesse says that there is the runt of the litter. And God, through Samuel, anoints David as the king. Again and again in the Bible, God chooses the younger son, the girl no one wants, the forgotten individual. And this story of the runt who became king points us to Jesus.


Isaiah 53 tells us in v. 2-3 that the Messiah “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.  3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”


This is not the Vidal Sassoon Jesus so common on the television shows and movies with the flowing hair and piercing blue eyes. This is the unattractive Jesus. He gave up the beauty of heaven to come and rescue those of us who are spiritually grotesque and ugly. All our righteous acts are like filthy rags. The Lord sees our heart, and He sees what is in there.


Jeremiah 17:9 - The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it


Jesus was not just forgotten by the Father, but forsaken by the Father on the cross as He took our wickedness upon Him, as the Father turned His face away from the Son. He took our spiritual ugliness on the cross to make us beautiful in the eyes of God. He took our sins so that we could be forgiven and receive a new heart and the Spirit of God.


Ezekiel 36:26 - I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh


We are born anew from heaven, and now when God looks at us, He sees us as He sees Jesus, as His beautiful, perfect, beloved child. And as we look at Jesus and see what He has done for us, He makes us beautiful.


2 Corinthians 3:18 - And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.


Look at the one who gave up the glory and beauty of heaven so that you might become glorious and beautiful:


Hebrews 12:2 - Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.


You are the joy set before Him. You are the reason He endured the cross. You are His beloved. The more you understand that, the more you will begin to see rightly. The less you will be concerned about your outward appearance and how you appear to others. The more you are focused on Him, the more you will be able to make it through whatever trials come your way, because you trust in the one who loves you and gave His life for you. And He will make you into a person of character as you fix your eyes on Him.