1 One day he said, “Samuel, I've rejected Saul, and I refuse to let him be king any longer. Stop feeling sad about him. Put some olive oil in a small container and go visit a man named Jesse, who lives in Bethlehem. I've chosen one of his sons to be my king.”
2Samuel answered, “If I do that, Saul will find out and have me killed.”
“Take a calf with you,” the Lord replied. “Tell everyone that you've come to offer it as a sacrifice to me, 3then invite Jesse to the sacrifice. When I show you which one of his sons I have chosen, pour the olive oil on his head.”
4Samuel did what the Lord told him and went to Bethlehem. The town leaders went to meet him, but they were terribly afraid and asked, “Is this a friendly visit?”
5“Yes, it is!” Samuel answered. “I've come to offer a sacrifice to the Lord. Get yourselves ready to take part in the sacrifice and come with me.” Samuel also invited Jesse and his sons to come to the sacrifice, and he got them ready to take part.
6When Jesse and his sons arrived, Samuel noticed Jesse's oldest son, Eliab. “He has to be the one the Lord has chosen,” Samuel said to himself.
7 But the Lord told him, “Samuel, don't think Eliab is the one just because he's tall and handsome. He isn't the one I've chosen. People judge others by what they look like, but I judge people by what is in their hearts.”
8Jesse told his son Abinadab to go over to Samuel, but Samuel said, “No, the Lord hasn't chosen him.”
9Next, Jesse sent his son Shammah to him, and Samuel said, “The Lord hasn't chosen him either.”
10One by one, Jesse told all seven of his sons to go over to Samuel. Finally, Samuel said, “Jesse, the Lord hasn't chosen any of these young men. 11 Do you have any other sons?”
“Yes,” Jesse answered. “My youngest son David is out taking care of the sheep.”
“Send for him!” Samuel said. “We won't start the ceremony until he gets here.”
12Jesse sent for David. He was a healthy, good-looking boy with a sparkle in his eyes. As soon as David came, the Lord told Samuel, “He's the one! Get up and pour the olive oil on his head.”
13Samuel poured the oil on David's head while his brothers watched. At that moment, the Spirit of the Lord took control of David and stayed with him from then on.
Samuel returned home to Ramah.
David Plays the Harp
14The Spirit of the Lord had left Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord was terrifying him. 15“It's an evil spirit from God that's frightening you,” Saul's officials told him. 16“Your Majesty, let us go and look for someone who is good at playing the harp. He can play for you whenever the evil spirit from God bothers you, and you'll feel better.”
17“All right,” Saul answered. “Find me someone who is good at playing the harp and bring him here.”
18“A man named Jesse who lives in Bethlehem has a son who can play the harp,” one official said. “He's a brave warrior, he's good-looking, he can speak well, and the Lord is with him.”
19Saul sent a message to Jesse: “Tell your son David to leave your sheep and come here to me.”
20Jesse loaded a donkey with bread and a goatskin full of wine, then he told David to take the donkey and a young goat to Saul. 21David went to Saul and started working for him. Saul liked him so much that he put David in charge of carrying his weapons. 22Not long after this, Saul sent another message to Jesse: “I really like David. Please let him stay with me.”
23 Whenever the evil spirit from God bothered Saul, David would play his harp. Saul would relax and feel better, and the evil spirit would go away.
Samuel had a struggle between his head and his heart. Mentally he knew that God had rejected Saul. But emotionally Samuel grieved and still longed for God’s blessing on Saul.
The great prophet Samuel now is fearful of his protégé Saul; what if he finds out about this anointing of a new king? I love the fact that God grants this dear servant a “cover” for his trip to Bethlehem. “Take a heifer with you”. It worked perfectly!
Although Samuel was a great prophet, he still was overly impressed with appearances. What God said to Samuel is still true, “man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” It also reminds us of the words of Jesus that “the last shall be first and the first last”.
The story continues with evil spirits, confusion and the workings of God:
- The Spirit of God leaves Saul and comes upon David,
- Music therapy is needed for Saul,
- Who better than young David? Known to be a terrific harpist, not known as the privately anointed next king!
- Saul invites young David to his palace and comes to love him dearly.
But what about this evil spirit from the Lord? God sometimes prompts evil men, evil spirits and evil circumstances to advance his purposes. It doesn’t mean that this evil spirit had its origins in God, but that it was sent by him to accomplish his purposes.
This story reminds us that deeply devoted servants of God may struggle to accept direction from him. It also teaches us that things may not be as they appear; but that even in the most confusing circumstances God is accomplishing his purposes.
Lord God, help me learn to trust you fully, especially in my times of disappointment. And help me not to be fooled or misled by appearances. Amen.