I Samuel 16: How Can I Go?
In this chapter we meet David, one of the most well-known characters in the Bible. Writer of over half of the Psalms, Israel’s most famous king who was known as “a man after God’s own heart.” He was a poet, a musician, a warrior-king. His name, David, means “beloved.” He is a picture of the Lord Jesus in many ways. Now in last week’s lesson I found myself identifying with Saul’s dilemma and empathized with his predicament, which told me I was leaning to my own understanding, the wants of my flesh. This week I find myself understanding Samuel’s feelings.
Our story takes up after King Saul’s disobedience once again to God’s commands. God has rejected Saul. Samuel tells Saul he will have nothing to do with him from now on. And now Samuel is depressed and mourning over what has occurred and God comes to Samuel. God tells Samuel to quit mourning over Saul’s rejection and prepare to anoint the one God has chosen to be king over Israel. We have been told I Samuel 8, Samuel was old and the elders came to him and said, “Look you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways, now give us a king to judge us like the other nations.” Samuel is told it is time for you to retire.
Has something ended in your life over which you are still mourning? “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted. A time to weep and a time to laugh. A time to mourn and a time to dance.” In a word, Samuel was depressed. He was saddened over how Saul had turned out and over the changes in his own life. He was mourning and now it was time to dance. God knows Samuel needed a time to mourn. He had been a dedicated servant and had experienced a successful career as judge, priest and prophet. He had led the nation in a revival and a return to renewal of their relationship with the Lord. We see the very cycle of times and seasons in life, which King Solomon described in Ecclesiastes. God knows we need time to mourn that which we have lost, whether it be a loved one, or something we loved, such as our careers. Like Samuel, I had been young and filled with ambition to be successful. I had a successful career as a national speaker. I loved what I did. Now that is over and I need not to mourn over what I have been, but get excited about what is next to come into my life.
Am I retired? Or redirected? Samuel is being redirected and restored by God. Everyone who has enjoyed their career, knows there is a loss when one’s career ends. It could be health which caused it, or age, or new management and younger people with different ideas. There is a loss of certainty which came with our positions. Then we realize there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven. And I return to Mordecai’s words to Esther: Yet who knows for such a time as this you have come into the kingdom? You may mourn your losses. But do not allow these losses to define who you have become. Renewal and redirection come from a fresh encounter with God. Does your happiness and joy and worth depend on career? On success in business? What or who are you looking to for approval and worth which supply you with joy and purpose?
This study has shown us Saul’s happiness and joy depended on his success and approval ratings. His victories in battle and his adoration of the people were what made his day. Then when these conditions change, (and they will change, for all of us) we can find ourselves distressed as Saul was distressed because things are not what they used to be. We long for yesterday when things were better, when we were young and opportunities were available and many. What we call the “good old days.”
There was another man named Saul, Saul of Tarsus. He was from the tribe of Benjamin, a Pharisee and a zealous Jew. He had been born with a father who had both Roman and Israeli citizenship, which Saul enjoyed this envied Roman citizenship as well as his Jewish heritage. He was highly intelligent, well educated and hard working. His career was everything to him. He trusted his intelligence, his background and heritage, and his hard work. In other words, he trusted in himself and in his giftedness and abilities. This man who would change his name to Paul, the great apostle who wrote so much of the New Testament. He had to lose his career and come to count his accomplishments as junk. In Second Corinthians, Paul writes to tell the church – “of our trouble which came on us in Asia; that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, THAT WE SHOULD NOT TRUST IN OURSELVES BUT IN GOD WHO RAISES THE DEAD.” Who or what are you trusting to give your life meaning, happiness and joy? Yourself, your job, your health, your wealth, your family? Or God?
Can you identify with Samuel’s emotions? God has something for Samuel to do of great importance. He tells him what he is to do. Fill your horn with oil. Remember horn is a symbol of power. Oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. When you realize you are powerless, weak, and not in control. God has you where He can fill you with His Spirit and empower you. God uses the weak, the foolish, the base, that is the nobodies for His strength is made perfect in weakness.
Samuel is now estranged from King Saul. He knows King Saul will be watching him now as a potential threat to his kingdom. We know Saul is a man of the flesh. Everything we have read about him and learned from his behavior, his physical good looks and size tells us it is all about the outward appearance. The flesh is prideful. The flesh is jealous and the flesh lusts against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh. Samuel fears Saul will kill him. In a perverse way, it gives me reassurance Samuel a man of great faith is fearful. And then I remember, ‘what time I am afraid I will trust in you.’ Are you in a fearful, either life-threatening, or happy-threatening situation? Then you are in good company for Samuel feared for his life and Paul shared we were scared to death.
Samuel asked a simple, straightforward question: “How shall I go?” I use the search engine of Google very often. It performs up to 60,000 search requests per second. You learn to ask good questions in order to get the specific answer for which you are searching. The same is true with God. Be specific in your questions and God can be specific in your answers. Here is a good question. God is directing you to do something. Here is a good question to ask: How shall I go? Then watch, wait, and pray.
Samuel has had another disappointment in his life. His career has ended. His sons are not what he wanted them to be. Now Saul is a failure. Samuel is running on empty. He needs to be filled. He needs to be restored. David is a shepherd. And David knew ‘the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures. He leads me besides still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake.” How does God restore us? He restores our souls, (mind, will and emotions) through fellowship with Him. How does He do this? He allows us to wander from Him to meet our own needs and wants. Then when those fail and we find ourselves empty. We come our senses like the Prodigal Son, don’t we? We return home to our waiting Father. He leads us. He provides for us. He protects us. We will be referring often to the Psalms as David wrote many of them when he was experiencing some of the most difficult and trying times in his life.
God tells Samuel exactly how to go about this journey to anoint the one who will be God’s choice for king. He is to go with the purpose of making a sacrifice to the Lord. He is told invite Jesse and his sons and God will reveal to Samuel who he is to anoint.
Samuel has Jesse bring his sons before him. They are impressive in looks and size. But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks a the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Understand this: God had given the people what they wanted, a king who was handsome, tall and wealthy. What do you do when you have gotten your own way and that which you have made king of your life fails you? God is searching for a man after His own heart. Notice God is not searching for a man who is handsome, tall, rich, strong and smart. He is searching for man after His own heart. In I Corinthians 1, we read of the weak, the foolish, the nobodies God uses. Why? So no one can boast before God. When we look for people to admire- we are impressed by their physical appearance, their intellect, their wealth, their possessions, their accomplishments. These are the best, the brightest and the beautiful people our fallen society worships and wants to be like. God says I choose nobodies and make them into somebodies. This is the story of David.
David is the baby in the family. The 8th son. He is so insignificant in the eyes of his father, he is not invited to the dinner. He is out taking care of the sheep. God has told Samuel, none of these seven sons are the one chosen to be king. What does it mean to be a ‘man (or woman) after God’s own heart?’ The first quality is spirituality. Esau was a man’s man- strong, athletic, skilled as hunter. Jacob, the younger, was more a ‘momma’s boy’, but was interested in the spiritual things his grandfather, Abraham had taught him about. Esau cared nothing for the spiritual. A spiritual person is concerned about spiritual things. Your heart is sensitive to the spiritual things of God. “For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those who heart is completely His…( 2 Chronicles 16: 9)
You long to please the Lord. When you sin, you are grieved. You hunger and thirst for righteousness. You mourn over your sin and the sins of others and of your nation. A person with a heart after God is sensitive to spiritual truth. They are also a person of humility. Saul is a poster boy for pride. David, a picture of humility. He has servant’s heart. He obeyed his father and tended the sheep although an important guest had come on an important mission. A servant is not a rebel. A servant is faithful. They will hear this from the Lord at the Bema: “Well done thy good and faithful servant.” A servant does not care who gets the glory. Saul was jealous of anyone who was successful and wanted no one else to receive credit for accomplishments but him.
David was also a man of integrity, which is described and defined: as honesty and having strong moral principles. The world teaches us it is all about making a good first impression. The Bible tells us God is not impressed by outward appearances but the inward contents of a person’s heart, their character.
Spiritual, humble, and a person of integrity. How does God train a person who has a heart after Him? Let’s observe David. He is a shepherd. His job is done in solitude. God trains and teaches us life’s lessons alone, before we are placed in a position of responsibility. You must get alone with God and allow His Word to search your heart. We see a culture today which cannot stand to be isolated. Who constantly want to be connected to others via our smart phones while we search online while a large screen television offers a limitless number of choices for mindless entertainment and ear buds placed in our ears constantly provide music. We are an affluent society and affluence breeds boredom.
As we read David’s Psalms, we know this is a young man who spent time, evening after evening sitting under the stars at night alone watching the sheep. He contemplates the God who created everything and asks Him, – what is man? David was born in the small town of Bethlehem away from the crowds of Jerusalem. David, like Jesus, was raised in both adversity and obscurity. David had seven older brothers and he had been forced to fight off both a lion and a bear. Solitary and isolated. God wants us to spend time with Him alone. David knew how to deal with the monotony of life to deal with the same-old, same-old with faithful service, doing the everyday monotonous task that were required of a shepherd. David understood what the real world was about.
We watch so much make-believe on television and in the movies, it blurs what the real world is about. And yet God chose to use David, a shepherd boy for he had developed a heart for God. Moses was a Prince in Egypt, but it was on the backside of nowhere doing the same thing every day for 40 years he was equipped for the task. Our own Lord Jesus, God the Son, spent 30 years in Nazareth as a carpenter in a poor family until the fullness of time came. After that, He made Himself known and began a 3 year ministry which would turn the world upside down.
Surely this was not the way you prepared a man to be king and fight giants. But God’s ways are higher than our ways.
Now let’s make sure we do not take this method and turn into monks who live in isolation in a monastery. Getting alone with God means you get alone with Him to discover which way to go. How to be more responsible and diligent in all areas of your life.
It is in the little things and the lonely places God trains us and empowers us to do the bigger things. Faithful in little is God’s first tests. Taking care of sheep. God takes His time doesn’t He? The conversion of your soul took place in a moment. The sanctification process of conforming you to the image of His Son is a lifetime task. Welcome to God’s classroom and curriculum: obscurity, adversity, monotony, this is the real world. This is my Father’s World.
Now notice when Samuel anointed David with the oil, the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward. At the same time, we read the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul and a distressing spirit from the Lord troubled him.
Guess what happens next? To soothe the troubled Saul, one of his servants knew of David the shepherd boy who could sing and play the harp with such skill it would sooth the troubled king. And David came to Saul and stood before him. David loved King Saul and became his armor bearer. He found favor in Saul’s eyes just as Joseph did with Potiphar, and the prison warden and the Pharaoh.
It was David’s musical ability which introduced him to the royal court which then led to his military career. The opportunities of life matched his gifts and talents which had been developed in isolation, small, seemingly unimportant tasks, which he performed faithfully day in- day out. Adversity came in the form of not only older brothers who can be relentless in picking on a younger brother, but also in the protection of his flock from a lion and a bear.
Here in lies our basis for success as Christians:
1. Know your gifts.
2. Realize God chose the time and place you are to serve Him.
3. God gave you the gifts which shape your life. S.H.A.P.E. God has given each of us Spiritual gifts when we got saved. He then gives us a Heart, a passion to express and use those gifts. These gifts will be teamed with Abilities you were born with, natural talents. These are to be developed and when empowered by the Holy Spirit, you can do what only you can do in the place where God has placed you according to Acts 17. Each of us are unique, and each has a Personality which God uses along with our Experience He has allowed. All of this comes together as the Potter shapes your life through the pressures, the perplexities, the ups and downs of life.
4. Then you can surrender to God and say where ever you lead I will follow.
In Psalm 139, David after years of following the Lord and looking back realizes: “For you formed my inward parts; you covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and marvelously made. Marvelous are your works and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
David knew, and I hope you know, God made you and shaped you and gifted you with what He wanted you to have.