To stay on a royal theme, in Britain there is a very clear line of succession – who will take the throne next. It can get very involved once you get passed the first few, but basically the eldest child (currently the eldest son, but that is likely to change) follows on the reign of their parent, unless something unusual happens, like the abdication of Edward VIII that brought the Queens father to the throne.
God’s people were still getting to grips with kings and succession – but God was determined to get it right.
34 Samuel went home to Ramah, and Saul returned to his home in Gibeah. 35 Even though Samuel felt sad about Saul, Samuel never saw him again.
The Lord Chooses David To Be King
The Lord was sorry he had made Saul the king of Israel. 16 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.”
2 Samuel 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, 3 then invite Jesse to the sacrifice. When I show you which one of his sons I have chosen, pour the olive oil on his head.”
4 Samuel 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.
6 When 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.”
8 Jesse told his son Abinadab to go over to Samuel, but Samuel said, “No, the Lord hasn’t chosen him.”
9 Next, Jesse sent his son Shammah to him, and Samuel said, “The Lord hasn’t chosen him either.”
10 Jesse had all seven of his sons go over to Samuel. Finally, Samuel said, “Jesse, the Lord hasn’t chosen any of these young men. 11 Do you have any more 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.”
12 Jesse 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.”
13 Samuel 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.
So God’s worries about letting Israel have a king prove to be well-founded! Having Saul as king had not worked well for anyone. So God sets out with a better choice.
Samuel arrives at Jesse’s house knowing only that one of his sons will be king. The assumption is that Jesse’s oldest son will be the one. Not only is he the oldest, but he is tall and handsome. But God has great advice and a good principle,
People judge others by what they look like, but I judge people by what is in their hearts.
And so Samuel goes through all of Jesse’s sons, seeking the one God might be looking for to be ruler. Seven sons later, he still hasn’t found the one. Are there any more? Only the youngest son, he looks after the sheep, it’s hardly going to be him is it? But as soon as David appears, God says, “He’s the one”. This is the one who can be trusted, who will do things God’s way, not be out to look good.
God isn’t interested in how people look, but in how they behave, how they respond to situation, what is going on in their hearts and lives.
I wonder how often we are guilty of judging people, or even our own lives, by what’s on the outside. Do they wear the right clothes? Drive the right car? Mix with the right people? Are they young, fit and attractive? None of these things matter in God’s ways. It is what is going on in someone’s heart that is the only criteria God looks at.
Is this someone who will listen to his word? Follow God’s ways? Love others? That is what God is looking for – we must not get God’s criteria confused with popular judgements.
Forgive me Lord,
for the time I confuse how someone looks
with how they really are;
may I not be wowed by flashy gimmicks,
those who say the right thing,
or look the right way;
but see instead what they show me of you
and living life your way