Most of us know the basic bible stories of David – his anointing by Samuel, his conquest of Jerusalem, and his indiscretions with Bathsheba. Throughout this season, we will be looking at these narratives and more. The story of David is the original Game of Thrones filled with passion, rebellion, fraternizing with the enemy, adultery, murder, treason, and palace intrigue all being shaped by a prophetic religious tradition which is evolving into centralized temple worship. The importance of David, however, lies not in the man, but in how his story has shaped the whole story of salvation. For it is David who was the original Anointed One (Heb: Messiah, Gk: Christ) and first called the Son of God (Psalm 2:7). It is David from whom Jesus is descended (Matt. 1) and the name “son of David” by which Jesus is first called (Matt 9:27). All you need to join us on this journey is a bible. For background for our study I will using David Wolpe’s book David, The Divided Heart and David Payne’s I & II Samuel.
For this week, please read through 1 Samuel 16. In vv. 1-13, we first meet David when the prophet Samuel anoints the young boy as the (future) king. In vv. 14-23, we have the first meeting between David and the current king Saul, whom David will later replace.
To set the stage, God delivers Israel from bondage to the Egyptians in the book of Exodus. Israel spends the next forty years and the next three books (Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) wandering in the desert. Moses dies (Deut. 34:5) and Joshua goes forth to conquer the Promised Land in his eponymous book. (As an aside, “Jesus” is the Aramaic form for “Joshua”.) After Joshua, Israel is ruled either by foreign powers like the Philistines or by “Judges” who are women and men raised up by God for particular purposes at particular times. During this time, Israel’s worship of God was decentralized and led by iterant Levitical priests (See, Judges 17). About 400 years after the Exodus, Samuel is born and dedicated to God. (1 Sam. 1). He trains as a priest under Eli and becomes the last Judge of Israel. As Samuel grows old, the Israelites demand a king, like every other nation, to succeed him as a ruler. (1 Sam. 8:6). God gives his demanding people Saul, who is tall and handsome. (1 Sam. 9). Saul is a great disappointment (1 Samuel 15:10), and so God will try again, this time with David.
Anointing of David: (v.1-13)
The story of David opens with the powerful story of the anointing of the child David as king. At this time, Samuel had informed Saul that God had now rejected him as the king of Israel (1 Sam. 16:26), but Saul had not abdicated his position and was intent on jealously guarding his kingship. The story opens with God sending Samuel to the house of Jesse of Bethlehem to anoint one of his sons as the next king of Israel.
The first thing to notice is the scene. Samuel sets off on a mission for God but in treasonous opposition to the current government led by Saul. Samuel comes to the village on behalf of God and comes in peace (Shalom). Before Samuel discerns who is to be anointed king, Samuel sanctifies the whole village of Bethlehem and Jesse’s family and then offers a sacrifice to God. To sanctify or consecrate (Heb: qadash) means to set apart for God’s special use or purpose, to make holy. Here and throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, sanctification is closely linked to sacrifice. A sacrifice is simply a gift to God as an outward display of our worship for Him and with the object of attaining communion with Him. Samuel demands that the people be set apart for a holy work, and then, through the animal sacrifice, he make God known to the village. God is brought into the community before anything else occurs. In the Church sanctification and sacrifice come through Jesus. (Heb. 10:10). Also, in the Church, we see this bi-part action of sanctification and sacrifice in the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
The question for Samuel and everyone else, is who did God choose? Jesse’s eldest son (v.6) looks like a king should look, and yet God’s rejects him. The key verse is God’s statement that “the Lord sees not as a mortal sees, they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks in the heart.” (v.7). Throughout the Scriptures, and particularly in the person of Jesus, in his ministry, and in his parables, we will see this theme play out. God rejects Jesse’s seven eldest sons. Jesse’s youngest son, David, is performing the menial task of watching the sheep. And so God calls the most lowly and humble of Jesse’s sons to be his messiah. This section ends with the observation that the Spirit of the Lord came upon David.
Saul: (vv. 14-23)
This section of the story opens with the observation that the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul. God has made his choice. The scene begins with Saul going mad. His madness is kept in check by music. Saul’s men seek out a court musician and come upon the boy David who plays the lyre. This section speaks to the power of music over our souls. David enters Saul’s household and becomes Saul’s armor-bearer. The boy who is God’s chosen to become king, now is in the household and service of the man who is presently king. David cares for and carries the armor of the king he has been anointed to replace.
“And they came to Jericho; and as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great multitude, Bar-Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry our and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ And many rebuked him, telling his to be silent; but he cried out all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!'” Mark 10:46-48