How many of you are HGTV fans? Well last night Holly and I were watching House Hunter Renovation, and we witnessed a very awkward moment. A couple had bought a house to renovate and while the man was off at work one day the interior designer persuaded the wife to add an accent wall with a bold wallpaper pattern. The man got home from work, walked in, and was shocked. If it weren’t for the camera I’m sure it would’ve been much different but one thing is clear…he did not see things as she did…as we enter 1 Samuel 16 today we’ll learn the same thing but on a grander scale…we do not see as God sees.
Follow along as I read 1 Samuel 16.
a) An Admirable Grief (16:1-3)
Inside the soul of Samuel it must have seemed like a gray January day, rainy and 36 degrees as he reflected over the downfall of Israel’s first King. v1 shows us that for some reason Samuel couldn’t quite detatch himself from Saul’s failures, he grieved deeply over the fallen king. Seeing this should give us pause and move us to ask, ‘Why couldn’t Samuel get passed this?’ Was he grieved at the state of the nation? Was he grieved at the outcome of his life’s work? No, v1 says Samuel grieved ‘over Saul.’ For Samuel it wasn’t an easy thing to see the downfall of the king who seemed to begin with such promise.
In the midst of Samuel’s grief God interrupts with news, ‘How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go. I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for Myself a king among his sons.’ If God is to be glorified in the rejection of Saul, Samuel is to be satisfied with it, for God will provide new leadership for His people. It was the people who chose Saul to be king, here we see it is God who has already chosen the next king. How encouraging is that to see? That God truly is the real King, that He never loses control of His Kingdom. Even here in the very beginning of our passage do you see that God is able to cause a new beginning when it seems like all is coming undone? Perhaps some of you just need to hear it again this morning – God is the God of new beginnings. The very situation you’re in right now, whether brought about by your own sin or the sin of another, will likely be the very situation God uses to bring you closer to Himself. Such was the case with Saul here.
There’s something for us to see here in Samuel’s grief. Sure Samuel and Saul had large differences but over the course of their dealings with one another Samuel had grown warm towards Saul, why else would he be mourning over him so greatly? Samuel never desired the downfall of the king, he was jealous to see him succeed, he prayed for him often and wanted God to do mighty work through him. Just as Samuel grieved for Saul did you know it is the Christian’s calling to grieve over the sinful actions of each other? Romans 12:15 instructs us to ‘weep with those who weep’ to ‘mourn with those who mourn.’ We don’t rejoice over or gossip about the downfall of anyone among us, we grieve, mourn, and labor alongside those who have strayed with the ultimate aim of restoration in view. So let me ask you: when was the last time you wept, mourned, sorrowed, or grieved over the sin of a fellow church member or fellow believer? If it’s been a long time since you’ve done this, or if you’ve never done this, your own heart is harder than you think. Samuel’s grief is true grief indeed, it’s not comfortable, it wasn’t a show, it’s stomach churning, but it’s commendable.
Samuel shows an unfamiliar weakness here, as even the best of men do at times, and expresses a further doubt in his grief in v2, ‘How can I go? If Saul hears it, he will kill me.’ And the LORD said, ‘Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.’ And invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do. And you shall anoint for me him whom I declare to you.’’ Just as Saul had previously used the action of making sacrifices as a justification for his disobedience, here now God uses the same thing as a ploy, or a scheme for Samuel’s obedience. The plan is laid out, and off Samuel goes to seek the Lord’s new king.
b) An Unpredictable Choice (16:4-13)
In v4-5 the elders of the city are terrified as they see Samuel walking into it. Had Samuel discovered sin in Bethlehem? Had he come to discipline someone? By now the citizens there had for sure heard the news of the falling out between Samuel and Saul. Just as Samuel feared for his life if Saul found out he was there, the people in Bethlehem were likely afraid of welcoming Samuel because if Saul heard of it he might kill them. Trembling as they were, they asked him ‘Do you come peaceably?’ and to their great relief he said, ‘Peaceably; I’ve come to make a sacrifice to the LORD. Consecrate yourselves and join me.’
As the text continues in v6 we find the Bethlehemites coming up to the sacrifice and with them comes Jesse and his sons. As Jesse’s boys are walking up to the sacrifice Samuel see’s a stunning sight. He see’s Jesse’s oldest, Eliab is his name, and says to himself, ‘Surely the LORD’s anointed is before me.’ As the oldest among all his brothers, Eliab would’ve likely been the tallest, the strongest, and the brightest among them. Does he remind you of anyone else we’ve met in 1 Samuel so far? Right…Saul’s physical descriptions back in chapters 8-9 are almost exactly like Eliab’s here. Note that even Samuel gets drawn in with impressive appearances here, but even if Samuel is being swayed by such physical prowess, God is not. He reminds Samuel in v7, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.’
This is a crucial moment in redemptive history, you could even say v7 is the pinnacle verse for the whole of Samuel’s 2 volumes in Scripture. Israel has already made many choices based on physical appearance in 1 Samuel 1-7, and in chapter 8 they made another one in choosing Saul to be king because of his physical appearance…because of the similarities between Saul and Eliab Israel likely would’ve had a ‘king Saul part 2’ on their hands if Eliab was made king. Despite his physical appearance God had rejected him. Now, be sure not to take v7 to extremes. v7 does not mean God prefers ugliness to handsomeness, or physical weakness to physical strength. It simply means that the physical appearance of a person doesn’t give a person their meaning, identity, or value before God. No, these things come from God, who sees not as man sees, for He looks on the heart. You’d think with the prophet Samuel looking at Jesse’s sons surely we’ll see him make a more spiritually grounded decision, right? Wrong. Even the godliest among us make mistakes. Therefore, the kingdom of God is always safe not because of some leader within it, but because the kingdom is always in God’s hands
From this we are reminded of two things: first, that only God is enough, only God is sufficient, only God is adequate to direct the affairs of His kingdom for He sees what we cannot. Second, beware the power of physical appearances. How often have we met someone and welcomed them or rejected them based on their physical appearance? Their too thin, their too fat, their too short, their too tall, their hair is weird, they walk funny, their nose is crooked, etc. We assume an overweight person is a slob who can’t control their appetite while a thin person lives a disciplined life, when in reality it may be just the opposite. When companies (and even churches) hire people they place a great deal of weight on their physical appearance, if someone doesn’t present themselves as ‘together’ or ‘with it’ they don’t get hired. If women don’t present themselves as confident and beautiful and if men don’t present themselves as sure and debonair, they’re often rejected. We not only do this with everyone else around us, we do this with ourselves. We base our worth on how we appear in the mirror, and how we appear to others.
All this to say, when it comes to 1 Samuel 16:7 we see a pattern of behavior we must turn away from. But we don’t only see our own lack, we also see hope in that while we don’t see things as they truly are, God does. May He give us eyes to see as He does, more and more.
Well as we continue in v8-10 we see Samuel examine Jesse’s sons and after seeing 7 of them he told Jesse, ‘The LORD has not chosen these. Are all your sons here?’ Jesse responds in v11, ‘There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep.’ Samuel says, ‘Go get him, we won’t sit down to eat until he comes.’ Jesse got him, and when he approached the group, Samuel noticed he was also ruddy and handsome, with beautiful eyes. Then Samuel heard it, ‘Arise, anoint him, for this is he.’ So he took his horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers, and the Holy Spirit rushed upon him from that day forward. This was an unpredictable choice to say the least, a choice that goes against all human conventions and wisdom, but simultaneously a choice made by God’s infinite wisdom for the glory of His name and the good of His people.
c) An Ironic Choice (16:14-23)
Coming to v14 brings the exact opposite of what we’ve just seen in v1-13. Notice how v13 ended by saying ‘the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon David from that day forward.’ Now notice how v14 begins, ‘Now the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and a harmful Spirit from the LORD tormented him.’ Here in these two verses, the activity of the Holy Spirit could stands David and Saul against one another in sharp contrast. He rushes upon one, while departing from the other. Blessing and curse. Presence and absence. Does it make you uncomfortable to see God sending a ‘spirit’ to torment Saul? Did you know this is the only time in the Old Testament that we read of the Spirit actually departing from someone? This messes with people’s heads a bit. There are those who see here the idea of ‘demonic possession’ or ‘God doing evil work.’ None of that is happening here. What’s really in view here is God permitting a kind of distressing disposition to overtake Saul for a season.
As a result of this distress, in v16-17 Saul’s servants seek out someone to give Saul comfort in his distress, and they just happen to remember a young boy who can skillfully play the lyre. They tell Saul and he ironically chooses David to minister to him. So not only is David God’s choice, David is Saul’s choice too! The chosen king is now keeping the rejected king from falling apart by ministering to him in his distress. Saul has a source of comfort now, but he no longer has the Spirit of God. As the last few verses of chapter 16 come and go we see Saul’s affection for David, because of David’s ministry of refreshment to him Saul loved him and made him his armor bearer…little did he know what was in store.
We’ve seen much in this chapter. Mainly we’ve seen that the physical appearance of something often deceives us, that we should not trust in what we can see, but trust in God who sees things as they really are, by looking at the heart of a person. We saw this displayed for us in God’s choice of young David over the physically superior Eliab, who reminds of us of king Saul and all the debacle his kingship brought upon God’s people.
To end notice the following 2 things:
1) The Activity of the Holy Spirit
As Samuel emptied his horn of oil the Spirit rushes on David. This is similar to what happens to the soul of man at conversion. A result of repenting from sin and trusting in Christ is the activity of the Holy Spirit entering us and residing in us permanently. Then the result of the indwelling of the Spirit is living a life characterized by the fruit of the Spirit. But think of David again. God chose him and anointed him to be king, and by giving him His Spirit He equipped him with everything he needed. This is gracious indeed. But think, as soon as the Spirit rushed upon him, David encountered trouble. Facing Goliath, facing the envy and anger of Saul, betrayal, running, hiding, escaping, living in exile, and much fighting seemed to characterize David’s life. When the Spirit came, the trouble began.
This pattern was also present in David’s Son who just happens to be David’s Lord, Jesus Christ. The Spirit descended on Him as a dove, the Father’s voice approving of Him at His baptism, then what? The Spirit drove Him into the wilderness to experience temptation, hunger, and the attacks of the enemy. God did this to Him. This pattern is also true of us, as soon as we are filled with the Spirit at conversion we seem to gain all sorts of troubles. But we must remember the pattern: David experienced this and Jesus experienced this, and for them it wasn’t a sign of God’s disapproval or God’s absence, it was the sign of God’s sanctifying presence. So the next time your thrown into a kind of wilderness, see God’s hand reaching out to strengthen you with the ministry of His Spirit.
2) A Desire to See Differently, to See as God Sees
God’s choice of David here makes us also think of God’s choice of David’s Son Jesus Christ as well. There was not much to David’s appearance, even his own father didn’t think he was worthy to come to the sacrifice with Samuel. The same is true of Jesus. Isaiah 53:2 says there was nothing special about the His appearance, Mark 6 says people thought He was a nobody, Matthew 11 says people thought He was a drunkard, and John 7 says people thought He came from the wrong town. Many men had seen Jesus and thought nothing of Him. But who’s opinion really mattered? It was the Father who said of Him, ‘This is My Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased’ (Matthew 3:17). God sees not as we see. Knowing that should make us yearn to see as God sees. And the only way one can actually do such a thing is to turn your eyes upon Jesus, because when we do, all else will fall into place.
You know, the world looks at Jesus in two ways don’t they? Some look at Him as a good teacher or good moral example, while others look at Him as a fraud, a fake, a weakling who couldn’t avoid being put to death. Yet when the eyes of faith look upon and the One who was mocked, beaten, crucified, and risen for us, those eyes, our eyes see different things. We don’t see just a good teacher or moral example, we don’t see a weakling or a fraud, no, in Him we see all we need to live. We see redemption, we see life, we see peace.
So what then is the lesson here? How do we see as God sees? By turning our eyes on Jesus in faith. Then and only then will we find what we need to get through the highs and lows of life.
The song we’ll close with today is On Jordan’s Stormy Banks I Stand, it ends like this in the last verse: ‘When shall I reach that happy place and be forever blessed? When shall I see my Father’s face and in His bosom rest?’
The sight of Him is all we need…