The kind of people God can (and can't) use
“The kind of people God can (and can’t) use” (1 Sam. 16)
Excerpts from the performance reviews of Royal navy officers:
His men would follow him anywhere, but only out of curiosity.
This officer is not so much of a has-been, but more of a definitely won't be.
Works well under constant supervision and when cornered like a rat in a trap.
This young lady has serious delusions of adequacy. She sets low personal standards and then consistently fails to achieve them.
This officer should go far-and the sooner he starts the better.
This man is depriving a village somewhere of an idiot.
They failed to reach the mark – the standard for their job.
When Paul is preaching in Acts 13 he states w.r.t. David. (Acts 13:22) After removing Saul, he made David their king. He testified concerning him: 'I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.' Those words are based on Samuel's words to Saul in (1 Sam 13:14) …your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord's command."
“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
23 For rebellion is like the sin of divination,
and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
he has rejected you as king.” (1 Sam 15)
What I find interesting is the fact that God's first criterion in removing and replacing the leader in Israel concerns their ability to follow. David is a man after God's heart. He will do what God wants. Saul is rejected precisely because of his inability to follow God's commands. In God's kingdom, the first criterion for service, let alone leadership is being able to follow. At the highest level, God has no need for more leaders! The Church today lacks no leadership. Jesus Christ is the head of the Church. What more leadership could possibly be required? In the Kingdom of Israel of old and the church of today God needs people who can follow. God saw in David a great leader because of his ability to follow.
As we come to 1 Sam 16, in looking at David’s anointing as King, presided over by Samuel, we are also looking at the last main act of Samuel’s life. Samuel was also a man who was used of God precisely because of his ability to follow, to obey God’s instructions – anointing Saul, rebuking Saul for his disobedience, even killing Agag when God said so but Saul thought better… He lived as he preached: “to obey is better than sacrifice…”.
We start with Samuel under the weather. He’s grieving for Saul (v1) but has once again to obey God’s call despite his personal concerns.
The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.”2 But Samuel said, “How can I go? Saul will hear about it and kill me.”
In actual fact verse 1 literally says ‘I have seen (root verb of NIV ‘chosen’) one of Jesse’s sons who is to be king’ God sees, and the rest of the section is about Samuel seeing what God has already seen. But to see requires some spiritual focussing. You know the account. Samuel goes to Jesse and seeing Eliab says,
6 … “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.”7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
Do we see as God sees, think as God thinks (Col. 3:1)? Don’t underestimate the difficulty of doing this! Even Samuel struggled…
Echoes of the past! Saul was head and shoulders above the rest…Eliab is seen and assumed by Samuel “surely” as the right person but is not. Only God’s clear statement, ‘I have rejected him’ prevents another national tragedy. And neither is Abinadab, Shammah, or any of the seven brothers brought out was God’s choice.
Right up to the end David is a mystery. In fact if you look at the text, even when he is fetched from the field, seen by Samuel and anointed, he’s still not named. Only the narrator in v13 tells us this is David. It’s all part of the account telling us God sees what we can’t see. He’s going to use the nobody that nobody noticed. That’s the God we follow:
But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no-one may boast before him. 1 Corinthians 1:27-29
Notice that as soon as Samuel sees him he knows this is the one, because God told him so! What God has seen, Samuel now sees.
Walt Disney had a vision, planned his theme park and had it built. Before its completion he died. At the opening someone said "Isn't it too bad that Walt Disney didn't live to see this." The reply came, "He did see it, and that's why it's here!" God saw David as his man. The narrative is about how what God saw became reality. So too the narrative of your life and the church. We need to be people of vision. We need to see what is not otherwise obvious. God may have a plan that you have not yet dreamed of! But to see it requires some human disciplines in response to the character and purposes of God. Let’s draw ourselves back to Samuel in this chapter:
· In all this, there was still an element of pain (v1). He grieved for Saul yet was also afraid of him. Fear and uncertainty will always present itself when God leads us, precisely because we don’t see as he sees and know as he knows. Uncertainty brings insecurity and fear. Yet apparently the most repeated command in the Bible is “fear not!”. Why? Because God is the leader and we are the followers. Remember, ultimately he needs no more leaders!
· We also learn from Samuel that fear and pain and failure of the past must never bring us to paralysis for the future. When God told him to go and anoint one of Jesse’s sons as King, Samuel could have thought, “Been there done that” / “Once bitten, twice shy”. He could have been crippled by the pain of the past but he wasn’t. He was an obedient follower not a proud “leader”. How many times in your life or church life do we say “tried that and it didn’t work”? It’s a good job God didn’t say that over Israel’s first King, or that Samuel didn’t quote it to God! So the lesson is, don’t live by your past or your pain. Keep on moving on.
· Thirdly, note that Samuel is still human – not just with the pain, but with his assumptions. We might have thought he wouldn’t look at the outside appearance any more but he was temporarily fooled by it when seing Eliab. He’s human, so are we, but we have a gracious and wise God who longs to speak and has a good plan.
§ v1 “The Lord said to Samuel…”
§ v2 “The Lord said…”
§ v7 “The Lord said…”
§ v12 “Then the Lord said…”
§ v4 “Samuel did what the Lord said…”
God equally longs to speak to us and make his will known. The history of our salvation is that God has spoken, God has revealed himself fully and finally in Jesus and we don’t have to live in the dark. We’re human, but there is a godly vision, a sight of the future, and he will make it known.
Christ is the first and the last
His spirit will guide us safe home
We’ll praise him for all that is past
And trust him for all that’s to come.
 See D R Davis, 1 Samuel p138