1 Samuel 16:1-23
April 15, 2007
You and I have two competing forces that are pulling at us all the time. Both of them that are dangerous to our spiritual life. The first is that of constant images and messages around us that make us feel like we’re never good enough. Take the whole issue of beauty and attractiveness as an example. We are bombarded with images of outstandingly beautiful people selling us products with the implicit promise that we can be like them. Girls grow up with an image of beauty that says that thin is beautiful, with constant news about what’s going on in the lives of beautiful people. Even if these beautiful people mess up, like Britney Spears, it’s what’s put in front of us.
I read of a study recently that showed that women’s sense of self-worth is directly connected to how they see themselves in comparison to the people around them. Women who are surrounded by other attractive women, either in the flesh or through film or photography or other media are more likely to rate their own sense of beauty as lower.
The effect on men is also damaging. Men who surround themselves with images of beautiful women will devalue the beauty of the real women around them and have more difficulty being content in their relationships.
This is true in other areas as well. We become less content with the level of our wealth and possessions, with our friendships, with the kind of holidays we take, with the car we drive, the house we live in and so on. We live in a culture of discontent. Which is spiritually dangerous because it causes us to look for satisfaction in all the wrong places. And if we’re honest, much of what we do and decide is driven by our discontent. A low level of satisfaction with our life.
On the other side, and I don’t think it’s disconnected, we live in a culture that tells us that everything is about us. I read a great article from a secular source, that talked about the new dominant pronoun of our culture: you. You became the Person of the Year in TIME magazine. Look at how much advertising tries to convince you that their product is all about you: “Have it your way.” “Ask your doctor if Lipitor is right for you.” You see a picture of a beautiful beach with no one else in sight and the slogan: Jamaica welcomes you. As if you and I would ever get a beach all to ourselves. .
The writer makes the point that YouTube is really given the wrong name: it’s really Me Tube. What used to be called the Me generation has been given a new name.
And so we live with these two pressures coming down on us. On the one hand this constant sense that we aren’t good enough, that we don’t measure up and that we will never measure up. There is always someone more skilled, better looking, with a better job, better family, happier and more content than us. And then on the other side is this message that the whole world is at our fingertips. We are in control of our own destiny. The choice is ours. It’s all about us and we want.
For that reason, I think that the life of David is so helpful for us to examine—to immerse ourselves into the story of someone who was real, alive, vibrant, broken, and yet an incredible person of faith and trust in God. What is it about David, that can help us live out a faith that’s rich and full and that avoids the pitfalls of the world in which we live? How do we become content with our place in this material world, and yet become discontent with the state of our soul—hungering for more and more of God? How do we gain a sense of our worth and value before God without becoming self-centred and self-absorbed?
The start of the story gives us a lot of clues. And it’s a great story. Things are not going well in Israel. The people had been feeling inferior to the nations around them and so they demanded that God give them a king. Samuel had warned them the dangers of having a human king, that there was lots of potential that this king would treat them harshly and cause all kinds of problems. But they persisted and so God gave them a king: Saul.
Saul started out well enough, but began to drift away from God and was starting engage in exactly the kinds of abuses of power that Samuel had warned about. And so very quickly, the people were beginning to regret this whole king deal. But it was too late. And of all the people who were upset by this, it was Samuel. In the beginning he had had high hopes for Saul. Now, in just the previous chapter, he had just told Saul that God was going to remove him from the throne—a message that didn’t go over too well.
And so God commissions Samuel to go and anoint a new king. This was no small thing. Really, it was an act of treason. If Saul found out about it, Samuel would be dead. Whoever he anointed would be dead. And so Samuel makes the trek to the little town of Bethlehem.
I love the reaction of the elders of the town when they see Samuel arrive: they tremble in fear. This old man arrives, but he has gained so much spiritual authority and power that they want him out as soon as possible. They knew that there was a rift between Samuel and Saul. They wanted nothing to do with it. It’s a sign of how bad things had become with Saul’s leadership.
But Samuel has something else in mind. He organizes a little party. And he invites a man named Jesse and all his sons. It turns out that the next king will be one of Jesse’s sons. And, following the custom of the day, Samuel assumes that it will be the oldest son. Verse 6 gives us his thoughts:
6 When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.”
I want to you to notice the word “saw” in this verse. It’s hard to see in the English, but a variation of the verb “to see” is strewn throughout this whole section. So Samuel takes one look at Eliab and is absolutely convinced that this is the one. He’s big, strong, tall, impressive. Eliab doesn’t know why he’s being scrutinized. But he clearly looks like kingly material. And so we get God’s response, the heart of this chapter:
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.”
Four times we get the same word. “To see.” God impresses on Samuel the need to look at these boys through a different set of lenses. Fine. So he calls for the next son, Abinidab. No. Not him. So he calls for the third, Shammah. Not him either. Now the writer doesn’t even bother naming the sons. Seven sons come parading by. Seven. A nice biblical number. But every time, God impresses on Samuel that this isn’t the one he means. When all the sons go by, Samuel starts to get worried. Perhaps he wondering if he’s lost his edge. He’s missing out on something. A mistake.
So he takes a long shot—turns to the Dad and asks, are these all your sons? Well, says Jesse. No. There’s the youngest, he’s out tending the sheep. Ah, Samuel perks up. “Go and get him.”
The youngest. In Hebrew, the word is “haqqaton.” Say that word with me. It doesn’t just mean youngest, it means the baby, the insignificant one. The same word was used for your pinky finger. Haqqaton.
I can relate to this story. Not because I’m the youngest in my family, but because I’m the oldest. I was 12 years old when my brother Colin was born. By the time I left for university he was only 7 years old. He was 12 when we got married. He grew up when I was away from home. And so, the dynamic was that I always came home to the baby brother. He changed. But my expectations of him didn’t change. I didn’t keep up with the changes.
As the oldest, eventually, I had to come to terms with the fact that he actually had independent thoughts that were worth listening to. I had to learn to see my brother in a new way. I’m almost there… The haqqaton.
That was the situation here with David. Nobody expected anything from him. He had his place out with the sheep. It wasn’t that they purposely didn’t invite David to the party, they just never even thought of it. Why would he need to be there? There wasn’t anything here for him. He was fine where he was.
And here is where we discover the power of the story. Because the one person that no one else notices or pays any attention to, the one they don’t see, God sees. And God calls this boy out and anoints him:
Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.”
12 So he sent and had him brought in. He was ruddy, with a fine appearance and handsome features.
Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; he is the one.”
13 So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power.
-interesting fact: first time that David’s name is used
In 1463, members of the City Council of Firenze (Florence) Italy decided they needed a monument to enhance their city. They commissioned a sculptor to carve a giant statue to stand in front of city hall. Someone suggested a biblical character wrought in the neoclassical style, an expression of beauty and strength.
They approached Agostino di Duccio, who agreed to their terms. Duccio went to the quarry near Carrara and marked off a 19-foot slab to be cut from the white marble. However, he had the slab cut too thin. When the block was removed, it fell, leaving a deep fracture down one side. The sculptor declared the stone useless and demanded another, but the city council refused. Consequently, the gleaming block of marble lay on its side for the next 38 years, a source of embarrassment for all concerned.
Then, in 1501, the council approached another citizen, the son of a local official, asking him if he would complete the ambitious project, using the broken slab. Fortunately for them, the young man was Michelangelo Buonarroti. He was 26 years old, filled with energy, skill, and imagination. Michelangelo locked himself inside the workshop behind the cathedral to chisel and polish away on the stone for three years. When the work was finished, it took 49 men five days to bring it to rest before the city hall. Archways were torn down. Narrow streets were widened. The people from across Europe came to see the 14-foot statue of David relaxing after defeating Goliath. It was even more than the city fathers had envisioned. The giant stone had been transformed from the massive fractured waste of rock to a masterpiece surpassing the art of either Greece or Rome.
I want us to put that picture in front of us as we jump into the life of David over the next couple months. This sense of the Creator taking a something with so much potential, yet broken, and transforming it into something astounding.
1 As opposed to the world that says everything is about you—David’s story reminds us that it’s all about God. God is the one at work here.
2 As opposed to the world, that also puts images that are impossible to attain, that make us feel that we could never measure up, David’s story shows us that God will use anyone He chooses, and He will even use us. Our brokenness, our imperfections, mean nothing to Him