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The Lord said to Samuel, “How long are you going to grieve over Saul? I have rejected him as king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and get going. I’m sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem because I have found my next king among his sons.”
2 “How can I do that?” Samuel asked. “When Saul hears of it he’ll kill me!”
“Take a heifer with you,” the Lord replied, “and say, ‘I have come to make a sacrifice to the Lord.’ 3 Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will make clear to you what you should do. You will anoint for me the person I point out to you.”
4 Samuel did what the Lord instructed. When he came to Bethlehem, the city elders came to meet him. They were shaking with fear. “Do you come in peace?” they asked.
5 “Yes,” Samuel answered. “I’ve come to make a sacrifice to the Lord. Now make yourselves holy, then come with me to the sacrifice.” Samuel made Jesse and his sons holy and invited them to the sacrifice as well.
6 When they arrived, Samuel looked at Eliab and thought, that must be the Lord’s anointed right in front.
7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Have no regard for his appearance or stature, because I haven’t selected him. God doesn’t look at things like humans do. Humans see only what is visible to the eyes, but the Lord sees into the heart.”
8 Next Jesse called for Abinadab, who presented himself to Samuel, but he said, “The Lord hasn’t chosen this one either.” 9 So Jesse presented Shammah, but Samuel said, “No, the Lord hasn’t chosen this one.” 10 Jesse presented seven of his sons to Samuel, but Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord hasn’t picked any of these.” 11 Then Samuel asked Jesse, “Is that all of your boys?”
“There is still the youngest one,” Jesse answered, “but he’s out keeping the sheep.”
“Send for him,” Samuel told Jesse, “because we can’t proceed until he gets here.”
12 So Jesse sent and brought him in. He was reddish brown, had beautiful eyes, and was good-looking. The Lord said, “That’s the one. Go anoint him.” 13 So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him right there in front of his brothers. The Lord’s spirit came over David from that point forward.
Then Samuel left and went to Ramah.
Let’s take a moment and get ourselves rooted in the story.
Samuel was the last of Israel’s judges.
A judge in Israel was a spiritual and political leader – but not a king.
God was Israel’s king.
Samuel was known as a just man.
In fact, the reason Israel decided that they wanted a king is because there was not another man like Samuel to be found.
Samuel’s own sons were not godly men like Samuel.
So Israel decided – since there is no Godly judge to be found, we’re going to need a king to lead us.
Now stop and think about that for a moment…
No one who is just is there to lead them…
So they’re going to make someone their king.
It seems to me that they’re getting off to a pretty bad start when they say to themselves, “no one follows God closely enough to be spiritual leader, so we’re going to put absolute power into the hands of someone who isn’t a good spiritual leader.”
Does that raise a red flag for you?
Can you see how that doesn’t make sense… at all?
Samuel was the final judge – and Saul was the first king.
Samuel knew Saul from the time he was a boy.
Scripture describes his good looks, his favorable height – he certainly looked the part of a leader.
I guess when there’s not a truly Godly leader to be found, these are the kinds of characteristics you look for.
Saul was the king who God chose for Israel,
But as you can probably predict, Saul didn’t do a great job of obeying God.
That’s why when we come to the passage we read today, Samuel is looking for a new king.
Saul was disobedient, and God declared that a new king must be found.
Samuel is heartbroken about it. He loves Saul.
But Saul has not been an obedient leader.
So God tells Samuel that he’s going to select a new king.
He instructs Samuel to journey to Bethlehem to make a sacrifice,
And Samuel invites Jesse and his sons to participate in it.
And one by one, Samuel begins to guess at which of Jesse’s son God has chosen for Israel’s new king:
6 When they arrived, Samuel looked at Eliab and thought, that must be the Lord’s anointed right in front. – “That’s got to be the guy!”
Eliab stands out right away.
Perhaps like Saul, Eliab looks the part of the king.
He’s good looking and tall – perhaps strong.
And Samuel thinks, “Surely – this is the kind of guy God will choose for the job!”
7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Have no regard for his appearance or stature, because I haven’t selected him. God doesn’t look at things like humans do. Humans see only what is visible to the eyes, but the Lord sees into the heart.”
Huh… so I guess it’s possible to appear to be qualified,
But to fail to have the right heart…
The heart, in Jewish thought, is the motives, the allegiances, and the will of a person.
Eliab had all the right external qualities, but he didn’t have the right heart.
So Jesse starts bringing his sons to Samuel, one by one…
And one by one, Samuel shoots them down.
These men are not the king God has selected.
11 Then Samuel asked Jesse, “Is that all of your boys?”
“There is still the youngest one,” Jesse answered, “but he’s out keeping the sheep.”
Now to anyone in room, it would seem that the most likely candidates are right here.
After all, it takes certain qualities to be a king.
Political savvy.
A certain appearance.
A command of authority.
Ideally, the king will be an adult.
But none of these sons of Jesse – the older brothers – are God’s pick for Israel’s king.
They might have been Samuel’s pick.
Or Jesse’s pick.
Or Israel’s pick…
But as God has already told Samuel – God is looking for the right heart.
Our series during Lent has been called “Out of” – and we’re going to focus on David in just a moment, but before we do – I just want to point out that at this point, God is calling Samuel and Israel to allow things to be out of their control.
Israel has been through one failed king.
Things are about to get worse with Saul, too.
It might seem natural that they don’t want to make the same mistake this time that they made last time.
Or it might seem natural that they would want the king who seems most qualified,
Or least error-prone,
Or most experienced, or oldest at the very least.
But God is calling them to release control – to let this decision come out of their hands, and to entrust it instead in God’s hands.
Boy – if we became good at making decisions like that…
At taking a step back from our need to control the outcome,
And learn to trust God – acting in obedience to Him…
Sometimes life seems unfair – and we think, “I can fix this!”
It might not look like Christ… but I can fix this, right?
I can imagine Samuel – it seems that God is about to choose the youngest son…
The shepherd.
David is about to come in from the pasture smelling like sheep, and the things sheep leave behind in the pasture.
He might be covered in wool, but it’s business suit…
David is nobody’s pick for king.
Except for God – God chooses David.
Jesse says that there’s one more boy, in the field with the sheep.
“Send for him,” Samuel told Jesse, “because we can’t proceed until he gets here.”
12 So Jesse sent and brought him in. He was reddish brown, had beautiful eyes, and was good-looking. The Lord said, “That’s the one. Go anoint him.” 13 So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him right there in front of his brothers. The Lord’s spirit came over David from that point forward.
Until now we’ve mostly read this through Samuel’s eyes.
We know what Samuel is feeling.
He’s mourning Saul, he’s favoring the older sons…
But I want us to take a moment and understand this from David’s eyes.
A prophet has come to offer a sacrifice in Bethlehem, and David’s family is invited.
Everyone shows up but David.
I wonder if David even knows the prophet is there…
David’s place – in his family, and in the world – is in the field,
Guarding the flock.
Protecting his family’s livestock.
And there’s some risk to this.
When David picks up a sling and stones later on to fight Goliath, it isn’t the first time he’s done that.
He’s had to defend his life and the lives of the sheep from wilderness predators.
David knows his place – and it’s in the field.
It’s in the pasture.
David’s father oversees to the family business.
He’s the leader of the family.
The older brothers are favored in a special way – especially the oldest.
And David is out in the pasture.
He’s in the pasture, until God calls him to the throne.
God calls David out of the pasture, and into God’s service.
Into God’s calling.
You see – everyone around David – even David himself – expected that David’s life was pretty well determined.
His job in his family was clear.
He might guard the sheep well into old age.
He might spend his life in the pasture.
But God interrupted David’s time in the pasture with a new sense of purpose.
God entered into the life of everyone’s last pick,
And used him to lead the nation of Israel.
Now you might be thinking – that’s great, but what does it have to do with anything?
No one here is likely to be called to any greater purpose…
There are no kings in this room…
But that’s just the point, isn’t it?
What is the likelihood that God would use anyone like us?
Anyone ordinary?
Why would God choose me, or you, or anyone?
But if you ask David… he might tell you that it’s more likely than you think.
If you ask the disciples of Jesus, they would agree.
God has a habit of calling everyday, ordinary people.
In fact, I’m convinced that it hits even closer than that…
It’s not just likely that God would call any one of us,
I’ll tell you with confidence that God is calling each one of us…
Not out of the pasture and into his service,
But out of the pew and into his service.
Somewhere in the history of the church, we started to get the idea that ministry was for pastors.
But I think we’re coming to recognize that God does not just call pastors,
He calls churches – and churches are gatherings of people.
Don’t get me wrong – I think you already all know this.
In fact, I think that this church models it.
I see in us desire to be a part of what God’s doing.
We get excited about opportunities and occasions to minister to one another.
But I also think that God calls us to more than occasions.
And for more than events.
He calls us to serve him with our lives.
He calls us to ministry.
If someone asked you – “What is your ministry?” How would you answer?
What is your place of service?
I know that many of you know exactly how you’re living into a call.
You know exactly how God is calling you and empowering you to serve his church and mission.
I would also guess that some of you might not know…
That’s ok… now’s a good time to ask these questions…
Have you thought about it?
How is God calling you?
The other part of that question is “how much of yourself are you giving to that ministry?”
If God is calling you to minister – he isn’t looking for the bare minimum.
Are you looking for ways to grow? Improve?
We want that for our pastor – we want them to grow in their pastoral ministry.
What about lay ministry?
Shouldn’t we all look for how we are called to minister most effectively?
One thing I know about David – he’s not ready to be king.
He’s got some growth ahead of him.
If you know the story of David, he’s got some pride to swallow.
Some humility to pursue.
David will go through a time in his life when he is entirely unfit to lead Israel,
He even opposes Israel…
He runs not only from Saul, but from God’s calling upon his life…
But that calling does not release him…
He runs, but never far enough….
Eventually, David finds his way back …
David had the call of God on his life.
And so do you…
And like David – you might not be a pro at it yet.
You might not have even discovered it yet.
But God doesn’t seem to make a habit of calling professionals,
He makes a habit of perfecting the people who he calls.
You might be called to be a prayer warrior,
Or a teacher, or small group leader, or a ministry leader.
You might be called to something new.
I won’t be surprised to learn that we have pastors to train in our church…
People with a call to vocational ministry.
I don’t know how you’re called – but I know you’re called.
Out of the pasture – out of the pew – and into God’s service.
That’s a call we all share.
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