July 23, 2017 | 1 Samuel 16.1-13 • “A Prophet, A King, & God’s Criteria”

“David is Anointed King” photo by Lawrence OP (Detail from a window in Ely Cathedral) (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

1 Samuel 16:1-13 (NIV)

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.”

But Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears about it, he will kill me.”

The Lord said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate.”

Samuel did what the Lord said. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town trembled when they met him. They asked, “Do you come in peace?”

Samuel replied, “Yes, in peace; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Consecrate yourselves and come to the sacrifice with me.” Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.

When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.”

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 people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Then Jesse called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “The Lord has not chosen this one either.” Jesse then had Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, “Nor has the Lord chosen this one.” Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The Lord has not chosen these.” So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?”

“There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.”

Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.”

So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features.

Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.”

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 powerfully upon David. Samuel then went to Ramah.


When I went shopping for Sarah’s engagement ring – jewelry store people gave me the strangest looks. 

We had been dating long distance. Sarah was in Minnesota. I was in New Jersey. We were both planning to spend the summer in Colorado Springs … I started to think that sometime during that summer there would be a good time to propose. When I had a break from school I would check out jewelry stores to see if there was anything close to Sarah’s ideal engagement ring. I kept getting these funny looks from New Jersey mall-jewelry-store-sales-people. No, they didn’t have anything like that … was I really sure that’s what she wanted … and if I did find it somewhere it would be a mistake to buy a ring like that.

I knew I could trust Sarah to be honest … I knew her heart … her values … her style …

I didn’t think it would be difficult to find what Sarah wanted.

It was harder than I imagined it would be. I actually never found one at a store. I might as well have been asking for an engagement ring that was made out of dead fish.

I started to dread jewelry stores …

They gave me these looks – like I was cheap or selfish or clueless, or maybe all of those at once. It became painfully clear to me that the engagement ring industry didn’t share values with the person I love the most.

It was like I was one of those salmon in a National Geographic photo swimming against the current.


I think this story, about a new king and God being more concerned with what is happening inside a person’s heart than with what things look like on the outside, was mentioned as a favorite because of David, the most unlikely and most beloved king of Israel. But as I have studied and lived with this story, I have been most interested in Samuel.


Samuel spent a good part of his life swimming against the currents of his culture.

It must have felt like the whole world was going crazy around Samuel.

Back then, Israel was more like a coalition of tribes than a unified nation … the Book of Judges, says that during this time people pretty much did what ever they wanted … and being jerks to each other was what people seemed to want the most. There wasn’t central leadership. The religious leaders were corrupt and used their positions to serve themselves instead of serving their people.

Samuel was a bright spot in dark times.

Samuel was courageous – he swam against the current to obey God.

In our reading today, Samuel was given an errand no one would have wanted.

God had sent Samuel to identify Israel’s first king, Saul. Now God was sending Samuel to identify a new king … the catch was that  Saul, the old king, was still in charge. Talk about dangerous! There are words for what Samuel was doing – treason … betrayal … rebellion.

Talk about taking a risk!

If I was in Samuel’s shoes and had to choose a new king when there was already a king, who was also kind of unstable, I would be really tempted to choose the biggest, strongest, meanest person I could find … maybe their gratitude would protect me from the wrath of the first king.

Big, strong, mean – even pretty tame things like tall and handsome, weren’t qualities God was looking for in Israel’s next king. God was more interested in the king’s heart … God’s criteria led Samuel to a kid, to a youngest brother who wasn’t even given the message to come home from working in the fields to go with the family to offer a sacrifice to the Lord. David wasn’t the biggest and strongest. He was the least and the littlest.

I would bet Samuel got some pretty funny looks as he watched Jesse’s sons walk in front of him.

The oldest son, Eliab? Surely Eliab was the next king. Nope.

How about Abinadab? Nope.

Shammah? Nope.

Jessie’s sons paraded by Samuel. None of them called to be king.

There was one last son, the youngest, the little guy they left behind to take care of the sheep in the field.

So much in Samuel’s culture would say this is a mistake. Not the first-born son? Not someone powerful and intimidating?

The scrawny one?

The kid?

Yep that’s him.

Samuel had faith and courage to follow God’s lead, even though it must have looked like he didn’t know what he was doing when he poured that oil over David’s head to mark a kid as Israel’s next king.

Samuel took a risk to be obedient to God, even when it must have seemed like he was doing something crazy.

I can’t imagine most people would have shared Samuel’s values.

Israel had wanted a king in the first place because they wanted to be like other countries … it is hard to picture any other countries having any interest in a king who represented the least and littlest … the left out and the last. But there Samuel was, swimming against the current, courageously stepping out in faith, living into the message God gave him, looking at the heart and anointing, identifying, the next king.

I bet Samuel got some looks for this.

Samuel is a good example for us as we seek to live as people of God … as we seek to live as Jesus’ disciples … as we seek to live by the values of God’s kingdom … values that often run contrary to the values of our culture … and to our natural inclinations.

Listen to what Jesus teaches in Luke 6 about God heart and God’s values:

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6.27-36 NIV).

Jesus gives us a picture of God’s heart – loving, kind, merciful … even toward enemies. Jesus gives us a picture of what God is looking for in our hearts and what God can change our hearts to be like …

As our lives are shaped by Jesus … as our lives are formed by Jesus’ values … we are bound to get some funny looks … we are bound to feel like we are fighting the current and swimming up-stream … but it is worth it, we can have confidence knowing –“The Lord does not look at the things people look at … People look at the outward appearance … but the Lord looks at the heart.”