Samuel once again finds himself getting a prophets message from the Lord. It’s the sort of message that you don’t really want to share with anyone because you know what’s up next and it’s not pleasant.
God tells Samuel who to go anoint as next king and he finds himself in a flurry of emotions. He wants to be faithful to God because he’s a prophet after all. But at the same time, if the current King, Saul, finds out about this he’ll execute Samuel on the spot. Samuel’s emotions must have been like lighting a candle at both ends. Excitement, but on the opposite end, extreme fear. Willingness, but an overwhelming sense of hesitancy. Wanting to do what he knows is right, but asking himself if it’s really worth his life?
It’s the question everyone knows is true but is afraid to ask,
Is God’s calling really worth my life?
But God, knowing Samuel’s deepest fears, offers him hope. He instructs Samuel to go make a sacrifice in Bethlehem and while at the sacrifice God would point out who to anoint as the next king of Israel. The sacrifice would provide cover for Samuel. He wouldn’t have to fear Saul finding out what he was going to do because God was giving him a legitimate cover story. It would be at this sacrifice that God would begin raising the next king of Israel.
Now the next King of Israel, he would be an adventure no one would expect, a young boy left in the field tending sheep because no one would have imagined he’d be king worthy. He didn’t even get invited to the sacrifice and it was only after God instructed Samuel to have him brought in from the field that David was finally anointed.
People look at appearances, and skills, and outward characteristics but it’s God who looks at the heart.
By mans standards, David wasn’t king worthy but by God’s standards, he absolutely was. This is where we have to break from the story though and ask ourselves a few questions.
If God looks at the heart, and God is all knowing, why does he choose David as king? Surely he knows David will end up having the husband of his mistress killed. Surely he knows David will commit adultery and even end up marrying his mistress. Not very leader-worthy it seems, even by our standards.
But there’s another side to this story. Something deeper than do’s and don’ts and the way that God sees us. David finds hope in God despite his sin. He continues to turn towards God for the rest of his life. He even asks God in the Psalms to renew the joy of his salvation so he could help others who had sinned experience new life in God.
When everyone else must have thought less of him, God was still calling him, and for David, this was worth his life. He knew he messed up and the Psalms are evidence of David’s longing for a clean heart and mind. David’s heart was certainly charred and marred by sin. But amidst that darkness, the light of David being a man after God’s own heart was shining through.
When God looked at David, when he was still just a boy left in the field to tend sheep because everyone else was taking care of God-business on the mountain, God saw a King. And I’ll let you in on a little secret,
King isn’t a title, It’s a posture of the heart.
And it’s worth your whole life. May all you king’s and queen’s unseen by the world find hope in the Living God.
This retelling is based on 1 Samuel 16:1–13, Psalm 51:10–14.
Commentary on the Call of David
There’s much to feel in this retelling. The fear of a prophet, the excitement and bewildernment of a shepherd-boy, and the shame but renewed life of said boy discovering what it means to be a man chasing after God’s own heart. When we latch onto these feelings and flesh them out, we can begin understanding what it means to be human and why scripture is still relevant for us even today.
Anyone who’s been called by God (we all are if we’d open our eyes) and who’s ever felt the weight of that, understands that you have to give up your life to do it. We try to live out John 3:30, He must become more and more and we must become less and less. Samuel, of all the prophets, truly wanted to live that out, even considering the notion of physically losing his life to do so. Is God’s calling worth our life? It absolutely is if you understand that by giving up your old life you get a completely new life full of meaning and purpose this side of the grave and next.
The classic understanding of this passage still rings true today too. It’s easy to get caught up in title, position, wealth, or power but none of these things impress God. It’s the person, regardless of anything or anyone else, whose heart is set on God, that God is looking for. David wasn’t even on the totem pole when Samuel came looking for the next king because he didn’t fit anyone’s standards (because we base things on appearance). But he was God’s chosen leader for Israel because he had the right heart.
Last, but not least, many of the Psalms are a reflection of David’s heart. He’s living proof that despite his biggest failures as human being, God was still there. Renewing, uplifting, transforming, and resurrecting. Every story in scripture tells us something about who God is and this one is no different. God is interested in our heart, not our failures. If the heart is right, he uses those failures to breathe new life into us and even those around us.
How does this help us love God better? We don’t have to try and impress God with our do’s and dont’s, our looks, our skills, or anything we can muster from within ourselves. He want’s to love us through thick and thin, never abandoning us. It doesn’t have to be about us impressing him. Instead it’s a posture of the heart. That’s a reflection of relationships that truly last.
How does this help us love others better? It reminds us not to treat people certain ways based on looks, titles, or the lack thereof. God sees past all of those temporary things to eternal beings created in his image.