One day, the prophet Samuel arrived in town. This was a big deal, especially in a village like Bethlehem. No paparazzi follow him, but Samuel was the most famous religious leader of his day. Samuel walking into Bethlehem would be something like a rock star today suddenly appearing in a small town or Billy Graham showing up at a country church.
Since anointing Saul as the first king of Israel, Samuel had nearly retired and taken a back seat in the kingdom. His return to the scene, his arrival in Bethlehem, was something of a scary moment. There was serious apprehension. What did this mean? The scriptures even say that the elders of the town were afraid upon seeing Samuel, and they hadn’t even learned the reason he was there. They would have been shocked to learn that the reason for Samuel’s appearance was treason—anointing a new king when a perfectly healthy king sat on the throne.
Samuel doesn’t waste any time upon entering Bethlehem. Samuel was hardly a folksy chap on his sunniest day. He is there on serious business. He tells the elders of the town, “Gather at Jesse’s house for a sacrifice to the Lord.”
“Jesse’s house? What for?” Some of them might have been wondering if he had come to rebuke Jesse’s youngest for blasphemy. Had the boy’s bizarre stories of miracles offended the great prophet?
“I’m going there to anoint a new king,” Samuel answers.
The elders are shocked—probably horrified.
“Look, uh . . . listen, we don’t want to argue with a prophet. Please don’t strike us dead or anything, okay? We’re with you, alright? But, well, we do have just one tiny, maybe important, maybe not, question . . . What about Saul?”
Without hesitation, Samuel responds bluntly, “What about him? I have nothing to do with Saul anymore. The next king is in Jesse’s house.”
That said, everyone gathers at Jesse’s house. The torches are lit, the elders are assembled, there’s a fearful mysteriousness in the room. Samuel goes straight to Jesse’s oldest, strongest son, Eliab. He is a perfect specimen of a man. He looks kingly, Samuel thinks to himself. He’s not Saul exactly, but he’s impressive enough. Samuel holds out the oil, ready to anoint Eliab, when he feels a spiritual check. This isn’t the one.
He looks to the next biggest one, Abinadab. Again, this isn’t the one. The same story with Shammah and all the other brothers present. This isn’t the one . . . This isn’t the one . . . This isn’t the one . . .
After going through all seven brothers, Samuel’s next words to Jesse prompt one of the funniest exchanges in the Bible: “Are you sure these are all your sons?”
“Am I sure these are all my sons?” Jesse asks in disgust. “What are you accusing me of? What’s wrong with my boys here? What do you mean, are these all my sons?”
“Well, are they?”
“Are they? I count seven sons. Is this right, Jesse?”
Jesse becomes quiet and looks away before answering. “There, well, there is another . . . out in the fields somewhere. The youngest. He is . . . well . . . What can I say?”
Samuel responds, “Let’s see what God sees in him. Go find him now. We will not sit down or eat one bite until he is here.”
When David eventually arrives and sees everyone staring at him, he must have been thinking to himself, What did I do now? Quietly, he asks them, “Do you want to hear a song?”
He has absolutely no idea what’s happening, but, as the youngest, he’s used to being left out of the loop. Samuel walks over to this skinny child with knees like a camel, a sunburned nose, tousled hair, smelling like sheep, a banjo slung over his shoulder. Perhaps Samuel, himself, argued with God. Oh, Lord, no. Not this one, surely not this one.
Samuel listens for the only opinion that matters. The words come. This is the one. Immediately, Samuel tilts the horn, pours oil on David, and anoints him as the next king of Israel.
His brothers’ reactions must have been priceless. Surely not aloud, not where Samuel could hear it, but they must have chafed. All their anger and envy must have made that mysterious evening a bitter pill to swallow.
Then there were Bethlehem’s village elders. They must have been afraid. They were present at this treasonous ceremony. If Saul found out about this, they knew he would kill them all and perhaps burn Bethlehem to the ground.
David has no more idea than the others of what has happened to him. Nobody explained anything to him. He just came in out of the field, and an old man poured oil on his head. He looked to his dad with an uncertain look on his face.
“You only have yourself to blame, son,” Jesse says to him. “If you want to kill lions and bears with your bare hands, this is what happens.”
[[Lessons from Old Dr. Mark: There will be moments in your life when God does something that resonates deeply with you. They ping on your sonar screen, and you just know that something big is going to happen. But then years go by, and nothing happens. The lost years don’t erase God’s mark on you, though. The announcement was still made. The time has simply not yet come.]]
David the Great: Deconstructing the Man After God's Own Heart
by Dr. Mark Rutland