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In this great passage, we are introduced to David right after we are told that the Spirit had come upon him. We see the work of the Spirit first, and then we learn David’s name.
“And the LORD said unto Samuel, How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? fill thine horn with oil, and go, I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite: for I have provided me a king among his sons . . .” (1 Sam. 16:1-23).
Summary of the Text
God tells Samuel to stop mourning over Saul. He has picked out a king from Himself from among the sons of Jesse (v. 1). Samuel says that to do this would be considered treason by Saul, and so God tells him to camouflage his journey (v. 2). Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and God will direct him to the man (v. 3). Samuel obeyed, and the elders of Bethlehem were worried about his arrival (v. 4). He replies with peace, invites them to the sacrifice, and Jesse to the sacrifice (v. 5). Eliab looked promising, but no (v. 6). God says that man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart (v. 7). Abinadab was passed over as well (v. 8). Shammah was not the one (v. 9). This happened seven times, with seven sons (v. 10). Are there any others? Jesse replies that the youngest is out with the sheep. Samuel asks for him to be brought (v. 11). He was certainly good-looking, and God said to anoint him (v. 12). Samuel then anointed him, in the midst of his brothers, the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and we are introduced to David by name (v. 13).
The Spirit came on David, but departed from Saul. An evil spirit from the Lord troubled Saul (v. 14). Saul’s servants identified the problem (v. 15), and suggested a musical solution (v. 16). Saul agreed, and called for a musician to be brought (v. 17). And one of the servants (just by chance!) knew about David and recommended him (v. 18)—as a musician, courageous, a warrior, a prudent man, attractive, and under the blessing of God (v. 18). And so Saul summoned David by name, who was still assigned to the sheep (v. 19). Jesse then took a donkey, and loaded it up with bread and wine, and a little goat, and sent them with David (v. 20). When David arrived, Saul approved him greatly, and David became Saul’s armor-bearer (v. 21). Saul asks Jesse if David could remain (v. 22). And whenever Saul was afflicted with the evil spirit from God, David took his harp and played until Saul was refreshed (v. 23).
Jonathan & David
The previous chapter introduced us to the greatness of Jonathan. But as soon as we learn about the son, Jonathan, we learn that he is a disinherited son—though through no fault of his own. Notice how the Scriptures tell the stories of Jonathan and David respectively. Jonathan is Saul’s son (13:16); David becomes his son-in-law (18:26). Jonathan fights the enemy (virtually) single-handedly (14:1-15); David fights Goliath single-handedly (17:41-51). Jonathan leads Israel to victory (14:16-42), and so does David (17:52-54). Jonathan is attacked by Saul twice (14:43-46; 20:30-34), and David is attacked by Saul twice (18:10-11); 19:8-10). Jonathan trusts God and not numbers in battle (14:6); David trusts God and not weapons in battle (17:47). Jonathan and David are true brothers. And yet . . .
But Jonathan’s wisdom goes much deeper than that. When Saul became king (at least by the third year of his reign), Jonathan was already a warrior (1 Sam. 13:1, 3), meaning that he was at least twenty. Saul reigned for forty years (Acts 13:21), and David was thirty when he became king (2 Sam. 5:4). This means that David was born in the tenth year of Saul’s reign, when Jonathan was a minimum of twenty-seven. That means that by the time David was ready to fight at the age of twenty, Jonathan would have been pushing fifty. Jonathan is easily old enough to be
David’s father, and he acts the role of a true father. He plays the fatherly role that Saul should have—not at all threatened by David’s youth and success.
The Spirit’s Power
We often make the mistake of thinking that if the Spirit is given to a man in the Bible, then what is happening is internal heart regeneration, in the New Testament theological sense. But the Spirit has a much broader skill set than just converting a man’s soul. He does do that, but His activity is far broader, far more extensive.
For example, when the Spirit comes upon Bezaleel, He enables him to execute beautiful craftsmanship (Ex. 31:1-4). When the Spirit comes upon Samson, he is given power to tear apart a lion with his hands (Judg. 14:6). The same thing is true about governance—a king’s mojo. When it says that the Spirit departed from Saul here (v. 14), we are not being told that Saul is losing his salvation—rather, just as a Samuel had stated, he was losing his kingdom. Years later, when David is repenting of his great sin concerning Bathsheba, and he cries out to the Lord, what does he ask for? He does not ask for his salvation back, but rather for the joy of his salvation back (Ps. 51: 12). And when he asks God to not take his Spirit away (Ps. 51:11), he is asking for his dynasty to not come apart in his hands. He knows that this is what he deserves, just as Saul did. And so he asked for a mercy that Saul did not ask for, and he received it. Our Savior today sits upon the throne of David (Luke 1:32).
After God has told Samuel that He, God, looks on the heart, and not on the outward appearance, we are told that David, the one chosen, was attractive and handsome (v. 12). Later, when the servant of Saul commends him, it is for being talented, courageous, a warrior, prudent, and attractive. In other words, David’s primary disqualification here was his youth.
Jonathan, like the God he served, was motivated by righteousness. David’s brothers were passed by (v. 10), just as Jonathan was passed by. Jonathan, who had more carnal reasons to gripe about it, did not do so, and David’s brothers, who saw the prophet anoint their little brother, had zero carnal reasons to be bothered—but they apparently still were (1 Sam. 17:28). Always and everywhere, guard your souls against envy.