Badge of Honor
When we honor first honor will be returned!
Sadly, we live in a culture that really doesn’t understand honor nor do we give it to whom it belongs very often. As we look into the life of David we will see honor given and honor received and a character being formed after God’s own heart.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS (1 Samuel 16:1-13)
1. What is the best first impression someone has ever made on you? What is the worst?
2. Why are we often impressed by other people’s surface qualities, like appearances, social status, and power? What traits does a person of strong character possess?
3. Why did Samuel initially think Eliab was the Lord’s anointed? What’s the irony here (see 10:23-24)?
4. What does verse 7 suggest about the qualities God counts as most important for His servants? What would you consider qualities of the heart that are necessary for serving God?
5. What did David’s faithfulness in watching the sheep say about his character? How did this prepare him for the future (see 1 Sam. 17:34-37; Ps. 23)?
6. How did David’s honor of God play a role in David becoming king?
How can our LifeGroup be a model for godly character in our relationships with each other and our service to the church?
Think about the amount of time you spend each day on your outward appearance, the way you’re perceived at the office, or your social media persona. How does that amount of time compare to the work you put into applying the gospel to your character? What needs to change?
16:1. Samuel had anointed Saul as king. Saul’s failure hurt the prophet deeply, but he was not alone. The Lord also had grieved over Saul’s conduct. The Lord confronted Samuel about his continuing distress over Saul and instructed Samuel to go to Bethlehem to the home of Jesse. The verb mourn usually refers to a rite that is observed for the dead. Biblical mourning involved human emotion and usually was expressed both audibly and visibly. Possibly Samuel moaned aloud and hung his head in despondency. Certainly he hovered in a state of mental and spiritual depression.
As chapter 15 shows, the Lord had spoken to Samuel about Saul’s failure to conform to His will. Here the Lord spoke to Samuel about the prophet’s attitude. The time for mourning was past; the time for action had come. The prophet’s mission was identified in three specific actions. First, Samuel was to “fill his horn with oil.” Then he was to go to the home of “Jesse of Bethlehem.” Third, he would anoint one of Jesse’s sons to become the next king. God would identify the particular son at the appropriate time.
16:2-3. Samuel’s assignment was simple. He was to anoint a new king. He already had announced God’s rejection of Saul. However, the prophet’s inquiry reflected the inherent danger of the task. Samuel had legitimate concerns about how Saul would interpret his anointing one of Jesse’s sons as king. While the prophet might have divine authority, the king had the political will and the armed power to act if he knew about Samuel’s taking action to replace him. So the Lord gave Samuel a second task that would mask the primary purpose of his visit to Bethlehem. As a priest, Samuel was authorized to offer sacrifices. This act doubtless was intended to designate Samuel’s visit to Bethlehem as religious and not political. What on the surface might appear to be a strategic tactic of rebellion was in reality just the opposite. In ancient Israel the king was a representative of God. His appointment was sacred, not secular. Samuel followed the Lord’s directions concerning his visit to Bethlehem. He assured the town’s leaders of his peaceful intentions and invited Jesse’s family to be special attendees as a sacrifice. In doing so he emphasized the king served at God’s prerogative. Not knowing whom he would anoint demanded faith on the part of Samuel. He had to trust that God would speak to him at the appropriate time.
16:4. Perhaps the elders trembled because they interpreted Samuel’s appearance as an indication a murder had occurred in the area. According to Deuteronomy 21:1-9, the ritual surrounding an unsolved murder prescribed that a priest break the neck of a young cow. Samuel was a priest, and he came to Bethlehem with a young cow. Or, perhaps the recent execution of Agag may have been in their minds and the leaders feared they had incurred Samuel’s displeasure. He might exhibit similar violent behavior toward them if they had offended him in some manner. Or they may have been aware of the discord between Samuel and Saul. If so, they were terrified that any possible action on Samuel’s part to subvert the reigning monarch would bring royal retribution against their community.
16:5-6. “Consecrate” refers to becoming ritually clean. The specific guidelines are uncertain, but they presumably involved bathing, putting on clean garments, abstaining from sexual activity, and avoiding contact with unclean objects (such as a corpse). The consecration of Jesse and his sons demonstrated Samuel’s complete obedience. The incident would require that he fully comply with God’s revelation and not merely do what he wanted to do. Samuel did not know whom the Lord had selected. Therefore the prophet began to guess at who might be chosen. However, his faulty insight led him to the wrong conclusion. Eliab was Jesse’s firstborn son. His appearance compared favorably to Saul’s appearance (see 1 Sam. 10:23-24). Samuel incorrectly guessed Eliab’s height and appearance qualified him to be king (v. 7).
16:7. As Samuel sized up Jesse’s oldest son, he felt confident this was the Lord’s choice for king. Before Samuel could pour oil on Eliab’s head, however, the Lord ended his silence. The Lord then explained He looks at people’s hearts and not just their physical features. God’s words were not what Samuel expected. Having been disappointed over Saul and having been corrected concerning Eliab, Samuel then showed where his priority was. He would listen to God’s voice, look for God’s choice, and advance God’s purposes. External appearance does not qualify an individual to govern. The language of the Lord’s rebuff linked Eliab to Saul—I have rejected him. Here, God’s decision was not based on Eliab’s previous behavior. Instead, it reinforced the weakness of human methodology and reminded Samuel of the vast difference between our methods and God’s.
God’s statement that “the LORD sees the heart” is the crux of this passage. The heart refers to human volition. God is much, much different from humans (see Isa. 55:8-9). His thinking and His ways are unlike those of people. His methods cannot be understood by mortal minds and are vastly superior to those of the human race. People often base decisions on visible perceptions. God’s actions are based on information inaccessible to a human being. God knows and understands human volition. The message of the cross of Jesus is an example of God’s methodology (see 1 Cor. 1:18–2:5).
16:8-11. A second son was brought before Samuel. This time “Jesse called Abinadab,” but God also rejected him. A third son, Shammah, was brought before Samuel. Once more, God did not select him. God rejected seven consecutive sons of Jesse. They were the only sons present on this occasion. A perplexing situation confronted Samuel. God’s revelation seemed contradictory. God had instructed him to anoint a son of Jesse as the next king. But then God rejected each son presented to Samuel. Rather than give up in frustration, Samuel sought additional information. He asked Jesse if he had any other male children. Jesse’s response suggests he did not think his other son would be selected. The Hebrew word for “youngest” literally is “small or insignificant one.” The root term denotes “small” in quantity or quality. Hence the word can mean “small in years,” or the youngest. Because of David’s youth he had been excluded from consideration. Because David was a son of Jesse, he fell within the sphere of the Lord’s instructions. Thus Samuel could not proceed until the last son appeared.
16:12. The description of David as “healthy” is literally “reddish.” It means David either had hair with a red tint or a bronze complexion. His appearance later would generate a magnetic effect on women. Yet, these physical attributes did not qualify him to become king. His qualification was in his “heart,” and only God could evaluate that. God had spoken and told Samuel the purpose for bringing the oil. In addition God indicated He had selected the young man who would become king (v. 1). Surely Samuel already understood the implication of filling the horn with oil. Regardless, God’s instructions made the purpose of the oil irrefutable. God kept His promise to reveal to His prophet the person He had selected. Samuel’s action would be the result of obedience, not conjecture.
16:13. The Lord identified Jesse’s youngest son David as the new king, and Samuel obeyed God. Samuel anointed David and witnessed the Holy Spirit take control of him. The anointing took place within the family circle. To what extent was this ceremony kept secret? We do not know, but in time everyone would become aware of this new reality, even Saul. At that time the privacy of the event and the inconspicuous nature of the son being anointed combined to create little understanding of its true importance. The reference to “the Spirit of the LORD” taking control of David indicates that unlike Saul’s, David’s disposition was one of obedience. God was his primary guide in life. The Holy Spirit’s control of David confirmed that Samuel had completed his God-given task. Samuel had moved on from a grievously disappointing situation. He witnessed encouraging spiritual evidence that God had used him in advancing His purpose. Having completed the assignment, Samuel returned to his home in Ramah.