Struggles of Israel Meditations: 9. New Kid on the Block – David
1 Sam 16:1,13 “I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.”…. 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.
Contrasts: Back in the 1970’s an American preacher, Ern Baxter, impacted parts of the British church at least, at a Dales Bible Week, with a series entitled ‘The King and His Army’, in which he contrasted Saul and David. Saul he portrayed as a ‘head and shoulders’ man (see 1 Sam 9:2, 10:23) and David as a ‘heart man’ (see 1 Sam 13:14) i.e. Saul worked on the basis of human intellect and brute strength, while David was a man who caught God’s heart and responded to it. They contrast ‘flesh-people’ with ‘Spirit-people’. Hold that in the back of your mind as we progress with this study as we continue through 1 Samuel.
Continuation: So Saul has messed up twice with the Lord and had been rejected by Him but, note this, he is still king. David is anointed to be king by Samuel but he is still a shepherd boy. We need to watch the circumstances that bring change about:
– David gets called into Saul’s service as a lyre player, to ease Saul’s discomfort (see 16:14-23) and he also doubles as Saul’s armour bearer, i.e. he is a servant (clearly there no one knows about the anointing),
– a confrontation occurs between Israel and the Philistines in the south of the country (see 17:1-3),
– clearly most of the time David is still back home looking after the sheep while some of his brothers are in Saul’s army, (see 17:12-15) for his father sends him to the battle front with provisions for them (see 17:17-20).
– on arrival David hears about a giant challenging Israel and to cut a long story short, David kills him (see 17:22-51) and ends up in Saul’s army (18:2,5) and is so successful that Saul finds him a threat.
– at least twice Saul tries to kill him and again, to cut a long story short, David ends up fleeing from Saul and ends up in Gath with the Philistines (21:10) where he eventually has to flee to the wilderness and to the cave of Adullam (22:1). Many discontented Israelites join him there and he makes them into an army.
– shortly afterwards, news is brought to David that the Philistines have attacked Keilah, an Israelite town east of Gath, and after enquiring of the Lord David attacks them and frees Keilah (23:1-5)
– as if David hasn’t enough problems, Saul pursues him and David is only saved by guidance from the Lord and another Philistine attack drawing Saul away (23:7-29)
– when Saul pursues him again, David ends up sparing Saul’s life (Ch.24)
– in ch.26 this occurs again.
– because of this David settles in Gath with the Philistines (27:1-7)
– David and his men become guerrilla fighters unknown to the Philistines (27:8-12)
– when the Philistines gathered in force against Israel they would not let David fight alongside them and sent him home (ch.29)
– meanwhile the Amalekites had attacked his home base and so when he returned he had to pursue them to retrieve his people (30:1-30)
– in the battle against the Philistines, Saul and his sons are killed and Israel flee (31:1-10)
– subsequently David is made king over Judah (2 Sam 1:1-4) and later over all Israel (5:1-5)
- God rejects Saul, and Samuel anoints David as king.
- David continues as a shepherd boy until events lead him to become a commander in Saul’s army.
- Saul finds him a threat and David has to flee into the wilderness.
- There men gather to him and he forms his own guerrilla army who plunder their enemies while continuing to escape Saul’s efforts to catch him and receiving protection with the Philistines.
- The Philistines continue to plunder Israel and David manages to avoid having to fight alongside them and thus avoids being part of the battle in which Saul and his sons die and Israel flee.
- Subsequently David is accepted as king of Judah and then over all Israel.
Comment: Within all these activities we see the interaction of God with Israel. There are various clear stages in what takes place:
- He had clearly raised up Samuel as His prophet.
- The people eventually demand a kind and so the Lord gives them Saul.
- Saul is initially successful but shows he is spiritually and morally not up to it.
- The Lord rejects him and has Samuel anoint David as the new future king.
- The process involving the downfall and death of Saul, and subsequent crowing of David takes time.
We should note that the Lord allows the affairs of Israel to progress (as we saw through Judges) with the enemy (the Philistines) being allowed to attack them again and again. However Israel do not cry out to the Lord because they have rejected Him in their demand for a king and the Lord allows this king his way until his eventual death. David meanwhile is having to prove himself, part of which we see is him relying on the Lord and seeking Him again and again for guidance in what were very trying circumstances. It is, somewhat differently from the process observed in Judges, a twofold process that brings about the gradual downfall of Saul and the gradual rising of David. The end result is that Israel have new king, a man after God’s own heart.
And So: We have seen the battles against Israel by the Philistines as the background against which the rise and fall of Saul and then the gradual rise of Davis is played out. We see them rising up against the backdrop of the ailing spiritual state of Israel under the leadership of Eli and his wayward sons. The birth and growth of Samuel comes into this background and so, if you like, we see layers of significance: Philistines in the far background forcing their way forward from time to time, Israel’s spiritual state in the middle ground being the driving factor of whether the Philistine background can come forward or not. In the foreground are the players, first Eli the priest, then Samuel the prophet, then Saul the ‘head and shoulders’ king, then David God’s ‘heart man’ replacement. Each layer impinges on and affects the others. Eli allows spiritual decline, Samuel calls the people to God, Saul reflects Israel’s rejection of God, David reveals God’s good intentions for Israel that prevail to ensure the ongoing purposes of God.
And Us? I wonder how we view ourselves? Players in the foreground of a spiritually declining West, a spiritually declining civilization, ongoing enemy attacks seen through terrorists, wild rampaging gunmen, immoral and self-serving governments? Our call surely, must be to seek to impact the spiritual state of the nation for good by being salt and light and, as the body of Christ, bringing the good news of the Gospel and the practical love, power and revelation of God through His kingdom to the world around us. As we do this, by prayer and power and through goodness, we are to resist the activities of the enemy who seeks to tear down civilization.
Beware a Deception: Before I conclude this study, there is something more that is essential to observe. I believe the analysis in the paragraph above to be correct, but some may say, as I have heard it said, but surely we live in such times of affluence and material prosperity and technological advance, surely it isn’t as bad as you make out? In a recent ‘Snapshot’ series of mini-meditations, I set up the picture of a super-technology future but concluded the following: you may have a brain chip implant that accesses information and makes you a super-person of data, but it changes little when it come to the type of person you are. You can still have the tendency to be self-centred, arrogant, brash, uncaring and so much more. Indeed the technology has made you more godless than you were before. You see no need for God now you have become a super-human. But you still have rows with your partner, your teenage kids still break loose and rebel against you, you still engage in office politics and put down competitors by fair mean or foul, and you are still vulnerable to the various ‘doomsday’ threats that become ever more real as every day passes. Technology does not deal with the problem of sin, and the enemy is still at work in the world. Do not be deceived by the good things that technology brings. We will still need the salvation that only Christ brings.