Even before King Saul had failed as Israel’s first king, God had his replacement picked out. The Lord would use this next one, King David, to establish a throne that will last forever, one that we will witness and already have witnessed.
The aging prophet Samuel was dejected. The man he had anointed as king, Saul, had started out so well, but was continuing to fail in the eyes of God, and was finally rejected by Him. When Israel first sought someone to be their leader, God gave them a king after their own hearts, one who looked good and came from a prosperous background. But Saul’s heart was weak towards God, and over time he slipped further and further away from the One who should have been his source of strength, leading and guiding him.
At this point, God told Samuel to go to Bethlehem with a vessel of olive oil to prepare to anoint a new king. This king would be from the family of Jesse, a grandson of Ruth and Boaz. Unlike Saul, this new king would be in the line of Judah, the prophesied lineage of the eternal Messiah, Jesus Christ.
The prophet Samuel was to pour the oil over this new king as a symbol of the Holy Spirit coming down to anoint him. Samuel had been given divine authority to install the king, but he did not yet know which one in Jesse’s family God was sending him to anoint.
As soon as Samuel saw Jesse’s oldest son, Eliab, he assumed this would be the new king. But God had other plans.
7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 (NKJV)
Jesse had brought seven of his eight sons to Samuel’s sacrifice and feast, assuming one of these would be the son picked by God as Israel’s next king. One by one, each son came before Samuel to be anointed, and one by one each went unchosen by the Lord.
Perplexed, Samuel asked Jesse if there were any more sons around. There was one more – David, the youngest, who was still out in the fields tending the family’s sheep.
Samuel halted the proceedings (and the meal) until this last son was brought before him.
12 So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with bright eyes, and good-looking. And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!” 1 Samuel 16:12 (NKJV)
The youngest son, David, was God’s chosen one. Although considered the “least” in his family, he was greatest in God’s eyes, because of his great faith and because he was a person after God’s own heart.
David was not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, and down the road he would prove to have several failings. But because of his great faith, his throne would be the one God would choose for the coming King and Messiah, Jesus Christ, to reign upon forever.
As the Angel Gabriel would centuries after announce to Jesus’ mother, Mary:
30 Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” Luke 1:30-33 (NKJV)
One of my great spiritual mentors once told me of a time that he had been meditating in silence in a remote field. Suddenly, he was approached by a muddy dog, and as he tried in vain to keep the dog away from him, the Lord put an impression upon his heart. He prayed, “Lord, is this how I am towards people?”
He realized that he was keeping people away because of their outward appearance or messiness, but God judges them by their heart. We may not realize that “this is the one” God wants us to love on and spiritually mentor.
What “muddy dogs” has God placed in my life?
Who am I avoiding or keeping at a distance that God might actually want me to be more open with?
Lord, grant me the divine wisdom and guidance to discern the people that You want me to be more spiritually vulnerable with, for their benefit. Grant me the courage to speak up when Your window of opportunity is open, for it is often so quick to close if we hesitate. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.