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The Calling of David (1 Samuel 16:1-13).

Do you have heroes? We live in an age when many of the celebrated ‘heroes’ are not that heroic; we live when just being famous for being famous is heroic enough for some people, when celebrity imitation is a kind of secular hagiography.

In the Bible, the heroes mentioned are all weak people like us. The extraordinary thing in the Holy Scriptures is that not one of the so-called greats is flawless - except our Lord and Saviour himself. Moses is a murderer, Abraham and Jacob deceive, David is both an adulterer and a murderer, Isaiah has a potty mouth, Jeremiah wishes he had never been born, Peter is cowardly, Paul is an arrogant persecutor, John has a bad temper (a ‘son of thunder’). And so when we come to examine their lives we find ourselves mirrored in their mistakes, and we feel that as they grow in their relationship with the Lord, we do too. So often their stories are ours  just lived out in different contexts.

In these morning meetings this week we are going to examine the life of David - one called “a man after God’s own heart”, and that despite his obvious faults and sins - something which reminds us that the grace of God is always bigger than our sinfulness.

Let’s turn to 1 Samuel 16:1-13, and examine how David came to be called.

First,  have you noticed how God has a habit of rescuing us when everything we have ever worked for has collapsed? That was Samuel’s position at the opening of this chapter. The Lord finds him grieving over Saul, for his lifework to find a suitable king for Israel lay in ruins with the fall of that man. Few had greater chance than Saul to make something of himself: he was gifted, he had a godly appearance that would appeal to the masses, he had the opportunity. But in his lack of humility, in his hot impatience, in his recklessly promising what wasn't his to promise, in his disobedience, and in his refusal to deny the flesh (the sinful selfish nature), he had rejected the word of the Lord, and so in turn, the Lord rejected him.

So now it is as if the Lord finds Samuel in his self-pity party and tells him, “ROUSE YOURSELF” - “how long will you grieve over Saul since I have rejected him from being king over Israel?” Now “PREPARE YOURSELF” - “fill your horn with oil” and “GET MOVING” - “go - be on your way.” And know Samuel that “I AM LEADING YOU” - ‘I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.”

Samuel mustn't cling to the grave of the past. The Spirit has moved on. The Lord is nowhere near as sentimental as we are.

Then second, note how God prepares his servants. God’s choices may be mysterious but they are not random or capricious. From the next chapter we see that David is already a believer in the Lord - see 1 Samuel 17:37. In the Judean wilderness, I believe the Lord prepared David. Whilst unknown he learnt faith. Whilst there he had time to develop his outdoor skills, his bravery against lion and bear. Whilst there, he would have had the time and the desire to reflect on creation (Psalm 19 for example - what CS Lewis called the most perfect poem ever written), and he would have sung his songs, turned his poems over in his head. All of this happened out of the view of others.

The town was nervous at Samuel’s arrival - Proverbs 28:1 comes to mimd, “The wicked flee when no one pursues” - did they have a guilty conscience? We read, “the elders of the city came to meet Samuel trembling and said, ‘do you come peaceably?’”Jesse’s family was well known. David is not included in the line up - he is too young, and he is looking after the sheep, out of sight out of mind.

Third, God has chosen the despised and the unrecognised. Samuel thought he knew God’s choice - WRONG! But he looked at appearance only: “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (7) [Though to be fair, look at verse 12 - it’s not that the Lord doesn’t notice - it’s that the outward appearance is not the defining factor for him: he is not that shallow!] Seven sons are presented - but there is an eighth son - one no one would have thought of.

But there is a bigger story here. Look at these verses and see the tale they are telling of the Lord’s providential reign:

  • 1 Samuel 13:14: “The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over his people.”

  • Psalm 89:20: “I have found David [he’s been looking through other possible candidates is the implication], my servant; with my holy oil I have anointed him.”

  • Psalm 78:70: “He chose David his servant and took him from the sheepfolds…”

  • And again 1 Samuel 16:1: “I have provided for myself a king.”

You see, all the while, God has been working secretly preparing David, changing him, teaching him, alluring him into a deeper, more intimate relationship with the Lord - so that, although a young man, he already has a deep living relationship with the Lord, long before he is anointed king. I hope we see where David’s character comes from. Jesus Christ is called the Root of David. In other words, David’s character is an emanation from the sternal Son of God himself.

Fourth, David is anointed with oil and we read (this is lovely - as if the Spirit of God could not wait to fill him and equip him for the task he had long been preparing him for) “And the Spirit of the Lord RUSHED upon David from that day forward.” David had faith already. The rushing of the Spirit was something David felt and knew experientially. The idea that any of us can be filled with the fire and the power of God and not know it has done untold damage to the church. God’s work cannot be done without the the Holy Spirit.

However fifth the anointing of the Spirit does not lead necessarily to an easy life. A few weeks later it is as if nothing has happened: his brothers despise David as much as ever, and David is back with the sheep (1 Samuel 17:28,29). But there is the ever present plan of God still being worked out. David is getting used to being round the court of Saul (1 Samuel 17:15). God is secretly training David again. God has a plan he is bringing to pass.


  1. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Romans 8:28-30)

  2. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)

  3. “With [Titus] we are sending the brother who is famous among all the churches for his preaching of the gospel.” (2 Corinthians 8:18) - for the fame of his name, no one knows who he is, but known in hell and heaven - Dixon Hoste, “Live to be Forgotten.”

  4. God has chosen you no less than David  - he has plans for you.

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