We are told that Saul was extremely handsome and tall; his head and shoulders were taller than his peers and siblings. As Saul was the first King of Israel it was only natural to assume that God would choose someone similar in stature to succeed him. Consequently, when God told Samuel to go and anoint one of Jesse’s young men to replace Saul as king, Samuel saw Jesse’s attractive first-born, Eliab, and concluded that he must be the one chosen to be king.
When God told Samuel that Eliab was not the one, Samuel evidently went through each of Jesse’s sons, from the eldest to the youngest, expecting to anoint one of them as king. However, he still didn’t find the one God had chosen.
Mystified, Samuel asked Jesse if he had any more children. He was surprised and, no doubt, relieved to learn that there was still one to be presented, albeit away tending the sheep – the job given to the youngest and most insignificant member of the household.
I guess there is some similarity between Saul and David – when Saul was to be made king he was missing and eventually found hidden away amongst the baggage! However, David was not hiding – he was working in the fields.
Samuel’s assumption was wrong on two counts. Firstly, Saul had not been chosen primarily for his looks – although undoubtedly he would have looked the part in the eyes of the people of Israel who were insisting on installing their first king. Saul was chosen primarily for his humility.
Yes, he had military experience and success but his heart was still supple – and he had a certain level of trust in God and His ways. Saul was obedient when he began his reign as king but subsequently forgot who had actually won the battles for him and who had made him king in the first place. After Saul had tasted success and victory, he became arrogant and was no longer of use to Israel or God.
Secondly, Samuel appears to have made the mistake of thinking that God would repeat what He had done in the past – choose someone who was strikingly handsome and obviously valiant.
But God has a much higher set of standards. God had no doubt watched all of Jesse’s sons, just as much as He had watched David. From a social and spiritual context it would have been perfectly natural to choose the first-born son who had all the rights and privileges as part of his inheritance.
However, as we see in Scripture, not every first-born lived up to their privileged position. Consider Cain, Esau and Reuben.
No, God had looked on each of Jesse’s sons and decided that David was the one who would best represent Him. God had seen him working conscientiously in the fields. Caring for the stock as if they were his own children. Making sure they had all the feed and water they required. Enduring sleepless nights during the lambing season. Rescuing them from the predators – lions and bears – and yet seeking no recognition.
God must have heard David’s heart overflow in joyful psalms of praise to his Maker and Shepherd. God wouldn’t have missed any of the moments when, in the solitude, David expressed his deepest joys, dreams and gratitude to Him – for life, health and protection. Yes, David knew his God and his God knew him.
We need to be like David and develop our character and integrity in the seemingly obscure and insignificant day-to-day issues of life. We begin by committing our lives to God and being faithful in the little things.