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From the Pasture to the King’s Court

Today we return to our study of the book of 1 Samuel. Before our easter break, we had just introduced a new character to the story – a young shepherd boy named David. Of course, this is the same David who would one day kill the giant Goliath and eventually become perhaps the greatest king of Israel. But for now, still being very young and with seven older brothers, David was almost the forgotten one of his family.

In fact, he had been left behind to tend the sheep as his father and brothers went to join the prophet Samuel in offering a sacrifice to the Lord in nearby Bethlehem. His father Jesse likely considered David to be too young to bring along for this event, and so left him behind to care for the sheep.

But as you recall, this was no ordinary sacrifice. God and Samuel had some ulterior motives in inviting Jesse and his sons to this sacrifice. God was going to reveal his choice for the next king of Israel.

The current king, King Saul, had been a bitter disappointment. Although he was strong in battle, he was weak in character. He had repeatedly disobeyed the command of the Lord, and so God determined to end Saul’s dynasty and replace him with another. This new king would be one of the sons of Jesse.

But as Jesse presented his seven oldest sons to Samuel at the sacrifice, God revealed that he had not chosen any of these men to be king. Even though Jesse’s sons were tall and handsome – much like the current king Saul – God was not impressed by their outward appearance.  You’ll remember 1 Samuel chapter 16 verse 7 which says…

7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

1 Samuel 16:7

King Saul and the seven older sons of Jesse all had an impressive appearance, but they didn’t have the kind of heart that God was looking for. God was looking for a man after his own heart – someone who would do all the things that God wanted him to do.

And that someone was the young man David – the forgotten one left behind to tend the sheep. Well to make a long story short, when Samuel learned that Jesse still had one other son back home, he called for David to join them, and when he arrived, the Lord confirmed that David was the one he had chosen to be king. So there, in front of his father and older brothers, David was anointed by Samuel as the next King of Israel.

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The Lord Looks at the Heart

This morning we begin a new chapter in 1 Samuel – both literally and figuratively. Of course, we literally begin a new chapter just about every week, but today the direction of our story really takes a significant turn.

Today we are introduced to David.

Did you know that David is the most mentioned person in the Bible aside from Jesus Himself? David is mentioned by name over 900 times – that’s 3 times as often as Abraham – who is considered to be the Father of Israel! Of the 66 books of the Bible, David is mentioned in 28 of them!

As you go through the Old Testament prophecies, the promised Messiah is constantly connected with David and his kingdom. In the New Testament, that theme continues and Jesus is even referred to as the Son of David. If you remember the story of blind Bartimaeus, that’s how he refers to Jesus. In Mark 10:47….

When Bartimaeus heard that Jesus of Nazareth was nearby, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Mark 10:47

David is obviously a very significant figure not only in the history of Israel, but in God’s overarching plan of Salvation for mankind! So I think it’ll be great to go through his life and perhaps see why God chose David to be such an integral part of the Salvation story.

I think I mentioned back 17 sermons ago when I started this series that the whole reason I wanted to go through the book of Samuel was to study the life of David! He’s such an interesting  and unique character – and of course, David’s life is filled with incredible stories. 

Slaying the giant Goliath, fleeing from the mad King Saul, pretending to be crazy himself to escape from the Philistines, leading his ever growing band of mighty men in great exploits against the enemy, rising from shepherd boy to King of Isreal, committing murder and adultery, but repenting and being called a man after God’s own heart, fleeing from his own son who tries to take his throne, and through it all composing hundreds of songs and poems to God that make up a significant portion of our Bible today.

David’s story is really incredible and I’m super excited to learn from his life as we go through these next chapters together.

To start off this morning, I just want to remind you where we left off last week. King Saul had been chosen by God to be the first King of Israel, and while Saul had been very successful in his military endeavours, he had been an utter failure in his relationship with God. Twice now Saul has been rebuked by the prophet Samuel for his disobedience. And because Saul had not been loyal to God, God has declared that Saul’s Kingdom will be torn away from him and given to another man – a man after God’s own heart!

But we closed the last chapter with both God and Samuel grieving over Saul’s foolish choices. The final verse we read tells us:

35 Samuel never went to meet with Saul again, but he mourned constantly for him. And the Lord was sorry he had ever made Saul king of Israel.

1 Samuel 15:35

It’s certainly not a very positive note and things are not looking very hopeful for the future of Israel. However, God’s purposes would not be thwarted by a disobedient King. God had already planned and accounted for all this and God was prepared to move forward with or without Saul. So we turn now to 1 Samuel chapter 16 to literally and figuratively begin this new chapter in the story of Samuel. Verse 1 begins like this:

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Obedience Is Better Than Sacrifice

For the past few weeks we’ve been following the career of King Saul – the first King of Israel. And it’s really been a mixed bag of the good, the bad, and the ugly. There are times when Saul does a fantastic job as king. As you read through 1 Samuel, often Saul is presented as the hero of Israel – rescuing the nation from all it’s enemies!

For example, at the end of the chapter we read last week, we find a bit of a summary of Saul’s military success. If you look at 1 Samuel 14, verse 47, it reads like this:

47 Now when Saul had secured his grasp on Israel’s throne, he fought against his enemies in every direction—against Moab, Ammon, Edom, the kings of Zobah, and the Philistines. And wherever he turned, he was victorious. 48 He performed great deeds and conquered the Amalekites, saving Israel from all those who had plundered them.

Then we get a brief summary of Saul’s family tree – which I won’t read right now – and then verse 52 continues…

52 The Israelites fought constantly with the Philistines throughout Saul’s lifetime. So whenever Saul observed a young man who was brave and strong, he drafted him into his army.

1 Samuel 14:47-48, 52

So as you can see, from a military point of view, Saul was a very successful King. It says he saved Israel from all who had plundered them. Where ever he turned, he was victorious! In the eyes of the people of Israel, Saul was exactly the kind of King that they wanted.

However, in the eyes of God, King Saul had not been quite so successful. Two weeks ago, we saw how Saul disobeyed the command of the Lord by offering up a burnt offering to God – instead of waiting for the prophet Samuel – who was the only one God had authorized to make such an offering. Saul over-stepped the bounds of his God-given authority as King, and took the role of priest for himself. And as we’re going to see today, this wasn’t just an isolated incident of sin –  It wasn’t a one-time foolish choice in a moment of weakness – this was evidence of a heart that would increasingly become prideful and arrogant.

Although Saul had very humble beginnings, it seems that his position of power and his military success caused him to grow in his esteem of himself and decrease in his esteem of God and his commands.

And so today, as we turn to 1 Samuel chapter 15, we’re going to see this pattern continue – with Saul concluding that his ways and his decisions are just a little bit wiser than God’s ways and God’s decisions. But I should warn you… As we go through this story and see how foolish and arrogant Saul has become, we need to be careful, because we might just see ourselves doing the exact same thing…

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Saul’s Foolish Oath

We have been working our way through the book of 1 Samuel for the last few months and at this point, we’ve made it through the early years of Israel’s first King – King Saul. Last week we read the story about the incredible faith of Saul’s son Jonathan and his Armour-bearer. You’ll recall that as 1 Samuel chapter 14 begins, King Saul and the army of Israel are hopelessly outnumbered and hopelessly outgunned by the Philistines. 

    • The Philistines had thousands of chariots and thousands of charioteers – and the Israelites had two swords and bunch of pitchforks and pointy sticks. 
    • The Philistines had more warriors than sand on the seashore – the Israelites had 600 terrified farmers. 
    • The Philistines had three divisions of troops that were sent into Israelite territory as raiding parties – the Israelites had two guys who snuck out of camp to check out the Philistine outpost.

In this battle, the Philistines clearly had every possible advantage. Except for one thing. The Israelites had man named Jonathan who completely trusted God and his faith in the Lord made all the difference.

To make a long story short, as Jonathan and his armour bearer believed that God could win the battle whether He had many warriors or just a few, God enabled them to take out the entire Philistine garrison at Micmash – some 20 men in all. But that was only the beginning. Verse 15 tells us…

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The Faith of Jonathan

As we’ve been going through the book of 1 Samuel, we’ve spent a lot of time talking about King Saul – the first King of Israel. But last week we were introduced to a new character in the story – Saul’s son Jonathan. And Jonathan will actually play a significant role throughout the rest of the book. As we saw last week, he is a key commander in Saul’s military (commanding a 1/3 of Israel’s standing army) and in the weeks ahead, we will see how he eventually becomes one of David’s closest allies – even at a time when King Saul was trying to kill David.

But that’s getting ahead of our story.

If you were with us last week, you’ll remember that Jonathan had just attacked and defeated the Philistine garrison stationed in Geba. We don’t know if this was by order of King Saul, or if Jonathan simply took it upon himself to make this attack. But either way, Jonathan’s actions triggered an open revolt against the Philistines who had been oppressing the Israelites for some time now.

In response, the Philistines gathered their army – which composed of 3000 chariots, 6000 charioteers, and as many warriors as grains of sand on the seashore – and they set up camp at Micmash. At the same time, Saul gathered his much smaller army at Gilgal and waited for the prophet Samuel to come and make a sacrifice to God before they went into battle.

However, as they waited for Samuel, their fear of the Philistines grew and grew and many of Saul’s men fled from their posts – hiding in fear from the mighty Philistine army. Well, after 7 days of more and more men disappearing from the camp, and with no sign of Samuel, Saul foolishly took it upon himself (in direct disobedience to God) to offer the sacrifice himself.

God had clearly instructed the Israelites that these sacrifices were only to be done by God’s appointed priest – and not by the King or anyone else. So this was an act of blatant disobedience. Well, as it happened, Samuel showed up just as Saul was finishing the sacrifice and as Saul tried to justify his actions, Samuel told him plainly that his disobedience to the Lord would cost him the kingdom! The Lord would choose another king to replace him – one who would seek after the heart of God.

And that’s about as far as we got last week.  We’re going to pick it up today in 1 Samuel chapter 13, verse 15.

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Ritual or Relationship

Over these past months, we have been reading through the book of 1 Samuel and last week we finally completed the transition from the era of the judges to the era of the kings. For many years after conquering the Promised Land, Israel had been led by judges – men and women whom God raised up at just the right time to rescue Israel from its enemies. But in recent days, the people of Israel had asked God for a king to lead them. They wanted to be like all the nations around them and have their king lead them into battle. Of course, this was really a rejection of God as their King, but God graciously decided to honour their request and to give them the king that they so desired.

And so God instructed Samuel, the final judge of Israel, to anoint Saul as Israel’s King. And last week we saw how Samuel then passed the baton of leadership to King Saul – firmly establishing Saul as Israel’s new leader. 

However, in his final address to the nation, Samuel solemnly warned Saul and all the people, that their obedience to God would determine their future fate. We read his words in 1 Samuel 12:24….

24 But be sure to fear the Lord and faithfully serve him. Think of all the wonderful things he has done for you. 25 But if you continue to sin, you and your king will be swept away.” 1 Samuel 12:34-25

Samuel makes it very clear that the success of Israel and its new King would depend solely on their decision obey the Lord or not.

And as we turn to chapter 13 today, that’s exactly the decision that will be put to the test. Will Saul and the people of Israel fear the Lord and faithfully serve Him? Or will they continue to sin – choosing instead to follow their own way? Let’s find out!

1 Samuel chapter 13 begins like this:

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