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.
And that’s about where we left off last time. King Saul is still on the throne and David – an very young, obscure shepherd boy from Bethlehem – has been anointed as the next king of Israel. But the question is: how in the world will God make that transition? How will God arrange to take this little nobody from the fields of Bethlehem and place them on the throne of Israel?
Well, as we’re going to see from our passage today, God is already at work, putting all the puzzle pieces together.
We are going to continue reading through 1 Samuel chapter 16. We ended off at verse 13 last week and I want to start same verse again this week because verse 13 makes an important contrast with verse 14. Let me show you what I mean. Verse 13 says.
13 So as David stood there among his brothers, Samuel took the flask of olive oil he had brought and anointed David with the oil. And the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David from that day on. Then Samuel returned to Ramah.
The key thing to notice in this verse is that middle sentence – “And the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David from that day on.” Hold that thought in your mind and let’s see what it says in verse 14.
14 Now the Spirit of the Lord had left Saul, and the Lord sent a tormenting spirit that filled him with depression and fear.
1 Samuel 16:13-14
Now there are a couple of things we want to talk about from these verses, but the first thing I want you to notice is this contrast between how the Spirit of the Lord comes powerfully upon David from that day on – and at the same time God removes His Spirit from Saul.
Even though Saul is still officially the King of Israel, we can see that God is no longer supporting him in that role. God removes his Holy Spirit from Saul and pours it out on David. Saul no longer has God’s divine empowerment to lead the people of Israel. Everything he does now, he does in his own strength and ability.
But David on the other hand, is filled with Spirit of God. He has God’s divine empowerment! Through the Holy Spirit, David has strength, wisdom, foresight, and understanding that is not his own! He’s tapped in to the wisdom and power of God! What an incredible advantage!
Can you imagine if that were you!? Can you imagine being empowered by the God of the universe? Can you imagine having God’s Holy Spirit direct your thoughts – giving you God’s divine wisdom and insight? Can you imagine having God prompt and lead you in all your decisions – what you should do and what you should not do? Wouldn’t that be incredible?!
Yes! It is! In fact, this is exactly the gift that God has given to every believer. Just last week as we read through the Easter story, we saw how Jesus promised the send the Holy Spirit to dwell within every believer. Just before he ascended into heaven, Jesus said to his disciples in Luke 24:49….
49 “And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven.”
Later on, Peter would preach in Acts 2:38 – It says..
38 Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 This promise is to you, to your children, and to those far away—all who have been called by the Lord our God.” Acts 2:38-39
One of the greatest gifts that God has given to us in this life (and His gifts are many!) is the gift of His Holy Spirit living within us – giving us guidance and direction, teaching us and giving us understanding, empowering us to do all the things that God has created us to do!
When we put our faith in God, He doesn’t just leave us on our own to muddle through life doing the best that we can. NO! God sends His Holy Spirit to dwell within us. His very presence goes with us everywhere we go, every moment of every day. In any moment of need, we have an immediate, intimate audience with the all-powerful, all-knowing God of the universe! That’s incredible!
I can’t imagine being like Saul – having experienced the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit – and then losing that – having God take his Holy Spirit away! What an incredible loss!
It’s no wonder that David would later write, after his sin with Bathsheba:
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God.
Renew a loyal spirit within me.
11 Do not banish me from your presence,
and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.
David very well could have had Saul’s experience in mind when he wrote that and he did NOT want to experience that same fate!
Thankfully for us as believers today, we don’t have to worry about God taking his Holy Spirit away from us. You see, in the Old Testament times, the Holy Spirit would usually only come upon certain people for a certain time to help them accomplish certain tasks. We see that with Kings like Saul and David, as well as some judges like Gideon and Samson – but we also see that with some certain craftsmen who helped build the tabernacle for example – they too were empowered by the Holy Spirit to help them carry out that particular task.
But after Christ’s death and resurrection, the role of the Holy Spirit changed a bit. Now God promises to send Holy Spirit upon every believer to help us live out the life that God calls us to in the Kingdom of God and God has promised that the Holy Spirit will stay with us forever. In John 14:16, Jesus says….
16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. 17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. John 14:16-17a
In this New Testament time period in which we live, the Holy Spirit is a permanent gift. In fact, He is the proof of our Salvation – our guarantee of all that God has promised! 2 Corinthians 1:22 says…
He [God] has identified us as his own by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the first installment that guarantees everything he has promised us. 2 Corinthians 1:22
So we don’t ever have to pray, like David, asking God not to take his Holy Spirit from us. We know that God won’t do that. If we have become children of God through faith in Christ, God has permanently identified us as his own by giving us the Holy Spirit and He will never remove Him from us.
But we do need to be careful not to grief the Holy Spirit by how we live. We may not ever lose God’s presence in our lives, but we can certainly hinder his work in us and through us!
However, this is becoming quite a rabbit trail away from our story of David. It’s a good rabbit trail – but a rabbit trail none-the-less, so let’s get back to our text.
Getting back to verse 14, it says:
14 Now the Spirit of the Lord had left Saul, and the Lord sent a tormenting spirit that filled him with depression and fear. 1 Samuel 16:14
So we can see here that not only did the Spirit of the Lord leave Saul, but God sent another tormenting spirit to take His place. And this might strike you as being kinda odd that God would send a tormenting spirit to torment Saul. But keep in mind, that by rejecting the Lord, Saul had chosen by default to become an enemy of God – and to be subject to God’s wrath and judgement – which at this time, came in the form of this tormenting spirit.
There is no middle ground in our relationship with God. We either choose to obey Him as our King, or we can choose to reject him and remain his enemy. We might not consciously choose to be his enemy – but by rejecting him as the Lord of our lives, that’s our default position.
And this should be a strong reminder for us. There really is no fence to sit on when it comes to our decision to accept or reject God as our Lord and Savior. If we fail to accept him as our King, by default, we’ve rejected him and remain his enemies. There’s no third option. It’s one or the other – and the end results couldn’t be more different!
On one hand, if we accept Christ as our King, choosing to live in obedience to Him, then God embraces us as his children – He gives us forgiveness and freedom – He offers us joy and peace and eternal life! You will never find a more loving heavenly Father!
But if we reject God as our King – if we refuse to obey Him and we scorn the gift of his Son Jesus and his offer of forgiveness, then all that is left for us is God’s judgment and wrath. There’s no middle ground in our relationship with God. Either we are his dearly loved children, or we remain as his enemies.
And that’s exactly the position that Saul found himself in – as an enemy of God – now facing the consequences of his choice to reject the Lord. As Hebrews 10:31 says:
“It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Hebrews 10:31
I would encourage you, as you consider your relationship with God, not to be fooled into thinking there is a third option somehow. You can either submit to God now as your loving heavenly Father, or you can face Him later as your Judge & Jury. There is no alternate option.
But lest we get on another rabbit trail, let’s return to our passage and look at verse 15.
15 Some of Saul’s servants said to him, “A tormenting spirit from God is troubling you. 16 Let us find a good musician to play the harp whenever the tormenting spirit troubles you. He will play soothing music, and you will soon be well again.”
1 Samuel 16:15-16
Now this is a pretty interesting couple of verse. First of all, it’s interesting that Saul’s servants have the insight and discernment to realize what’s REALLY going on here. It’s not just that Saul was in a terrible mood all the time, but they discerned that there was something spiritual going on here as well.
Now I’m not one to find a demon behind every negative thing that happens in life, but the Bible is clear that there is a spiritual world around us that is very active and that makes a significant impact on the events of our lives. And I’m probably a little more oblivious to some of those things then perhaps I should be, but these servants of Saul were very spiritually discerning. They could to tell that there was more to Saul’s mood swings than just him getting up on the wrong side of bed. They could tell that there was a spiritual element to Saul’s struggles.
The second interesting thing that I noticed is what they prescribed to deal with the issue. Music! They said, “Let’s find a good musician to play soothing music whenever the tormenting spirit troubles you, and soon you will be well again.”
Somehow, they expected good, soothing music to significantly impact a spiritual issue! Isn’t that interesting? Of course, science tells us that music is good for both physical and mental health.
I was reading this week that several hospitals use music therapy to help coronary patients because they found that soothing music can actually reduce blood pressure and pulse rate. Psychology Today back in 1985 reported on a certain mental hospital in Great Britain. One wing of the hospital was built next to a chapel where they had daily hymn singing – which could be heard throughout that wing. The doctors found that patients in that one wing got better faster than patients in other wings.
Music is powerful stuff – so powerful that these servants of Saul prescribed music to address Saul’s spiritual troubles. And we’re going to see a little later, their prescription worked! So music clearly does more than just tickle our ears – it seems to impact our entire being – body, mind, and soul! They say that laughter is the best medicine, but perhaps music is a close second.
But with music being so powerful, I think this should really cause us to be very intentional in what music we fill our lives with. In fact, the Scriptures are filled with passages instructing us to fill our lives with good, uplifting, God-honoring music!
For example in the Psalms we read:
1 Let the godly sing for joy to the Lord –
it is fitting for the pure to praise him.
2 Praise the Lord with melodies on the lyre;
make music for him on the ten-stringed harp.
3 Sing a new song of praise to him;
play skillfully on the harp, and sing with joy.
In the New Testament, Paul tells us:
18 Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, 19 singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. Ephesians 5:18-19
In other words – let music be a significant part of your life – let it be a significant part of your worship to the Lord! Music is yet another gift that God has given us – and it’s impact on our lives is probably more significant than we realize.
But anyway, here we are, going down yet another rabbit trail. Let’s get back to our passage.
So Saul’s servants suggest that they find a good musician to help sooth Saul whenever the tormenting spirit comes around. And so Saul replies in verse 17…
17 “All right,” Saul said. “Find me someone who plays well, and bring him here.”
18 One of the servants said to Saul, “One of Jesse’s sons from Bethlehem is a talented harp player. Not only that—he is a brave warrior, a man of war, and has good judgment. He is also a fine-looking young man, and the Lord is with him.” 1 Samuel 16:17-18
Now I wonder which one of Jesse’s sons is this talented harp player they’re talking about? It’s David, of course! Doesn’t God work in crazy ways?! Of all the people in the entire kingdom of Israel, the one person that gets invited to play music for the King is the one person who has been anointed by God to inherit his throne. That’s crazy! But that’s God! God works in such amazing ways!
What better way for this young shepherd boy to get introduced to ruling the Kingdom of Israel than to go and spend a bunch of time with the King!? (At the king’s invitation, no less!)
And of course, Saul has no idea that David has been anointed as the future king. As far as he knows, he’s just a young kid who plays a mean guitar – or harp as they called them back then.
So we read in verse 19:
19 So Saul sent messengers to Jesse to say, “Send me your son David, the shepherd.” 20 Jesse responded by sending David to Saul, along with a young goat, a donkey loaded with bread, and a wineskin full of wine.
21 So David went to Saul and began serving him. Saul loved David very much, and David became his armor bearer.
22 Then Saul sent word to Jesse asking, “Please let David remain in my service, for I am very pleased with him.”
23 And whenever the tormenting spirit from God troubled Saul, David would play the harp. Then Saul would feel better, and the tormenting spirit would go away.
1 Samuel 16:19-23
I just love how God masterfully weaves this story together! How He brings young David out of the sheep pasture and into the King’s court – serving in the king’s presence – even standing alongside the king in battle as his armour-bearer! God has put David exactly where he needs to be. He’s giving this young shepherd boy all the training he needs to one day become King.
God took this tormenting spirit and David’s skill as a harper player and Saul’s servants discernment and he mixed them all together to create the perfect situation so that David could be exactly where he needed to be.
And that’s the encouragement that I want to leave with you today. God has put you exactly where you need to be.
Chances are, your life has taken some crazy twists and turns for you to end up where you are today. But that hasn’t been by accident! There is a God in heaven who loves you like crazy and has orchestrated all these events and people and situations so that you can be exactly where He wants you to be today.
And while He’s probably not training you to be the next king of Israel, you can be sure that He’s got something else incredible in mind.
- Maybe there are some opportunities come up soon that he’s preparing you for…
- Maybe there’s some character issues in your life that He wants to work on.
- Maybe there’s someone important that you need to meet and become friends with.
- Maybe there are some experiences that you need to have to prepare you for what’s ahead.
- Maybe God’s got something cool to teach you about Himself or about yourself.
But whatever God is doing in your life, you can be sure that He’s doing it because He loves you like crazy! And He’s put you exactly where you need to be for your good and His glory!
No human could have come up with a better way for David to begin his transition to the throne. No one could have come up with a better training program for him. No one could have thought a better way to position him for the future!
And God does the same thing in your life. God has plans in place for your life that are far better than anything we could have schemed or imagined! Of course, some of those plan’s may involve hardship and difficulty – but in the end, God’s ways are always the best ways!
So I would encourage you just to trust Him. Invite God have His will done in your life – no matter that that looks like. Believe that God has placed you exactly where you need to be for your good and his glory.