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I Samuel Chapter 16: This Week In God's Word

Pulpit Search: The Biblical Model

When the prophet Samuel, under God's anointing, went to Jesse's farm to find Israel's next king, Jesse presented six of his seven sons, each more masculine and intelligent than the other. Jesse paraded these young men, one by one, before Samuel, but none of these was the one God was meaning to anoint. Puzzled by God's failure to chose one of these young men, an exasperated Samuel turned to Jesse and asked him if these were all of his sons, and Jesse kind of scratched his head and said, well, there's David— but he's just a shepherd boy. A tall, geeky redhead, who seemed to lack the stature or the promise of greatness. Samuel told Jesse to bring the boy to him right away and, sure enough, David was the guy: the man God anointed as the new king of Israel. But, see, Israel already had a king. a great and powerfully anointed man named Saul. Now, Saul had the favor of God and the anointing of God but, somewhere along the way, Saul started believing his own press and became a little too full of himself and, as the bible said, the Spirit of the Lord departed from him. Saul was suffering migraine headaches and had trouble sleeping and was a big, self-obsessed crank, desperate for a remedy to his illness. When someone on Saul's staff suggested maybe some soft music would help, they sent for the greatest musician they could find— a shepherd boy named David.

David played the harp for Saul, eased his headaches, and won instant favor in Saul's sight. Saul promised the shepherd the world and became David's best bud. But, it was a flawed relationship in that David could have the world just as long as David remained by Saul's side and functioned the way Saul wanted him to function in the role that Saul envisioned David in, despite whatever ambitions or hopes David himself had. David, whom the bible describes as, “A mighty man of valor,” became Saul's constant companion. His personal harpist. His Tylenol. And, had not God intervened, had David not had the courage to follow God rather than follow Saul, that's pretty much how this story would have ended: David would have gone down in history as the world's greatest harpist. He'd have grown old in Saul's palace, opening the prestigious David Harp School, and, perhaps, making history by organizing the Judah Harpist's Union Local 1092, campaigning for better wages and, I dunno, better strings on the harps. He'd have died at a ripe old age and been buried with his harp as a sea of royal harpists played an endearing dirge for the greatest harpist the world had ever known.

But, that's not how the story went, is it? The fact is, most people don't even remember David was a musician. Because David is not remembered for being a musician. David is remembered for slaying Goliath. Something he'd have never done. something no one would have ever thought to ask him to do, because the promise of those things, those unexpected things, was not evident to unspiritual people. People like David's own father and, yes, people like Saul who had once known God's favor, but who were now in a state of apostasy.

God Is Not Cheap: David vs. Goliath.

Doing The Unexpected

King Saul was a great man and a great man of God. He was anointed and chosen, and many of us are anointed and chosen. And God was with him. But Saul did not work at his relationship with God, and allowed that relationship to wither, to the point where v14 says the Spirit of the Lord had departed from him. No longer looking with spiritual eyes, Saul saw David as a short-term solution to a long-term problem: someone to soothe his nerves and chase the evil spirit away. The long-term problem, of course, was he was out of fellowship with God. He was out to sea with no radar. Lacking spiritual eyes, Saul never once stopped to consider the anointing on David. For it would take a great anointing to turn away an evil Spirit once God has granted permission for that spirit to attend you. Saul was not a stupid man. But he was an arrogant man. And he had wandered so far away from God, he didn't even realize the trouble he was in. He didn't recognize God's anointed— Saul's replacement— when he was standing in the same room with him.

Had King Saul had his way, David would have been known for being the best harp player who ever lived. One heck of a harp player, David would have been the king's constant companion, soothing Saul's migraines with his melodies as Saul went on building monuments to his own Saul-ness and ego tripping and moving steadily away from the God who had so anointed him. But that was not the purpose of the story of David, a complex man who became, in his battle with the Philistine, an unexpected person doing unexpected things.

There are a great many people in life who remain anxious to categorize and cubbyhole us, cement us into roles where they find comfort and meaning and understanding, and where we validate and maintain their comfort zone. Our attempts to move beyond that assigned duty, to express some new or nagging ambition or purpose, usually invites disdain and ridicule from people who allegedly love us. People who allegedly support us, but who nevertheless blanche and snicker and, yes, move away from us at precisely the moment we need them the most. Sling shot in hand, staring down the giant, we are suddenly chilled by the realization that nobody, and I mean nobody, believes we can slay the giant. I mean, it's not the kind of thing David did. David was not a giant slayer, he was a harpist. Yes, yes, the bible describes him as, “a mighty man of valor (v18),” but, in essence, David was considered a kid. And, for Saul, he was Tylenol. I'm sure Saul did not appreciate his Tylenol— his only remedy for the constant headaches he suffered— being wasted against the unstoppable Philistine.

But, doing the unexpected with The Unexpected is what God does. It's His modus operandi. It never ceases to amaze me how shocked people become when God actually does something, well, God-like, and uses unexpected people in unexpected ways to accomplish unexpected things. If David had let people keep him where they thought he belonged, he'd have gone down in history as the world's greatest harp player.  But, unexpectedly, David the king's lackey became David the king's armor bearer and then David the king's mightiest warrior and then, finally, David the King.

Honesty Is An Expensive Gift: Faris Odeh, a Palestinian boy, was shot and killed by the Israeli soldiers on November 9, 2000, a few days after this photo was taken. Palestinian Affairs Council.

How Not To Select A Pastor

In Our Church Thing we elect leadership— leadership of committees, leadership of auxiliaries and even leadership of ministries. We hire staff and we appoint people. And, a lot of the time, we appoint Saul and miss David. because David's promise is not as obvious as Saul's. David's credentials are not as readily apparent as Saul's. David is often harder to spot than Saul because David does not come to the front as boldly or as readily as Saul. David is often a work in progress. David requires more vision and more patience than Saul. 

But David is the one you want. You don't want Saul because Saul is going to ultimately fail to live up to God's promise. You don't want the popular choice, you want the spiritual choice. You want God's choice, and the people, the greater body of Who We Are, are never happy with and rarely pleased by God's choice because God's choice is much harder to understand with our limited and flawed mortal perceptions.

The very young woman way under the radar: she's not someone most people in our church would even think of as a candidate for a recording career or music ministry. There are any number of more polished, more flamboyant and more obvious singers in our church, but this girl, this person, is special. She's the one. She is David, even if she herself does not realize it any more than David himself realized it: David never thought highly of himself and did not truly embrace his own calling until much later.

And these Women of Purpose, who are not paid a lot of attention by the huge female demographic of Black churches in this area, are the unexpected people doing unexpected things. Diamonds in the rough to be sure, but God never demanded polish. He demands faith. submission. surrender. Don't worry about courage or even resources or infrastructure: God's got all of that. All you need is to let Him have the driver's seat. Let Him bring about those things in your life that are unexpected. To have you doing unexpected things in unexpected places at unexpected times and in unexpected ways.

Christopher J. Priest
5 October 2002

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No. 380  |  Oct 14, 2012   Intro   Start   All-Points Bulletin   STUDY   Jerry Buys The Farm   Off-Center   Afghanistan   Donate   Previous   Home