He walked the dusty road alone.
He was old but strong.
The sun beat upon him as he maintained his swift, determined pace. His long, white hair flowed behind him and his piercing eyes squinted into the broad horizon.
He was sad for the man he had chosen and now left behind. He had begun with such promise but somehow, over time and in ways unforeseen, his judgment faltered and his integrity ebbed.
Samuel painfully remembered the day King Saul pleaded with him to stay so they could worship together. Saul had conceded his sin and willful disobedience to the Lord’s clear command.
He explained to Samuel that the people had demanded he keep the plunder of battle. He listened to them and not to God.
Saul begged Samuel not to leave him. The prophet told him that God “has rejected you as king of Israel” (I Samuel 15:26, NLT).
As Samuel turned to leave, the desperate king, trying to hold him there, grasped the hem of his robe, tearing it.
Samuel turned and faced Saul squarely.
With a look both pathetic and compassionate, tears welling in his eyes, the old man told him:
“The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to someone else – one who is better than you”(I Samuel 15: 28, NLT).
Such high hopes now dashed by character too weak for leadership.
The final verse of I Samuel 15 is one of the saddest in all the Bible:
“And Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death: nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul: and the Lord repented that he had made Saul king over Israel”(KJV).
It was the end of a sad and cautionary chapter in the history of God’s chosen nation.
Now Samuel was on his way to Bethlehem. God told him he had mourned for the disgraced Saul long enough. It was time to face the future.
“Find a man named Jesse who lives there,” the Lord said, “for I have selected one of his sons to be my king” ( I Samuel 16: 1, NLT).
The selection of this new king is a well – known and oft – recounted story.
When Samuel first saw Jesse’s oldest son, Eliab, he was certain this tall, muscular, chisel-chinned young man had to be the one who would be king.
“Surely this is the Lord’s anointed”.
God stepped into this selection process early – not just for Samuel’s sake, but for ours.
“ But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart” (I Samuel 16:7, KJV).
We can’t help it. We’re only human. We’re almost always sure that the cover tells the story of the book inside. And that’s exactly how we judge it.
Then we’re wrong.
Not all the time, but much of the time.
Hey Samuel! Listen to me:
“Looks aren’t everything. Don’t be impressed with his looks and stature. I’ve already eliminated him … Men and women look at the face; GOD looks into the heart” The Message).
And so it went. Jesse presented all seven of his sons to the prophet Samuel. God whispered into the prophet’s ear each time:
Samuel looked at Jesse. Jesse looked at Samuel.
Samuel scratched his hoary head and quizzically stroked his long white beard. He knew this was Bethlehem. He had heard that right. And this guy standing before him was Jesse – the census showed only one.
“The Lord has not chosen any of these … Are these all the sons you have?” (verse 10-11, NLT).
Jesse looked at Eliab and Abinajab, who rolled their eyes and smirked.
“There is still the youngest,” Jesse told the prophet. “But he’s out in the fields watching the sheep and goats” (verse 11, NLT).
The older brothers snickered.
Samuel paid no attention.
“Send for him at once”.
The lad was handsome, of average build. He was polite, smiled nervously. He wasn’t sure why he’d been summoned from his father’s back field. Samuel noticed his beautiful eyes. He seemed as innocent and naïve as the sheep he was guarding.
Samuel heard God’s voice: “This is the one; anoint him”(verse 12, NLT).
In this young heart, God saw his own.
That’s how it happened. It was a day like any other. David awakened the runt of the litter and headed for the fields; and the sheep and the goats. By dinner time at sunset, he had been anointed with oil by the mightiest and most revered man in Israel.
He would be King David.
Israel’s greatest leader.
The king upon whose throne would someday sit the King of all kings and the Savior of the world. Born in this very town.
Warren Harding looked every inch a president. James Buchanan had the most star-studded resume.
Today they are remembered as probably the two worst American presidents in history.
It’s the humble and awkward rail-splitter from Illinois who occupies the place of honor; whose homely features are carved in Rushmore, who memory is “enshrined forever” in the hearts of the people.
He served a single term in Congress before he saved the Union.