You’ve probably read about the prophet Samuel and how he anointed David, the shepherd boy. You may have a picture in your mind of a scene on a farm near Bethlehem. As a child, I imagined Jesse’s seven handsome sons being paraded before the prophet Samuel with only their family watching? That was my first impression, retained for many years until last week, when I read the story properly!
Samuel was at home in Ramah when God told him to go to Bethlehem and anoint the next King of Israel. ‘Fill your flask with anointing oil…I’ve spotted the very king I want’, the Lord said and told Samuel to take a heifer with him. The prophet sent a message on ahead inviting the leaders of the town to meet him there and be sure to invite Jesse too.
‘No, I’ve come to sacrifice this heifer and lead you in the worship of God’, Samuel said. ‘Prepare yourselves, be consecrated and join me in worship’. He made sure Jesse and his sons were also consecrated and called to worship.
I’d completely missed that part! Now I saw that it wasn’t a private family gathering on the farm, but a well-planned event. An important group of people were there to watch it in a public place.
This multi-layered story continued. Eliab, the eldest son of Jesse, was presented first. Samuel, going by his own first impression, presumed that here was the chosen one, but the Lord said, I don’t look on the outside, I look into the heart.
All the other sons auditioned, but God didn’t give Samuel the go-ahead on any of them! Samuel asked Jesse if he had any more and David’s name was reluctantly mentioned. ‘He’s out looking after the sheep’. Jesse said. I wonder how long it took them to find David and bring him to the place where the onlookers were waiting. The town leaders were probably wondering what Samuel was doing!
When David was brought in, God gave Samuel the order: Up on your feet! Anoint him! This is the one! Imagine Samuel’s excitement! He took his flask of oil and started pouring.
I love this next part. Then, with a special anointing of his own, the Spirit of God entered David like a rush of wind, God vitally empowering him for the rest of his life. (References from 1 Samuel 16: 1-13 in The Message Bible)
Now let’s compare that story with the birth of David’s famous descendant, the one called Jesus. What was my first impression of that event?
As a child, I used to concertina the events into a single short period, no longer than a week, maybe! The inn-keeper at the door, the stable and the manger, the angels and the shepherds, the wise men and the star. Cruel King Herod was a part of it, then the soldiers with their swords slashing against the dear little boys under two years of age. Was Jesus still a baby in his swaddling clothes when Joseph escaped to Egypt with him and Mary? How many people in Bethlehem got to know the toddler before he left? Did they see his kind nature, his beautiful love, his tender heart, even then?
Our task is to see as God does. No cursory glance, no reading into it something that isn’t there. God looks for a person whose heart is soft, where he can etch his own special impression. David and Jesus both had that kind of heart. And so can we.