For those who consider the bible a dusty old volume that sometimes makes it as far as the coffee table (especially in the old days if you knew the pastor was coming for a visit) which has little relevancy for the 21st century— this text serves as a corrective. In the past year we have gone through a transition of leadership in our country which has seen someone whose suitability for high office is challenged almost daily. The selection of David as king in this passage is a reminder that our experience in the election of 2016 is hardly a new one. Indeed, There is nothing new under the sun.
Brent Strawn, professor of Old Testament, Candler School of Theology, Emory University in Atlanta, GA, makes this assertion in his commentary on the text in Working Preacher, the Luther Seminary website: “…God is ready to move on [from Saul’s failure as king] and has located the next king in Bethlehem among Jesse’s sons (1 Samuel 15:35b 16:1). But Samuel… [is] worried: a rival to the throne will certainly cause political problems (verse 2a) and so God provides him with a clever cover story to get him safely to Bethlehem (verses 2b 3).1 Samuel isn’t the only one that’s concerned: the city elders shake with fear when this prophet shows up at their door (verse 4). So, only four verses in and we’ve already seen that the move to a new leader to David is one that’s met with considerable (and reasonable!) resistance, that it isn’t an easy move, and that it is an occasion for real worry, fear, even disappointment.” Sound familiar?
David is the youngest son of Jesse and his selection flies in the teeth of the ancient rule of primogeniture, which would have dictated the selection of Eliab (vs 6). Samuel is told by God to not pay attention to external appearance because the Lord see things differently, perceiving not only what is obvious on the outside but also what is in the heart— and that means David is his choice. God picks the runt of the litter, although the text tells us he is handsome, with beautiful eyes and a ruddy complexion.
Prof. Strawn reminds us that this echoes back to Esau (Genesis 25:25), who is the only other individual in the Bible described as “reddish brown” (’admoni). He says: “Perhaps it indicates that David, like Esau, was an outdoorsman and hunter (Genesis 25:27); or perhaps it demonstrates that those who have atypical complexions aren’t always passed over, like Esau was, but can be chosen and favored after all, like David…”
I, for one am grateful that God can choose unlikely candidates!
To prepare for worship please read: I Samuel 16:1-13 – The Call of David. Psalm 51:10-14 and John 7:24