Samuel’s Crowning Act

 •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 10
The anointing of David was the crowning act of Samuel’s life, and it was this that God had in mind, since the removal of the house of Eli (1 Sam. 2:35).
David is twice alluded to in Samuel’s addresses to Saul when declaring to him his sin and consequent rejection by the Lord. He says to him, on the first occasion, “Thy kingdom shall not continue: the Lord hath sought Him a man after His own heart, and the Lord hath commanded him to be captain over His people, because thou hast not kept that which the Lord commanded thee” (1 Sam. 13:14). The expression, “A man after Mine own heart,” to which the ungodly have ever taken such exception, was nevertheless God’s own pronouncement as to David. He is twice so described by Him in the sacred Word — see Acts 13:22. The second time he is described is in contrast with Saul: “The Lord hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbor of thine, that is better than thou” (1 Sam. 15:28).
The Mourning for Saul
Samuel was loath to give up Saul as lost to the nation, and in this he was something like the Apostle Paul, who said, “I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart  ...  for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh” (Rom. 9:2-3). We do not read of Samuel’s mourning for his sons’ retirement from office, or grieving over his own setting aside by the ungrateful people he had so long and so faithfully served. Nor do we read that Saul ever mourned for the loss of Samuel’s presence. Noble as it was for the prophet to mourn over the fall of the first of Israel’s kings, he nevertheless receives this mild rebuke from Jehovah: “How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? Fill thy horn with oil, and go, I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite: for I have provided Me a king among his sons” (1 Sam. 16:1). This is the first inkling Samuel has as to the identity of Saul’s successor. He now knows both the tribe and the family of which he was to come. The tribe of Judah, the family of Jesse, and the town of Bethlehem are designated to Samuel as whence this man chosen of God was to come, who would rule according to His will.
The Sacrifice
But the prophet knew the murderous heart of Saul, and Jehovah, in His tenderness and consideration for His servant’s but too well-founded fears, says to him, “Take an heifer with thee, and say, I am come to sacrifice to the Lord. And call Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show thee what thou shalt do; and thou shalt anoint unto Me him whom I name unto thee” (1 Sam. 16:2-3). This is not deception, as some have imagined, for Jehovah is a God of truth. Rather, God orders him to protect himself with a sacrifice, which was proper when he came to anoint a king (1 Sam. 11:15).
The Family of Jesse
Samuel obediently does as the Lord directs, and on his approach to Bethlehem the elders of the town ask anxiously, “Comest thou peaceably?” We read that they “trembled at his coming.” But Samuel has no controversy either of his own or for the king, and in answer to their anxious inquiry he returns them an answer of peace. “Peaceably,” he says. “I am come to sacrifice unto the Lord: sanctify yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice. And he sanctified Jesse and his sons, and called them to the sacrifice.” After this, he has all the sons of Jesse to pass in review before him. Eliab, the eldest, comes first, and Samuel, off his guard for the moment or forgetting his former disappointment in the splendid appearance of Saul, says, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before Him.” How prone we are to look “on the outward appearance” and so be repeatedly deceived. Paul “in presence” was “base” among his children in the faith at Corinth, and for this they were foolishly inclined to discount his power and worth and be carried away with men who gloried in appearance. It was these very men who wickedly sought to undermine Paul’s influence with the saints, insinuating that his “bodily presence” was “weak and his speech contemptible” (2 Cor. 10). Thus it has ever been and will be till the coming of the Antichrist, who “shall come in his own name,’’ and of whom the handsome Absalom was a fitting type. Of that meek and lowly One who came in His Father’s name, it was written, “He hath no form nor comeliness, and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him” (Isa. 53:2). So Jehovah says to the mistaken prophet, “Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature  ...  for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7).
The Youngest Son
When all the sons of Jesse have been made to pass before him, Samuel says to Jesse, “The Lord hath not chosen these.” And then he asks, “Are here all thy children? And he said, There remaineth yet the youngest, and, behold, he keepeth the sheep. And Samuel said unto Jesse, Send and fetch him: for we will not sit down till he come hither. And he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to. And the Lord said, Arise, anoint him; for this is he” (1 Sam. 16:11-12). Here, for the first time, we behold the “man after God’s own heart,” this “neighbor” of Saul’s who was “better than he.” And the introduction occurs at a most fitting time, at a sacrificial feast. These feasts were evidently popularized, if not introduced, by Samuel, and their establishment was not the least of the blessings this good man’s influence brought to Israel.
The Shepherd
David was so little thought of by other members of the family that he was not called to the banquet at which such a distinguished personage as Samuel was to preside — a rare opportunity indeed to hear his wisdom and profit by his holy conversation. But “a prophet is not without honor save in his own country, and in his own house.” It was thus with David’s Antitype — “great David’s greater Son,” “for neither did His brethren believe in Him” (John 7:5). David seems to have been discounted in his family not only for his younger years, but also for his appearance, for evidently he did not appear as suitable material for warriors (1 Sam. 17:28), who were at a premium in those times of frequent Philistine invasions. Minding the sheep was considered fit service for the youngest of the family. Nor was it a large flock, but being “faithful in that which is least,” God would entrust him with greater matters. “He chose David also His servant, and took him from the sheepfolds: from following the ewes great with young He brought him to feed Jacob His people, and Israel His inheritance” (Psa. 78:70-71). Behold this tender youth following his father’s flock with watchful, gentle eye on them. This marked him out as a man specially suited to be the “shepherd of Israel,” a fitting type of Him who was to be “the Shepherd of the sheep.”
The Anointing
What high honor God put upon Samuel in sending him to anoint the man “after God’s own heart,” of whom God spoke, saying, “I have laid help upon one who is mighty; I have exalted one chosen out of the people. I have found David My servant; with My holy oil I have anointed him” (Psa. 89:19-20)! God had in vision spoken to His holy prophet Samuel, and it was indeed the crowning event of his life to be permitted to pour the holy anointing oil upon the head of David the beloved. Then “Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah.” Our chapter leaves him retiring to the home of his childhood, in the seclusion of his house in Ramah, whence he might wait patiently and in faith for the better days to be ushered in through David.
C. Knapp (adapted)