And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and get him, for we will not sit down till he comes here.” And he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome. And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him, for this is he.” Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward. And Samuel rose up and went to Ramah.
Now the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and a harmful spirit from the Lord tormented him. And Saul’s servants said to him, “Behold now, a harmful spirit from God is tormenting you. Let our lord now command your servants who are before you to seek out a man who is skillful in playing the lyre, and when the harmful spirit from God is upon you, he will play it, and you will be well.” So Saul said to his servants, “Provide for me a man who can play well and bring him to me.” One of the young men answered, “Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, who is skillful in playing, a man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a man of good presence, and the Lord is with him.” Therefore Saul sent messengers to Jesse and said, “Send me David your son, who is with the sheep.” And Jesse took a donkey laden with bread and a skin of wine and a young goat and sent them by David his son to Saul. And David came to Saul and entered his service. And Saul loved him greatly, and he became his armor-bearer. And Saul sent to Jesse, saying, “Let David remain in my service, for he has found favor in my sight.” And whenever the harmful spirit from God was upon Saul, David took the lyre and played it with his hand. So Saul was refreshed and was well, and the harmful spirit departed from him. – 1 Samuel 16:11b-23 ESV
David, the youngest son of Jesse, was eventually brought before the prophet, Samuel. And while the passage describes David as ruddy in color, with beautiful eyes and a handsome exterior, that had nothing to do with his selection by Samuel. God had already told the prophet, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7 ESV). While David’s outward appearance had nothing to do with his selection by God, it is interesting to note that he is described as “ruddy.” The Hebrew word is ‘admoniy and it can refer to someone who is red-headed or who has a reddish complexion. It is the same word used to describe Esau at his birth (Genesis 25:25).
David was a young, handsome, redheaded, Hebrew shepherd boy. When he walked into the presence of Samuel, Jesse and his seven brothers that day, he would have stood out like a sore thumb. There was Eliab, who by Samuel’s own admission, had the look of a king. Each of the brothers who had heard the prophet say of them, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one” (1 Samuel 16:8 ESV), had to stand and watch as Samuel took the oil and poured it over David’s head. There is no indication that anyone but Samuel knew the significance of his actions. Samuel had not told Jesse why he had come to Bethlehem. He had not indicated the reason for wanting to see each of Jesse’s sons. And even when David arrived, Samuel was the only one to whom God said, “Arise, anoint him, for this is he” (1 Samuel 16:12 ESV). What is missing in this scene are any signs of celebration or trepidation. Had they realized that David had just been anointed the next king of Israel, you would have thought that Jesse and his sons would have reacted with either joy or fear. Joy, because it was not everyday that one of your own family members was anointed to be the king of Israel. Fear, because they would have realized that King Saul was probably not going to take the news all that well. Had they recognized the significance of what had just happened, it seems they would have shown more of a reaction. But all that we’re told is that the Spirit of God rushed upon David, Samuel rose up and went to Ramah and, according to verse 19, David simply returned to tending sheep. No party. No celebration. No celebratory pats on the back. But while it may appear that all things remained the same, one thing was radically different.
The Spirit of God rushed upon David. God placed His Spirit upon this young shepherd boy, radically altering his life, just as He had done with Saul. After Saul had been anointed king by Samuel, he had been given specific instructions and was told, “this shall be the sign to you that the Lord has anointed you to be prince over his heritage” (1 Samuel 10:1 ESV). The prophet sent Saul on what can best be described as a sort of scavenger hunt, where he would encounter a variety of people along the way and receive various clues, that would eventually lead him to the city of Gibeath-elohim.
“And there, as soon as you come to the city, you will meet a group of prophets coming down from the high place with harp, tambourine, flute, and lyre before them, prophesying. Then the Spirit of the Lord will rush upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man.” – 1 Samuel 10:5-6 ESV
Saul had received the Spirit of God as well. But with the anointing of David as his replacement, Saul would have the Spirit of God removed from him. “Now the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and a harmful spirit from the Lord tormented him” (1 Samuel 16:14 ESV). Saul retained the crown, the symbol of his reign, but He lost the power to rule. With the removal of the Spirit of God, he “turned into another man” again, but this time, not for the better. Without the abiding presence of God’s Spirit, Saul was left to his own fleshly, sinful self. And he was left open to the influence of Satan. We are not told the nature or source of the “harmful spirit” that tormented Saul, but it is clear that God, in His sovereign plan, allowed this spirit to come upon Saul.
“Saul’s evil bent was by the permission and plan of God. We must realize that in the last analysis all penal consequences come from God, as the Author of the moral law and the one who always does what is right.” – Gleason L. Archer Jr., Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, p. 180.
It was the presence of this evil spirit that set up David’s transition from the pasture to the palace. He would go from shepherding sheep to serving as the king’s personal servant. And King Saul loved David. What an ironic scene. Here was David, the newly anointed king of Israel, serving as the personal valet to the man he was supposed to replace. At this point, Saul has no clue as to David’s anointing by Samuel. And David seems to be ignorant of the fact that he might be in any kind of danger. Which leads one to believe that he had no clue that Samuel’s anointing had been to make him the next king of Israel. I think David’s awareness of what was happening in his life would happen over time. He would gradually put the pieces together and recognize that he had been chosen by God to be the next king. But in the meantime, his life would never be the same again.
He and King Saul would have a love-hate relationship. There would be moments of genuine affection coupled with inexplicable periods of terrifying hatred and life-threatening anger. Saul’s temperament would be all over the map. His psychological condition would grow progressively worse, as David’s popularity and fame increased. And yet, all of this was part of God’s plan for David’s life. God could have simply removed Saul and replaced him with David. He could have made this an immediate and hassle-free transition plan, but He didn’t. David was going to discover that his road to the throne was to be a rocky one. His anointing by God, whether he understood the full import of it or not, was not going to mean that his life would be easy or trouble-free. Had the prophet sat down with David and given him a full description of what the next years of his life would entail, he might have decided to return to the sheep for good. God’s calling is not a guarantee of the good life. Abraham’s calling by God was accompanied by much sacrifice, years of disappointment, and a constant requirement to live by faith, not sight. Moses was called by God, but faced constant danger, rejection, doubt and questions about his leadership ability. The disciples were called by God, but were also told by Jesus, “Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles” (Matthew 10:17-18 ESV). Jesus went on to tell them, “and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:22 ESV).
David was in for a wild ride. He had the anointing of God, but now he was to receive the equipping of God. He had the Spirit, but the Spirit was out to have all of him. He was a man after God’s own heart, but now God was going to give David a heart like His.