The divine rejection of Saul as king was not followed immediately by divine information regarding his replacement. Yet eventually the Lord gave directions to Samuel about who would replace Saul.
What state was Samuel in when God gave him this information? He was still distressed about what had happened with Saul and he was also afraid of what Saul might do if he heard that his replacement had been anointed. It looks as if Saul’s reign had brought a great sense of unease, not only to Samuel, but also to the people in general as can be seen in the response of the city elders to the arrival of Samuel. This is an example of the consequence of disobedience by a leader.
Was Samuel acting in faith when he expressed his fear? We can say that he was honest in stating it, and it is also important to note that he expressed his fear to God. The presence of fear is not always a sign that faith is absent. In Samuel’s case, it was connected to his sense of danger. His confession of fear was actually a request for divine help.
The prophet discovered that his Lord already had a solution to the problem and was willing to inform his servant of it. God wanted the identification of his choice to be linked to a time of worship, although it is not clear if the subsequent anointing was done in public or only in the presence of Jesse’s family.
Despite being sent on such an important mission, Samuel was given guidance gradually. All he was told initially was that the Lord’s choice was a son of Jesse. If Samuel had been told who the individual was, then he would not have had to exercise ongoing faith as he made his journey to Bethlehem and met the people.
Although Samuel had been a faithful servant of God he still was liable to make mistakes at times. He was very impressed by the physical appearance of the eldest brother Eliab, yet discovered that his physical capabilities alone was not what God thought important about his choice. Instead Samuel was reminded that the state of a person’s inner life is far more important than his outward appearance.
The selection process passed by seven of Jesse’s sons. David alone was left, but it had not crossed the mind of his father that he was fit to be considered. The Lord identified David as the successor and after he was anointed he received the Spirit in a special way. The coming of the Spirit is described as a rushing, which indicates both the eagerness and the enablement that the Lord showed in helping his choice as king.
In contrast to what David had experienced, Saul lost the Spirit. This is not an indication that he was a saved sinner who now had lost his salvation. Instead it means that Saul lost divine help to rule and instead an evil spirit for a time was allowed to torment him by God. Saul had given in to temptation before but now he discovered that the kingdom of evil does not reward those who succumb to its methods.
We are not told in what way the evil spirit afflicted Saul, although the distress was alleviated by music. In God’s providence, this remedy led to David coming into the employment of the king he had been chosen to replace. Why did God arrange this? Perhaps to show to David how he should not reign – he would see first-hand the wrong methods of Saul. Maybe it was to inform David that it is always safe to be where God wants you to be, even if common sense would suggest otherwise.
God had his plan and God had his man. What lay ahead for David in God’s service? We will see as we look at David’s life in our next set of readings.