HomeBible StudyLessons From The Life of David I: God Making Choices

Lessons From The Life of David I: God Making Choices

Hover you mouse over the scripture reference to read I Samuel 16:1-13.


(V.1) “How long will you grieve over Saul?”

The Hebrew word for “grieve” in this passage is usually denotes mourning over a death. Samuel’s grief over Saul is deep and painful. He is not simply upset over Saul’s rejection of the Lord; he is deeply pained. 

(V.1) “For I have provided for myself a king among his sons.”

This is in comparison with the choosing of Saul. God chose Saul to represent what the people wanted in a king. In I Samuel 8, God tells Israel what kind of king Saul will be. This is in contrast to David, who is God’s choice for what he wants in the king. Notice the language used by the writer. God says he “provided for himself” a king. 

(V.3) “You shall anoint for me.” The same thing happens again. The king is not for the people; he is for the Lord. 

(V.7) “When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the LORD’s anointed is before him.’ But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him.’”

This is the same thing that God said about Saul. He had rejected him. What a terrible thing to hear. Jesse’s sons had a godly heritage in their father and their ancestors. Boaz, who they are all descended from, was a godly man. Yet, the Lord rejected Eliab, and in fact, all of Jesse’s sons except David. 

(V.7) “For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”

Q: Why is the heart so important in scripture?

The heart is the seat of our emotions. While it is part of the mind, it is from where we make our deepest decisions. The scripture often speaks of doing things from the heart, including forgiving others. Eliab did not have a heart dedicated to the Lord. This was also Saul’s problem. But we see from the Psalms that David loved the Lord and his word. 

(V.11) “Then Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Are all your sons here?’ And he said, ‘There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep.’”

Q: Why do you think that David was told to keep the sheep when the prophet wanted to meet Jesse’s sons?

There are a couple of things to note here. First, David was regarded with low esteem by his family. He had to keep the sheep instead of meeting the prophet. Jesse could have honored all of his sons by being sure David was there. But he didn’t. He could have had a servant watch the sheep, but he didn’t. This was an insult to David. But notice David’s attitude. David was busy being faithful in his duties when God called him. 

(V.13) “Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers.”

Q: What do you imagine David’s brother’s attitudes were when they saw David so highly honored by the prophet when each of them were rejected?

This was not done secretly. Now, we’re not sure if his brothers knew David was being anointed as king, but they knew the anointing was significant and honored David above all of them. This may have incurred some jealousy. Later on, one of David’s brothers, Eliab, rebuked David for coming to the battle with the Philistines. I tend to think that they knew David was being anointed as king. They just couldn’t wrap their heads around it. 

There are two parallels to this in scripture. First, Joseph was given dreams about his future and his brother’s bowing before him. They rebuked him for his dreams. The second is Christ. His brothers also rejected him, but later, at least two of them came to faith in Christ: James and Jude. 

(V.13) “And the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward.”

This use of “rushed” indicates that David was given the power to fulfill his calling. He still had a lot to learn from this point on, and his character still needed to develop, but the point is that from that point on, David was a new man. 


Q: What do you think is the main point that God is driving home in this passage? Choice and heart.

(V.1) Regarding God’s choices, sometimes they cause us pain or grief. Samuel grieved over Saul and God’s rejection of him. But God’s choice had to stand, regardless of the pain. 

(VS. 1 & 3) “Provided for myself,” and “anoint for me.” 

God is the one who chooses those who will serve him and how we will serve him. Ultimately, in this passage is a prophecy of the coming Christ. Paul notes that the Old Testament promises are “yes” in Christ (II Corinthians 1:20, Galatians 3:15-16). This means that the promises are to Christ. Thus, Christ is the real king. 

(V.7) “The Lord looks on the heart.” 

God is concerned about the affairs of the heart. Everything in life springs from the orientation and purposes of the heart. David guarded his heart, and that qualified him for God’s choice. David didn’t know everything he needed to know, but he had a heart that would enable him to learn and serve. 

(V.11) David keeping the sheep. 

This was the beginning of God calling David into service. God spoke and said, “Arise and anoint him, for this is he.” Some people think you have to be sitting quietly and listening for God to speak to us, to call us. However, that’s not the model in the Bible. In scripture, people go about their normal routine, and God interrupts their lives and speaks to them. 


The big idea of this story is about choice. We are given a glimpse into how God makes his choices for those whom he calls. Note: this is not about God choosing us for salvation. That is a different issue. Here, we are dealing with God’s call into useful service and how we must spend our lives. We see a two-fold process in God’s choice. 

  • First, he rejects those who reject him, and
  • Second, he chooses those who have a heart for God

God rejected Saul. He rejected Eliab. He rejected all of the brothers. But he chose David. The crux of it all is to ensure that we have a heart for God. Jesus Christ must become the supreme affection of our lives. 

Note also that God chose David when he was still immature, and he would grow into his position. God also chooses us when we are not fully mature. Consider others in the scripture who were called when not mature: Joseph, Samuel, and Jeremiah. All our lives we are growing spiritually, no matter our age or status. He is teaching and training us to serve him in whatever calling he has on our lives. There is an old saying: “God doesn’t call the equipped; he equips the called.” So, like David, we must do three things:

  1. Keep faithfulness. David continued to watch the sheep.
  2. Stay focused on Christ when insulted or offended. David did not protest when he wasn’t invited to meet the prophet. 
  3. Come when you are called. When God makes his will known, pursue it as he empowers you.

Finally, when God chooses you, he will empower you. Note what the scripture says happened after David’s anointing. “The Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward.”

If God chooses you for something, he will empower you for it, even if it’s just to learn and grow.

Tom Terry is head of Global Broadcast Strategy for JESUS Film Project and serves as General Manager of The Better FM, an online radio station for Asia. Tom is also the author of several books, including Bible studies and "Like An Eagle," his biography about living in Mongolia for ten years.
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