(15) People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart – 1 Samuel 16:7

God tells Samuel to go to Bethlehem to anoint the second king of Israel. This is a risky move given that the first king is still reigning and alert to any threat to his throne. Samuel tells the town elders that he wants to come and hold a sacrifice with them, and they are relieved that he is coming for religious rather than judicial reasons. God tells Samuel that the future king will be a son of Jesse, the grandson of Ruth, so he asks that the men of the town bring all their sons.

Jesse turns up at the feast with his sons, seven strapping young men who are in their Sunday best for the prophet and Samuel is alert to God’s guidance while he shakes hands down the welcome line. When he meets Jesse’s eldest son he is impressed by the tall, handsome young man, but God has other ideas and tells him the important principle that he is not to judge a person by their outward appearance but by their inner character, or heart (see 1 Samuel 16:7).

Samuel works through all seven sons without getting the sign from God that he was expecting and so asks Jesse if all his sons are present. Jesse has to admit that, although he was explicitly told to bring all his sons, he has left the eighth one at home to look after the sheep. He now suffers the huge embarrassment of the whole town having to wait for the lad to be fetched from the field before they can eat and this is how we are introduced to one of the biggest characters in the Bible, David.

David is the eighth son of seven, an embarrassment to his father, and looked down on by his seven older brothers. But somehow he had developed a relationship of trust with the Lord and he is the one that God chooses to be king. To their complete amazement, Jesse and his sons see Samuel, the revered prophet, anoint their David as the future king of Israel right in front of their eyes. The Spirit of the Lord comes on David in power and his life is changed forever.

After he is anointed king, David comes to Saul’s attention through his range of abilities. As he gets older, Saul is becoming increasingly mentally unstable and his servants recommend music as a therapy. Given the lack of CDs and iPods at this time, they look for a musician and David, who is a skilful harpist, is brought to the court to play for Saul and calm his moods.

David is then ‘catapulted’ to national attention by his encounter with Goliath, a Philistine giant of a man who has the entire Israelite army pinned down single-handedly. He is offering to take on the best man from Saul’s army in one to one combat with the losers’ army becoming slaves to the winners. It will save a lot of bloodshed – just as long as Israel can find a man willing to go into battle with Goliath. Saul, despite being a big man himself, is afraid along with his entire army so nothing happens until David turns up with provisions for his older brothers and says that he will go and deal with Goliath in the power of the Lord. Armed only with a sling (a hand held catapult) he fires off a shot that knocks Goliath out, and follows it up by cutting off Goliath’s head with his own sword. The stunned Philistine army flee in terror with the Israelites in pursuit.

From that start David quickly becomes the most successful captain in Saul’s army. He also becomes a close friend to Saul’s son Jonathan and marries his daughter, Michal. These connections focus Saul’s paranoia on David who is forced to flee into hiding.

David gathers a group of discontents who become a guerrilla army fighting Israel’s enemies whilst at the same time evading capture by Saul who is determined to kill David. After some near misses and some miraculous escapes, David makes a desperate move to put himself beyond Saul’s reach and defects to the Philistines where he offers his army to Achish, king of Gath. Remarkably, Achish accepts him and David and his six hundred companions settle in a Philistine town where Saul is forced to give up his hunt.

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