Shepherd Boy: New Hope For Israel
To choose a new king for Israel God looked into the man’s heart–not his outward appearance.

Agag, king of the Amalekites, felt great relief. True, his nation had been destroyed, but for some mysterious reason Saul had spared his life. But Agag was living a fantasy. God had sentenced him to death. That sentence would be carried out.

Agag was not at the final meeting between Samuel and Saul. He was not aware that Saul had been rejected as king, and another, better man, was to ascend the throne. Samuel commanded the soldiers to bring Agag before him. The war-ravaged king entered into the sobered assemblage in a light-hearted mood. “And Agag came to him cheerfully. Agag said, ‘Surely the bitterness of death is past’” (1 Samuel 15:32, English Standard Version). Agag was dead wrong.

His execution came immediately. Unlike Saul, Samuel wasted no time in carrying out God’s command. Before hacking Agag to pieces, Samuel said, “As thy sword hath made women childless, so shall thy mother be childless among women” (1 Samuel 15:33). Saul’s disobedience was finally rectified by Agag’s bloody end. With God’s will finally carried out, Samuel returned to Ramah. Israel’s fallen king returned to his home to Gibeah. Saul rejected God. God repented that He had made Saul king over Israel. Saul would never have close contact with Samuel again (1 Samuel 15:35; 19:24). Saul was on his own and completely vulnerable to the influence and control of Satan the devil. Without God’s Spirit in him and directing him, Saul’s life became tragedy, upon tragedy, on top of tragedy.

King Among Jesse’s Sons

Samuel loved Saul deeply, yet he could not undo God’s just judgment. Saul lost the throne because he lacked the courage, faith and will to obey God’s commands. Samuel was quite upset for Saul when he lost the right to rule. The once-humble man who was heavily gifted and highly favored was a complete failure!

Samuel shed many tears over Saul’s breakneck fall, but the nation needed to move forward. God told Samuel to quit mourning for Saul and go anoint another king. God instructed Samuel, “… fill thine horn with oil, and go, I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite: for I have provided me a king among his sons” (1 Samuel 16:1). Samuel was given a new mission. The new king was in Bethlehem. However, it would not be an easy time for the new king. Saul was rejected, not removed. The new king would have to qualify to take Saul’s place.

Saul’s life spiraled down immediately after God rejected him as king. Even Samuel feared Saul. Saul quickly lost his mind. His reign as king turned from the establishment of peace to the spread of terror. When God told Samuel to go and anoint another king, the prophet expected some very negative consequences. Samuel asked God to realize that Saul would be insanely angry when he found out that he was going to anoint a new king. Samuel told God, “if Saul hear it, he will kill me” (verse 2). Notice that Samuel feared for his own life. How this must have deeply hurt Samuel.

God recognized the problem and devised a plan to conceal what Samuel was about to do. He instructed Samuel to take a heifer to Bethlehem and make a sacrifice there. Jesse and his sons were to be invited to the sacrifice. While at the sacrifice, God would name the new king from one of Jesse’s sons. Samuel did precisely as God instructed.

When Samuel arrived in Bethlehem, quite a stir was created. This is what Samuel expected. People began to talk. They whispered and wondered why Samuel was in town. The news spread. The elders of the town became concerned. They went to meet Samuel in fear that some wrong had been done. They asked Samuel, “Comest thou peaceably?” (verse 4). Samuel reassured them. He answered, “Peaceably: I am come to sacrifice unto the Lord: sanctify yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice” (verse 5). Samuel then invited Jesse and his sons to the sacrifice. To be invited to eat with Samuel was considered a great honor.

The Lord’s Anointed

Just before the eating of the sacrifice, Samuel began to inspect Jesse’s sons. Who would be king? Samuel first noticed Eliab. He was immediately impressed. He was the eldest, and probably showed physical, mental, and emotional maturity. Samuel thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him” (verse 6). Samuel was wrong! God was about to teach Samuel a vital lesson. We must learn this same lesson today.

God answered Samuel, “Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” (verse 7). God made the selection of one of Jesse’s sons an object lesson for Samuel. God does not look on a man’s outward appearance—his stature or countenance—but on the heart. Saul had the physical characteristics the people desired most. He certainly had the stature, and he was handsome. But he lacked the right heart. God was very clear here. First, and foremost, his newly chosen king would have the right heart—God’s own heart. This is also one of the main lessons we are learning during this Laodicean era. Which ministry has God chosen to complete His end-time Work? The men who have proven that they have the right heart and love God’s people. The Philadelphia ministry may not have the stature of the Laodicean ministry, but all are striving to have God’s heart.

Abinadab, Jesse’s second son walked in front of God’s prophet. He was not the one. Then Shammah. Again, he was not chosen. In total, Jesse had seven sons pass by Samuel. Not one passed the test. Samuel had to ask if there were any more sons. Jesse admitted, “There remaineth yet the youngest, and, behold, he keepeth the sheep” (verse 11). Although all the details are not given here, we must recognize that Jesse and Samuel probably discussed what was happening. It is amazing to realize that David wasn’t included. Jesse must not have considered his youngest son a potential king. Samuel instructed Jesse to fetch the young boy—immediately!

When young David walked into the group of men the real excitement began.

What did Samuel see when David walked on the scene? David was filled with a freshness and vitality not evident in any of the others. The Scriptures state that David was, “ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to” (verse 12). David carried an out-of-door wholesomeness with him wherever he went. God told Samuel to rise up and anoint the shepherd boy. How thrilling for David. How shocking for his seven brothers.

Samuel took his horn of oil and anointed David king in the presence of his father and brothers (verse 13). As in the case of Saul, God’s Spirit immediately came upon David. The Soncino Commentary translates verse 13: “the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David.” The shepherd boy was now king of Israel. Wow! David’s anointing and conversion ushered in a new dawn for Jacob’s children.

David at Saul’s Court

The Bible doesn’t give us any details of what took place just after David was made king. Surely Samuel gave David and his father instructions on how to prepare for his future rule. We can also be certain that the subject of Saul entered into some of the discussions. Think about the multitude of questions a father would desire to ask God’s prophet. When would David reign? Was David in danger from Saul? How would the nation be informed that David was king? The list could nearly be endless. But all we know from the Bible is that Samuel returned to Ramah. And, David’s life was changed forever.

Meanwhile, Saul’s life sank to a great and dark depth. Saul was imprisoned in hopelessness. When God removed His Holy Spirit from him, an evil spirit troubled him (1 Samuel 16:14). His moods were dark and depressing. The Bible shows us that he was reduced to sudden fits of terror, unreasonable rages, and at times, homicidal violence. The evil spirit—most likely Satan himself—made Saul a manic-depressive person. Those closest to him grew seriously concerned.

Saul’s servants sought help for their king. “And Saul’s servants said unto him, Behold now, an evil spirit from God troubleth thee. Let our lord now command thy servants, which are before thee, to seek out a man, who is a cunning player on an harp: and it shall come to pass, when the evil spirit from God is upon thee, that he shall play with his hand, and thou shalt be well” (verses 15-16). The servants recommended that Saul find a skilled musician to play soothing music for him. They believed that soothing music would provide a cure. This verse is biblical proof that music can have either a positive or negative effect on our lives. Saul agreed to his servants’ suggestion.

“Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, that is cunning in playing, and a mighty valiant man, and a man of war, and prudent in matters, and a comely person, and the Lord is with him,” recommended one of Saul’s trusted servants (verse 18). Already somewhat known by the men surrounding Saul, Jesse’s son, David, was considered the perfect man for the job. Saul sent for David immediately.

David’s father Jesse was both concerned and excited for his anointed son. He recognized his son’s destiny was in God’s capable hands. With intense emotion he watched his son leave home arm-in-arm with destiny guiding him.

Jesse sent David to Saul with gifts of food fit for kings. “And David came to Saul, and stood before him: and he loved him greatly; and he became his armourbearer. And Saul sent to Jesse, saying, Let David, I pray thee, stand before me; for he hath found favour in my sight. And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him” (verses 21-23). David, the shepherd king, was taken directly to Saul’s court. What an amazing turn of events. David was being trained to rule by serving Saul.

David’s life is an exciting example of how God works. God does many things in His own way, which at times seem mysterious to us. But God knows what is best for all of us. God knew that He could teach David many lessons by using the example of a failed king.

Study verses 18 through 23. They provide us good insight into David’s sterling personal qualities as a young soldier. Besides being an excellent musician, David was also known for his quick wit and language skills. According to the Soncino, the phrase “prudent in matters” in verse 18 would be better translated as “skillful in speech.” This is referring to David’s poetic skill. David exhibited talent for combining verse and music. The Psalms are proof of David’s great skill as a songwriter.

David was able to play the melodious and meaningful music that soothed Saul’s demented mind (verse 23). David became endeared to Saul (verse 21). He gained great favor with the king. Of course, this favor would be short-lived. It wouldn’t be long before David would be on the run from Saul’s satanic wrath.

Notice also that David became Saul’s armorbearer. This is a very trusted position. David was responsible for the king’s personal protection. In verse 18, Samuel records for us that David was a “mighty valiant man, and a man of war.” Some commentaries struggle with these verses, since it is generally accepted that David was young at the time he first went to Saul’s court. The Bible is unclear as to David’s specific age when he first came into contact with Saul. He could have been in his late teens, which could still have allowed him to be considered a valiant warrior. Many of the valiant warriors of World Wars i and ii were teenage boys of 19. David killed a lion with his bare hands while protecting his father’s sheep (1 Samuel 17:34). David, though young, was no weakling.

David proved himself to be a well-rounded individual. He was truly masculine—an outdoors’ man. Yet, he was a cultured individual. He knew good music and was skilled at writing poetry. David set an example for our young men to follow today. He certainly proved his valiance against Goliath of Gath.

Combating Goliath

As Saul’s life sunk into black mire, the Philistines attacks against the Israelites spiraled upward. In a sparing contest, both sides conducted small military raids inflicting casualties that fueled anger and hatred. Eventually the raids led to a full-scale build-up of warriors gathered at the valley of Elah. The Philistine army staged itself on a mountain on one side of the valley. The army of Israel was cowed on a mountain opposite from the Gentile bullies.

The Philistines taunted the Israelites by sending their champion warrior, Goliath, out into the valley to make fun of them. Goliath was no ordinary warrior. The Scriptures state, “And there went out a champion out of the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. And he had an helmet of brass upon his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of brass. And he had greaves of brass upon his legs, and a target of brass between his shoulders. And the staff of his spear was like a weaver’s beam; and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron: and one bearing a shield went before him” (1 Samuel 17:4-7). Goliath was a giant. Most commentaries estimate his height at 9½ feet tall. He was also very strong. In verses 5 through 7, Samuel gives painstaking detail about his armor. His coat of mail alone weighed 5,000 shekels of brass. Soncino estimates that it weighed approximately 220 pounds. Add in the weight of the rest of his armor, including the spear, his body armor could have approached 500 pounds or more. Goliath was literally a walking tank.

Goliath mocked the Israelite army for 40 days. Every day, he bellowed a challenge at the Israelites: “Why are ye come out to set your battle in array? Am not I a Philistine, and ye servants to Saul? Choose you a man for you, and let him come down to me. If he be able to fight with me, and to kill me, then will we be your servants: but if I prevail against him, and kill him, then shall ye be our servants, and serve us. … I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together” (verses 8-10). Goliath wanted one Israelite warrior to come out and fight with him. The winning warrior’s army would then submit to the other army.

Saul and his army were emotionally overwhelmed by Goliath’s challenge and ridicule. All were totally afraid of Goliath. Can we see how Saul’s disobedience affected the entire army? Saul was cut off from God’s Spirit, which would have given him the faith and courage to take on Goliath. Because Saul was cut off from God, so was the army. It took David to save the day.

Although the exact reason is not given, verse 15 shows that David had returned from Saul’s court to take care of his father’s flock. He did not follow Saul to the battle. His three oldest brothers, Eliab, Abinadab and Shammah were at the battlefront with Saul. Jesse, concerned for his sons’ welfare, sent provisions for them and their companies by David (verse 17). David made sure that a responsible person was taking care of his father’s flock (verse 20). David arrived just in time to hear Goliath make fun of the Israelites. David watched the Israelite army flee in terror from Goliath. He could not believe what he was seeing. He quickly went into action.

Armies of the Living God

“… What shall be done to the man that killeth this Philistine, and taketh away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” David said to a group of Saul’s fear-struck soldiers (1 Samuel 17:26). David put everything into perspective. A serious reproach had come upon Israel. It had to be taken away. Why should the men be afraid of Goliath? He was an uncircumcised Philistine. In other words, he wasn’t following God. So God would not be with him. And the armies of Israel were the armies of the living God. God was on their side. God, the greatest Warrior in the universe, would fight their battle for them. David was trying to inspire these men to fight. In this, he showed true leadership.

David also wanted to know what would happen to the man who killed Goliath. The soldiers answered, “[T]he king will enrich him with great riches, and will give him his daughter, and make his father’s house free in Israel” (verses 25, 27). Although these facts may have enticed David, he was motivated to get rid of Goliath for more than riches or material things. When his brothers saw David getting into the middle of the events, they became very angry. Eliab lashed out at David, “Why camest thou down hither? and with whom hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know thy pride, and the naughtiness of thine heart; for thou art come down that thou mightest see the battle” (verse 28). Eliab falsely accused his youngest brother.

David was sent by his father to see to his brothers’ welfare. He did not come on his own accord. David had also procured a keeper for his father’s sheep. David was a responsible young man. Eliab accused David of having pride. Who was it that had the pride? Could it be that Eliab was jealous of his brother’s anointing?

David denied all of these false accusations. Then he asked a vital question of his oldest brother. Filled with faith, courage and force of will David asked, “Is there not a cause?” (verse 29). Eliab had probably scolded David many times. David now defended himself. There was no need for correction. In essence, David was saying, Isn’t there a cause for concern? God and all Israel were being ridiculed. Shouldn’t something be done? David turned to the other men present and repeated the same question, over and over again. “Is there not a cause?”

David’s question is much like the pcg’s motto—“Is there not a cause?” Like Saul, the Laodicean ministers have disobeyed God. God has rejected them. Those who follow them are being led to physical and spiritual ruin. Is there not a cause to reach them and warn them? Certainly there is!

David so inspired the men that they took the matter to Saul. Saul sent for David. David’s conversation with Saul is truly inspiring. David told Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine” (verse 32). What an example of godly confidence! Oh, how we need men like David in the pcg today. No one’s heart should fail because of any problem. Of course, Saul had no faith in the shepherd boy. He answered David, “Thou art not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him: for thou art but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth” (verse 33). Saul believed that David was no match for Goliath. David heartily disagreed.

With conviction, David said to Saul, “Thy servant kept his father’s sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him. Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God. … The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine” (verses 34-37). David understood that physical prowess was not important. It was faith in God that would deliver Goliath into his hand.

To prove his point, David gave Saul examples from his own life as a shepherd. David took care of his father’s sheep so well that when a lion and a bear attacked one—David attacked the lion and the bear! How many people would have just let the lion or bear have the sheep? What is one sheep? David was a very responsible individual—each sheep held great value. God backed David up. God delivered the lion and bear into David’s hand. Yet, he had to use his own hands to kill the lion and bear.

David brought the whole matter of Goliath of Gath into its proper perspective for Saul. This was God’s Holy Spirit talking through David. David reassured Saul—God would take care of Goliath. Why? Goliath defied the armies of the living God. Just like the lion and the bear, God would deliver the Philistine into David’s hand. Saul told David, “Go, and the Lord be with thee” (verse 37).

A Sling and Stone

Yet Saul missed David’s point. He really had no faith in God. He began to dress David in his personal armor. This didn’t do David any good whatsoever. David was not used to wearing Saul’s armor. So David went out to meet Goliath with his shepherd’s staff, a sling and some stones. The duel was set.

The Philistine armies became excited. Finally, there would be some action. When Goliath saw David, he could not believe his eyes. The Philistines mocked him with laughter. Goliath recognized that David was just a young farm boy. What an insult to the great Goliath. He cursed David by his gods. “… Am I a dog, that thou comest to me with staves? … Come to me, and I will give thy flesh unto the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field” (verses 43-44). Goliath hurled every vile comment at David. He threatened to tear David to pieces and feed him to the birds. This, Goliath could have done.

David was undaunted. David’s answer to Goliath was bold in faith. He lifted his voice, “Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcasses of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. And all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hands” (verses 45-47). David’s focus was single and clear.

Goliath came out against David with a sword, a spear, and a shield. David came out against Goliath in the name of the Lord. He spelled it out very clearly for Goliath. God was going to deliver Goliath into David’s hand and the Philistines were going to be fed to the birds.

Goliath rushed at David. Without fear or trepidation, David ran toward Goliath. David grabbed a stone from his pouch, loaded his sling, and it was over in an instant. Goliath fell like an axe-chopped tree. The Philistine champion was brought down with a sling and a stone. Then, David quickly used Goliath’s own sword to cut off his head. The Philistines fled in fear. The Israelites, unknowingly inspired by their new king, pursued after them and there was a great slaughter.

David’s defeat of Goliath represented a grand entrance into public life. David’s triumph over Goliath moved him a step closer to assuming full control of the monarchy. In fact, defeating Goliath was to keep him at Saul’s court permanently. News of David’s good reputation quickly spread throughout the tribes. A new hope was growing in Israel.

Yet, for David, some dark and challenging days were just over the horizon.