1 Samuel 16:1-17:37
The Lord sent Samuel to Jesse of Bethlehem. God had chosen one of Jesse’s sons to be king, instead of Saul.
Samuel wondered which of Jesse’s multiple sons the Lord had chosen but he could not work it out: ‘Man looks at outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart’ (v.7).
Samuel knew that the Lord had not chosen any of the seven sons he had already seen and asked if there were any more. David, the eighth and youngest, was still out tending the sheep and so he was sent for. God clearly told Samuel that David was the chosen one and he should be anointed.
‘From that day on, the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power’ (v.13). In the New Covenant, baptized Christians all have the Holy Spirit permanently living within us. He will give us power if we fully accept Jesus into our lives as our Lord and Saviour and ask the Holy Spirit to enkindle the fire of his gifts within us. We can also be commissioned / receive additional gifts by being anointed / prayed over by holy individuals. The evangelist, Ros Powell, once prayed over me to instantly receive an additional prayer language. She went around a circle of volunteers and briefly touched each one of us on our head as she prayed for us. We all started to pray in a new language as soon as she touched us, a machine-gun-like deliverance language for fighting the enemy. Some people have been given a gift of imparting supernatural gifts onto others.
The Spirit of the Lord was now resting on David but had departed from King Saul and instead: ‘an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him’ (v.14). It must have been very sad for King Saul to lose the Spirit of God. When I first started praying in tongues, I was fascinated about how I was in control of exercising this gift. When I opened my mouth and allowed the Spirit of God to speak, he did; and when I wanted to stop, he stopped. Sometimes during corporate prayer in a church, when many people are speaking in tongues, the Holy Spirit will synchronise everyone and people will all gently grind to a halt at the same time. It’s a perfect union when we work together with God to pray what has to be be prayed. I was given the gift of tongues one evening but the very next morning while in the shower, I opened my mouth to practice this new gift and nothing came out. I was bereft and nearly in tears that this beautiful gift of God had temporarily come and then disappeared. A couple of hours later, it was back. I was so happy. I think God was demonstrating how much of a genuine supernatural gift this was and I could do nothing without him. I couldn’t pray in tongues by myself. He was testing me to see how much value I placed on having the Holy Spirit active within my heart. I discussed this with a charismatic priest and he said, in the New Covenant, God never permanently removes his gifts once they have been gifted. I am slightly wary of 1 Corinthians (13:8): ‘Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where they are tongues, they will be stilled’ but reassured by 2 Corinthians (1:21-22): ‘He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come’ and Ephesians 1:13-14: ‘When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory’.
Saul’s servants discerned that if someone played the harp when the evil spirit was present, then Saul would feel better. Evil spirits hate beauty of all kind and so beautiful music can chase them away. They of course, absolutely hate praise and worship songs. When it comes to sounds repelling evil spirits, there is a long tradition of using bells. Church bells are exorcised and blessed with an official rite: ‘Bless, O Lord, this water with a heavenly benediction, and may the power of the Holy Ghost come upon it, so that when this vessel, prepared to call together the children of the Holy Church, has been washed with it, there may be kept far away from wheresoever this bell may sound, the power of those lying in wait, the shadow of spectres, the ravages of whirlwinds, the stroke of lightning, the damage of thunder, the disaster of tempests, and every breath of storm’ https://www.newliturgicalmovement.org/2013/08/compendium-of-1961-revision-of_14.html#.YKuJlqhKg2w
One of Saul’s servants had seen David, son of Jesse, play the harp. He also had many other qualities. He was brave, a warrior, spoke well and was good-looking. He became one of Saul’s armour-bearers. Whenever the ‘spirit from God came upon Saul’ (v.23), David would play his harp, Saul would feel better and the evil spirit would leave. It is interesting that it is ‘an evil spirit from the Lord’ that tormented Saul. These days we would say that an evil spirit reports to the devil as part of the hierarchy of evil spirits. However, nothing is allowed to happen unless God permits it. So if someone is oppressed or even possessed by a demon, even though it is under the day-to-day command of the devil, it is only allowed to perform evil because God has permitted it to. God doesn’t want any creature to carry out evil but he will permit it if greater good will come out of it. By allowing this spirit to torment Saul, David now had access to the ruler of Israel.
The Israelites were once again at war with the Philistines. Each day for forty days, the nine-foot-tall giant Goliath, came out from the Philistine ranks and challenged the Israelites to send one man to fight him instead of an all-out battle. Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified by his size and weaponry (17:11).
David had come to the army camp to bring his brothers, who were in the Israelite army, some provisions. David saw Goliath offer his daily challenge and was very interested to know what the reward would be for killing this uncircumcised Philistine, who was defying and disgracing the armies of the loving God.
David offered to risk his life to fight shrugging off the disrespect of his oldest brother and the doubts of Saul. Unkind members of our own families are often our harshest critics. We should just turn away from their hurtful remarks without retaliation while praying that they will be saved in the end. David pointed out he was an experienced lion and bear killer thanks to his normal day job as a shepherd. David could hardly have imagined when he was fighting an enormous bear that God was training him to fight a giant Philistine in the future. God likes to make use of our secular experience and skills, once we start working for him.
David was so confident that the Lord, who had delivered him from both the lion and the bear, would also deliver him from this Philistine that Saul agreed he could fight: ‘Go, and the Lord be with you’ (v.37). Saul must have been impressed with David’s self-confidence and attitude. When Samuel had tried to announce Saul as king, Saul had hidden himself amongst the Israelites baggage. In contrast, David, a young shepherd, had marched into the king’s presence and volunteered to fight a heavily armed giant in front of two armies. He was heroically bold.
Just like David, when an opportunity to work for God comes up that matches our skillsets we should seize the chance with full faith. When we have been anointed by God and have the Holy Spirit living within us, we too can carry out mighty deeds.
Jesus is the ‘true vine’. The people of Israel are often also described as ‘the vine’ in the Bible. We can only bear fruit if we remain in Jesus. God will cut off any branch that does not bear fruit. If we do bear fruit, he will prune us so we become even more fruitful. Being ‘pruned’ by sickness, unemployment, disappointment etc. is painful but it will give us endurance and endurance will give us character.
Jesus told his disciples that they were ‘already clean’ (v.3) because of the word he had spoken to them. They were now his friends, rather than disciples. Following Jesus, believing in him and listening to his words can make us clean.
If we choose to cut ourselves off from Jesus, God will respect our freewill. However, we will wither and then be picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. When we remain in Jesus, obey his commands and his words remain in us, we can ask whatever we wish and it will be given to us so that God can be glorified.
We show ourselves to be disciples by joyfully bearing much fruit for the glory of God.
Jesus commanded us to love each other as he loved us. ‘Greater love has no-one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends’ (v.13). Jesus laid down his life for us, even while we were still sinners. He has appointed us to ‘go and bear fruit – fruit that will last’. When we bear lasting fruit ‘then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my (Jesus’) name (v.16).
As baptized, believing Christians, we no longer belong to the world. The world will hate us and persecute us as it hated and persecuted Jesus without reason. Persecution doesn’t have to be violent. Many people would like simply to silence Christians and ignore them. Non-believers have no excuse for their lack of faith because Jesus performed miracles to demonstrate he was the Son of God. If they hate Jesus, they also hate God and God will allow them to remain separate from him for eternity. If they should turn to him in this life, he will always be willing to forgive and embrace them but they must do this before it is too late.
The Holy Spirit is our Counsellor. He is the Spirit of truth who goes out from both God, the Father, and Jesus. The Holy Spirit testifies to us about Jesus and we must, in turn, testify to others. The Holy Spirit turns us into a bold soldier in God’s army, fearlessly testifying to the truth.
Saint Paul, before his dramatic road to Damascus conversion, thought that he was offering a service to God by arresting and killing Christians. When Jesus spoke to him, Paul recognised that up until that moment he had never known the Father or Jesus.
It is wonderful to be blessed by God, when he is gracious to us and his face shines upon us. The Gospel message has been spread among the nations by wonderful, empowered missionaries, under the guidance and care of the Holy Spirit.
True Christians are glad and sing for joy despite any trials and tribulations they may be facing. When we know God’s ways that lead to salvation we will forever praise him.
When all the peoples of the earth praise God in reverent fear, then we will really see a harvest of blessings.
Image: Paolo Veronese, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons