1. The LORD rejected Saul as king over Israel (1 Samuel 16:1)

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1 President Barack Obama is on the verge of becoming a lame duck president. You know the idea? It s when the president gets near the end of their term in office and everyone else has moved on and is waiting for the next one to start. There still officially the president, but the power and influence have gone. You ll see it happening more and more over the next few months as the US election gets closer. Well here, in 1 Samuel 16, we have the beginning of Saul s lame duck kingship. He still has the title, but the power has gone. Saul might sit on the throne, but the attention, the focus has shifted from him to his successor. Saul was a failure as king. He didn t rule as God wanted, he didn t listen to God, he ruled as the kings of the other nations did. And because of that 1. The LORD rejected Saul as king over Israel (1 Samuel 16:1) Look at 1 Samuel 16:1 The LORD said to Samuel, "How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? By the way when the Bible uses the word LORD in capital letters it s the English translation of the name of God Yahweh. It means God Almighty. We normally use the word God to summarise all his names. But as the text uses this name I thought I would too. The LORD rejected Saul as king over Israel. And Samuel was mourning. Samuel would have been mourning on a number of levels. On one level he would be mourning about Saul s personal failure. This was someone Samuel had been working closely with. To see someone close reject God is always sad. On another level Samuel would have been mourning for the whole of the people of Israel. Saul s failure meant they were in a perilous situation. The Philistines were circling; the Israelite nation looked like it might be wiped out. Is this a point of failure? Has God s plan for his people to have a king fallen at the 1 st hurdle? Of course not! God had a plan, he knew Saul would fail. The Bible records Saul as a negative illustration of what God wasn t looking for. We ve had the bad example, now we re going to get the good example. Look on in verse 1. Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king." God is telling Samuel it s time to move on. God s plan will be fulfilled. The future is bright; God will have the king that he wants. We need to remember this verse. In the Old Testament Israel were the people of God; since the New Testament the church is the people of God. And we can often be like Samuel in this verse. 1

2 So often we can get down and despondent about the state of the church in our country and around the world. Many of the leaders within the church have stopped listening to God. We are few in number, our opponents are circling. We re in danger of being subsumed into the prevailing culture. This is the same situation that Samuel was facing. But, we need to stop mourning about what has happened to the church. And by church I don t mean St John s, or even just the Church of England, I m talking about all those that claim to be Christians regardless of what denomination they are. We need to stop being despondent and remember that God has a plan. God s church will not be overcome; the one true, universal and eternal church will last forever. 1 Samuel 16 starts with God s people in a perilous and depressing place. But, it is a chapter full of optimism, hope and expectation. But what kind of King does God really want? What are the qualifications that God is looking for? 2. The LORD looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:1-7) At this point Samuel is still caught up in what the world thinks of as impressive. Look down and see what happens. Samuel s been told that one of Jesse s sons will be God s king. So off he goes to Bethlehem. He calls the people together for a sacrifice to the LORD. And before the sacrifice can take place he needs to anoint the chosen son of Jesse to be God s king. And then we see this parade of strapping young men. It all starts with Eliab; look at 1 Samuel 16:6 When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, "Surely the LORD's anointed stands here before the LORD." Samuel was impressed by the appearance of Eliab. He was a big man. You can see why Samuel thought he d be the right sort. He could lead God s people into battle, he was strong and powerful. What a majestic king he d make. You can imagine the portraits of him. Bit like this one. This is the image of a king that we d expect if we looked at outward things. King Eliab in the foreground, a big man, sitting grandly astride a great big horse. Behind him on the hills in the distance you can see his army spread out. God wasn t looking for someone who thought they could rule with their power, and their strength, and their magnificence. God was looking for a king who would look to the LORD for his power, authority, strength, and direction. God was looking for someone who would listen to what he had to say and then put it into practice. God wanted his king to be a humble leader who would compassionately, and graciously, and courageously lead God people as God wanted them led. 2

3 God spells out his selection criteria in 1 Samuel 16:7 But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." This is probably the key verse in the whole of 1 & 2 Samuel. What is God looking for in the search for his faithful king over his people? The LORD looks at the heart. But, what does that mean? Well it s about the character of the person; it s about what makes them tick. It s not about what they can do; rather it s about who they are. And specifically it s about their relationship with Almighty God. The LORD looks at the heart and he s looking for someone who strives to be godly, and faithful, and desires to listen and do what God wants him to do. God looks at the heart and wants to see that heart is following God s heart. That s exactly what was said a couple of chapters before, 1 Samuel 13:14 But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the LORD's command. In the Bible the heart represents all our character, our thinking, our emotions, our feelings. And the LORD is looking at the heart to see if that is seeking, following, listening, obeying what he wants. We need to bear this in mind in what we re looking for in our leaders here at church. At some point soon you ll need to find a replacement for me. What criteria are you going to look for in that leader? Do you want someone who has an impressive CV in church leadership, or in business management? Or someone who is popular, attractive and an engaging presenter? What about someone who is sporty and good looking? Obviously you got all those with me, as long as you add in humility! But, are those really what you need here at St John s. Having those things doesn t disqualify someone from coming here as a minister. But, they re not important in the selection of the next Associate Minister. You need to use God s selection criteria. This is true of those God wants as his leaders. But, it s also true of each of us. What is God most interested about you? Is it your success, your popularity, your status, your whatever? Or is God more interested in your faithfulness to him and his word? 3

4 Let s turn it round and ask about our heart motives. Who are you trying to please in the way you live your life; in what you prioritise? Are you trying to please yourself and your comfort? Or are you trying to please God and do what he wants you to? And we can tell if we re on the same agenda as God by thinking about what we prioritise. Are we more concerned with outward, lifestyle things? Things like how we look, our clothes, our fitness, our makeup and jewellery, the holidays we take. Those aren t in and of themselves bad things, but if that is what we are most concerned about then we re fools. All of those external things will fade away. Our careers will end, our looks will change. Gravity has a major effect on us, we start to sag. Talking to women the Apostle Peter said this, 1 Peter 3:3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. 4 Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. We know this to be true. Over coffee have a look around church. There are a number of beautiful older women here. And it s not their looks that make them beautiful. It s their character; you can see it in their eyes. They have an inner beauty, their heart is beautiful. Women can that describe you? And the same is true for blokes. We might not use the word beauty, but how about these words; solid, dependable, reliable, self-controlled. These are godly characteristics that come from a heart that is faithful to God. Blokes can that describe you? Are we most concerned about external things, or, are we more concerned with inward, life transforming things? How is your heart? What does God see when he looks at your heart? Will he see someone trying to be faithful and doing what he has to say in his word, the Bible? But, let s go back to this selection process in 1 Samuel 16. Let s see who the LORD will select as his King to rule over his people. And the LORD selects the least likely candidate. 3. The LORD chooses a shepherd King (1 Samuel 16:8-23) We ve had the description of what God doesn t want and what he is truly looking for. But who will the new king be? We get this parade of sons. They d have gone in age order, probably height order too. Eventually we run out of sons. And Samuel asked Jesse, Are these all the sons you have? 4

5 There must be another. And then we get to him. The least important, the youngest, the smallest, the one who wasn t even invited to the party. The one out doing the work of tending to the sheep. This shepherd is called for and brought before Samuel. And, look at 1 Samuel 16:12 So he sent and had him brought in. He was ruddy, with a fine appearance and handsome features. Then the LORD said, "Rise and anoint him; he is the one." He was ruddy, with a fine appearance and handsome features. Think Bear Grylls. And remember looks don t matter so being handsome isn t a disqualification for godly leadership, it s not anything, it s not important. The LORD looks at the heart and he chose this shepherd boy to be his king. 1 Samuel 16:13 So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the LORD came upon David in power. Samuel then went to Ramah. This is King David; this shepherd boy becomes the greatest king over Israel. This is the person who goes on and defeats Goliath; this boy goes on and establishes Jerusalem as the great capital city. This shepherd goes on to plan the construction of God s amazing temple. This boy, the shepherd king does all this because the Spirit of the LORD came upon David in power. He goes from protection a flock of sheep to protecting God s people. We can see this transfer of power from David to Saul vividly illustrated from verse 14 on. The Spirit had come upon David in power, and then immediately we re told the Spirit of the LORD had departed from Saul. The king God had rejected needed the comfort of the new king. Relief came to the rejected king through the shepherd King. And that s what we d expect. Because of course a shepherd is the perfect description of the kind of King God would want. A shepherd guides the sheep, he protects the sheep, he provides security and direction and provision for all their needs. And this shepherd King points us forward to God s eternal, perfect, Shepherd King. David was a great king; he was a king after the LORD s heart. But he wasn t the perfect King, he was a sinner, he made mistakes. But, David points us forward to the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is the ultimate, the perfect shepherd king. The New Testament is awash with references to Jesus being this kind of King. I ve just picked a couple: 5

6 Matthew 2:6 "'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.'" That s a promise that a descendent of David will come and rule forever. That person is Jesus. More than that, Jesus described himself as this shepherd. John 10:11 "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep 14 "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me And our future will be secure with Jesus, the Lamb of God who took away our sins, being our perfect shepherd king; Revelation 7:17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." 1 Samuel 16 points us to the kind of King that God really wants for his people. God looks at the heart. He wants a king who will look to follow and obey all that he has to say. And the kind of King God wants is a shepherd who will lay down his life for his sheep, a shepherd who will provide all that his sheep needs, a shepherd who will wipe away every tear from their eyes. If we trust in this king then we are part of God s people. And it makes sense to do exactly that. Jesus is our perfect, eternal King who is our shepherd who died for us so we can be safe for eternity. What do we do in response to this king? Well look into your heart and think how are you living for him? That s where God looks, will we live for him, set our hearts on him, listen to him and obey him. And thank him for the provision of a shepherd king whose heart perfectly followed God s heart. Let s now spend some time thanking God for our King, the one true shepherd King, our Lord and Saviour and King, Jesus Christ. Let s Pray! 6

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