1 Samuel 16
God has told us to be fruitful, multiply, and have dominion. And once we get a sense of this responsibility, we naturally want to get on with it. But, in addition to knowing that we must rule, we also need to know how to rule. Several Christians seem to be rising out of the stupor of an escapist Christianity—a Christianity in which only heaven matters and life in the here and now doesn’t have much if any meaning. In their old framework, you just got along down here following earthly rules for earthly operations and heavenly rules for heavenly operations. But now many are seeing they have a Christian duty to exercise dominion down here. And it would be train wreck if they went about that dominion according to the earthly rules they’ve been following. God does not bring forth His purposes in that fashion. His pattern is from heaven to earth.
So, kings and kingdoms will be toppled, “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ” (Revelation 11:15). But what is the way in which that toppling takes place? 1 Samuel 16 signals the way.
The Text – A Summary
The LORD speaks to Samuel saying, “Be done with grieving over Saul, fill your horn with oil and go anoint the king I have provided for myself” (v. 1). Samuel fears Saul will kill him for this mission, so the Lord tells Samuel to say that he goes to offer sacrifice (v. 2). The elders of Bethlehem tremble asking Samuel if he comes peaceably. He does come peaceably and tells them to consecrate themselves. Samuel also consecrates Jesse and his sons inviting them to the sacrifice (v. 5).
As Jesse’s sons come before Samuel, he believes the tallest of them, the best in appearance, must be the Lord’s anointed. But the Lord tells him, “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” (v. 7). After Jesse’s oldest sons had past, Samuel said to Jesse, “The LORD hath not chosen these” (v. 10). After questioning, Jesse says there is one more son, the youngest, but he is with the sheep. Once David was brought in, the LORD told Samuel to arise and anoint him, which Samuel does amid his brothers (v. 13). The Spirit of the LORD rushed upon David.
On the other hand, verse 14 says the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul. Even worse, a harmful spirit from God tormented him. His servants counseled him to get a man skillful playing the lyre. Saul agreed. David was identified as the right man (v. 18). When Saul sends for David, Jesse sends him along with bread, a bottle of wine, and a young goat. Saul loved David and David eventually became Saul’s armor-bearer. When the harmful spirit came upon Saul, David played the lyre, Saul was refreshed, and the harmful spirit departed (v. 23).
We Had a Man on the Inside
If this story were turned into film, it would be a blockbuster. And the close of this scene would have you on the edge of your seat. We know that the kingdom will be torn from Saul. Saul knows that, too. But we know that David is the anointed king who will take Saul’s throne. Saul does not have that information. Saul clearly had his eye out for this threat to his reign. Samuel feared to anoint David for just that reason. But little did Saul expect that the threat to his throne would come from the youngest son, the shepherd.
So, Saul with immense power and resources, suffers from the tormenting spirit. And he uses his great resources to bring in the king who is better than him, who will soon sit upon his throne. There’s David walking up to the halls of power with bread and a bottle of wine. There’s Saul a moment later lying on his couch suffering in torment. There’s David playing the lyre, refreshing the king. Saul is oblivious to the fact that his replacement king will not attack him from the outside, but he is rather the very man next to him, on the inside.
This is the pattern for toppling kings and kingdoms. Satan is described as a prince (Ephesians 2:2). He had a measure of authority over the kingdoms of the world (Matthew 4:8). But God put a man on the inside. He sent His Son into the world, into Satan’s house. And in so doing, He triumphed over the prince of the power of the air. God topples kings and kingdoms from the inside out.
We must follow the same pattern. God indeed has a plan for His kingdom’s advance through the world. Kings will kiss the Son. Every knee will bow. But all of that occurs, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6). The point is not that we never do “outside” things. The point is rather that the outside things flow from the inside things.
Christ, upon His ascension, poured out His Spirit on the church. That Spirit empowers the bride from the inside as she goes about her war against the principalities, powers, the rulers of the darkness of this world, and the spiritual wickedness in high places (Ephesians 5:12). The temptation before us is to try to control the kingdom from the outside. We want to set ourselves above it and make it advance like a toy car down a track. But, the kingdom of God is within the people of God (Luke 17:21). It grows as we live in it, pray in it, obey in it, believe in it, worship in it.