Graduates and Giants
1 Samuel 16:1-14
James C. Denison
I am holding a stone which changed the world. I know this because I picked it up last month in the Valley of Elah. It was the very stone used by David to slay Goliath. It’s been waiting there 30 centuries for me to find it. That’s my story, and I’m sticking with it.
I did actually find the stone in the valley, at the very place where the famous battle was fought, but ours was one of about ten tour groups who came through picking up stones that day. I’m guessing that someone working for the Israeli tourism industry must truck in stones periodically to replenish the supply. But I’m sure that mine is the correct one.
It was a stone like this one, in the hands of a young shepherd boy, which changed the course of human history. What God did with that boy, he waits and longs to do with your life and mine. But it’s hard for us to believe that we can be a David today.
On this Senior Recognition Sunday, Pike and I are speaking to graduates and their families. You’re stepping into a hard and harsh world, with earthquakes in China, cyclones in Myanmar, explosions in India, and economic uncertainty around the globe. You’re looking at a future you cannot see, with giants of fear and uncertainty lurking on every hand.
But I am also speaking to Christ-followers of all ages and places in life. You have your own questions and struggles, doubts and decisions, worries and guilt and fear. You know a Saul who refuses to believe in you and a Goliath who is taunting you this morning. But you also have a God like David’s God ready to use your life to change the world. How do we slay the giants we are facing this morning? The answer may surprise you.
Expect the call of God
Saul has been chosen as Israel’s first king, but his pride and arrogance soon replaced God on the throne of his heart and work. He kept goods which should have been sacrificed to God, and usurped the place of God over the nation. So God “rejected him as king over Israel” and chose another in his place (v. 1). Samuel, the last judge and first prophet of Israel, was sent by the Lord to find and anoint that new king.
God sent Samuel to Bethlehem, then an obscure village on the outskirts of Jerusalem, to meet with a man named Jesse and his sons (v. 5).
The custom then and now in the Middle East is for the firstborn to inherit the majority of the estate and take his father’s place one day as head of the family. So when Samuel met Eliab he was sure that “the LORD’s anointed stands here before the LORD” (v. 6).
God’s response still echoes as one of the most significant statements in Scripture: “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” (v. 7).
The second in line came before Samuel, but God did not choose him. So with all seven sons (vs. 8-10). If Samuel had given up at this point, how would history have been different?
But the prophet instead asked, “Are these all the sons you have?” Jesse explained that the youngest “is tending the sheep.” We think of this as a routine kind of chore, something like walking the dog or mowing the lawn. But in this agrarian culture, “tending the sheep” was akin to managing the bank or running the office. The youngest son was doing something more significant than any of the others.
Jesse sent for this youngest, still unnamed son, and Samuel noted that “he was ruddy, with a fine appearance and handsome features” (v. 12a). “Ruddy” means “red,” describing his hair or complexion, or perhaps his sunburned features. Then God said, “Rise and anoint him; he is the one” (v. 12b). Samuel did as God asked, “and from that day on the Spirit of the LORD came upon David in power” (v. 13). At the same time, “the Spirit of the LORD had departed from Saul” (v. 14). God has transferred his anointing from the former king to the new leader of the nation.
And that’s the story of the most significant royal ascension in biblical history. No next steps or plans or preparations. As best we can tell, David went back to tending sheep. Samuel returned to his home in Ramah. Saul continued as king of the nation. Nothing of our text would have made the day’s news.
And yet the entire future of God’s dealings with humanity shifted with this moment.
Saul’s attendants hear that this young shepherd is a fine musician, and call him to serve and comfort the king he would one day replace (vs. 21-23).
The Philistines are at war with the Israelites, and Jesse sends his young son to check on his older brothers serving with Saul in the army.
Here he meets the giant whose death would catapult him to national fame and start him on the trajectory which would lead to the throne and the glory that was the Kingdom of David.
This is a day like that day for you. The prophet who came to Bethlehem has come to Dallas. The world may not see the historic significance of the day when God calls you, as they did not see the importance of that day when God called David. But that fact makes this day no less important.
God had a call for David, a purpose and a plan. His plan for David was different from his plan for Samuel or Jesse, Eliab or his other brothers. He has a specific and unique call for you, a purpose and a plan. He has a will for every one of our graduates and every one of us.