Samuel served God all his life, and God gave him the ability to know what was going to happen in the future. This is why we call Samuel a prophet.
Samuel was not king, though; he did not wear a crown or sit on a throne, but he used to ask God what he was to tell the people to do, and then he told the people.
But the Israelites got tired of having no earthly king like other nations. Though God had said that He would be their king, they wanted to have some one who would lead them to fight against their enemies. Then Samuel gave the people a message from God, and said that as they wanted a king, God would let them have one, but the day would soon come when they would wish they had not asked for a king; for he would make them all work hard, and would take away all the good things which belonged to them, their corn and sheep, and fields and gardens.
Still they clamored for a king; so God told Samuel to anoint a young man named Saul, as the first king of Israel. That word anoint means to pour oil on some one or some thing. The Jews used to anoint, or pour oil on the heads of anyone who was going to be a prophet, or a priest, or a king.
Saul was a brave soldier, and the Israelites were very pleased when he led them to battle against different people. But one day Saul disobeyed God. That night God spoke to Samuel, and ordered him to go and tell Saul that he would be punished for his sin. God had given him the kingdom, and God would take it from him.
Samuel delivered his message faithfully, but his heart was sad; and when he had left Saul, he went home and was very, very sorry. Then God spoke to him again, and told him to leave off mourning for Saul; for He wanted him to go and anoint someone else to be king instead.
Now let us follow the old prophet, for he is old now and his work on earth is almost done. Watch him walking up the path which leads to the gateway of the little city of Bethlehem. How dear that place is to us all now, for was it not the birthplace of the Lord Jesus?
As Samuel walks along, he looks very sad. He is grieving over the wickedness of King Saul; perhaps too he is wondering whom he is to choose as king; for although God has told him what family to go to, He has not yet told him the name of the new king. God does not always make our way completely clear for us. He sends us one step at a time; but if we are sure that He is leading us, let us try to be content and trust in Him.
A feast was being held at Bethlehem, and Jesse, one of the chief men of the city, was present, with the elders of the town. Suddenly the prophet Samuel appears; before him goes the heifer or young cow which he has brought to sacrifice. In his hand the old man carries a horn of oil, with which he will anoint the future king.
The heifer was killed, and Jesse and his sons came in. Jesse seems to have understood that Samuel had some special work to do that day, for he presented his sons one by one to the old prophet. Seven of them went by; and although Samuel was very much pleased with the eldest of all, who was very tall and grand looking, God would not let him anoint him. The words which God said to Samuel about Eliab, the eldest son of Jesse, have comforted many people
"The LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart."
Think of those words the next time you are troubled, dear child. Some classmate has told tales about you perhaps. You meant to do some one a good turn, to help him, and instead of that you have made him upset. him. Never mind: "The Lord looketh on the heart." He knows what you meant to do, so never mind what your companions say.
Perhaps you are plain and dull. You feel shy among your classmates, and wish you were as pretty as this friend, or as clever as the other. Never mind: "The Lord looketh on the heart." He does not care what your face is like; He cares only about your heart. If your heart is full of love to Him, then God is satisfied.
When Jesse's seven sons had passed before Samuel, he asked Jesse whether he had any other children. Then Jesse said that he had one other, but he was the youngest, and he was away taking care of the sheep.
"And Samuel said unto Jesse, Send and fetch him: for we will not sit down till he come hither."
Before long the boy was brought in.
He is a mere boy, not a grown-up man, like his brothers. He is ruddy in face, and he is also very good-looking. He has lived so much out of doors that he can move quickly and lightly. His feet are swift, and his arm is strong. As he has just come from the sheep, he still carries his shepherd's staff, while the little bag or wallet which holds his food is still fastened round his shoulders.
His name is a good one. He is called David, which means beloved. The young shepherd boy is fair of face, but he has something better than all the good looks in the world, as well. He has the love of God in his heart; and that love makes him gentle and kind to all who know him, so that he is David the beloved of God, and of his home.
As soon as David came in, God spoke to Samuel: "Arise and anoint him; for this is he." So the prophet took the oil, and poured it over David's head.
But perhaps you are wanting to know whether David was changed in any way after Samuel annointed him. Listen to what the Bible says:-
"The Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward."
Yes, dear children, being chosen by God and giving our hearts to Him through faith in His Son, the Lord Jesus, His Holy Spirit comes to indwell us. We are born again and begin a new life, oh! so different from the old one when we knew not God, and had not His Spirit in our hearts.
David does not know what is going to happen to him by-and-by. He does not know that he, the little shepherd lad, is going to be king of Israel; but he feels the change in his heart. He feels the power of God's Spirit guiding him, and he rejoices in it.
David was not spoiled by pride from doing his regular shepherd duties. He went back to his sheep, and played on his harp to them. His heart must have been full of strange joy; but he did not neglect his duties, or try to hurry to the new life which he must have felt sure God was getting ready for him.
Sometimes, you know, there were dangers to be faced by those who were keeping sheep. You remember that our Lord spoke about a good shepherd giving his life for the sheep. Indeed, although a shepherd's work may seem very easy to you nowadays, it was not so in the olden times.
Wild beasts often used to try to carry off the sheep. Lions and wolves, bears and panthers, would sometimes get bold from hunger; then the good shepherd would send a sharp stone from his sling and kill the wild beast. Bad men, too, would sometimes try to steal some of the sheep or lambs. So you see a shepherd had to be brave as well as to be watchful.
It was because of all these dangers that shepherds began to build folds for their sheep. A high wall was made, with one little door in it, through which the flocks could enter. The top of the wall was covered thickly with the great thorns which grow in the Holy Land, to prevent wild beasts jumping or bad men climbing over. Once inside the fold, the sheep were safe. So we, when we have joined Christ's fold, are safe from all harm that can happen to our souls — "safe in the arms of Jesus," the Good Shepherd, who laid down His life for the sheep.
One day when the young shepherd was watching his father's sheep as usual, a lion came and took a lamb away. David was not afraid, but he ran to the lion, and took the poor little lamb out of his mouth, and then he killed the lion. At another time a bear came, and David killed him too.
David did not boast about these two brave deeds. In fact, if it had not been for the great giant Goliath, I do not think we should have ever heard about them. David does not seem to have spoken about it, until he had offered to go and fight the giant. Then he told King Saul about the lion and bear, because he was sure it was only through God's help that he had been able to kill those terrible beasts. "If God helped me then, He will help me now," he thought; and he was right, for God never forsakes those who trust in Him. David said, "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."
David was a young man when he went to fight Goliath, but still I think I must tell you about it. The Philistines were wicked people who did not love God, and very often troubled the Israelites. One day, whilst Saul was still king, the Philistines came and put their tents on the top of a hill, and Saul took his soldiers and put his tents on another hill opposite. Between them there was a deep hole or valley, and at the bottom of the valley was a little brook or stream of water. So the two armies could see each other day and night.
Now, there was one man among the Philistine soldiers who was about ten feet tall. He was as strong as he was big, and he was dressed in armor. People do not wear armor now, but they always used to then, because they did not fight with guns and rifles as we do. They only used spears, swords, and arrows; so that a dress made of iron or brass would prevent the sharp points from hurting them.
This giant's name was Goliath, and he was very proud and bold. Twice a day for forty days, he stood on his side of the hill and shouted to the Israelites:
"Why are 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."
Goliath was what school-boys would call a bully. Because he was bigger and stronger than anyone else, he thought he might be rough and rude to everyone.
The Israelites were afraid of Goliath. There was not one amongst all their soldiers who dared to fight with such a monster. You remember that Jesse had seven sons besides David. Three of these young men were soldiers, and were living with the rest of the army on the top of the hill facing the Philistines.
One day Jesse, who was too old to go about much himself, sent his youngest son on a message, just as Jacob had sent Joseph many years before.
He told David to go see how his brothers were doing and to take some bread and corn to them.
So David started. No doubt he was very glad to have the chance of seeing all the soldiers, for we find his eldest brother scolding him for coming down to see the battle, as if he knew David had longed to be with the soldiers.
The young shepherd reached the tents just in time to hear the rude giant defy all the Israelites. Remember, the Spirit of the Lord was with him, and so David was very angry when he heard a heathen man speaking so roughly to the armies of the living God. He was surprised that the people should be afraid of fighting Goliath, for he had faith in God, and was sure that He would help anyone who fought for Him. So he said if no one else would fight the giant he would.
I dare say many of the soldiers laughed at the thought of a young lad whose life had been spent in taking care of sheep, daring to face a great giant who had been trained as a soldier. But David did not mind; and when Saul sent for him, he answered boldly that he was sure the God who had saved him from the lion and the bear, would save him from the giant.
Saul can hardly believe that David can do what he offers, but he feels that something must be done to save the Israelites. So he says that David may go, and try to conquer Goliath, but he must put on some armor.
A beautiful suit of armor, which really be longed to the king, is brought to David; but the young shepherd has not been used to such a dress. It is heavy, and he feels that he can hardly move in it. Besides, he has such grand faith in God that he feels he needs no armor, no sword, no spear. He will go forth in the power of God only.
"Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the LORD of hosts."
Shepherds generally carried a staff, and a bag or wallet, besides a sling with which they would throw stones at any wild beasts which came too near their flocks. Now David had come straight from the sheep to do his father's bidding, so he had his staff and sling with him.
When he left Saul's tent he went to the brook at the bottom of the valley, and picking up five smooth stones, he put them in his bag, and went to meet Goliath.
No wonder the giant stared in surprise when he saw the person who, after his defying the Israelites for forty days and nights, had now come out to fight him. No doubt he expected to see a tall soldier, dressed in armor, and carrying a shield and spear. Instead of this he sees "but a youth."
Then Goliath mocked David, and used bad words. David was not intimidated. He called out loudly that he had come "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." Goliath, seeing that he was really in earnest, now came towards David. But he did not take many steps before he fell flat on his face on the earth.
He never got up again, and he never spoke another word, for one of David's smooth stones which he had put in his sling and slang at Goliath had gone right into his forehead. The man who had defied the armies of Israel for forty days, was killed by a simple shepherd who had nothing but a sling and stone; but he had faith in God, and that was what gave him the victory.
Then David took the giant's sword, and cut off Goliath's head with it, and showed it to the Israelites that they might see that their terrible enemy really was dead.
You may be sure David did not forget to thank God for His great goodness to him. You know the Psalms of David. In one of them you will find these words, "Thou hast delivered me from the violent man. Therefore will I give thanks unto Thee, O LORD." No doubt David was thinking of Goliath when he wrote that.
Every one who loves Christ must be a soldier. The battle we have to fight is "the good fight of faith." Our enemy the devil, puts evil thoughts into our hearts and tempts us to do wicked things.
We must not trust in our own strength; we must go out to battle "strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might." He will help us, and trusting in His Holy Spirit we are sure to conquer. Even when the temptations are very great, like big giants, we need not fear; God is just as ready to help now as He was in the days of David and Goliath. By prayer we will knock the giant down. Remember, "Satan trembles when he sees the weakest saint upon his knees"; for he knows that the moment we pray to God the weakest and youngest among us is strong enough to overcome him.
Simply trusting every day;
Trusting, through a stormy way;
Even when my faith is small,
Trusting Jesus, that is all.
From The Children of the Bible. Chicago: Moody Press, [ca. 1900]. Edited.
>> More Children of the Bible