Israel did not elect David. Not even his nearest and dearest wanted David as king.
In 1 Samuel 16 we see the choosing of this king. Yet it is not man’s choice but God’s.
The LORD said… “I have chosen one of [Jesse’s] sons to be king…”
Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the LORD’s anointed stands here before the LORD.” 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.”…
Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The LORD has not chosen these.”…
Then the LORD said, “Rise and anoint [David]; he is the one.” 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.
Here is the LORD’s election. Not the firstborn Eliab, whose name (My God is Father) was clearly very well suited to the post of Christ! The LORD rejects what man chooses.
His choice always confounds human wisdom. We choose the rich and powerful. He chooses the lowly and lifts them up. This is just what we have been taught by Hannah’s prayer at the beginning of the book:
e.g. He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; He seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honour. (1 Sam 2:8)
How does this work out? Hannah goes on…
“It is not by strength that one prevails; those who oppose the LORD will be shattered. He will thunder against them from heaven; the LORD will judge the ends of the earth. “He will give strength to His King and exalt the horn of His Anointed.” (1 Sam 2:10)
The LORD chooses His Anointed – His Messiah or Christ – and strengthens Him in order to shatter the proud and powerful. And Chapter 16 has shown us that even this choice has been counter to human intuitions. The Israelite electorate did not choose David, the greatest Israelite kingmaker, Samuel, did not choose David, his brothers did not choose David. The LORD chose David. And He anointed him “in the presence of his brothers.”
This is both a judgement and a comfort for David’s brothers. It is a judgement – they are not the chosen ones. They have been passed over by the LORD. He has searched their hearts and found them wanting. This must have been a bitter disappointment to them. But, at the same time, there is great comfort. Immediately these brothers have been made royalty! Though in themselves they are not chosen, in their brother they belong to the royal household. This election has thrust them down and brought them back up.
Now if chapter 16 was the LORD’s choice of David, chapter 17 shows David choosing himself for his people. In chapter 17 David comes to the front lines but already his brothers have forgotten or dismissed his identity. They were there when he was anointed and they must have known Hannah’s song – the anointed one would shatter the enemy (1 Sam 2:10). But again, David is not man’s choice. He is not even the choice of his own brothers. (1 Sam 17:28)
In the end David takes matters into his own hands. On the basis of the LORD’s election, David basically chooses himself for Israel. He convinces Saul to let him fight (v33ff) and effectively goes in Saul’s place (Saul being the Israelite’s giant (1 Sam 9:10) and the natural human choice for Champion).
The chosen king chooses himself to the post of Champion, no thanks to any human support. He even rejects the armour of Saul and single handedly defeats the enemy. No Israelite could say on that day ‘I knew David could do it!’ Not even his own brothers could say ‘I cheered him on.’ His own arm worked salvation for him. And it was not even for a willing people. He went into battle for those who had rejected him.
The victors on that day in the valley of Elah were not those who had previously backed the right champion. They couldn’t even claim to have voted for David. They were simply those who found themselves, contrary to all their previous doubts and denunciations, caught up in the victory of another. Dismay had turned to praise as they saw the LORD’s chosen king who had chosen himself for them. The stone the builders had rejected had become the capstone and – suddenly, unexpectedly – it was marvellous in their eyes (Ps 118:22).
Previous posts in this series have looked through the lens of David & Goliath to consider preaching, grace and faith. In each case we have seen the temptation to approach these subjects without the Anointed King at the centre. In such a vision, the battle scene simply boils down to an anaemic vision of the sovereignty of God and the eventual victory of His people. But without an explicit Christ-centred-ness, what are we left with?
Well, preaching becomes simply the rallying cry to soldier on. Grace becomes simply God’s sovereign empowerment for battle. Faith becomes our work in trusting this sovereign God against all odds. But all of this (ironically since this vision usually seeks to be “”God-centred””) focuses on ourselves. For where do we look in this version of preaching? To ourselves and our soldiering abilities – Are we faithful to His military briefings? Where do we look in this version of grace? To the (sovereignly empowered) works that God has wrought through us. And so evidences of grace are found where? In us. And where do we look in this version of faith? We test our own believing state, looking for this internal mental act within. Without Christ-centred-ness at the heart of it, even “”God-centred-ness”” will turn us in on ourselves.
And this is also true in the realm of election. Just as preaching, grace and faith should be turning us away from ourselves and explicitly to Christ, so election must be focused on Him. I do not find grace or faith in me – I find it in Christ. Similarly I do not find election in myself, I find it in Christ.
Election is God’s choice of Christ (and His choice to fight for us) in spite of our doubts and denunciations. Election is the gospel for Christ is the Elect One.
Election is the Father’s choosing of Christ contra to all our rejection of Him (Is 28:16; 42:1; 1 Pet 1:20). If I ask myself whether I am choice in God’s eyes the answer can only be a resounding No. In myself I am repugnant, reprehensible, reprobate. But in Christ I share His chosen status – I share His royal name, I share His family relations, I share His victory. Election focuses us on Christ and only on ourselves when considered in Him.
Election (like grace or faith) becomes a dark truth whenever we turn our eyes to ourselves. How quickly faith evaporates when we examine it – for faith is essentially looking away to Christ. Election is the same. Election is neither hidden in myself, nor is it merely hidden in an inscrutible divine will – election is hidden (and therefore revealed) in Jesus. Notice that phrase from 1 Samuel 16:13 – ‘Samuel anointed David in the presence of his brothers.’ Election does not simply occur in the divine counsels of eternity. Election is disclosed as it really is in Jesus Christ. The electing Father declares His eternal choice to all as He points us to the One who tabernacled among us:
“Here is My Servant, Whom I uphold, My Chosen One in Whom I delight; I will put My Spirit on Him and He will bring justice to the nations.” (Is 42:1)
Election is laid bare whenever we look to Jesus. The eternal choice of God is on view in Christ. To lay hold of this Elect One is to lay hold infallibly and eternally upon the election of God. It lies outside ourselves, but precisely because of this it lies in the safest place for us.
So where do we fit in all this? Well where did we fit in with ‘grace’ or ‘faith’? Simply put, we found ourselves the happy recipients of them. We found ourselves rejoicing in the victory of Christ when we saw Him. It’s no different with election. At one time we doubted and denounced Him, now we trust and exalt Him and find ourselves (like David’s brothers) benefiting from His chosen status. And so all those who look away from self, who look to Jesus and say a belated but grateful ‘yes’ to God’s choice of king, they find themselves participating in the chosenness of their Champion. Their choice has done nothing. His choice has done everything. They do not look to themselves to understand their election since it really doesn’t reside there. It resides in Christ – the Elect One of God.
It’s been a lengthy post already but I don’t think I can do better than to quote Spurgeon once again. This is perhaps my favourite quotation on the whole topic:
“Many persons want to know their election before they look to Christ, but they cannot learn it thus, it is only to be discovered by ‘looking unto Jesus.’ If you desire to ascertain your own election; after the following manner shall you assure your heart before God. Do you feel yourself to be a lost, guilty sinner? Go straightway to the cross of Christ and tell Jesus so, and tell Him that you have read in the Bible, ‘Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out.’ Tell Him that He has said, ‘This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.’ Look to Jesus and believe on Him, and you shall make proof of your election directly, for so surely as thou believest, thou art elect. If you will give yourself wholly up to Christ and trust Him, then you are one of God’s chosen ones; but if you stop and say, ‘I want to know first whether I am elect’, you ask what you do not know. Go to Jesus, be you never so guilty, just as you are. Leave all curious inquiry about election alone. Go straight to Christ and hide in His wounds, and you shall know your election. The assurance of the Holy Spirit shall be given to you, so that you shall be able to say, ‘I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him.’ Christ was at the everlasting council: He can tell you whether you were chosen or not; but you cannot find it out any other way. Go and put your trust in Him and His answer will be – ‘I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee.’ There will be no doubt about His having chosen you, when you have chosen Him.” (‘Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.’ Morning and Evening, July 17. 1 Thess 1:4.)