Previously, King Saul’s son Jonathan had provoked their arch enemy, the Philistines, by attacking a Philistine outpost. Then the king had the trumpets blown throughout the land of Israel and summoned his people to join the army at Gilgal. Meanwhile, Prophet Samuel instructed the king to wait seven days at Gilgal at which point he would join them to present the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings to the Lord before they went to war. So Saul and his men waited. When the prophet delayed and Saul’s army began to scatter the king got nervous and took matters into his own hands. He went ahead and offered up the burnt offering himself. And wouldn’t you know it, just as he finished making the offering, Samuel arrived. The prophet did not like what he saw and said (1 Samuel 13:13-14):
“You have done a foolish thing,” Samuel said. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.”
So the prophet went back home and the king went to war. A short time later the Lord sent the prophet Samuel to Jesse of Bethlehem. His mission was to anoint one of Jesse’s sons to be the future king of Israel. He took a heifer with him and invited Jesse to join him for the sacrifice. Jesse had eight sons. When Samuel laid eyes on one of them, Eliab, he was impressed and thought to himself – “This must be the future king of Israel” to which the Lord replied (1 Samuel 16:7):
“Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
As it turned out, the son the Lord had selected was not even present at the time. Jesse had left his youngest son David at home to tend to his sheep. So they sent for him and brought him in. And Samuel anointed David in the presence of his family.
The Lord looks at the heart, and the king of His choosing has a heart of worship. A millennium later King David’s lineage would bring forth the King of kings Jesus who remarked in a conversation with a Samaritan woman (John 4:23-24):
“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
Without God’s Spirit we are doing things on our own like King Saul did – and he was rejected by the Lord. God is Spirit and only through His Spirit can we connect with Him. Listening to His Spirit we will find God. Worship inspired by His Spirit pleases Him. We are called to listen and follow the Spirit of God to worship Him in the Spirit and in truth.