One for All

Mar 19, 2023

Sermon 3-19-23

Fourth Sunday in Lent

Text: 1 Samuel 16:1-13

Pastor Jean M. Hansen



     If there is one thing today’s reading needs, it is context – not only in terms of the passage itself, but also context for all the Old Testament readings have been focused on during these four weeks of Lent. The context for each one, says Commentator Stan Mast, is the theme “one for all.”

     We began with Adam and Eve and their one choice that created separation in the Divine/human relationship for all. Then we met Abraham and Sarah whose election by God became a source of blessing for all the world. Last week our focus was on Moses who led Israel to freedom from slavery in Egypt, and the message that although they often failed to trust God, God’s love for all endured. Today we are introduced to David, son of Jesse, by whom God will establish a line of royalty from which the greatest “one for all” – Jesus – will be born. (1)

     David, the youngest son of Jesse, is today’s one who is for all; he was the most beloved King of Israel. But he was not the first king, which is the context for today’s reading. It begins with God speaking to the prophet Samuel saying, “How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel,” which does not make much sense unless you know that Saul was chosen by God to be king and anointed by Samuel in chapter 9. For years, Samuel was a close advisor for Saul. But, at this point in the story Saul, who is still alive and still king, has fallen out of favor with God, primarily because he has not completely done what God told him to do. In other words, he thought he knew what to do as king even better than God did.

     So, God is about to select a new king and tells Samuel, “Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a King among his sons.” It seems, though, that Samuel is reluctant to go because there is this pesky problem of there already being a king, Saul, and his Majesty has an unpredictable temper.

     Isn’t it odd that the solution God suggests to Samuel is to pretend he is visiting Jesse to participate in a sacrifice – a worship service, really – when Samuel is actually there to anoint a new King? That brings us, then, to this much loved story of David being the chosen one.

     God sends Samuel to the smallest clan of the smallest tribe of Israel, to the household of Jesse, who has eight sons, although, the youngest one is not worth enough consideration to even be invited to the supposed worship service. However, God has this habit of choosing the least likely to accomplish God’s will.

     When Jesse’s first son steps up, Samuel is sure he must be the one, but the Lord set him straight. “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” It was not the second or the third son either, but the 8th, the one doing the menial task of shepherding, who was not even there and had to be sent for, who fit God’s heart requirement. (Evidently, the narrator of the story cannot resist telling the reader that David looked good too - “ruddy” with “beautiful eyes” and “handsome.”) Nevertheless, his heart is in the right place.

     The interesting thing, though, in the big picture is that David was far from perfect. In time, he made a series of bad choices that had negative consequences for generations. And, before all that, he had a love/hate relationship with the not-yet-dead King Saul, who more than once tried to kill him. So…what is it about David’s heart that makes him “the one”?

     We are not told specifically, at least not in this text. But given what scripture reveals about David, I think it must have been his vulnerability, his desire to trust God and not to be God, his willingness to listen and to be led and, even, to repent. Our account ends with the explanation that the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Perhaps David completely understood that what made him great was not about him, but the Spirit.

     Many of the 150 Psalms in the Old Testament are attributed to King David, including Psalm 15, which gives us insight into what David valued:

     O Lord, who may abide in your tent? Who may dwell on your holy hill?

     Those who walk blamelessly, and do what is right, and speak the truth from their heart; who do not slander with their tongue, and do no evil to their friends, nor take up a reproach against their neighbors;

     In whose eyes the wicked are despised, but who honor those who fear the Lord; who stand by their oath even to their hurt; who do not lend money at interest, and do not take a bride against the innocent.

     Those who do these things will never be moved.

     I could not help but look at my description of David, and the Psalm, and think that these are characteristics that it would be ideal for any leader to have. Let’s see – someone who is vulnerable, wants to trust God and not to be God, is willing to listen and be led, is open to repentance and acknowledges the Spirit’s power and presence as the source of success. And then there are these characteristics from the Psalm: one who does what is right, speaks truth from the heart, does not slander, harm or criticize others, especially friends or neighbors, who rejects those who are wicked but admires those who are faithful, who keep promises even when it requires personal sacrifice and is financially generous and honest. The one who does these things stands on solid ground!

     The focus for David is on God, not on self, and, in fact, if we look closely at this story, we will see that it is all about God. It is God who rejects Saul. God who speaks to Samuel. God who sends, God who chooses, God who anoints through Samuel, God who sends his Spirit onto David after his anointing.

     Quoting Commentator Mast, “This passage is all about God continuing his campaign to save the world, using One to save all. When one of his chosen ones fails, God does not quit. Instead, he keeps moving through history, determined to use even the weak and the lowly and the despised to accomplish God’s purpose.” (2)

     It’s the theme of the Old Testament texts showing up again – in each one God is continuing to nurture a relationship with humanity, using people to accomplish God’s purposes (last week Moses, this week Samuel and David). King David was a man after God’s heart, but this focus on “one for all” will soon lead us to his descendant, Jesus, whose heart is one with God’s heart. David was chosen, but Jesus is the chosen one. AMEN


  1. “Commentary on 1 Samuel 16:1-13” by Stan Mast, March 22, 2020,
  2. Same as #1