Who is the LORD’s anointed? This question is burned into the hearts of the Israelites as we continually see those who are given the Spirit by Whom they conquered in faith (c.f. the inexhaustible faith of the Old Testament saints mentioned in Hebrews 11). To be anointed is an especially significant event: the anointing of Saul in chapter 10 which was filled with doubts and questions by all those – including Samuel; and the comparative anointing of David which is far more assured and predicted. Yet, is this David ‘the’ anointed one whom the Israelites looked forward to?
From chapter 8 onwards, we are presented with a foul version of a king who was not officially appointed nor anointed by the LORD. Everything about Saul is a mock-up of what David truly fulfilled; and yet, everything about David is equally a shadow of what Christ means. Yet, this is no build-up towards Christ, because the LORD’s anointed was established long before Saul and David were revealed as kings of Israel. The true King of Israel is the LORD and his anointed (singular Hebrew noun, mschich) (chapter 12v.5) were established as the true witnesses against Saul and the Israelites. It is not a group of anointed witnesses, nor is it speaking of David as the anointed one – Samuel had been referring to the LORD God and His Angel.
It is thus fitting for the LORD to deliberate on David as the new king – because he is the type, he is the copy, of the One whom He has long ago elected to be born in Bethlehem (v.4), to be rejected (v.7; c.f. Hebrews 13:13), and to be the shepherd of the church (John 10:11). At the cost of Saul, the type of Herod and the manifestation of the physical church of Israel, we see that the nation of priesthood is rejected. The Spirit has left them (v.14) – and instead, the Spirit is to rush upon Jesus Christ upon his baptism (Matthew 3:16-17) to affirm that David’s baptism is equally shown to display the rejection of physical Israel, and the acceptance of all those circumcised in the heart – whether Jew, or Gentile (Romans 2). The juxtaposition of the Spirit rushing upon David and leaving Saul is to highlight the ending of the shadow that is Israel – and the beginning of the true reality of the global church, manifested in the person of David who is of mixed ancestry (c.f. end of the book of Ruth – David is both of Moabite and Israelite blood); the end of the struggles of Israel against God and the beginning of the victories and golden age of Israel recorded in the beginning of 2 Samuel. Where the flask of oil was used to anoint Saul in chapter 10, a horn is used in chapter 16 as demanded by the LORD (v.1, 13) – the horn of salvation being Jesus Christ (Exodus 30 (altar of incense); Psalm 18:2, 132:17; Ezekiel 29:21; Luke 1:68-70). There are many sons who fit the picture, many types who have emulated the Christ – and the seven sons of Jesse, the indefinite ordinal symbolic number in Hebrew, points us to the implication that no son of man is sufficient to fit the shoes of the King of Israel. It is the neglected Shepherd who shall lead the sheep. Neither Eliab and Abinadab, the two eldest of Jesse, both bearing names of honour – my God is father, and my God is noble, are the chosen ones. Rather, it is the “beloved” (David) Son (Matthew 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 3:22) who is chosen.
And it is therefore in the spirit of v.14-23 that we see David as a mediator between Saul and the LORD; that it is by David’s service, by the Christ who came to serve rather than to be served (Matthew 20:20-28). He is the Son of Man who entered the great throne of Saul by the donkey (Matthew 21), with communion bread and wine, and that David became Saul’s armor-bearer. Christ, too, is our armor-bearer, literally meaning “the one who lifts our armor/shield” – He is the one who clothes us with His armor, who clothes us with His righteous robes (Genesis 3:21; Psalm 132:16-18; Isaiah 61:10). What irony that Saul should say to Jesse that David has found favour in Saul’s sight, when the LORD is truly with David and that Saul is under David’s mercy as the agent of the Christ; and yet it is so true that David acts as Saul’s righteous mediator, in the same way as we shall see in chapter 17 that David acts as the mediator of what Saul represents and more: the spiritual and physical Israelites, in her fight against the satanic Goliath. This is our Christ – a man born of Bethlehem, skilful in playing, a man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, a man of good presence, and the LORD is with him (v.18), and so we hide in our Firstborn’s skin as Jacob did to emulate Esau before Isaac his father (Genesis 27) that we may also gain favour as the LORD is also with us through the work of the true David.
This image is further enhanced by David’s cunning (KJV translation) handling of the harp – a descriptive word used in the sense of “perception” from a variety of angles (Mark 2:8, 4:12, 5:30; Luke 5:22, 9:45; John 6:15). And it is David who perceives the evil spirit of Saul through his skilful handling of the lyre – and by this lifeless instrument David plays a harmonious gospel song. The use of the lyre is indicative of a moaning sound, a sound commonly associated to yearning (Isaiah 16:11-13) and is used as an analogy to the gift of tongues in 1 Corinthians 14 – that the notes, though played, must be played with an interpreter. And just as we, too, are but lifeless instruments – but when used by the Beloved and Chosen One, it brings life to men; and by this melodious yearning is the greatest height of musical worship – and this is the beautiful imagery of mediation, that Christ is our Mediator through His worship and yearning for His Father, and in so doing we are caught up in this intra-Trinitarian love to experience the Spirit of Holiness and be rid of the evil spirit. We yearn like the lyre as we are played by the Son, and through us as his tools we are salt and light of the world uttering tongues of worship which are interpreted for the mutual edification of the church.