Now the LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go; I am sending you to Jesse the Bethlehemite. For I have provided Myself a king among his sons.” (1 Samuel 16:1)
In the view of God Saul is no longer king and a new king is to be anointed over Israel, David the son of Jesse. The normal pattern was to anoint a king after the death of the preceding king, but the LORD is starting to plow in the life of David. The Plow does not operate by man’s standard operating procedure and David’s life before he is recognized as king over Israel was a life lived after The Plow.
The First example of The Plow in the life of David is the story of his anointing as king at the hand of Samuel in 1 Samuel 16:5-13. In that culture the oldest son was privileged and had the opportunity to become a leader and when Samuel looked at the oldest he bought into the way of man, “So it was, when they (the older brothers of David) came, that he looked at Eliab and said, ‘Surely the LORD’s anointed is before him (1 Samuel 16:6).’” But God does His work in people by The Plow so God’s response to Samuel was, “But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as a man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).’” David, the youngest was so low on the family list that he was not invited to the feast! He is out tending the sheep. Samuel inquires and young David is brought before him and he is anointed the King of Israel. The Plow was working in the youngest, not the oldest as custom would initiate.
It is noted in Scripture that David was in the field tending the sheep for the family (1 Samuel 16:11, 19; and 17:15 and 20). This is very significant. In that culture tending sheep was as low on the social scale of any job. Of course the youngest would be stuck tending the sheep. But once again we see The Plow cares not about social status, it looks after the heart. The heart that calls for The Plow will be answered no matter what one is doing vocationally. The Plow follows the heart prepared to receive the pain The Plow brings as the normal life is plowed under and the extraordinary life begins.
Though David was the true king of Israel he continually served his predecessor faithfully (1 Samuel 18:1 – 19:9). The principle of The Plow is still at work. In normal circumstances David would have been placed in power by military coup or assassination, but The Plow does not operate by normal means, but by the hand of God. David was being prepared for leadership and he will learn some tough lessons as he experiences the pain of The Plow. The Scripture records the great success David had as a military leader of Israel under Saul (1 Samuel 18:5, 14, and 30). The people were pleased and adored David, but this made king Saul jealous. Certainly now David would be made king by the people, surely this was his time to cease the throne already given to him by God. But his way too was not of The Plow.
David is then driven to a life on the run from the hand of Saul who desperately wants David killed and out of the picture for the position of king (1 Samuel 19 through the death of Saul in 1 Samuel 31:5). This time was painful for David, the rightful king living as a hunted fugitive. Pain follows The Plow as the old adage states, “no pain, no gain.” Surely a man destined to be king would surround himself with quality people, but The Plow had another way in mind, “And everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him. So he became captain over them. And there were about four hundred men with him (1 Samuel 22:2).” The Plow does not play by man’s rules.
The record shows two instances in which David had the opportunity to kill Saul and to ascend to the throne which was rightfully his own (1 Samuel 24 and 26). In both instances David’s men believed the hand of the LORD set up the circumstances to make David king. David knew better because he was a man of character, a man who followed The Plow. David was waiting for God’s timing and would not raise a hand to harm Saul, the anointed of God (1 Samuel 24:6 and 10; and 26:9, 11, and 23).
By the time that King Saul died The Plow had accomplished its goal. The field of David’s life was plowed under and he was made a king prepared for greatness. The kings that followed in the line of David over the Southern kingdom of Judah will be compared to David. Most of the kings will be failures, with a few who were said of doing right as David had done.