Here is a question and some thoughtful insight I received based on this Sunday’s sermon on 1 Samuel 16:1-13:
In today’s sermon, Samuel anointed David as the next king of Israel. How much time transpired between Samuel’s anointing and David ascending to the throne? I’m asking because very often when we believe that we’ve heard from God about a decision or next step in our lives, and then nothing happens, we can become discouraged and or begin to doubt. Pastor Lee pointed out that David was anointed and went back to tend his sheep, but operated from that new anointing from that point forward. It’s Interesting that the Bible didn’t say that the anointing or rush of the rush Holy Spirit was delayed or postponed UNTIL he was crowned king! How often did God equip us immediately for a specific ministry or calling and we operate under that new anointing, sometimes for years, before we actually obtain the very position He has ordained for us.
We don’t get an exact answer in the Bible as to how long David waited. The entire timeline of Saul’s reign is sketchy and offers no help here. Regarding the start of his reign, we have 1 Samuel 13:1. However, the only existing Hebrew texts are missing words, making it difficult to translate. The Greek Old Testament skips that verse entirely. We also don’t get an age at his death. The only information we have is in Acts 13:21 where Paul says he reigned 40 years. Even that, though, is not necessarily literal, as “40 years” is used non-literally in Hebrew writings, like the idiom “40 days and 40 nights.” Regardless, there are no chronological markers given to know exactly when during Saul’s reign David was anointed.
So we have to put it together from other information. We know that David was the youngest of Jesse’s sons, and that he was not in the army of Israel like his three oldest brothers when he was anointed. That means that he was under 20. How many brothers were there between him and those in the army? Here again, the information is sketchy. 1 Samuel 17:12 tells us David was the youngest of eight. 1 Chronicles 2:15 tells us he was the youngest of seven. This could be due to a scribal error in 1 Chronicles. If we assume the children were all pretty close together (as they were back then), then David was somewhere around perhaps sixteen years old when he was anointed in 1 Samuel 16. He was 30 when he began his reign (2 Samuel 5:4). So my best guess is that he had to wait about 14 years to receive the kingdom. That’s a long time to wait for anything, from a human perspective. Especially considering what he had to endure during those years.
But the history of salvation is a history of waiting. From the first promise of the Redeemer (Genesis 3:15) to His coming was thousands of years. And we see even in Seth (Genesis 4:25) and Noah a few generations later (Genesis 5:29) that there was expectation for the promise to be fulfilled pretty quickly. Then, Noah was building the Ark for years or even decades before the flood came. How much doubt do you think he experienced in that time? Then we have Abraham and Sarah, who had to wait 25 years for the promise of a son to be fulfilled. And we know they doubted and got discouraged.
And it doesn’t end there. Israel had to suffer for 430 years in Egypt. They had to wander 40 more years in the wilderness (and think about Moses who never even got to set foot in the Promised Land after all of it!). They had to suffer 70 years in captivity. They had to wait 400+ years for God to speak to them again between the Testaments.
Christ Himself had to wait 34-36 years before His public ministry began, knowing all the while what awaited Him. The New Testament church suffered persecution for nearly 300 years, and in many places still does. Not to mention, here we are almost 2,000 years later and we are still patiently waiting for Christ’s promised return.
God does not work according to human timelines.
And I can speak from experience, as well. I knew in 2005 that God was calling me to be a pastor. I prayed and prayed for Him to make a way for me to leave the secular world and become a full-time pastor. It was all I wanted. I waited 5 years before I got the opportunity to pastor part-time, remaining bi-vocational. I did not become a full-time pastor until 2021. I waited 16 years for God to make a way for me to do what He made clear to me was His will for me. And there were times I got discouraged and thought maybe my own desires were clouding His will for me, but He did not waiver even when I did.
God often anoints us for a task or vocation, gives us the desire and the gifting, but then withholds the opportunity for a time – maybe a long time. I believe that God’s timing is always right, and that the time we are made to wait is used to prepare us for what we will face when we get the opportunity. Our faith will be stronger and our own fulfillment in God’s gracious gift will be greater.
David trusted God through those 14 years, even refusing to take matters into his own hands to expedite his kingship. That is the kind of faith and patience we should strive for.