1 Samuel 16:13
ESV - 13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward. And Samuel rose up and went to Ramah.
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It is indeed true that before he became king of Judah and Israel, David was anointed three times, but it was progressive and in a sequence of importance. In order to understand why David was anointed three times before he was king, I believe it is prudent to point out first those three times that he was anointed; 1.) 1 Samuel 16:13, David is anointed to become king of Israel, in the place of King Saul who had been rejected by God. 2.) 2 Samuel 2:4, David is anointed to be king of Judah by the men of Judah. 3.) 2 Samuel 5:3, David was anointed to be accepted as king as king of Israel by the elders of Israel. The first anointing can be termed as the anointing of appointment by the Lord God. The anointing from God Himself, not of men. It had to be done by Samuel, the prophet of the Lord. It was intended to kick-start David to the way to be king. However though, David had been a sheep keeper, he therefore had to undergo a process of training to be a king in many things; such as character and how to relate with the Lord when in a kingly position. The second anointing had been by the men of Judah for him to become their king. David was yet to be accepted of Israel. Judah had all along been perceived to be a separate entity from the rest of Israel. David had been from the lineage of Judah and was therefore readily accepted as king by the Judaists than elsewhere in Israel. Judah is also the lineage of our Lord Jesus the CHRIST. According to how Jacob blessed his sons when he was about to die in Genesis 49:8-12, Judah was blessed to rule over his brothers until the coming of Jesus the CHRIST, but that is another topic altogether. That Judah is kingly over Israel is of the Lord’s making. So, this was the anointing of acceptance. David received the anointing of acceptance; Saul on the other hand only received the anointing of appointment (1Samuel 10:27). The third anointing was for David to inclusively be king over Israel. This as much was also the anointing of acceptance. Saul had died and much as Israel should have resisted the leadership of David, they had no alternative but to accept him as king over them. Now your other question is; why did David have to wait seven whole years before sitting on the throne as king yet he had already received the anointing of appointment? That he had to wait as long as 7 years had been of the Lord’s making. David had to undergo drilling and proof exercises to be fully trained and strategically fit for the position. He had to be approved of both God and men. To be anointed means God has seen the heart in you, but character is only acquired. David had the heart to be king, but he also had to acquire the character of the same. Jesus too underwent drilling and proof exercises after which He is crowned King, a King not only by appointment, but a King by proof as well. It actually took Jesus thirty years of preparation, and He executed the job in only three years. For David, it was seven years of intense preparation, full of temptations all of which David overcame. He was successful in his kingly rule because he had acquired the character of a king, moreover, a king of Judah and Israel. Saul on the other hand who had only received the anointing of appointment and not the anointing of acceptance, and never underwent intense drilling and proof exercises to become king, failed terribly in his kingly rule. Many people have been appointed by God, but they need a time to be trained to acquire the character. You don’t just become what you have been appointed to be, you as well have to prove to be fit for the appointment in order to be accepted of God and men. After seven years, David was readily accepted by both Judah and Israel. But this also teaches us that our relationship is as important with God as it is with men. God values men and He loves to co-work with them. Nobody should ever disregard men. The appointment is done by God; the proof is done by men.
The only anointing that matters is the one by God. Even Abner admitted to David that he was God's choice as King. Abner also agreed that most of Israel to follow David as their King. Abner however, had power and decided to use that power to usurp God's choice and made Ishbosheth Israel's King, although it was Abner who wielded the power. When Judah anointed David it was a display of obedience to the authority not of David but Jehovah. Israel would have followed suit quickly as well if it were not for Abner and Abner paid for his desire for power with his life at the hands of Joab. One only has to look at David's desire to obey God to see the contrast between David and Abner. David asked God whether he should go back to Judah and the anointing confirmed to the people, this was indeed God's will. As we see in the progression between Saul and David, what occurs when he obey or disobey God. Men can ignore God, as Saul, Abner and Joab (his actions were always without the knowledge or consent of David) but the final consequences can not only bring ruin to them but to many of those around them.
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