I hope and pray Lent is going well for you. For this week we will focus on the appointed Old Testament lesson of David being selected as king. Our powerful (and lengthy) gospel story about the man born blind needs a fair amount of time to develop. In many churches it will get the lion's share of the attention in worship.
Here is some attention for our no less powerful Old Testament lesson.
The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. 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." Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.” And the Lord said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.' Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you." Samuel did what the Lord commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, “Do you come peaceably?" He said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.
When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord." But the Lord said to Samuel, “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.” Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one." Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one." Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these." Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here." He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one." Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.
Samuel was instrumental in Saul becoming the first king of Israel. 1 Samuel 10 has Samuel anointing Saul much like he does to David in the text above. Saul didn't end up working out too well. God decides to have Saul replaced. Samuel had all sorts of reasons to be grieving: for the country, for Saul personally, for his own part in helping Saul to become king, etc., etc.
God tells Samuel to stop grieving and to go and anoint a new king. Samuel is afraid of Saul. God says go. Samuel goes.
God tells Samuel to go without knowing exactly how the circumstance will play out. Samuel might be hesitant to step into the unknown. Nevertheless God says go. Samuel goes.
God tells Samuel to go and follow God's lead. Samuel's instincts tell him that one of the seven brothers before him is surely the next Saul. God reminds Samuel that God's eyes don't see like ours. God says that Samuel should anoint that one who is out tending the sheep-David. Samuel does.
Throughout this account of the anointing of David there are three threads:
- God gives Samuel instruction
- Samuel has insights or feelings that could interfere with God's plan
- Samuel follows God's call
How much are we like Samuel?
God has all sorts of instructions and intentions for us. Sometimes they are the rules and expectations from a loving parent. Sometimes they are dreams and hopes from one who calls us friend. Sometimes they are warnings from a creator who set up the universe and can read the trends. God has plans for us, plans to give us a hope and a future (see Jeremiah 29:11).
We have feelings and insights that can run counter to God's plans. Sometimes they are the tantrums of a disobedient child. Sometimes they are the dreams and hopes of ones who have lost perspective. Sometimes they are choices from a part of creation who can't see the long term results of our immediate gratifications. Our inclinations too often run counter to God.
We can choose with Samuel to do God's will. We can pray for clarity and direction to make the choices that God would have us make. We can do this because God has already chosen us. Our fates our sealed in the sure and relentless love of God best evidenced in Jesus. As we allow God's will to redirect our wandering ways and poorly chosen goals we can experience God's plan more clearly in our lives and in the world.
When we look in the mirror we may wish we saw people more like Eliab and Abinadab and Shammah and all the rest. We may even wish we saw someone ruddy like David. Before we despair at our own reflections we ought to remember that God sees us (really sees us, more than we ever can) and God loves us. God made us and God will never forsake us.
God, we were anointed with your Holy Spirit in baptism to serve. Help us usher in your kingdom this day all to your glory. Thank you for your persistent saving love. Amen.