Daily Devotion – March 25, 2020 – Dr. Pat Taylor Ellison
1 Samuel 16:1-13
1 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.” 2 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.’ 3 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.” 4 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?” 5 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.
6 When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.” 7 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.” 8 Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” 9 Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” 10 Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these.” 11 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.” 12 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.” 13 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.
This story is very, very old. It happened, by most accounts, a thousand years before Jesus was born. Yet God was working through surprises, just as Jesus did, time after time. Israel was a collection of tribes, descending from the sons of Jacob (whom the Lord re-named Israel). They needed a king to unify them, so Saul had been anointed king by the Lord’s prophet, Samuel (who has a most interesting back-story himself). After being Israel’s tall, handsome, commanding leader in battle and then anointed king, Saul had problems. He may have been beset by depression, he was easily angered, he had trouble coping, and he could no longer lead the kingdom. Our story in this passage opens with the prophet Samuel, who is in deep grief that the amazing king he had anointed on the Lord’s command is now unequal to the task he had been anointed for. The country is suffering, there is no functioning leader, and someone will need to take over. It is not the only time in history such conditions have occurred.
So Samuel hears the Lord, despite his grieving, and pays attention to the assignment he is being given. What wonderful things – to hear the Lord, to pay attention to the Lord, to raise questions and objections to the Lord’s assignment, and then to set off on the road with a cow. This is not a simple assignment. It involves a cow. And a family with a sheep ranch and with many sons. Samuel is to sacrifice the cow in the company of the sheep rancher Jesse and his sons, and from among those sons, anoint the one the Lord has chosen to succeed Saul as king over Israel.
We see the parade of sons, from eldest and most king-like to the very littlest, who is out watching the sheep. Samuel is pretty convinced the eldest and handsomest is the one the Lord must have in mind. He could immediately command the respect of the common people of Israel and, more importantly, the military chiefs. But son after son is passed over, to Samuel’s surprise. This fits a pattern with our Lord. Whom the Lord chooses to give work to is often surprising. Samuel was a most faithful servant and prophet and was fairly old when this story happened. He should have known the ways of the Lord. But he has to be reminded that the Lord looks upon things humans don’t easily see. And once again, Samuel hears, he pays attention, and he does what he is called to do.
How this anointing of young David is received by his passed-over brothers might be a pretty interesting story in itself. The education of David for his leadership role might be, too. But let us focus on Samuel. He is in touch with the Lord. He hears and pays attention. Even if he objects, he does what he is called to do. May each of us practice listening for the Lord’s voice. May we hear the Lord call to us. May we pay attention, object and argue, and then do what we are called to do.
When life seems to be chaotic, when things are no longer working the way we had hoped, may we listen for your voice, hear it, wrestle with you, and then do what you are asking. Remind us to look for what you want us to see. May we be a part of your work in the world. Amen