Monday, February 27, 2012

1 Samuel 16:1-13

1 The LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.”
2 But Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears about it, he will kill me.”
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 to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate.”
4 Samuel did what the LORD said. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town trembled when they met him. They asked, “Do you come in peace?”
5 Samuel replied, “Yes, in peace; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD. Consecrate yourselves and come to the sacrifice with me.” Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.
6 When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the LORD’s anointed stands here before the LORD.”
7 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things human beings look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
8 Then Jesse called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “The LORD has not chosen this one either.” 9 Jesse then had Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, “Nor has the LORD chosen this one.” 10 Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The LORD has not chosen these.” 11 So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?”
“There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.”
Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.”
12 So he sent and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features.
Then the LORD said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.”
13 So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the LORD came on David in power. Samuel then went to Ramah.

Points of interest
  • ‘The LORD said to Samuel’--Samuel is a prophet. He isn’t so much someone who predicts the future as he is God’s special envoy to the nation of Israel. For much of his career, he basically served as the people’s governor. More recently, he has become a top advisor to--you might even say supervisor of and mentor to--the king.
  • ‘How long will you mourn for Saul’--Saul is the king. Before Saul, the Israelites had no standing central government. Instead, everyone was free to take care of their own business. In emergency situations, God would appoint a temporary leader called a ‘judge.’ The judge would address the situation, restore order, and then return to private life, or perhaps continue to exercise some authority until the end of their lives, at which point the central government would dissolve until it was needed again. Samuel was the last of these judges. During his time, the people got tired of this spontaneous form of government and decided they wanted a king, like everyone else. God and Samuel both tried to convince the people that kings weren’t as wonderful as they thought. But when the people remained insistent, Samuel appointed Saul. Despite the fact that he was basically ousted in favor of Saul, Samuel did his best to help Saul succeed. Things didn’t turn out very well, though; and God has decided that Saul needs to go.
  • ‘Fill your horn with oil’--God is telling Samuel that it’s time to choose a new king. A prophet pouring oil over someone’s head is a sign of God’s particular favor on that person; in this case, it would represent God’s new choice for king. This oil-pouring ceremony and the divine favor the oil represents are both called ‘anointing.’
  • ‘he will kill me’--it’s a bit surprising that Samuel would be afraid of Saul. If anything, up until this point, it’s been the other way around. In just the previous chapter, Samuel is clearly the one in charge in the relationship; Samuel lets Saul know that he’s about to be fired, and Saul humbly begs for mercy. Now, all of a sudden, Samuel feels the need to be cautious. Maybe it’s dawning on Samuel that it’s easier to put a crown on someone’s head than to take it back off again.
  • ‘the elders of the town trembled’--for some reason, they can’t imagine that Samuel has come to bring them good news. Maybe they have guilty consciences. Or maybe it’s just that Samuel’s sheer authority is daunting, rather like the nervousness you might feel when the police knock on your door, even when you’re not aware of having done anything wrong.
  • ‘Surely the LORD’s anointed stands here’--this is a replay of the anointing of Saul. When we first encounter Saul, he is described as good-looking and very tall. The Bible doesn’t say so, but I imagine he’s also in great shape and has a full head of hair, with just enough gray around the temples to make him look authoritative. In other words, Saul has a kingly look. Apparently, Eliab is struck from the same mold. But this time it’s different. God doesn’t want someone who just looks the part.
  • ‘Are these all the sons you have?’--David is too young to be included in this dinner with the visiting dignitary. It’s like he’s still seated at the kids’ table for Thanksgiving dinner. Or even worse, he seems to have been completely forgotten in all of the hubbub.
  • ‘in the presence of his brothers’--this has to have been awkward. I imagine some quiet--or even not so quiet--trading of boasts and insults among the brothers as Samuel very deliberately passes over one after the other. They’ve been one another’s companions and competition all their lives, playing out their mostly-friendly rivalries again and again on whatever the Iron Age equivalent of the football field is. When the oldest ones are unexpectedly passed up, brothers four and five must have an instant of dreaming, ‘Finally it’s my chance to shine.’ There might very well be only one thing more disappointing than none of them being chosen, and that’s their rosy-cheeked little brother--the baby of the family, not old enough to be a part of their rivalries--jumping in front of them all.
  • ‘the Spirit of the LORD came on David in power’--the anointing oil poured on someone’s head is meant to symbolize the spirit of God resting on them. David doesn’t just get the symbol, but the real thing. From now on, there is a certain amount of divine inspiration to whatever David does.
Taking it home
  • For you: I love that Samuel asks God how what he wants him to do is actually going to work. He’s not so much resistant to God’s plan; he just needs some more information, a game plan, if you will. What is the thing right now in your life that is looming over your head, making you feel stuck or overwhelmed? Spend some time talking to God about this, asking him how he would suggest you get it done. Then, like Samuel, do what you hear God say back to you.
  • For your six: Pray today for any ways that your six feel like David, unassuming and overlooked. Pray that God would notice your six and show special attention to them like Samuel did towards David.
  • For our church: God warns Samuel that it is easy to rely on outer appearance, but that is not the barometer that God uses. Ask God to give our church a heart that is really pleasing to God.
  • For families: Sometimes it can be all too easy to take the members of our families for granted. Take some time today to think about each person in your family and the qualities you can see God has given them, like being friendly, generous, or loving, or whatever other good thing you see in them. Take time to tell one another what you see, and pray that God would help you support each other as you grow in these areas.