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.” 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.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate.” Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The LORD has not chosen these. ”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.” So he sent for him 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.”
Both First and Second Samuel are full of some very real life characters, with larger than life stories built around them. Take Samuel for example. Raised in the temple all his life, he was called by God in the middle of the night to change the ways of the Israelites and serve as a powerful prophet of the LORD. Later, he anointed Saul as Israel’s first human king and led Israel to many overwhelming victories over their enemies. He even named one victorious battleground “Ebenezer” to remind God’s people that “Thus far the LORD has helped us” (1st Samuel 7:12). Samuel’s life is rich with the stories and actions of God’s people and their struggles in this terminal world.
And yet, at the beginning of 1st Samuel’s sixteenth chapter, the great prophet of God is nervous. God has recently rejected Saul as king of Israel, and Samuel has all but retired from serving the Israelite people. It becomes clear rather quickly that God doesn’t know the meaning of the word “retirement,” of course, which is why He has yet another mission for Samuel: “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” (16:1). What could God’s faithful servant say in response to such a direct calling? One of Samuel’s best qualities is that he’s never lacking in words, especially when it comes to talking to the LORD. Samuel reminds Him that Saul is still technically king and wouldn’t respond very nicely to the news that God is shopping around for a new leader of Israel. But just as God ignored Samuel’s claim of retirement, He brushes aside Samuel’s worries and send him on his way.
What happens next continues the theme of Samuel going one direction and God nudging him toward another. Their arrival at Jesse’s house is greeted with great reverence. Samuel is, after all, known throughout Israel for the feats he has done in God’s name. Then, as Samuel asks Jesse and his sons to join him in making a sacrifice to God, he can’t stop himself from guessing which of Jesse’s son’s God will pick. Maybe the tallest or the strongest? In response to this, God reminds Samuel of something really great: “The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (16:7).
Seven sons later, in walks David, fresh from an afternoon of watching his father’s sheep. And we know the rest of the story. After Samuel anoints David as the future king of Israel, he goes on to defeat Goliath in battle, write many of the Bible’s psalms, and join the family tree that would one day lead to Jesus of Nazareth. But just as Samuel was hesitant and worldly-minded in his search for David as future king, David didn’t always do everything right. The second king of Israel danced in his underwear before God (2nd Samuel 6:14). He was adulterous with Bathsheba and struggled at times in following God’s plan for him. But he was chosen by God and called to a greater purpose on this earth.
We too are chosen and called to be God’s people every day. And while we may not be the next Samuel or David during our time on this earth, He still has great plans for every one of us. As Christian singer Peter Eide says in one of his songs, “He chooses us as is / Infuses us as is / No excuses.” May you open your heart to God’s calling in your life this day.
Heavenly Father, You have given us the stories of those believers who have gone before us through the inspired words of the Bible. We thank You for reminding us that we are not alone in our journey of faith in this world. As we reflect upon Your word today, we especially pray that You would move us to hear your calling in our lives. Strengthen us in our weaknesses to shine Your light into the darkness. And help us to always remember that Your love is never-ending. In your powerful name we pray, Amen.
Schnorr von Carolsfeld woodcuts © WELS used by permission for private and congregational use
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved