Written by Mark C. Pederson, Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church
Let’s get this straight right off jump street. God never intended for God’s people to have a king. Back in the 8th Chapter of 1st Samuel, the people come and demand a king. Samuel is getting older, and his sons are a mess, so they want leadership. Samuel takes it up with God, and God receives this request as a personal rejection. Dan Erlander, in his book Manna and Mercy, says that the Israelites want to be “big deals” just like the other countries around them. They don’t want to depend on the prophets and judges whom God has called to lead them. They want a king, they want an army, they want power.
Samuel warns them that this is a bad idea, that the king will want to take over everything including their crops and women. The people don’t listen. So they get the king they deserve. Saul is a handsome, tall warrior. The exact picture of a powerful leader. He’s also crazy as a loon, (but that’s another story).
In today’s lesson we have the rejection of Saul as king, and the anointing of a new leader. He will not be in the mold of Saul. He is short, his father didn’t even think it was worth bringing him out to meet the prophet. He’s stuck out tending the sheep. His appearance is “ruddy”. That’s a very nice way to say he had acne scars. His face is sunburned, he is short, he has beautiful eyes, and I’m sure he’s a good dancer! And once again we have the theme of the younger being blessed over the older. David is the youngest brother of the family.
Samuel’s act of anointing David is a subversive, dangerous act. He could easily be charged with treason. It is done quickly, and then kept under wraps. David will go on to serve Saul incognito. Word never gets out that he has been anointed to replace the king.
The people are clearly afraid of Samuel. They know there is foment in the kingdom because of Saul’s horrible leadership, lack of ethics and unfaithfulness to God. Samuel, THE prophet of God, is not given hospitality, but has to offer his own sacrifice and invite the people to join HIM.
David is given as THE primary example of a righteous person called to serve God. That is interesting. David is not exactly a loveable character. Although the text never says so explicitly he has a blood lust. He loves to kill people, and he’s good at it. I love the story of David. He loves God with a passion, but does the very thing God would not have him do. Eventually he has an affair with a married woman, impregnates her, then plots to have her husband killed off in battle. Let’s review. David is a man of extreme violence who then becomes a murdering adulterer—and he’s the apple of God’s eye. Go figure.
Do you think God can’t love you? Read the story of David. Especially read the story of how Nathan traps David with a story of a family who had a precious little lamb which was stolen by a rich neighbor who had thousands of his own (2nd Samuel 12). Have you done something so bad that you don’t thing God can forgive you? Ha! Of course there are real-life consequences to our actions. David is forced to flee his own kingdom because one of his sons wants to take over. The child born to Bathsheba dies. But God continues to love David. That’s very comforting to a sinner like me.
Quotes for the Week
“Cruel leaders are replaced only to have new leaders turn cruel.” Che Guevara
“All the ills of mankind, all the tragic misfortunes that fill the history books, all the political blunders, all the failures of the great leaders have arisen merely from a lack of skill at dancing.” Moliere
“I have been primarily interested in how and why ordinary people do unusual things, things that seem alien to their natures. Why do good people sometimes act evil? Why do smart People sometimes do dumb or irrational things?” Phillip Zimbardo
1st Lesson 1st Samuel 16:1-13 (NRSV)
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.
Questions for the Week
In what ways do you desire to be a big deal?
How do we get past the appearance of people and see their hearts?