The Fourth Sunday in Lent
Sometimes the passages each Sunday cannot be fully unpacked, and they require more time to think about. This certainly is the case for this week, And so I wanted to think more about the passage from 1 Samuel 16.
While the majority of the focus of this passage is placed on God choosing a very young David to be Israel’s next king (verses 6-13), I want to take a look at Samuel’s reaction to the transition from King Saul to King David. This will require some context to get to the point, and it will take a minute, but here is the portion of Sunday’s passage that I want to think about:
1 Samuel 16:1-5.
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.
Let’s go back in the story to when Israel got its first king. Here is the text:
1 Samuel 8:6-9 But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you;it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”
In 1 Samuel chapter 8, Samuel is getting old and appoints his sons as leaders. They are not like their father and are corrupt, and so they must go. The people come to Samuel and demand a king “like everybody else has” (other nations and peoples had visible leaders…unlike the invisible God). Samuel is angry at the Israelites and God tells him that they are not rejecting him, but rejecting God.
So, Israel got a king.
Saul to be exact.
Saul was “handsome” and “a head taller than anyone else.”
They picked the Hollywood image of a king.
But Saul was no good.
In the Walk Through the Bible series, David is described as being whole-hearted Solomon is described as half-hearted
Saul was described as no-hearted.
Meaning, he was a lousy king.
And not very godly either.
Just before God fires him and sends Samuel to Jesse to anoint David, Saul disobeys God’s commands.
Saul was supposed to take the Amalekites and utterly destroy them; He was to go into the land and do not leave a living thing.
Not one thing.
So one day shortly after the siege, In chapter 15 verse 14, Samuel says:
"What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?”
“The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the Lord your God, but we totally destroyed the rest.”
"The Lord anointed you king over Israel. And he sent you on a mission, saying, ‘Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; wage war against them until you have wiped them out.’ Why did you not obey the Lord? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the Lord?”
God had said what needed to be done.
Saul thought he knew better.
He saved “the best stuff” for God.
But God didn’t want it.
He didn’t ask for it.
He didn’t need it.
What he needed was complete obedience from the king and from His people.
So, Samuel took care of what Saul did not.
He wiped out what was left.
And he was sad that Saul had disobeyed.
Samuel’s story with Saul ends this way:
1 Samuel 15:35 Until the day Samuel died, he did not go to see Saul again, though Samuel mourned for him. And the Lord regretted that he had made Saul king over Israel.
To sum up:
- Israel wants a king
- Samuel is not happy about it
- They get a king
- The king isn’t great
- He disobeys God
- Samuel is not happy about it
- God picks the next king
- Samuel mourns for Saul
But Samuel gets stuck there.
Which is why God asks him the question about his grieving for Saul.
Like, why was he?
He was mad when the Israelites demanded a king.
Then he was mad when that king was dethroned.
And he finds himself stuck.
He is sad for Saul.
He doesn’t understand what is next.
He is worried about what Saul will do if he anoints David.
He is stuck.
And he forgets.
He forgets that God is in control.
That God knew His people would make a bad choice in picking a king.
That God would need to step in and make a better choice.
But he is stuck.
He has lost sight of what God has done and what God can do.
Like Elijah after the victory over the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel.
After defeating the prophets, Jezebel threatens to kill him and the Scripture says Elijah was afraid.
After seeing what God did in bringing down fire at Carmel.
He was afraid.
After slaughtering the prophets of Baal.
He was afraid.
So God asks him, “What are you doing here?”
Why, after seeing my power manifested in such a mighty way, are you huddled up in fear of a wicked queen?
“Get up and go…” God says.
And to Samuel God asks, “How long will you mourn for Saul?
“How much time is it going to take to get over the loss of a king that you:
- didn’t want in the first place
- knew the people didn’t need?
How long until you remember the mighty works that I have done before you time after time?
Samuel, how long?
His journey took a detour
and he was stuck.
And we can get stuck.
When things don’t go the way we want to, we can get stuck.
When things don’t go according to the plan, we can get stuck.
When we get the idea that life is just a skip in the park and we realize it isn’t, we can get stuck.
The unplanned things in life can make you miss what is going on around you.
In the midst of the chaos and craziness, God is still God.
He is present in the frustration.
His is sensitive to the fear.
He knows the disappointment.
And He is still God.
He was yesterday.
He will be tomorrow.
Even if everything goes completely bonkers,
He is still God
O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.