First Mennonite Church
December 5, 2021
The Rise of the House of David
Text: 1Samuel 16:1-13
In order to read afresh this passage because the story is so familiar to us, I want to invite you to take notice of the literary beauty this story is crafted. The story is a brief narrative drama, in which not only irony is used, but also suspense, the reversal of expectations, and a contrast between the faculties of sight and hearing. With that in mind, let also hear the divine wisdom given to Samuel about the way God sees in contrast to way we see and evaluate the world around us. Let us read!
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.
It is rather ironic that Samuel could not stop grieving that God had rejected King Saul for his disobedience. In chapter 15, Saul was commissioned to wage war and to completely annihilate the Amalekites, who according to Exodus 17, fought fiercely against the Israelites during their final days in the wilderness. However, when Saul went to war, he spared the life of the Amalekite king and the best of the livestock. We are told that Samuel got extremely angry at Saul for his disobedience to the point of never again seeing the face of Saul until the day of his death (1Sam. 15:10, 35). Samuel’s grief is surprising. First, because of his initial reluctance to appoint a king, and secondly, because of his utter disappointment at Saul’s disobedience. Therefore, when God spoke to Samuel it sounded more like a rebuke for grieving Saul. But God reminded Samuel that this time it was Yahweh who had rejected Saul.
Thus, what was about to happen would reveal God’s unending grace, providence, and faithfulness to his people, once again. Just as God kept providing for his people during their journey in the wilderness, giving them protection, manna, water, and guidance through Moses, this time God tells Samuel he has already chosen the one who would be the next king.
God commanded Samuel, “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.”
The first faculty set in contrast is that of seeing. In verse seven alone, the word “see” or “look” is mentioned six times, but there is one more. When God told Samuel that he has “provided” for himself a new king, the word “provide” in Hebrew is the same for “see.” Let us remember the story of Abraham and Isaac. When Isaac asked his father how he would carry out a sacrifice being that they were only carrying with them the fire and the wood, but no lamb, Abraham responded, “The Lord will provide” or “The Lord will see to it.” The idea that God literally sees the big picture surrounding world history, his people, and of our lives is quite comforting to know. God sees what lays ahead in my life and your life. When the holy scriptures tell us that God sees, it is not only in the sense that he knows what is around the corner of in our lives, but also that he already sees, in the sense that he has already provided the strength we will need when the time to comes. He already has in store what we will need before we find ourselves in need. He has already guaranteed to comfort us when the time of sorrow comes. He already knows the path we should go even before we find ourselves confused and lost. There are no “curveballs” for God. There is nothing that takes God by surprise because God sees the whole picture of our lives. (I will speak some more about seeing later.)
As for Samuel, he only knew that God had rejected Saul. Realizing, Samuel, that the last time he was with Saul that he (Samuel) was visibly upset, he was afraid to go and anoint another king. “If Saul would ever know of that, he will kill me,” Samuel protested. Samuel did not know that God having rejected Saul had also provided for himself with another king. Before Israel perceived the need for another king, God had already provided the solution.
Within the larger context of this story, we find other faculty set in contrast. It is the faculty of hearing. Saul’s failure was due to not heeding the word of the Lord (1Samuel 15:20). Again, the Hebrew word for “hear,” shama is the same word for “obey.” God prefers obedience rather than sacrifice, Samuel told Saul.
To obey is better than sacrifice,
and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
For rebellion is like the sin of divination,
and arrogance like the evil of idolatry (15:22, 23).
And that was exactly what God told Samuel to do, “Anoint the one whom I tell you.” In other words, listen and obey what I command you, not what impresses your eyes.
God sent Samuel to Bethlehem to anoint one of Jesse’s sons. As Jesse paraded his sons before Samuel, their physical appearance impressed Samuel time and again. Samuel must have remembered how impressive Saul was physically when he was anointed. However, from the firstborn, Eliab, to the seventh son of Jesse, the Lord said to Samuel, “It is not this one.” Samuel’s reliance on what was before his eyes deceived him. So when the last son had come before Samuel and Yahweh was still saying “no” to them, Samuel was baffled. He had asked Jesse to come with all his sons in tow. And here is the reversal. The firstborn was usually given the highest priority and authority. But here, God had set his eyes on the youngest of Jesse’s sons. It seems as if even Jesse discounted David for being the youngest of his sons. David was brought in from the field where he was herding the flock. It was David whom God had in mind to be the new king.
Once again, as we go through this Advent season, we are reminded of the humble origins of Jesus. The way Jesus entered into the world was also a major reversal as to how the Messiah was expected to come. Jesus’ coming into the world was another way in which God saw, provided for himself a way to reach out to his people and the world.
My Dear sisters and brothers, it is this time of the year when the level of stress rises up in people’s heart. The visual pressure there is to buy this or that, to consume this instead of the other is everywhere. The advertisement companies know how to separate you from your money. It is through your eyes. If left to his own devices, Samuel would have anointed Eliab, based on his appearance. But God reminded Samuel that God sees the heart, not the outer appearance.
On the other hand, listening is only true if it leads to obedience. So, let us listen to God’s advice. Let us trust in him. As our passage reminds us, the Lord knows the story of our lives from start to the end. And in his infinite love, God not only sees our present, but promises to see us through to the end. That is, the Lord promises to provide for us even before we have come to that point in our lives. That is comforting news. Amen!