October 24, 2021
1 Samuel 16: 1-13
As we heard last week, Samuel was all of 12 years old and living in the temple with the priest Eli when he was called by God to serve as a prophet … sharing the Word and law throughout the region. It was a lesson in listening … to hearing God’s call … and understanding what God is calling us to do in the world.
This week’s passage brings us an adult Samuel who has been visited by God again.
God had instructed the king, Saul, to kill all the Amalekites … not to spare anyone and to kill all the animals. But Saul spared the Amalekite king, Agag, and the flocks that carried value.
God decides that Saul is not king material after all … he has turned away from following God and placed too much value on the things of the world.
God regrets making Saul king and Samuel grieves Saul’s failure … worrying that a rival will show up to create conflict and violence in the land or that word would reach Saul.
Samuel isn’t the only one who’s worried … the elders in Bethlehem … the place where God has sent Samuel to anoint a new king are also worried.
God tells Samuel to visit the family of Jesse. One of his sons will be king.
When Samuel arrives in town, the elders are all trembling in his presence … they’re scared of what might come next.
Samuel tells them that he comes in peace and invites them to worship with him. Traditionally, the elders would offer such an invitation to the stranger who has arrived on their doorsteps. But this isn’t a normal time… God turns the world upside down.
Samuel meets with Jesse … they offer a sacrifice … and then Jesse brings his oldest son … Eliab … before the visiting prophet.
You can picture the Eliab … young, strong, ruggedly handsome … the very picture of a king. Except God disagrees and takes a pass on Eliab … he wasn’t the son who God intended to anoint. Next Jesse brought out the second oldest son … Abinadab … only to have Samuel say he wasn’t the one either.
Then, Shammah was paraded out … and again he wasn’t the one to be anointed … Sons number 4 … 5 … 6 and 7 were all trooped out and none were the choice.
Finally, Samuel meets David … the runt of the litter … still he was “ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome” … and the Lord informs Samuel that this is the one to anoint as king.
And once he is anointed, David is ID’d. His name becomes known to all.
Like last week, Samuel hears God’s call, but isn’t quite sure what it means … despite being told to do otherwise … despite being told to listen … appearances still matter to Samuel.
God looks at things differently than Samuel … or than we do … after rejecting Eliab … the Lord tells Samuel to stop looking at appearances … Eliab may look and act every bit a king … but God looked at his heart and found him lacking.
God looked at the characters of each of the brothers and didn’t see the traits that made for an effective king. David … who as the youngest … probably understood what it meant to be victimized or beaten … he had a creative side … he was a poet and a musician.
He is passionate about his relationship with God … picture him dancing as the ark is brought into Jerusalem.
This doesn’t mean that David was perfect … we know all his flaws come to the surface later in pretty dramatic and brutal ways … what sets David apart from other kings is that he is willing to acknowledge his sin and repent … that when he is confronted with God’s word … he responds and a new way is opened to him and to the people.
Today’s Psalm … which is attributed to David … is a call to God to prepare his heart … give me a clean heart … is the request. A clean heart … a clean slate … opens the way to new things … new vocations … new perspectives … new ways of life.
That is … perhaps … one of the takeaways this morning … that God relentlessly comes to us in our inperfection. God persistently calls us.
Their rejection doesn’t mean that Eliab or any of the other brothers had no role to play or nothing to offer … it simply means that they were called to serve in a different way.
Scholar Beth Tanner says that “we serve a God who is present in the jagged edges of our lives.” … present in the jagged edges.
As a church … as a congregation … we begin each service with our own request for a clean heart … an acknowledgement that we are like Eliab, Abinadab, Shammah and the other brothers … and have fallen short in some way.
And by doing so, we strive to not be held in place by our past actions or inactions and prepare ours hearts to hear our call … to listen for where God’s call takes us … to where the gift of grace is needed … those jagged edges where it needs to be experienced.
… a place where hope … where new life grows.