Good morning! I hope this day finds you and your family well, and I want you to know that you are in my prayers daily during this difficult time.
I invite you to take a few moments with me to reflect on today’s Upper Room Devotional below — as well as on the theology woven into “It is well with my soul.”
1 Samuel 16:1-13 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
David Anointed as King
16 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.”[a] 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.
Tim’s Devotional Reflection for Today
At the beginning of our reading for today, we see the prophet Samuel grieving over the rule of the first king, Saul. Because of Saul’s unfaithfulness and disobedience, the Lord has said to Samuel that Saul will no longer be king. Samuel is heart-sick about it. Saul and Samuel have parted ways for the last time and tensions are high because of Samuel’s pronouncement concerning Saul’s kingship. Samuel is paralyzed with grief and it is difficult for him to get up and move on.
The voice of the Lord comes to Samuel and says, “Samuel, get up and take your horn of oil (a container of oil that he used for anointing), take it and go anoint the next king of Israel. Go to the house of Jesse and I will show you which is to be king.” So he goes to Bethlehem, concerned that when he arrives that the word will get out and Saul will have him killed. But he goes with sacrifice as the public reason and anointing the next king as the secret reason—just as the Lord instructed him to do. He invites Jesse and Jesse’s sons to be present at the sacrifice.
When the time comes for selection of the king, they bring one son before him at a time. The first one comes before him and he looks at that son and he says, “This must be the one. Now, this one looks like a king. If I’ve ever seen a king, this is a king.” But the Lord says, “No, this is not the one. I’ve rejected this one. I will show you the one.” And then the Lord says to Samuel, “You’re looking at the outward appearance. Don’t look at the outward appearance. I look at people in a different way. I look at the heart. I look on a deeper level at who the person is.”
And so one at a time the sons are brought before Samuel and one at a time—as good as they each look to Samuel—each one is rejected. Apparently Jesse has run out of sons. Samuel then says to Jesse, “Do you have any more sons?” And Jesse says, “Well, there’s David, the youngest one. He’s out watching the sheep.” As if to say, “Surely David’s not a candidate here. I didn’t even bring him to the sacrifice; he’s just a boy.” But Samuel says, “Go and get him and bring him here. We will not sit down until you do.” In other words, do it right now. So they brought David and the Lord said to Samuel, “This is the one. Anoint him.” So Samuel anointed David to be the next king.
How unlikely! It is the unlikely nature of God that I invite you to think about today:
- The unlikely ideas that are God’s ideas, like “love your enemies.”
- The unlikely ways God works, quietly and behind the scenes and rarely in ways that are dramatic, like the anointing of David and the birth of Jesus.
- The unlikely outcomes God brings about, like resurrection and new life.
- The unlikely people God uses, like David the shepherd boy or the apostle Paul, who was a persecutor of the Church.
You may count yourself as unlikely. You may have said, “I’m only…”, as in I’m only one person. The story of the selection and anointing of David reminds us that we can’t make those snap judgments about who’s fit and who’s not. We can’t use that word “only” in a disparaging way as we so often do because God uses the onlies in our world and God always has used the onlies. Those who would say, “well, I’m only a boy” or “I’m only a girl,” those who would lower themselves in their own eyes to say I’m not worthy to be used by God—as well as those who are lowered in the eyes of others.
If you study Scripture, you’ll detect the pattern. The list of the great people of faith reads like an ONLY Hall of Fame:
Jesse said of David, “Well, he’s only a boy out tending the sheep.”
Moses said to God, “I’m only a shepherd and I don’t speak well.” But God used Moses.
Gideon said to God, “I’m only the least in my family” but God used Gideon.
Saul said to David when David was going out to meet the giant, “You can’t do that. You’re only a boy.”
David, when the opportunity to become the king’s son-in-law presented itself, David said, “I’m only a poor man and of no repute.”
Solomon when facing the challenges of being king said, “I’m only a child.”
The widow of Zarephath when Elijah went and stayed with her and her son during a great famine said, “I only have a little bit of meal and little bit of oil” but God took only that little bit and fed them for a long time.
Jeremiah when called by God said, “I’m only a boy.”
When Jesus said to his disciples, “You feed the five thousand,” they replied, “But, we only have a couple of fish and five loaves” and yet Jesus took their only and it was enough to feed them all.
Some of the greatest things get done by only ordinary people, called by God and equipped by the extraordinary grace of God.
Thank you for sharing this early moment of your day with me, with God, and with the words and music that I hope you will carry with you throughout the coming day and night.
I am so grateful for you, for our church, and for the Love that will see us all through this very difficult time. Please stay safe and well and we’ll be together again in spirit tomorrow morning!
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster