“From Grief to Action”

Rev. Katherine Todd
Psalm 20
1 Samuel 15:34 – 16:13

Psalm 20

The Lord answer you in the day of trouble!
The name of the God of Jacob protect you!
May he send you help from the sanctuary,
and give you support from Zion.
May he remember all your offerings,
and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices.

May he grant you your heart’s desire,
and fulfill all your plans.
May we shout for joy over your victory,
and in the name of our God set up our banners.
May the Lord fulfill all your petitions.

Now I know that the Lord will help his anointed;
he will answer him from his holy heaven
with mighty victories by his right hand.
Some take pride in chariots, and some in horses,
but our pride is in the name of the Lord our God.
They will collapse and fall,
but we shall rise and stand upright.

Give to the king, O Lord;
answer us when we call.

1 Samuel 15:34 – 16:13

Then Samuel went to Ramah; and Saul went up to his house in Gibeah of Saul. Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death, but Samuel grieved over Saul. And the Lord was sorry that he had made Saul king over Israel.

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.

When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.” 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.” Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these.” 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.” 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.” 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.

This story of God departing from Saul and entering David – it is rather shocking if we step into the character’s shoes.

First we have Saul. And God is trying to shepherd his people through Saul, but it requires Saul’s full obedience to God.  If Saul starts to think more highly of himself than he ought….  If Saul doesn’t like being a vehicle or tool of enacting God’s will…  If Saul starts to feel that he should be able to do whatever he wants (just like all the other kings in the land),…  Well then we will have a problem.

And some measure of this is exactly what happens.

God instructs Saul in battle. Samuel relays God’s message to Saul in no unclear terms.
And what does Saul do?
Does he fulfill God’s instructions, to the letter, trusting and laying his life on the word of God?

Saul decides he’ll pick and choose of God’s instructions – fulfilling only those commands that made sense to him.  The instructions that didn’t make sense – that he didn’t want to do, that felt like a waste, that would have him passing up the spoils of war and new wealth… Well those instructions he conveniently ignored.

And God’s decision is clear. His Spirit departs from Saul.  No longer is Saul God’s chosen instrument to lead God’s people.

And Samuel grieves.
And grieves.
And grieves.

Until finally God is like – “Why are you still grieving?!  I’ve departed from Saul and my people need a new leader!  Chop, chop!  Go to the person I will show you, a son of Jesse, the Bethehemite and anoint him.”

But Samuel protests, “How can I anoint another?!  Are you crazy?!!  Saul will kill me!!!”

But God clears Samuel for a little white lie.  God gives Samuel a cover story:  Samuel is going to offer sacrifices!

And so Samuel sets out, to obey the word of the Lord and anoint one of the sons of Jesse as the new King over Israel.

Samuel has set out to commit treason against Saul, the King.  While Saul is still living and ruling, Samuel is about to empower another to be in King instead.

And this is a big deal.

I am curious how much each of the players really knew all that this act entailed.  Did the brothers really understand what Samuel was doing? Did the father?

It appears Samuel is talking outright to Jesse about who God has anointed among his sons.  Did Jesse know what this meant???  I imagine Samuel was performing the same act he’d done for Saul only a bit of time ago.  The only difference is no one else was there to witness it.  There was no pomp or circumstance.  There were no witnesses and rejoicing.

It must have felt strange indeed.


Did it mean what it sounded like it meant?

And so in this underground anointing, God’s Spirit enters David from that time forward.
And Saul is still the recognized King.

David goes back to tending the sheep.

Everything seems normal – like the anointing was only a dream, a memory, a mystery…

There is no indication word of this anointing made its way to Saul.  It must have been a well-kept family secret.  Because when one of Saul’s attendants recommends he call on the youngest son of Jesse as his personal musician, Saul sends for him immediately and comes to love him!

I can’t imagine how Jesse, all Jesse’s sons and David himself felt the day that word came that Saul was sending for him.

They had no choice but to obey.  The people and all they had were at the King’s bidding.  There was no where to run or hide.  And yet they must have feared that Saul somehow knew…that Saul was secretly plotting to kill this youngest son, this hidden threat to his Kingship, this one who had been anointed now by the same prophet who’d anointed Saul, himself…

And so they laden the donkey he rode on with bread and wine and a young lamb – the very best of what they had, and sent David – this young man anointed to be the usurper King – to the reigning King of the land – who was now being tormented by an evil spirit so much so that David (with his skilled playing and soothing presence of God) has been recommended as just the right remedy for Saul’s malady…

It is outright wild.

David, the secretly anointed new King, enters into the service of Saul, the reigning King,

And Saul loves him so much he makes him his armor bearer.  And whenever Saul’s torments are too much, David plays the lyre, Saul would feel better, and the evil spirit would depart from him.

The people of Israel are God’s chosen people.  They will not effectively birth into the world the Son of Man, the Light of the World, the Bread of Life, the Messiah, unless they are somehow able to keep returning to their God, keep remembering their identity, keep returning to walk in God’s ways.  And under Saul’s leadership they are walking more and more away from their true leader, God.

And so God has done something about it.
God has called another to lead in his place.

But it would be many years before many, or perhaps any, would understand what that meant for their lives.

What did it mean that God had chosen and anointed David?  Was David supposed to go out and grab the throne, the crown?  He would certainly have been killed, had he tried as that young, newly anointed.

And yet in time, he grows in God’s presence and God’s ways.

God has started a movement in David.  God is growing David in Spirit.  God is guiding and growing David so that he is maturing in the things that matter most.

And so God is raising up a leader for his people, a human king to lead God’s wayward people – but this time a King who is not perfect, who will fail and fall and make many mistakes BUT whose heart is after the Lord, a King to who loves God and will continually return to God, day after day.

God’s choice of David is a comfort and a reassurance to me, worth so much.

First of all, God did not sit idly by while his people were being led astray into sin and disobedience. God moved Samuel to anoint another King in Saul’s place.

Now this act of Samuel’s obedience to God did not solve the immediate problem of the current ruler. Samuel may himself have wondered at what God was doing calling this young boy who couldn’t immediately step into the King’s shoes, and yet God is very certainly doing a work here.

This reassures me that God hears our prayers.

This reassures me that God does not sit idly by while evil seems to prevail in this world.

This reassures me that even when all outward appearances are that things are going to pot, God is still moving underneath, raising up our deliverance.

And I find this profoundly comforting.

Secondly, I am humbled and reassured in God’s choice of David.  As we follow David’s journey to Kingship – a very long, twisty, and arduous journey, indeed – and David’s eventual rule, we encounter a man who does beautiful things and terrible things.  We encounter a man who loves God with all his heart and who himself disobeys God horribly at times.

But in all these things we find a man who ever repents and returns to God.  And it is written of him that he was a man after God’s own heart.

How spectacular is this!

That God would call and anoint and use a person so fallible, someone who would have a walk a very arduous and twisty road in following after God, someone who had to grow in God’s Spirit…

As we face and evaluate the situations in which we find ourselves, our community, our nation, and this world, may we remember the God of David, who did not sit idly by while evil had its way.
May we remember the God of David, who is at work in the underground raising up our deliverance, even in the shadows, in corners unseen.

May we remember how God could use one such as this, full of imperfection, full of misstep and flaw, and still do such a mighty work through him.

And by the Spirit’s wily and mysterious ways, may we watch and wait and move and speak and be silent – all according to our God’s lead.  That we may witness and participate in God’s claiming of this world and God’s people, in God’s healing of the world, in God’s deliverance to all who walk in darkness.

We may be grieving what seems like powers beyond our scope to change, and yet rest assured our God is not sitting, wringing hands.  Our God is moving and calling and anointing and raising up those who will follow after God – those doing God’s will, and ever repenting and returning to God in love and trust and faithfulness.

We serve a God such as this! Halleluia!!!

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