Apr 15, 2018

“The Selecting and Training of a King” 4-15-18

I Samuel 16
April 15, 2018

Today, as we take up our trek through I Samuel again after our Lenten and Easter tour through the Gospel of John, we are at a major turning point in the subject matter.
For the last 7 chapters, 7-15, the major subject has been the reign of King Saul, who was anointed to be king by Samuel in chapter 9.  In those chapters, we saw Saul’s great victories, his abilities to form a considerable force of fighting men from the various not always united tribes of Israel. 
But we also saw his failures, his disobedience of God and Samuel, God’s prophet, in the matters of improper sacrifice and in not completely destroying the Amalekites.  At the end of chapter 15 Samuel announced that Saul was no longer God’s choice to be king over His people, and that God would give the kingdom to another.  This announcement grieved Samuel as much as it angered and disappointed Saul, because Samuel had anointed Saul, and had advised and supported Saul as king.
Now, as we look at this coming change in the occupant of the throne of Israel, we need to realize that what we are reading about today is only the beginning of the process of changing kings.  This process would actually take 10 years.  For 10 more years, Saul would serve as king without God’s favor, and David, while favored by God, would go through some difficult times on the way to being the king.
As we begin this chapter, we see that Samuel was grieving because Saul had lost God’s blessings and favor.  This is a grieving that was taking place for Samuel alone.  God had not yet revealed his plans for a change of kings to the people yet.
God came to Samuel and called him to put an end to his grieving for Saul and be the first to move God’s people toward their future.  As Samuel was the first to move God’s people toward Saul as their king, now he was to be the first to move toward the next king by anointing him and bestowing God’s blessing upon him.  And as that act upon Saul had been a secret, known only to Saul and Samuel in the beginning, so this was also to be secret.
God’s call came to Samuel to put aside his grieving for Saul, fill his horn with oil, go to Bethlehem, and anoint one of Jesse’s sons to be the next king.  Samuel was not eager to do this, as it would appear to be treason if Saul heard about it.  God’s response was, “then let’s not let Saul hear about it.  Go to Bethlehem and offer a sacrifice there with the accompanying meal for the representatives of the city, and make sure that Jesse and his sons are among the representatives.  Then, as you privately prepare or consecrate Jesse and his sons for the sacrifice and meal, you can anoint one of the sons as the next king of Israel.”
Samuel had evidently gone to some villages and pronounced God’s judgments on them, so the elders of Bethlehem were at first afraid of his visit, but he told them that he had come to offer a sacrifice in their midst.
Then he went to Jesse’s house to sanctify them for the sacrificial meal, and, more importantly to select the next king of Israel.  When he saw the oldest son first, he thought he was finished.  This man was obviously impressive in appearance, and Samuel judged that he was king material, but God answered that God sees people from a different angle than people do; we see outward appearances and behaviors, while God sees inner qualities.  These inner qualities which would include faith, are in this passage referred to as “heart”.
That teaching of this passage is clearly written.  God chooses people for tasks based on things we cannot see.  And we need to trust his judgments.
We need to trust Gods judgments when it comes to others.  I know a man who I have always thought to be one who could lead a large church as Pastor.  But it did not come to pass.  He was a pastor of a smaller congregation for a few years, and then served a church as a part time associate or assistant for many years as he pursued a full time career in another profession.  He would have been my choice, but he was not God’s choice.
We also need to trust God’s judgments when it comes to ourselves.  Some of us have been asked to be leaders in our church, or to serve God in some other way, and as humble servants we have sometimes at first rejected the call.  But if the calling is repeated or persists, we need to ask God if he is perhaps moving us to serve him in that way.
At this point in our passage, there is some choreography.  Each son of Jesse is brought before Samuel in turn, and God tells Samuel that each in turn is not the one.  There were 7 of them, and for those of us who read the bible a lot, we know that 7 is one of God’s favorite or significant numbers, but God did not choose even the 7th one.  It was number 8, but before Samuel gets to number 8, he first has to ask Jesse if there is a number 8.  When Samuel discovers that there is another son, he postpones the sacrifice and meal until the 8th son, who is a shepherd tending the family sheep, is brought in.  And God says he is the one.
I wonder if Samuel complained against God, saying, “You know, if I had known that there were 8 sons, I wouldn’t have started until all 8 were there.  Why did we have to go through all that?”  God probably would not have answered.  Sometimes, God has a whole progression of things in his plan, and we have to go according to his directions until his will becomes clear.
Thus, David, the 8th son of Jesse of Bethlehem was anointed to be the next king of Israel.  But how was this youngest son of Jesse, the shepherd of the family sheep to be trained to become a king of a nation comprised of 12 tribes who tended to value their tribal connections much greater than their national connection?
Although neither Samuel nor anyone else at the time seems to have asked that question, God had a plan, and began to put it into effect.
He began by taking His Spirit from Saul and giving it to David.  Now, God’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit is not a limited or finite quantity so that it must be removed from one to be given to another.  But His removal of it from Saul and giving the Spirit to David was a part of His plan. 
Saul was no longer being guided by God.  And in the place of the Holy Spirit was an evil spirit.
Now, we theologians approach the subject of God being responsible for evil things very carefully, but I think we can all testify that it does not conflict with our experiences.  Theologians get around it by specifying two types of God’s will in his plan.  The good things are by God’s active will, and the evil things are allowed by God as his permissive will. 
In this case it is clearer than it often is.  Saul had been given God’s Holy Spirit to guide him.  But Saul had on a few important occasions not obeyed God’s commands or his Holy Spirit, so now the Spirit is removed and replaced by a spirit that causes Saul to be depressed and even occasionally violent.  The Evil spirit is a punishment for Saul’s disobedience of the Holy Spirit.
Now, I am not saying that all cases of depression are spiritual in nature.  Some are caused by ones environment, some are physical in nature and can be treated by physicians and medicines and treatments, but some are spiritual, as was Saul’s.
Saul’s advisers believed that music could cure Saul’s problem, or at least alleviate it.  So they sought a young man who could play the lyre in a calming manner.  Someone suggested David, the family shepherd, the son of Jesse, of Bethlehem.  So Saul asked Jesse to send David to him.
And thus, David was often in the king’s court and maybe even his private chambers, learning the ways of the court, the kingdom and even the private struggles of the king. 
God chose the new king, and then began to prepare this unlikely candidate to be the next king.
There are all sorts of applications of all this for us.
Some of us are feeling that we might be called by God to do a specific thing for him but we do not feel qualified.  In this passage, I think we can see that God sometimes calls and then begins the needed training.  Don’t be shy, step up.
Some of us are wondering about the leaders God has given the nations of the world in our time.  More than a few seem questionable to us.  But I think that in this passage, we see how God works to move leadership from one to another and we see that he has a plan.  God will work in our world to bring his plan to fruition.
Some of us are wondering what God is planning to do with the leadership of Faith Presbyterian Church.  Now, although my name is David, I am not a king nor do I have any pretensions that I am.  But I am a Pastor, Your Pastor, and I am in 2 ½ months retiring.  Many of us assumed that I had a successor in our Associate Pastor, but God has called him elsewhere. 
As one of our folks commented last week, “Now we have no one”.  That is never true of Presbyterian Churches.  You still have a Session to lead you.  And they will find a way to continue the ministries of this church, including pastoral ministry.
But I think that this passage can give us confidence, as we look for leaders, God is already working.  He is bringing to us the leadership we need in his time, which may not be according to our schedules, but will be brought about eventually.
This passage should remind us that God knows what he is doing and we can trust him.
And as we trust Him, we ought to express our trust in Him in our prayers for our next pastor and for the committee God will use to bring Him to us.

Pastor David Horner
Faith Presbyterian Church
West Lafayette, IN 47906