“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.” (1 Samuel 15:34 – 35)
Saul had fallen from grace and favor under the Lord and under Samuel. The Lord had known Saul’s heart – we presume – and therefore knew that Saul would not be a king after the Lord’s heart. But it did not make the Lord love Saul any less. Just as the Lord did not love the Israelites any less because the elder of Israel wanted a king. I am not sure though how the writer knew that the Lord was sorry the Divine had made Saul king of Israel. It is sort of in contrary juxtaposition to the first verse of chapter 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.” (chapter 16, verse 1)
Maybe, and this is just a thought, maybe time needed to pass until David was ready for kingship. If we believe that the Lord answers prayer but on a timeline that the Divine only knows, maybe there needed to be a space of time for David to arrive at the age where his ascent to kingship would start. Or maybe the Israelites needed to see a poor king so they would know a good king.
“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.” (Verses 2 – 3)
Or, maybe Samuel needed to be nurtured along to know what a good king looked like. There are so many possibilities, that I could speculate for some time.
“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.” (Verses 4 – 5)
Now we come to the pivotal event. Now we approach the beginning of what will be the odyssey and legacy that is the line from the kings of Israel & Judah to the Christ. Now we see that the outer appearance need not indicate the inner life.
“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.” (Verses 6 – 11)
Would that I could have been there to hear the “small talk” as Samuel, Jesse, and the other elders waited until David arrived. I do not know how fair away they were from where the sheep were kept. But even more than a few minutes would have been awkward. For surely it had become apparent what the purpose of this visit was. Samuel fearful that Saul would find out what was going on. Jesse wondering and then suspecting what was going on. And the elders of Bethlehem wondering what Samuel wanted of them. Yes, it would have been tense times.
“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.” (Verses 12 – 13)
There are two things that stand out to me in this passage of scripture. The first is that the Lord had told Samuel, “I have provided for myself a king . . .” Now I looked back over several previous chapters of I Samuel, and at first Saul seemed unlikely a king. He looked good, but was shy and unsure of himself. Over time he became more sure of himself and his abilities, until he became proud, too proud, and took it upon himself to determine the best course of action instead of seeking direction from the Lord or listening to Samuel’s advice. The people of Israel came to like Saul because he was everything they wanted from a king. But, and this is the puzzling part, the Lord pointed out Saul to Samuel. I would have thought that would be an instance of the Divine providing the Godself with a king. Does that mean that David was different from Saul?
The second is that the writer of I Samuel said, “. . . the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David . . . “ Does that mean that Saul did not have the Spirit of the Lord? And is that how the Divine provided the Godself with a king?
I ask myself these things because while none of us are kings (or queens), we are called and chosen by the Lord. And we can go terribly astray, as Saul did, and find ourselves outside of God’s grace and blessing as Saul did when he was stripped of his appointment as king. Or we can make mistakes and missteps, as David did, and yet still be a person after the Lord’s heart. Who will you be like, beloved reader? Saul or David? Shalom.