“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.” (I Samuel 15:34-35)
There are times in the Old Testament when the curtain “slips” and you have to wonder if the thoughts and actions of the Lord have been mediated and interpreted through human understandings. Verse 35 is such a time. Why, if the Lord is sorry he made Saul King, did the God-self do it? Surely the God-self knew what Saul would be like and would become. So why place Saul as an ultimately failed king over Israel? The commentators that I read did not seem to have anything to say about this “human” sentiment of the Lord.
“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.” (I Samuel 16:1-3)
Our Lord is forever hopeful, even if the Divine knows the outcome; or at least those who believe in the omnipotence of the Lord, who by their belief in that, know that the Lord already knows the failures that God’s servants will have. I say again, the Lord does not withdraw opportunities just because we will not live up to them. How perfect a Parent and Teacher to allow us to fail when God might prearrange perfection.
“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)
We must accept the fact that Samuel was able to go wherever the Lord wanted him to, and was able to go about business simply by saying this is a good place to worship God. So, back to picking a new king. Will God chose someone more perfect than Saul? Someone who is ready to take on kingship and make a success of it?
“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.” (Verses 6-10)
Well, Samuel’s mission may or may not have been a secret to Jesse. What seems evident though is that God has not chosen a “perfect” specimen, according to human or more precisely Samuel’s expectation.
“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.” (Verses 11-12)
A sturdy body, beautiful eyes, and good looks – these are the qualifications of a king?
“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.” (Verse 13)
David did not become King David immediately, In fact it took a good many years for David to come to his throne. The Lord seems to be using a different method of cultivating kings. Instead of immediately settling kingship on young shoulders, as seems to have been the way with Saul, a youth is picked and then grows and develops into someone who will eventually taken on the mantle of king. I see a parallel to the life of Jesus. Was Jesus not born in Bethlehem, as David was. Did Jesus not travel and learn about life and the people around him as David did? And did Jesus not have to wrest control away from someone who represented evil and fallen-ness as David did?
David started out as a shepherd, tending sheep and protecting them. Jesus is imaged as the good shepherd and speaks of himself in that role. There is a sense of progression here – an evolving of what true kingship is, that takes back what the people of Israel originally desired of a king. Interesting.
And what about us, beloved reader? Is God forming you and I, nurturing us along the way to what the Divine wants us to be? Do we resist that direction, or do we realize that God’s plan is better than any plan we can come up with ourselves? Important questions that deserve will thought out answers. Shalom!