We pick up the story from last week’s lection in 1st Samuel where the prophet had warned the people about what would probably happen if they had a king. But they insisted, and that’s how Saul became the first king of Israel. And sure enough, that didn’t work out well.
Instead of swearing off the whole idea of having a king, however, the story unfolds with the Lord directing Samuel to choose a replacement for Saul–who’s not yet dead! Hmm, awkward. Well, that just means Samuel has to be very careful in how he responds to divine direction to go to a man in Bethlehem named Jesse, for it’s one of his eight sons whose selection will please the Lord:
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. –1 Samuel 16:4-13a NRSV
This great little story reminds me a bit of the fairy tale where the prince searches throughout his kingdom for the mysterious woman he’s fallen in love with, but alas she disappeared at the stroke of midnight, leaving behind a single glass slipper. He goes door to door, where one woman after another eagerly tries on the slipper, but to no avail. Finally he comes to the house where Cinderella lives with her stepmother and two stepsisters. Cinderella, of course, is kept out of the way and busy with housework while the prince is in the house.
“Are there any other young women living here?” the prince inquires.
“Well, there is one girl, but she’s busy with her cleaning duties. You wouldn’t want her anyway,” the stepmother insists.
Okay, you know how the rest of that story turned out, naturally ending with the words “and they lived happily ever after.”
The story of David being chosen as the new king isn’t really like that. There’s certainly no “happily ever after” involved. For starters, remember that King Saul is still very much alive and spends the next few years often chasing David around the countryside trying to kill him. And there is no crown placed on David’s head (sort of the equivalent of a glass slipper, I suppose), just some anointing oil. Certainly David discovered the perks of being king later on, although at times he enjoyed them a bit too much (the incident with Bathsheba comes to mind, for starters).
Maybe the chief point in it all is that David was chosen to serve the Lord as Israel’s king not simply to be the king. And that key principle applies to each of us today–granted, in much different ways. Do we see ourselves as part of “the chosen ones” living among a mob of “non-chosen ones,” or even as “being Christians” in a decidedly non-Christian world? Or do we serve the Lord in a world in dire need as the eyes, ears, hands, and heart of Christ Jesus? By grace we are chosen and sent forth to serve humankind and thereby to serve the Lord.
*From the 2012 ForeWords archive
- The Season after Pentecost, Proper 6 – Year B: June 17, 2012 (prayerbookguide.wordpress.com)
- 1 Samuel Chapter 16 (pofw.wordpress.com)
- Daily Devotion from the Church Health Center – 1 Samuel 16:1 (panoramicviews.wordpress.com)
- Depression in the Bible: King Saul (shareaverse.wordpress.com)
- David The Shepherd Boy (trinityspeaks.wordpress.com)