Discerning Church Learning to discern the movement of God's Spirit

Anointing David Part One

My work on this blog is primarily in the area of discernment. I attempt to reflect on the stories and Scriptures that have to do with discerning God’s direction. Last week, I was reading the lectionary passages during a devotional time and came across this story. I am excited to walk through it in today’s blog post.

The text is 1 Samuel 16:1-13. Samuel is the prophet of God. He is responsible to bring God’s Word to the people. If anyone is discerning, it is Samuel. He listens to God and does what God tells him to do. But in this story, Samuel is struggling with God’s plan. God has revealed to him that Saul is no longer the chosen king. Samuel does not like the idea. God speaks, calling Samuel to action.

(1 Samuel 16:1 NIV) The LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel?

I love that God asks him a question. Are you going to sit around and mope forever? God does not leave Samuel in this state; he calls him to action. Here is what you are to do, Samuel . . .

(1 Samuel 16:1 NIV) Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.”

Pretty straightforward and clear, don’t you think? But Samuel is not convinced.

(1 Samuel 16:2 NIV) But Samuel said, “How can I go? Saul will hear about it and kill me.”

Samuel is not unlike other faithful followers of God (Moses, Peter, etc.); he hesitates and gives excuses. It is almost as if God ignores this comment; God continues to give him directions.

(1 Samuel 16:2–3 NIV) 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 to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate.”

The next verse is key. Samuel does not continue to argue with God. He realizes that his case is weak. Certainly, God knows what He is doing. The text simply says,

(1 Samuel 16:4 NIV) Samuel did what the LORD said.

It is easy to overlook this part of the story. We easily remember the anointing of David. Yet is it important to note that Samuel was hesitant, still clinging to a reality that God had rejected. I will stop at this point of the story. I will pick up here in the next post. But for now, let us not forget that even great heroes of the faith have struggled to follow God’s leading. Many of them allowed fear to dictate their actions. Afraid of the ramifications, they were stuck in maintenance mode. Thankfully they eventually came around to God’s way of thinking. May we be courageous in our discernment. May we not allow fear to paralyze us.

In the next part of the story, Samuel continues to discern God’s leading as he travels to Bethlehem. He discovers that the obvious choice is not God’s choice.

Update: On 5/5/14, I preached a sermon on this topic. Watch Here