3rd Sunday after Pentecost   -  June 13, 2021
 “Called, Anointed . . . and Waiting”​

"Called, Anointed . . . and Waiting"
I Samuel 15:34 - 16:13
6/13/21

Introduction to OT reading (I Samuel 15:34 - 16:13)
First and Second Samuel are two of the most readable books of the Old
Testament. They aren’t filled with long genealogies, lists of laws, requirements
for sacrifices, or geographical descriptions referencing cities I can’t even find
on the maps in the back of my Bible. Along with 1st and 2nd Kings, they tell the
history of Israel from its first king to the fall of Jerusalem and the exile to Babylon.
But it’s not dry history - all four books are full of stories of real people - not
supermen or paragons of virtue, but human beings with all their faults and
frailties.
Many of us grew up with stories from the Old Testament - Moses and the
burning bush, David and Goliath, Daniel in the lion’s den. They are part of the
foundation of our faith. But we heard those stories as children, and if we don’t
go back and read them as adults, they remain children’s stories; nice to listen
to, but not all that relevant to our lives today. So as you listen to today’s lesson,
I encourage you to put on your “grown-up ears” and listen for things you didn’t
hear as a child.
Saul was chosen by God to be king and was anointed by Samuel. Saul
seemed to do OK at first, but he repeatedly disobeyed or ignored God’s
instructions. God warned him early on that, because of his disobedience, his
kingdom would not endure. Samuel also told Saul that God had sought out “a
man after His own heart” and appointed him as ruler over God’s people. (1
Samuel 13:14) Today’s passage picks up just after Saul disobeys a direct order
from God, and then blames it on the people - because he was afraid and
listened to their voices. This is probably around the middle of Saul’s reign, and
marks the beginning of the end; Samuel told Saul that God had rejected him
from being king over Israel and was giving the kingdom to another. Saul’s reign
continued for many years - probably another 15 or more years after this, but he
was always looking over his shoulder. He knew someone else would become
king, but not who or when.
Now, listen to the word of God from 1 Samuel 15:34 - 16:13.
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Called, Anointed . . . and Waiting
Samuel is grieving over Saul - over Saul’s actions and over the fact that God
has rejected him as king. God lets Samuel mourn for a while - and then firmly
tells him that it is time to leave the past behind, accept God’s decision about
Saul, and move forward. Samuel is to anoint a new king to succeed Saul. God
doesn’t provide much detail, just “Fill your horn with oil, go, and anoint one of
the sons of Jesse - the one I’ll show you.”
Samuel responds, “How can I go? When Saul hears of it, he will kill me”. His fear
was not exaggerated; kings in that day had absolute authority, and didn’t
hesitate to exercise it against any perceived threat. God tells him to “Take a
heifer along and offer a sacrifice.” There would be nothing unusual or
threatening about that. Samuel was well known as prophet and judge; he
traveled all over the country, settling disputes and offering sacrifices.
So, Samuel arrives at Bethlehem and the elders come trembling to meet him.
“Do you come in peace?”, they ask. Why this unexpected visit? Is there a
problem they don’t know about, a problem serious enough for a judge? Is
there going to be trouble? Samuel reassures them that it’s just a peaceful visit
to offer a sacrifice, and he invites Jesse “and all his sons” to be special guests at
a feast. No one asks a reason for the sacrifice, and none is offered. The elders
may have thought Samuel was selecting someone to study with him, perhaps
to be his successor. As long as they aren’t in trouble, it doesn’t seem to matter
to them.
As Jesse presents his sons, Samuel gets more and more concerned when God
passes over each one. Are there any more, he asks. Well, yes, says Jesse,
there’s one, but he’s the youngest and he’s keeping the sheep. Now here’s a
question for your adult ears: Did you ever wonder why Jesse left David out of
the original invitation? Several commentators point out 1 that David’s father
and brothers apparently considered him unfit for anything but the lowest
occupation - that of a shepherd. He certainly wasn’t fit to be at a feast with
with Samuel - who must have had something important in mind for the one
selected.
Their low opinion of David is confirmed later, in 1 Samuel 17. The Philistines are
poised to defeat and enslave Israel. David is still at home, tending the flock,
but some of his brothers are part of Saul’s army, so Jesse sends David to take
provisions to his brothers and find out how they are doing. David hears the
Philistines’ challenge and asks about it. When Eliab, the eldest brother,
overhears David, ”Eliab’s anger burned against David and he said, ‘Why have
you come down? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the
wilderness? I know your insolence and the wickedness of your heart; for you
have come down in order to see the battle.’ David responds, ‘What have I
done now? Was it not just a question?’ It sure sounds like David was used to
put downs and unjust accusations by his family.
What was so disqualifying about being a shepherd? Herding sheep was not
glamorous: shepherds were surrounded by dirty, smelly, stupid sheep; they
were outdoors in all weather, with little or no human companionship. And the
hills of Bethlehem were not certainly not the idyllic green pastures we see on
posters of the 23rd psalm. It was hard work to find good grazing for sheep in
the dry and wild hill country. Let the youngest brother do it! David is probably
between 15 and 20 years of age at this time. A shepherd had to be old
enough and strong enough to endure the harsh, lonely, conditions, take care
of himself, and protect the flock; that much responsibility wouldn’t have been
given to a child.
Samuel insists that David be called, despite any objections. The sacrifice and
feast have to be delayed, perhaps several hours - until someone can find
David, off in the hills, and bring him back. Everyone else has been consecrated
for the sacrifice - ritually washed and dressed in their finest clothes. David
probably came just as he was, dirty, smelling of sheep, and sweaty from
running - completely out of place for such an event! And yet Samuel anoints
him!
Let’s take a minute to think about anointing. That’s not a word we hear very
often. To “anoint” is to pour or rub oil over, usually as part of a sacred
ceremony or act. In the Bible, we read of kings, prophets, and priests being
anointed. Anointing carries with it the idea of consecration - formal dedication
to a religious or divine purpose. For example, God told Moses to anoint Aaron
and his sons to be priests, and also to anoint the sacred objects of worship, and
to consecrate them “that they may be most holy”. This included the
tabernacle itself and all its furnishings: the ark of the testimony, the table and its
utensils, the lampstand, the altar of incense. (See Exodus 30: 22-33) In the New
3
Testament, we read about anointing for healing. Mark 6:13 tells us that when
Jesus sent out the 12 disciples in pairs, “They were casting out many demons
and were anointing with oil many sick people and healing them.” James 5:14
says, “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and
let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.” This isn’t
a common practice in Presbyterian churches, but maybe we’re missing
something. I remember a former pastor at Pineda who carried anointing oil
with him when he visited the sick, and think about annointing might add a
deeper dimension to a prayer for healing.
Samuel doesn’t openly announce why he is anointing David; if he did, word
would get back to Saul, who would certainly come after Samuel as well as all
of Jesse’s family. It doesn’t seem like the family was told, either. Eliab surely
wouldn’t have spoken so scornfully to David in chapter 17 if he had known that
David was going to become king. (You don’t want to get on the bad side of
someone who is going to have that much power.) We don’t even know if
David understood why he was being anointed at that time, even though
Samuel probably told him.
We do know two things: 1 Samuel 16:13 tells us, “The Spirit of the Lord came
mightily upon David from that day forward.” David must realize that something
had happened to him, something had changed. Secondly, David went right
back to keeping his father’s sheep. He kept on doing what God had called
him to do, being faithful in the little that God had already given him. It may
have been smelly, stupid sheep, but it was God’s calling.
2
David’s did not see any reason to appear openly as the anointed of the Lord.
He was content to leave further development of the matter - whatever it was -
to the Lord in childlike submission, certain that God would prepare him and
show him the way in His own good time.
3
The years David spent as a shepherd, both before and after being anointed,
were an important part of both his spiritual development and his preparation to
lead a nation. A shepherd spent a lot of time outdoors. 
David had to be courageous and
resourceful in order to protect the sheep and defend them from predators.
David knew God well - that comes through loud and clear in the psalms. Some
of his psalms clearly reference incidents in his life as recorded in 1 and 2
Samuel. David’s dependence on God is very evident in psalms written in time
of danger and in his psalms of confession. He put his full trust in God; over and
over again David declares that God is his strength, God makes his steps sure,
God is his fortress, shield, and deliverer.
David’s path to the throne of Israel was neither quick nor easy. It was probably
10-15 years from the time Samuel anointed him until Saul died in battle and
David became king over the tribes of Judah and Benjamin; it was another 7
and a half years before he was publicly anointed as king over all Israel.
David first came to Saul’s attention in 1 Samuel 16:18. Saul, terrorized by an evil
spirit, asked his servants to find a man who could play the harp well and soothe
his distress, and one of his servants recommended David as “a skillful musician,
a mighty man of valor, a warrior, one prudent in speech, and a handsome
man; and the Lord is with him”. David came to attend Saul, and we are told
that “Saul loved him greatly” (1 Samuel 16:21). David became Saul’s armor
bearer and a permanent member of the court. He succeeded in whatever
assignment he was given, and Saul made him a leader in the army.
However, it didn’t take long for Saul to become jealous and suspicious of David,
especially after the crowds greeted the returning army with “Saul has slain his
thousands and David his ten thousands.” (1 Samuel 18:7) At that point Saul
started seeing David as a rival for the throne. He remembered what Samuel
had told him years before: God had rejected him and had “torn the kingdom”
from him (1 Samuel 15:26,28). More than once, Saul tried to kill David by
throwing a spear at him while he played the harp. As Saul descended deeper
into what was probably “a severe manic/depressive illness with marked
schizoid overtones” he announced that he wanted David 4 killed, and David
was forced to flee for his life, first to the wilderness areas of Judah, and finally to
the Philistines, a long-time enemy of Israel.
Those years as an outlaw and fugitive were another important period in David’s
preparation to be king. David had several opportunities to kill Saul and seize
the throne during that time. If he had done so, he would have been supported
by his 600 followers, and readily accepted by many other Israelites, including
Jonathan, Saul’s eldest son and expected heir. But David refused to kill Saul,
repeatedly declaring that Saul was “the Lord’s anointed”. By now, David must
have been certain that God had chosen him to be king, but he knew how to
wait on the Lord, to trust God to make things happen in God’s perfect timing.
Charles Spurgeon says,
I think David was never more clearly manifested to be God's elect,
except at the last of all, than when he was an outlaw. He never
seems such a grand man as When he is among the tracks of the wild
goats of Engedi. We do not read of many faults, and slips, and errors
then. The outlawed David is most certainly manifested to all Israel to
be the chosen of God, because the chosen of man cannot abide
him.

David was by no means perfect; he had faults and when he made bad
decisions, they were big ones. But David was teachable and he learned from
his mistakes. One very early careless decision led to Saul wiping out all of Nob,
a city of 85 priests and their families, including infants and children. Starting
right after this, we start seeing David “inquire of the Lord” before he takes
action, especially when others are involved.
To draw on the language of today’s gospel reading, David built his life on a
solid foundation - on the God he called his Rock. That’s the biggest difference
between David and Saul. Saul was also chosen by God to be king, and was
anointed by Samuel. But Saul’s life was founded on sand, not rock. Saul never
put his full confidence in God. He repeatedly acted on his own, instead of
waiting for Samuel or doing what God directed. When confronted with his
disobedience, Saul did not confess and repent, but instead defended his
actions - saying he had done nothing wrong, or blaming his actions on others.
David had to wait years for God to fulfill the promise made at his anointing. He
may have wondered at times if he had misunderstood God’s call. But he
remained faithful, continually seeking God, pouring out his heart to God, doing
his best wherever God had placed him at the time, and content to wait on
God. David built a house that could withstand storms. The storms didn’t end
when David finally became king. Some of the worst storms came later,
Charles triggered by David’s own sinful actions. But he stayed faithful. When
confronted with his sin, he accepted responsibility for his actions, confessed,
and repented - and then moved forward, continuing to trust God.
What does this have to do with us today? Most of us don’t hear the call of God
in the dramatic way that David did. Sometimes God calls in a more subtle
way, like when someone from the Congregational Nominating Committee
says, “We think you’d be a great deacon. Would you consider serving that
way?” Sometimes God’s call comes through a gift or talent. Two visitors
worshipping at Pineda saw unused instruments sitting on the stage with the
Praise Band, and said “I can play that!”, became members, and still play in the
band today. Does anyone doubt that they were called by God? If you know,
or even suspect, that God is calling you to a specific task or ministry in the
church - whatever it is - give thanks that you’ve heard the call, and be faithful.
And if you haven’t heard a definite call, or perhaps you have completed an
earlier call and aren’t sure what comes next - that’s OK; be content to wait and
be faithful as you wait.
We are all called by God - called to be disciples of Jesus Christ, and called to
share the good news of God’s love and grace with others. Being a disciple is a
lifelong calling. Paul said as much in Philippians 1:6, “I am confident of this very
thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of
Christ Jesus.” God began “a good work” in your life and God will keep on
working until He’s brought you to completion.
David was physically anointed with oil to confirm his calling to be king. Each of
us has also been anointed - by the Holy Spirit. The New Testament talks about
the spiritual anointing of all Christians. Paul says in Romans (8:16-17a) that the
Holy Spirit is the guarantee that we are the children of God: “The Spirit Himself
bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs
also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.“ In John’s first letter, he writes,
“You have an anointing from the Holy One…and…the anointing which you
received from Him abides in you…His anointing teaches you about all things,
and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.” (1
John 2:20,27) The anointing of the Holy Spirit may be intangible and mysterious,
but John assures us that it is real and it is true - because He who abides in you is
true. God is working in your life, even if you are in one of those waiting periods.
We needn’t be surprised or worried when we are in a waiting period. I’m not
very good at waiting, which may be why God keeps giving me more practice
at it. I want to be doing something. And we can do something while we’re
waiting. We can do what David did - be faithful where we are. The wise man
built his house on a solid foundation of rock. But he didn’t build a straw hut - he
built a house that could withstand the winds and the floods. If we have chosen
to make Jesus Christ our foundation, then we must faithfully build on that
foundation with the basic building blocks of the Christian life - prayer, scripture,
sutdy, meditation, and fellowship with other believers. As we do, we will
strengthen our house to withstand the winds and the floods, and we will learn
how to hear God calling us.      Amen