Summary: March 10, 2002 -- FOURTH SUNDAY IN LENT 1 Samuel 16:1-13 Psalm 23 You have anointed my head with oil. (Ps. 23:5) Ephesians 5:8-14 John 9:1-41 Color: Purple 1 Samuel 16:1-13 Title: “Anointing is the symbolic expression of the transmittal of power f
March 10, 2002 -- FOURTH SUNDAY IN LENT
You have anointed my head with oil. (Ps. 23:5)
Title: “Anointing is the symbolic expression of the transmittal of power from God to a human.”
Chapter fifteen tells why God has rejected Saul as king. Chapter sixteen, tells how David is anointed as his successor, unbeknownst to Saul at the time. Saul disobeyed God and the prophet Samuel, the very prophet who anointed Saul as king in the first place, informs Saul that his kingship will be taken from him. Now, Saul’s sin may be hard for us to understand, knowing what we now know about God. There was a belief in the ancient world that war was “holy” and that certain wars required the total destruction of the enemy. The idea is similar to the holocaust sacrifice offered in the, later, Temple. In such a sacrifice the entire animal was burned, offered totally to God, with nothing left for the offerers to eat as a symbolic communion with God or gods. The notion of the “extermination,” Hebrew herem required the total destruction of the enemy to signify the deity’s supreme control over the outcome of war. There were to be no prisons nor spoils, no “booty,” as was more often the case. This was war to the end. Ironically, in later times, Hitler would apply this “solution,” the “extermination,” of all members of a particular tribe or race to the Jews themselves. While this notion is abhorrent to us and to God, the people of the time believed in it. Samuel had told Saul that God wanted the Amalekites “under the ban,” and completely destroyed in punishment for their attacks against the Exodus generation centuries earlier. Instead, Saul took prisoners, notably the Amalekite king, and he kept the best of the booty to sacrifice to the Lord, or so he claimed. Thus, his intentions were good, and the modern reader has difficulty understanding what all the fuss is about. One would have expected Saul to be praised, not rejected and certainly not impeached and removed by God himself. However, the Scriptures are more concerned with the theological interpretation of the facts than with the cold facts themselves. God gave Saul a clear command through the prophet and Saul disobeyed. He subjected God’s command to his own reasoning, exalting human thinking above divine order. Just because he had a pious, religious purpose does not excuse his behavior. The prophetic point of view, that the, obedience, real “sacrifice,” is more pleasing to God than sacrificial ritual, requires that Saul be rejected. Saul’s well-meaning offense paints him as a tragic figure, not an evil one, but it opens the way for David. The Spirit of the Lord, given to Saul, is withdrawn and Saul will rely on violence to hold on to his throne and dispose of David. Saul’s spirit, absent God’s, will grow in suspicion, envy, persecution, and even, superstition.
Chapter sixteen, begins the story of David’s rise to the throne with Samuel’s privately anointing him in the presence of his immediate family and the elders of Bethlehem, if not other Bethlehemites, and ends in 2Samuel 5:3 with his public anointing in the presence of representatives of all the tribes of Israel. He is publicly accepted as king because of all his military successes. However, his relatively private anointing tells a different story and gives a different reason. He is king because he is God’s anointed, not because of any powers he has in himself.
In verse one, I am sending you to Jesse…for I have chosen my king: Just as God sent Abraham without telling him exactly where, he sends Samuel, to anoint a new king, without telling him exactly who. God’s revelations are frequently on a “need to know,” and “know as you go,” basis.
Verses two to five, Samuel objects that if or when Saul hears of his trip he will kill him or have him killed. God says tells him to say that he is coming to offer sacrifice and is to invite Jesse and his sons to the ritual celebration. We are not told what type of sacrifice this would be and get the definite impression that God is telling Samuel to concoct a believable pretense as a cover for his real purpose. This is a very human story, even if it has a divine purpose. When he arrives, the elders of the city suspect he comes to bring bad news or to upset their peace. He assures them otherwise and invites them and Jesse’s family to the celebration.
In verse seven, do not judge from his appearance: Eliab, one if Jesse’s sons, “appeared,” to Samuel to be the chosen one. The implication is that he had the physical looks, strength, etc. to qualify as a candidate for “king.” But the author-editor is more interested in interpreting the facts and in using human situations to reveal divine perspectives. God does not judge by or value outward appearances. Such are human ways. God sees “into the heart.” We would say that God gets to the heart of the matter, the essence of things, not mere appearances. Thus, Eliab is not the one. It does not mean that God rejects him, only that he is not God’s choice for the role of king.