Summary: From the story of Samuel anointing David as future king, we learn to obey God (which impacts others), to never stop learning, and to cultivate character. (Used as Father's Day sermon.)
1 Samuel 15:34 - 1 Samuel 16:13
Lessons from the Father of a Nation
This Father’s Day I thought it would be interesting to learn from the Father of a nation. We usually look at today’s story from the perspective of David, but why not see it through Samuel’s eyes? Samuel, in essence, is the father of a nation. He is the glue that holds the nation together, through the ups and downs of King Saul. Samuel teaches us what it means to follow God. And how important true obedience is. As well as an aging priest, Samuel serves as the last of the great judges and first of the great prophets, the maker of kings. Today’s scripture covers a period of time when God said, “I’m done with King Saul,” and hand picks the next king, although he would not assume the crown for many years. Let’s look at some lessons Samuel might teach us, as he faithfully follows God’s lead to choose Saul’s successor. Lesson #1, simply put, is to:
1. Obey the Lord (vv. 3-4)
Samuel is famous for his obedience. As a little boy, serving alongside the elderly priest Eli, he learned to listen for God’s voice. Throughout Samuel’s life, he wanted nothing more than to obey God. Immediately before today’s passage, he told King Saul of God’s disappointment in him for not obeying the Lord and allowing an evil pagan king to live. He told Saul, “Your days as king are numbered. God is done with you.” Then Samuel killed the foreign king himself. The opening of our scripture today shows him in mourning for a king who has not yet died, but is dead to him in God’s eyes.
Notice the challenge of obedience Samuel faces if he is to obey God. He has to go from his hometown to Bethlehem, the town of Jesse; that route will take him right through the town of King Saul. He knows Saul needs some anger management lessons. He knows Saul is intensely jealous and will kill him and the future king if he ever finds out about this plan. To obey God, then, is to commit an act of treachery in the eyes of King Saul.
Samuel asks God about this, so God gives him a cover story. “You’re going to make a sacrifice. And be sure Jesse and his family are there.” It’s the truth, just not the whole truth. Then God says, in verse 3, “You will anoint as future king the man I tell you to.”
Ever wonder why God just doesn’t spell it out? “Samuel, I want you to go to the town of Bethlehem and anoint David, the youngest son of Jesse, the next king.” No, God doesn’t do that! He keeps the mission vague; it’s a big secret. Like when God says to Abraham, “Go to the land I will show you.” He doesn’t tell Abraham where he’s going until he gets there! Why does God hold back the complete picture in our lives? Sometimes it seems he gives barely enough to take the next step. And maybe that’s the answer. Maybe God gives only the next step so we will continue to depend on him instead of ourselves, so we’ll learn to trust him. Or maybe God knows the whole future would overwhelm us. Either way, Samuel obeys. Verse 4 begins, “Samuel did what the Lord told him to do.” He obeys the Lord. He takes the next step.
I love the reaction of the local yokels: they quiver in their boots as Samuel enters their town. Why? Because Samuel had just killed a foreign king with his own hands? Maybe. And maybe because they see Samuel as the very spokesperson for God. His life of obedience has gained him a reputation. It’s kind of like how his ancestors revered Moses when he came down off the mountaintop with a message from God.
Sometimes, not all the time, but sometimes, when you follow God, God will give you great respect among others, because of your obedience. Your obedience matters, not only to you, but also to those around you, those you love, those who are influenced by you. Godly fathers and grandfathers know that their obedience will affect generations behind them. One of my Vietnam Veterans recently came to know Jesus personally, and now he is trying to actively love his family and make up for a life of emotionally abusing them. They are slowly coming around, seeing that he is a new creation in Christ.
Perhaps Samuel leaves some influence on David in today’s story. The Apostle Paul later will give us God’s take on him. In Acts 13:22 Paul quotes God as saying, “I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; [Why? ...] he will do everything I want him to do.” It’s all about obedience!