The Fourth Sunday in Lent (3/2/08)

Anointed by God

Lessons: 1st Samuel 16:1-13 Psalm 23 Ephesians 5:8-14 St. John 9:1-41

Prayer of the Day: Bend your ear to our prayers, Lord Christ, and come among us. By your gracious life and death for us, bring light into the darkness of our hearts, and anoint us with your Spirit, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

16.1 The Lord said to Samuel, "How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons." 2 Samuel said, "How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me." And the Lord said, "Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.' 3 Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you." 4 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?" 5 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.

6 When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, "Surely the Lord's anointed is now before the Lord." 7 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." 8 Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, "Neither has the Lord chosen this one." 9 Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, "Neither has the Lord chosen this one." 10 Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, "The Lord has not chosen any of these." 11 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." 12 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." 13 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. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.

1st Samuel 16:1-13, New Revised Standard Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

In 1980 I enrolled as a student at Northwestern Lutheran Theological Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. That Fall, I took a class in the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. One Monday morning, after a particularly difficult assignment was due the previous Friday, the professor entered the classroom with a handful of papers. He looked out at the class, shook his head, and muttered, "Sometimes I wonder about the people God calls to ministry." We took that to mean he wasn't terribly impressed with our work. (We quickly found out he wasn't impressed at all...)

I thought of him as I studied the lessons for this coming Sunday. The truth is: God doesn't call people to ministry based on their qualifications - at least not based on the kinds of qualifications that the logic of this world usually values.

This week's lesson from the Hebrew Bible tells the story of the anointing of King David. We think of him as ancient Israel's greatest king. He is remembered as a mighty warrior, a stirring poet, an inspiring leader, a flawed yet faithful servant of God, an impressive man. But that is not how his story starts out.

Samuel (prophet of God who had anointed King Saul to be Israel's first king) was sent by God to Bethlehem where David and his family lived. Saul had been unfaithful, and God was ready to appoint a new king to be his successor. God already know who that king would be - it was one of Jesse's sons. And so a bit reluctant (fearing that King Saul might find out what he was up to and be less than pleased), Samuel makes his way to Bethlehem, where Jesse rolls out his sons one by one. Eliab. Abinadab. Shammah. Nethanel. Raddai. Ozem. Elihu. Samuel looked over these seven sons of Jesse, and each time he told Jesse, "No - this isn't the one God has chosen."

Finally, Samuel asks, "Are all your sons here?" Almost reluctantly, Jesse admits that there is one more son. But he is just a kid - the runt of the litter. He isn't strong or learned or skilled like these older, more impressive sons. Jesse hasn't even bothered to have his youngest son nearby. He is out in the fields, tending the sheep, while his father and older brothers are meeting with the prophet from Jerusalem. Samuel abruptly tells Jesse that he'll wait. Have him brought here.

And so David is brought back to Bethlehem. The moment Samuel sets eyes on him, God says, "This is the one." Samuel anoints him in the presence of his brothers, and the Spirit of the Lord fills David. From here on, it is only a matter of time.

This story reminds us that God doesn't choose only the strongest, the smartest, the most skilled, or the most impressive to be involved in ministry. It is not what we bring to the table that determines our effectiveness as instruments of God's kingdom. It is the blessing of God upon us. It is the Spirit of God within us. It is the willingness of God to work through us to make extraordinary things happen, despite our shortcomings.

David would become the greatest King of Israel. Not because of who he was (perhaps despite who he was!), but because of who God is. And you and I - we too will become instrumental on God's behalf... because of who God is. Amen.

David J. Risendal, Pastor (February 26, 2008)

Exploring This Week's Text:

  1. Why did God choose David to be the second king of Israel?
  2. Why did God not choose any of David's older brothers?
  3. What other examples are present in the Bible, when God chooses someone we wouldn't expect?

Connecting with This Week's Text:

  1. What weaknesses and flaws do I have that make me a less-than-stellar candidate for ministry?
  2. How might God transform me to be an effective servant of the Gospel?
  3. What ministry do I suspect God might want me to consider?