“Then Samuel went to Ramah; and Saul went up to his house in Gibeah of Saul.” (I Samuel 15:34)
I was raised in a faith that did not condone violence and did not seek the harm or death of anyone. I was taught that Jesus was the Lord of love, and extended compassion and care to everyone. I was taught we were to follow Jesus’ example and that the Lord God was of the same mind and intent of Jesus the Messiah, so the Lord God desired peace and harmony for all of humanity and creation. While humanity may not succeed in living their entire lives in that way, the Divine did through all entirety. What I was NOT taught was how to reconcile the Lord God Yahweh and the Lord God Jesus Christ.
Samuel and Saul had parted company after Samuel was persuaded by Saul to worship together to the Lord God. Saul had disobeyed the Lord God, and it takes some reading of the passage before these verses to understand why. Saul was to spare nothing in his battle with the Amalekites. Anyone or things that survived the battle was to be killed/destroyed after the battle and the Amalekites defeat was accomplished. Everything! Saul did not do so. Not, I read and understand, because he had compassion. But because he and those who fought with him wished to retain some of the wealth and property that the Amalekites had. So, I guess, I can and need to set aside my questioning why the Divine would command this. And no, I am not got to “ask” the commentators. Let us move on then.
“Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death, but Samuel grieved over Saul. And the LORD was sorry that he had made Saul king over Israel.
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.” 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.’ 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.” (Verse 35, & Chapter 16 verses 1 – 3)
Was Saul just an interim king? Someone to hold the spot open until David was ready to walk into that role? It seems that Saul was just all wrong for kingship. Saul was a man looking out for his own self, and not (As David was said to be) a man after God’s heart. I find it interesting too that Samuel is afraid to be seen as opposing Saul. In the passage quoted above Samuel expresses his fears, but earlier in this passage, before the RCL has us start to read there is another interesting verse. I want to share it with you. “Then Saul said, “I have sinned; yet honor me now before the elders of my people and before Israel, and return with me, so that I may worship the Lord your God.” (I Samuel 15:30) Saul says, “your God” – not Saul’s God but Samuel’s God. Interesting.
“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?” 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. When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the LORD.” 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.” Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.” Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.” Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The LORD has not chosen any of these.” (Verses 4 – 10)
It must have become pretty clear to Jesse that Samuel was not just here for “peaceful” worship. And I have to wonder, was this an outcome of Saul’s kingship that men of standing could not meet peacefully for mutual benefit? Why was the presence of Yahweh’s prophet and messenger a possible harbinger of ill fate?
“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.” 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.” 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.” (Verses 11 – 13)
I was also raised in a faith that did not set faith leaders above and apart from the rest of the faith circle. Our leaders arose out of the group, and when it was clear that they were worthy of leadership, we looked to them for instruction and guidance. But they were one of us, and lived in community with us. Over time such leaders were given special training so that they might develop skills of leadership. But it was the presence of the Divine in their lives that set them apart as potential leaders. They were to be as accountable to the guidelines of our faith as those who made up the fellowship. Ruddiness, beautiful eyes, and handsomeness not required. Interestingly Saul was also said to be good looking, head & shoulders taller than anyone around him. I reminded that it is said humanity looks at the outside of a person, but the Lord God looks to the inner soul. Another development in the bible that I am not sure why was not established from the first.
In ordinary time, people are tested. The day to day activities of life tend to show how a person deals with large obligations and long days. May you, beloved reader, look to those around you for guidance and instruction; but may the Lord God give you eyes and insight to understand what you see. Shalom & Selah!