4th Sunday in Lent: A Reflection on 1 Sam 16:1-13
The Lord said to Samuel the prophet, “Fill your horn with oil, and go, I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” And Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen these.” And Jesse sent and brought (the youngest David who was keeping the sheep.) And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him, for this is he.” Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David.
David is well known as a shepherd, giant-killer, sinner, and king of Israel. When I read this beginning story of his call to leadership, I wondered how the Lord’s choice to anoint David as King over his seven older brothers affected the roles his family might have played in God’s Kingdom.
God tells the prophet Samuel: “Fill your horn with oil, and go I will send you” to anoint a King from among the sons of Jesse the Bethlehemite. His instructions include: “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature…for the Lord sees not as man sees…the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” One by one, seven sons go before Samuel but they are not the chosen of the Lord. Finally, they bring in the youngest son, David, a handsome outdoorsman, a shepherd of sheep. This is the one, says God and Samuel anoints him with oil in front of all his brothers and family. “And the Spirit of the Lord rushed on David from that day forward.”
So, birth order and physical features were not factors in how God chose this leader. Remember Esau and Jacob, where Jacob the younger twin steals his brother’s birthright. Or according to tradition, the great Apostle Paul was short and bald. Being raised a middle child in a large family, I can imagine the jealousies and bitterness that could have formed the character of David’s older brothers. Or did they find meaning and purpose in other roles?
Why did God choose David? A clue is provided in Psalm 78:70, “He chose David his servant and took him from the sheepfolds; from following the nursing ewes he brought him to shepherd Jacob his people, Israel his inheritance. With upright heart he shepherded them and guided them with his skillful hand.” David was gifted with the energy of a natural leader with skills to shepherd both sheep and people. But that was not sufficient qualification to go from the sheep pens to being the shepherd King of God’s people. Along with his leadership skills, he was anointed, which is a symbol of his calling, or God-given passion. With that calling, the Spirit of God “rushed on him” filling him with Spirit-gifted energy.
Although this story focuses on David, many of us might identify more as the unfavored siblings left watching their kid brother get all the glory. Not being the favorite or the famous one can become an unfortunate message that keeps us from knowing that we also have been created uniquely and purposefully for our own mission. We focus so much on the winner or someone royal or famous, that we forget those who make it all happen. David was the son of Jesse, from the tribe of Judah, who had eight sons. It was from this family tree that the Messiah would come: “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.” Isaiah 11:1. David was not just a successful individual, but a son raised in a God-fearing, loyal family. His family served faithfully in the temple and in the army of King Saul. It was these strong faith and family “roots” that were the foundation of David’s calling.
And what about Samuel’s role? As a prophet of God, he was a gifted communicator and an “HR manager,” helping to make someone else successful. I relate to Samuel’s role because as the middle child of a devout, service oriented family, I was perfectly groomed to become a middle manager at a city newspaper, advocating for my people while doing the work to make my supervisors look good. Like Samuel, I have mentored, spoken truth, and stood in support as leaders were crowned. In these days of cultural pressure to be famous, there is a need for many of us to take up the horn of oil and pray for new young leaders called by God, and empowered with the rush of the Spirit. There is urgent need for faithful families who bring up healthy children who love and serve God. And our family prayer should be: “Your kingdom come, your will be done.”
Reflection: The anointing of the Spirit sets us apart for Divine use and energizes us for the role we play in the Kingdom. Take time to pray to God the Spirit for discernment and guidance in finding your place and mission. Work through each part of the following discernment formula:
Wiring + Gifting + Passion = My Mission.
WIRING represents our natural skills, how we were “wired” at conception. It is our personal energy for life. Parker Palmer calls this our “birth competency.” List three unique things about you that are life giving. Read Psalm 139:13-15 and reflect on what is wonderful about how you were made.
GIFTING is the gift of grace given for the common good, or Holy Spirit anointed energy in community. List three things that bring you joy in serving others. Spiritual gifting is best discovered both in authentic discipleship and service. What have others said about your giftings?
PASSION is our calling or God-given energy to serve and love. What fierce longing moves you from the armchair into the street? Intense passion has the idea of suffering or sacrifice. What do you need to set aside to free the Spirit’s energy?
These three energies, created by God, gifted by the Spirit, and energized to serve, enable us as beloved daughters and sons of God to live out purposeful and joy-filled lives in community. As a family, talk about how can you encourage the anointing of young leaders.
Prayer: “Give me the love that leads the way, the faith that nothing can dismay, the hope no disappointments tire, the passion that will burn like fire. Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God.” Amy Carmichael.