19 December 2014

1 Samuel 16:1-9

“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.’” (v. 1)

Psalm: Psalm 67


It's difficult for us to appreciate the standing of a prophet, or seer, in societies like Israel at the time of Samuel. We don't have an equivalent. The nearest we get is when a personality seems to gain such iconic status that the media almost awards them infallible powers. For them just to walk into a room is to set off gasps and a battery of mobile phone cameras.

To read 1 Samuel is to pick up hints that the prophet's arrival anywhere would draw a crowd. People would hang on his every word, waiting to see what he would do; what God would do and say through him. There were rituals he and the people followed when he was in town (1 Samuel 9:11-14) and his arrival was not a comforting thing.

In today's passage we find that the elders in Bethlehem come to meet him trembling, hoping that he comes in peace and not bringing a word of condemnation from God. His arrival was not necessarily a welcome sight.

Actually he is in search of a new king to replace the failed Saul because the time is right, but he tells the elders he is in Bethlehem to sacrifice to God. The search for a king is still just between God and the prophet.

The story here is in what the ancient Celts would have understood as a 'time between times'. To most eyes Saul was still king, but to God he wasn't. Samuel was on the lookout for a king who would be, but was not yet. There's a reminder for us that even when things appear silent, God is always on the move towards what will be.

To Ponder

  • Who are the prophets for today: preachers, song-writers, columnists?
  • Is there a place in contemporary society for people who speak God's uncomfortable word: to the powerful and to the Church? What do they say?

Bible notes author

The Revd Gareth Hill

Gareth Hill is a Methodist minister with a particular interest in pioneer ministry and fresh ways of being Church. He is​ in circuit ministry in the Winchester, Eastleigh & Romsey Circuit in the Southampton District and has pastoral charge of six churches in Romsey and on the edge of the New Forest.