Friday

7 December 2018

1 Samuel 16:1-13

‘… the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.’ (v 7)

Psalm: Psalm 45

Background

We are almost at the end of the stories about Samuel: he makes a fleeting appearance in chapter 20 and there is a report of his death in chapter 25. But what a story this is, one of the pivotal moments in the history of Israel and one that is looked back to by those later writers hoping for a new and godly king. The Hebrew word ‘Messiah’ (in Greek, Christos) means ‘anointed one’. That means Samuel is identifying David as the one who is anointed in the name of God. Through him, God is to fulfil the divine purpose for Israel.

Saul is fading, though he will remain on the scene for some time to come. Samuel is tasked with seeking out and anointing a potential successor. We have to wait for the climax to the story as one after another the sons of Jesse are brought before Samuel and found not to be the one God has chosen. It generally seems that God chooses unlikely candidates for greatness. This, after all, is not a prominent family and (according to the genealogy in Matthew 1) has a foreigner (Ruth) and a prostitute (Rahab) in its ancestry. And, as the youngest son, David looks to be the least eligible. But God’s choice undermines human assumptions about suitability and power. Here is a story of hope: a young man with the potential to unite a people and serve them on behalf of God.

The gospels underline the connection between David and Jesus. Jesus is descended from David and is born in Bethlehem, David’s home town. Even more importantly, Jesus fulfils the prophecy of a new king who comes in the name of the Lord. The story of David will come to embrace both great leadership and disappointing fallibility. The story of Jesus is a different: for Christians he fulfils not only the hopes of Israel, but of all humanity.

 

To Ponder:

  • How often do we judge by appearances and fail to see the reality that lies beneath? What can we do to see the potential in unlikely people and places?
  • What hopes do we invest in leaders – in politics, church and workplace? How do we cope when hope is disappointed?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Richard Clutterbuck

Richard Clutterbuck is a minister of the Methodist Church in Britain. Between 2004 and 2017 he served the Irish Methodist Church as principal of Edgehill Theological College in Belfast. Previously his ministry has been divided between pastoral appointments in North London and theological education in the South Pacific (Tonga), Britain and Ireland.