God gives visible assurance of an unseen decree

1 Samuel 16:1-13 “Here we are 2021. I can’t wait to kiss 2020 goodbye. 2021 is going to be much better than 2020.” I know some of you want to correct me but I distinctly remember hearing (and saying) that last January. And again I have heard. “Here we are 2022. I can’t wait to kiss 2021 goodbye. 2022 is going to be much better than 2021.” Maybe you are still optimistic about this year. Or have you given up? Perhaps you’ve said “2021 was just as bad if not worse than 2020. Why should I have any hope about this next year?” Maybe it wasn’t the year but perhaps it’s something else that has led you to despair. We have two extreme responses, overly optimistic and despair. Is it ok for the Christian to despair? Is the Christian supposed to be an eternal optimist? Samuel hits both reactions in a short period of time. The Israelite nation asked for a king to govern them. God is unseen and it is hard to be governed by someone unseen. They desired a visible ruler. The first king that ruled over the Israelites while in the promised land was named Saul. He was tall, handsome, strong, and had a kingly appearance. Saul was a humble leader at first. But quickly the power had gone to his head, and he began to waver in his commitment to the Lord. With that went his capacity to rule the people well. Samuel mourned over Saul. He was in despair. 1 The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Samuel was in despair here. He mourned like one who mourns at the death of someone close. It must have been for a while because God intervened and asked “How long?” Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.” God is going to act. God has chosen a new king. God will go with Samuel. This news doesn’t lift Samuel’s sprits yet. His despair led him to forsake his position. 2 But Samuel said, “How can I go? Saul will hear about it and kill me.” His despair led him to imagine the worst-case scenario. He did not want to carry out his vocation as the anointer. The anointer was a special person back then. There was a ceremony where the anointer would pour olive oil over the head of the one being anointed (a king or priest). That was the special one chosen by God for a significant leader position. Yet Samuel’s unlimited grief stopped him. When you become content with sin and disaster, you become hopeless, and this is one of the biggest sins of all. Deep despair empties hope in God’s direction. It is too easy to go from tired to defeated. We do this to ourselves. A young girl walked into a pastor’s office sick over a guy she was unable to have a relationship with. The pastor, wanting to help, offered this consolation, “God still loves you deeply.” She cried back, “I don’t want God to love me I want him to love me.” When God’s love can no longer console us, our despair has driven us to a dark place. God patiently spoke to Samuel. 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 to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate.” “I will show you. I will do this for you. I will lead you and guide you.” Samuel’s despair didn’t stop God from his gracious plan. Moved by God Samuel goes. 4 Samuel did what the Lord said. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town trembled when they met him. They asked, “Do you come in peace?” What they were afraid of, we are not sure. 5 Samuel replied, “Yes, in peace; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Consecrate yourselves and come to the sacrifice with me.” Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice. The cover plan worked and Samuel felt safe. This led to Samuel’s over-the-top optimism. 6 When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.” Here’s Samuel’s unbridled optimism. He has gone from one extreme to the other. First Samuel, has despair, then he has the opposite extreme, the unbridled hope based on his seeing. Samuel thinks, “This is it! This is the Lord’s anointed.” But he is incorrect. There is inappropriate grief and inappropriate hope. Samuel explicitly misses God’s pointing. Samuel jumps to his own conclusion without waiting for the word of the Lord. Think back to the girl in the pastor’s office. Imagine if the boy that she cared so deeply for walked in and expressed his love. Her heart would leap from despair to the same unbridled hope and optimism about good days to come. Yet it would not last because he could never fill her heart up with the love she so deeply desired. You may think her silly until you inventory the last things that exited you. We have so much that we see and we wish to be our savior. Calmly stop and listen to the Lord speak of his own messiah. 7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 8 Then Jesse called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “The Lord has not chosen this one either.” How did he know? Because he finally listened and God didn’t say, “That is the one.” 9 Jesse then had Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, “Nor has the Lord chosen this one.” 10 Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The Lord has not chosen these.” 11 So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?” God said he chose one from Jesse’s family so there must be one more. “There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered, “but he is tending the sheep.” Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.” 12 So he sent and had him brought in. He was ruddy, with a fine appearance and handsome features. Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; he is the one.” God is so patient with Samuel. God chose his one. Who is the chosen one? 13 So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power. Samuel then went to Ramah. This is the first mention of David, the greatest king in the Old Testament history of kings. The word for youngest could also mean smallest. Later, we see that David didn’t fit well into a suit of armor provided for him to fight Goliath. God goes from the tall king like Saul to the young, possibly short, shepherd boy. What God sees is not what we see. John the Baptist looked much more like the Messiah than Jesus did. John had the crowds come and ask him. Jesus had a couple of people following him at this time. Yet John knew better. God chose Jesus. So John anointed Jesus by pouring water on his head and baptizing him. The King, Jesus, came to sit on David’s throne. Jesus would rule, not with despair at the hard rode of the cross and not with unbridled optimism. Jesus would steadily continue forward without either extreme to win your soul through his death on the cross. He may not look like much, but he is everything. In moments of despair we don’t see much for potential. You are not unnoticed, you are not a piece of trash, you are justified, you are an heir of the kingdom, he is going to use you to do his work. In the overreaction of optimism in a false messiah, Jesus humbles us by reminding us of our own anointing. You have been baptized. So you have been chosen by God to be his child. He is your only Messiah. He is the only one to save you. The Spirit rushed on David after his anointing. I doubt anyone noticed it. An unimpressive display for a physically unimpressive individual. God decided it would be something amazing. God uses normal things to do amazing work. What we see is water, what God sees is baptism. What we see is the bread and wine, what God sees is the body and blood of his Son for our forgiveness. What we see is sin, what God sees is saint. What we see is failure, what God sees is baptized child. Yet this is the physical evidence for his unseen declarations. God in wonderful grace binds himself to his promises in a covenant to David and to you. “I love you and will be faithful to you as long as I live.” You have the physical evidence for that unseen declaration in your baptism and in the Supper we will partake of today. Amen

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