Who God Desires
Quinquagesima – 2/11/2024
1 Samuel 16:1-13
That portion of God’s holy Word for consideration this morning is our Old Testament lesson from the First Book of Samuel in the sixteenth chapter with special emphasis on verses twelve through thirteen which read as follows:
“’So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features. Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.’ 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 powerfully upon David. Samuel then went to Ramah.”
Thus far the Scriptures.
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
There are three things that our reading today teaches us about God and His relationship to us Christians. Firstly, it shows us the nature of how God visits vocations on people. Secondly, it reveals that God’s power is revealed in weakness. Thirdly, it shows us the manner that God works for our good in our lives.
Here in this text, we see something about vocation. Now there is a lot of debate over this issue and how one gets a vocation in Christian circles. To make a potentially long discussion manageable in length, we must first define the terms here. A vocation is a calling from God, that is, something that God gives us to do. We can recognize our vocations by looking at the obligations that God has given us concerning our neighbors. So, for example, I am a father. I have been given children, and so I have the vocation of “father” and that comes with both responsibilities and blessings in carrying out the duties of this particular vocation of mine. Children require work and sacrifice, every parent, both mothers and fathers, give up things to ensure that their children have what they need, not just in terms of material things, but also in terms of time and attention. For example, if a child a sick, one or both parents will end up getting them the kid during the night and give up sleep in order to make sure the kid gets sleep, medicine, or cleaned up. And we should call this what it is, a sacrifice, because parents give up time and, in this case, sleep, in order to make sure the kids are provided for. But children are also a blessing. And there is nothing better than seeing your kids grow and succeed. Baby snuggles are great. And so on a so forth.
Now this is to illustrate that all vocations, be it Christian, family, community, or economic – that is job -all come with similar arrangements. We give up things to attend to our vocational responsibilities, but these also bring with them rewards and blessings from the hand of God.
This text does not deal with vocations per se, but how they are given by God. Here was see a sign of both an inner and outer call, so to speak. When it comes to pastors, for example, there is a lot of debate over whether a call is internal or external. Sometimes people treat the matter of vocation as a purely internal thing. Sometimes it is treated as purely external. Instead, it is something of both.
In life, a person must have some internal desire for a particular vocation. If a man doesn’t think that he’s cut out for being a pastor, he would not go to seminary. And while he may have some people who encourage him to do this, he doesn’t have any real, objective validation of his desire to be a pastor. The same can be said for other vocations. Whether it’s marriage or singleness, motherhood or fatherhood, this or that job, there is a desire that comes with these things. And while such a desire is not necessarily very pronounced or very strong, it is there. Hopefully you can remember when you were a kid and wanted to be a farmer or teacher or mother or scientist. You had a desire to do something. Now what we see here in this text is that desire, so to speak. David is brought in from the field and submits himself to be anointed by the prophet Samuel, marking him as king. However, with David, a pastor, or anything else, the desire for a vocation, the inner call, is not enough in and of itself to actually bring about that particular vocation. In order for it to become a real thing, it must be conferred externally.
Wanting to be a mother or father is a good desire, but one is not a mother or father unless God blesses a marriage with children. Someone might want to be a pastor, but he is not a pastor until he has been trained, called by a congregation, ordained, and installed there. A person might want to be a teacher, but until he or she is hired to be one, he is not a teacher.
Samuel shows that the thing that ultimately confers a position given by God is this external call. So David is made king of Israel by God’s command to Samuel to anoint David as king. An anointing is to be ceremonially covered in oil. This then marks and sets aside a person or thing for some special task, in this case, David is called out and set aside to be the King of Israel. And this is not a private, personal revelation sort of thing, but something that is seen and attended to by the public. To reinforce this, David was again anointed to be King in 2 Samuel 5:4 when he was thirty years old. At that point he began his reign as King. He first ruled in the city of Hebron and then, after winning a civil war against those who supported Saul and later Saul’s son Ish-bosheth, David ruled the whole nation as God had ordained.
This text also reveals that God’s strength is shown in weakness. While David is described as handsome, he is the youngest and least physically imposing of the sons of Jesse. The Lord God tells Samuel that the Lord that God sees the heart rather than being distracted by outward appearances. David becomes a great warrior and leader, but at this time he was a young boy and did not present as an obviously kingly sort of person. But God chose this young man and saw in David’s heart that he believed the Lord and trusted in Him. In a theme that will be repeated again and again in the Bible, God chose what is weak and lowly in the eyes of sinful man to show His strength. This theme of the Old Testament is finally brought to its final fulfillment in the coming of our Lord Jesus, who submitted Himself to mockery, torture, and suffering, even to death, in order to defeat sin, death, and the devil. To the eyes of sinful man, Jesus looked defeated, dead. But in the working of salvation, death became the means that the strength and mercy of God were revealed in that this death would be the manner by which salvation would be achieved for all mankind.
Finally, this text reminds us of how God works in our lives. Foremost, God works through means. He provides the things we need each day through the work of our hands and the generosity of others. He gives us good weather, family, friends, food, drink, beds and clothing, and everything else that we need each day. But even more than this, God the Holy Sprit provides to us life, mercy, and salvation which come with the forgiveness of sins through promised means of His choosing. The Word of God, preached and taught, holy absolution – that is forgiveness of sins, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper were established by our Lord God to be the manner that He visits the salvation won for us by Christ our Lord on us so that we would know when and where He has brought us into His kingdom. He does not want us to be left uncertainty or doubt. Instead, He wants us to know with every confidence and assurance that the saving death of Jesus Christ is ours as well. And so He gives us Himself in these ways so that we can know exactly when and where He is at work in our lives. He doesn’t want us to be guessing about His love or involvement in our lives. Instead, He promises to be here for us for our life and salvation and wants us to rest in the certainty of these promised works.
Further, these means are not dependent on us. They stand as what they are not by our use or reception of them, but by the very power of God and His Word. David is not made king because he earned it or showed his piety, instead, God chose David out of divine grace and mercy. In other words, just as God makes us His own people today through no effort of our own, God made David king by God’s own decision and act. And this is a reminder for us that God saves people by His work and His alone. Indeed, all of the acts of God toward humanity are God’s own acts. And so, great things like salvation and even lesser things like our daily bread, are ensured by God and His character as our benevolent, loving Father.
So, dear friends in Christ, there are three things that this passage from 1 Samuel draws our attention to. Firstly, it shows how God grants vocations to us. Secondly, it shows how God’s power is made known in human weakness. And thirdly, it shows the manner of how God brings us His good gifts by no work or effort on our part.
In the holy Name of + Jesus. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.