The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? 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.”
But Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears about it, he will kill me.”
The Lord said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate.”
Samuel did what the Lord said. I Samuel 16:1-4a
Psalm 25:12 says, “Who is the man who reverently fears and worships the Lord? Him shall He teach in the way he should choose.” I am thankful for this promise. God teaches us and guides us every step of the way. In times of change and transition, God is still there, leading and guiding. But change can be scary. Consider Samuel.
In I Samuel, we read that God had chosen a new king to replace Saul. Saul was rejected by God because he did not fully obey God’s instructions. Samuel was in mourning for Saul, but God felt he had mourned long enough. Samuel’s assignment was to anoint the new king. God was doing something new, but Samuel wasn’t ready. He was still grieving the loss of Saul as King of Israel.
God asked Samuel, “How long will you mourn?” In other words, How long will you try to hang on to the past, looking back to what was? That is over. A new plan is about to start. When are you going to get on board with the new plan, Samuel?
God tells Samuel, “Fill your horn with oil and be on your way.” Why did Samuel need to fill his horn with oil? To get ready. This is a step of preparation. Samuel had to fill his horn with oil so he would be ready to anoint the new king—one of the sons of Jesse. It was also an act of obedience which demonstrated Samuel’s willingness to get on with the plan whether he was ready or not. God says, “Be on your way.” God did not want Samuel to wait any longer. His time was now!
We also need to fill our “horns” with oil when God is calling us to something new. We need to fill up with the oil of the Holy Spirit by reading God’s Word and praying for guidance. It is important to have the power of God when we head into new things. We want to go in God’s power, not our own.
God has called us and anoints us through His Holy Spirit when we fill up with God’s Word. That anointing helps us capture God’s vision and enthusiasm for a new venture; and when we are enthusiastic, that brings us joy. Our joy provides in God provides our strength.
So, Samuel fills his horn; but then, he raised objections. He asked God, “How can I go?” Samuel was afraid Saul would kill him if he heard he was going to anoint a new king.
How often do we raise objections, hesitate out of fear, or try to talk ourselves out of something that we know is God’s will for us? But God answered Samuel’s objections by giving him instructions to take a sacrifice and invite Jesse. God said, “I will show you what to do.” He will also answer our objections if we have them.
Think of other heroes in the Bible who had objections. Moses had some when God called him to lead the people out of Egypt. Moses said he wasn’t a good speaker; God provided Aaron. Moses obeyed and went, and God’s plan went forward.
And when Abraham had to leave his country, he did. Scripture says he “obeyed and went even though he did not know where he was going.” Can you imagine packing up all your possessions and extended family to go—and you don’t even know the destination? Put that in today’s perspective. The boxes are packed, the house is empty, the moving truck is loaded in the driveway, the kids are waiting in the car, and you’ve turned your house keys over to the new owner. Oh, and all your relatives and their moving trucks and families are also lined up on the street waiting for you to lead them out. And God says, drive. That’s it. Just drive. But which direction, Lord? Just drive. That’s what Abraham did.
So, Samuel went, but he only had part of the plan. The plan was go to Jesse, invite him to a sacrifice, and wait for further instructions. God said he would let him know which son was to be anointed. Samuel knew where he was going and step one of the plan.
Why does God only give us part of the plan? Why can’t we just know the whole thing right up front? Isn’t it frustrating? Maybe Samuel’s response to Jesse’s sons hints at one reason.
Samuel took one look at Jesse’s sons and decided that Eliab would be the chosen king. Samuel thought he had God’s plan all figured out. But Samuel was basing his selection on Eliab’s outward appearance and stature. Just because Eliab was tall didn’t mean he would make a good king.
Isaiah 55:8 says, “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord.”
Fortunately, Samuel did not act on his thoughts. He listened to God. He had each son pass before him and each time waited for the Lord’ response. He waited. Oh, we are not so good at waiting.
Seven sons passed by and seven sons were rejected. We try seven things to move forward with God’s new plan for us and seven things fail. We are not so good at waiting.
When Samuel asked if Jesse had any more sons, Jesse said there was one more but he was out in the fields. Samuel said, “We will wait.” More waiting.
Now, here’s the good thing. Samuel may have taken a while to get on board with God’s new plan, but this wasn’t his first rodeo. He knew God. So, when all seven sons passed by, Samuel didn’t freak out. He didn’t say, “Hey, God, what’s with the new plan? You said there would be a new king, and now you’ve rejected all seven of these guys. Why did you bring me all the way out here if you were just going to reject these guys anyway? Huh, God?”
Instead, Samuel asked a question. Do you have any more sons? And Samuel was willing to wait. He didn’t know for sure that the eighth son would be the one. But he waited. Samuel had to wait quite a long time for the answer.
What do we do? Do we give up if the first seven things don’t work, and then miss a breakthrough when we get tired of waiting around and aren’t there for number eight?
Samuel didn’t pack up and go home. God had sent him to anoint a new king, and he trusted that a new king was going to be presented at the right time. Sometimes, we aren’t even waiting on God; we are waiting on others. Waiting on others to show up and get with God’s plan.
We aren’t given any information about Jesse or David other than where they are and what they are doing. Now, in those days, God mostly spoke to the prophets, so it is possible that Jesse and David had no clue to what was going on. But today, God speaks to each of us individually; and sometimes, even though we are on board with God’s plan, there may be other people who haven’t caught on yet. And we end up waiting because of them. Perhaps that is another reason God doesn’t give us the whole plan right away. God is waiting for others to accept His call.
David finally arrived from the field, and Samuel’s waiting paid off. David passed before Samuel, and God said, “He’s the one.” So, Samuel took the oil and anointed him. God faithfully led Samuel through the assignment he had been given.
The story of Samuel is not the only story of waiting in the Bible. There are so many. David himself is another great example. After Samuel anointed him to be King, it was another fifteen years or more before David actually became King over all of Israel.
Waiting is hard. And sometimes knowing what to do while we are waiting is even harder. But if we are walking in faith, we should move confidently forward trusting God is ordering our steps.
Samuel provides a good model. When God is leading us to something new, we need to
- let go of the past,
- pray and prepare for what is coming,
- trust God to show us what to do,
- do as God directs/complete the steps we know, and
- wait for the answer—even if it takes longer than we think it should.
When we do this, we can be assured that God will be faithful to guide us through to His purpose and His results. And His results are always much more than we could have planned for or imagined.