By J.R. Miller
1 Samuel 16
Saul had failed because he would not accept God's way for his life--but insisted upon having his own way. The result was that he wrecked everything. God set him aside. He continued to reign until his death--but he no more had God's help and blessing.
It was a sad hour in Samuel's life when the Lord sent him to anoint another in Saul's place. We see here another glimpse of the nobleness of Samuel. It grieved him to have Saul rejected. Some men in Samuel's place would have been quite satisfied at Saul's failure. But Samuel had a generous heart. It should grieve us to see even the worst man do wrong and come under the Divine condemnation.
Samuel seems also to have been afraid. "If Saul hears it, he will kill me," he said. The Lord then reproved him for his hesitancy. "How long will you mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from being king?" Our first duty even in sorrow--is submission to the Divine will. When God renders a decision, we should accept it as final, however it may cut into our hopes or plans. It ought to have been enough for Samuel--to know that the Lord had rejected Saul. When God acts, His servants should be silent. It ought to be enough for anyone in private or public sorrow--that the Lord has so ordered it. Grief is not unfitting, for Jesus wept; yet grieving may become sin. It is sin when it is unsubmissive. Even when no ray of light can be seen--God's wisdom and love should be trusted. The best cure for grief and disappointment, is found in promptly taking up one's duty.
"Labor is rest from the sorrows that greet us;
Rest from all petty vexations that meet us."
The Lord smoothed the way for Samuel, as he went upon his errand. He sent him to Jesse, telling him He had provided a king among Jesse's sons. God's choice of the king was not to be made public. Indeed, no one but Samuel himself knew the meaning of his visit to the Bethlehem home, or of the anointing that took place. Samuel's errand to Bethlehem was an act of worship, a sacrifice, and a feast. Samuel was not to worry about how the matter would come out. One step at a time, was enough for him to know. God usually does not show us all our way--at once. He gives us our work piece by piece.
"The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, "Do you come in peace?" Samuel replied, "Yes, in peace; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD." The elders of the town were somewhat disturbed when the old prophet came to their town. They feared that his coming meant punishment to them for something they had done.
Like these Bethlehemites, we, too, are sometimes terrified by the coming to us of God's messengers. They do not all wear gentle faces as they approach us; ofttimes they come in a garb of sternness or of pain. Yet they come always with a blessing for us. Sickness is one of those dark-visaged prophets. We cannot welcome it. Yet if we ask this messenger in our trembling: "Do you come in peace?" the answer is: "Yes, peaceably." Sickness always brings messages of peace, of blessing, of good--to those who will receive them, and God's messenger should always be received with reverence and trust.
The same is true of all the hard things in our lot. We do not like to have to struggle and deny ourselves. Boys and young men who are poor, ofttimes think they scarcely have a fair chance in life when they see the sons of rich men reveling in ease and luxury, with plenty of money and with no necessity to toil and save. Yet really, the stern prophet of poverty who comes to the sons of the poor--brings a holier message and a truer blessing--than the smiling-faced, silken-robed messenger brings to the youth of the fine mansion! The best things in life--can be drawn out only by work and discipline. Hence, whatever compels a boy or a young man to toil, to deny himself, to depend upon his own efforts--is a blessing to him. The prophet of necessity comes, therefore, to him peaceably.
In all of life it is the same. We never should turn away from our doors, any prophets whom God sends, however stem they may appear. They all come to bring us some good, to give us more life, to make better men of us. "The beautifully grained wood that makes our finest furniture is not taken from the trees that grow in peaceful, sheltered situations--but from those that are in exposed places, beaten about by the storms. So it is that the noblest natures, are those that have had to contend with many trials."
Samuel began at once to look at Jesse's sons, in order to discover the one who was to be the king. "Samuel took one look at Eliab and thought, Surely this is the LORD's anointed!" 1 Samuel 16:6.
Eliab was a splendid specimen of a man--just the man for a king. He was tall and majestic in his bearing. If physical strength was still to be the requisite for kingliness, no better man could have been found. But there are many men with splendid bodies--who are far from regal in their souls! Intellectual capacity is also one of God's noble gifts--but many a man with a superb mind--is most unkingly in his character. What could such men as Byron and Burns and Napoleon have been before God--if they had not so prostituted their magnificent power? Neither physical beauty like that of Apollo, nor intellectual greatness like that of a Bacon, makes a man great in God's eyes.
God looks for moral and spiritual greatness, and many a poor cripple or hunchback is more kingly in His sight--than the man or the woman whom people turn to gaze after on the street, attracted by beauty of person and grace of movement.
"Man looks on the outward appearance--but the Lord looks on the heart." When soldiers are needed, those who offer themselves are measured and weighed and their health is tested. When God wants soldiers--He applies moral measurements. In these modern days a great deal of attention is paid to physical looks. Some of the boys would rather stand well in the games--than in their classroom. They think more of fine muscles--than of a fine mind or a beautiful soul. Physical health is good--God wants us to take care of our bodies and make the very most of their strength, keeping them in health and vigor.
It may be well, however, to inquire what really makes a man--muscle, or mind and heart. Eliab was a fine fellow in his body--but he was not the man the Lord chose when He wanted a king. Evidently his heart had not in it the kingly qualities. We do not know in what qualities Eliab was lacking. We know only that he was not a man after God's heart. God knows who has the ability for any particular task--and whom He can trust with sacred responsibilities.
One by one Jesse's sons were looked upon by Samuel--all but one. But the one the Lord was looking for, had not yet appeared, and Samuel asked Jesse: "Are these all your children? . . . There remains yet the youngest," said Jesse, "and, behold, he is keeping the sheep." The shepherd lad did not seem to his father, to be of any importance. He was only a boy, while his brothers were fine young men. He could look after sheep well enough, and thus he was not present for Samuel that day. It was not thought even worth while, to call him in for the feast or for the religious service. Apparently he came very near being overlooked. He would have been overlooked altogether, if it had not been for Samuel. It is often the case that those the Lord chooses for important places in His Kingdom, are the ones whom men have overlooked. The stones which the human builders have rejected, God has built at length into the very foundations of the walls of His great temple. He knows the men He wants, and He recognizes their worth, though clad in shepherds' garb--or in fishermen's plain dress.
There ought to be encouragement here for boys who are in lowly or obscure places. They may think they have no chance in life, that nobody will ever discover their talents and abilities--but God knows all about them. He knows, too, where He wants to use them, what place He made them for, what work is theirs in His infinite plan--and He will also find a way to bring them out and lead them to what He wants them to perform. This is our Father's world, and there is no danger that we shall be lost in its vastness, however little we may be.
The way to be sure of recognition and promotion to a higher place, is to be faithful and energetic in the lowly place in which one begins. God will find you there when He wants you. He found Elisha plowing in the field. Jesus found His disciples fishing. The Lord found David keeping sheep.
It is interesting to know that God has a place for every life. We are not born in this world--and then left to find our way through it into whatever place we may be able to scramble to. We are made by God, thought about before we are born, and given the qualities that will fit us for the place we are meant to fill, and the talents for doing the work that we are made to do. We ought not to have to scramble to get a place in which to live and make our career. If only we do God's will day by day--we shall come at length to our place. David was born to be a king. Samuel found him caring for sheep. But he was led at length to the throne. We may trust God with guidance in the making of our career--if we simply obey and follow Him.
When the one the Lord had chosen among Jesse's sons appeared, he was anointed. "Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him . . . and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David." Thus the boy was set apart for God. The oil was the symbol--the real anointing was the coming of the Divine Spirit upon him. That is what we all need to fit us for our duty. Natural gifts and capacities have their place--but they are of no avail--unless the anointing of God is upon us. Power must come down from above. The Divine Spirit alone, can take these poor earthly lives of ours--and make them ready for Divine service.
This lesson is very important for the boys who are keeping sheep or working on farms and in shops and factories and stores, or plodding on in school, sighing for places of influence and power. Bow your heads to obey the Spirit of God, and His anointing will fit you for whatever place God made you to fill. Probably David did not then know to what God meant to call him. He knew only this: that he was now set apart for some service for the Lord. You do not know what God made you for. You may be sure, however, that it was for something very noble. Any place in God's plan is glorious. Then even the lowliest place is noble, as the world rates places--if it is God's assignment.