Lectionary Studies and Practical Theology
The Rev. Dr. Craven E. Williams
When Samuel is told to “fill his horn with oil” we are given the central theme of this reading. The anointing of David as the new king, even during the reign of Saul, is filled with risks. This amounts to disloyalty if not downright treason. Our notion of the unchangeable nature of God is challenged. Obviously, God regrets having made Saul king and rejects him for his disobedience. God clearly changes his mind - flip flops. Since Saul is no longer worthy to be King, he must go and Samuel must find the next King.
Samuel, the real star of this plot, is sent to the home of Jesse to “vet” his eight sons. He selects David, the youngest, smallest and least imposing of the sons. God often selects the least likely, the underdog to do his work.
The anointing of David was risky. David will face an avalanche of threats: by a giant, by Saul, by enemy nations and many others. His only security is the promise of God’s protection. God’s promise is enough. The oil from Samuel’s horn represents God’s protective presence in his life. That same protective oil is available to you.
I Samuel 16: 1-13 (NRSV)
The Lord said to Samuel, ‘How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.’
Samuel said, ‘How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.’ And 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 you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.’ 4Samuel did what the Lord commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, ‘Do you come peaceably?’
He said, ‘Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.’ And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.
When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.’
But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.’
Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, ‘Neither has the Lord chosen this one.’
Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, ‘Neither has the Lord chosen this one.’
Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, ‘The Lord has not chosen any of these.’
Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Are all your sons here?’ And he said, ‘There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.’ And Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.’
He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said, ‘Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.’
Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.