Sermon 1.13.19 Epiphany 1

1 Samuel 16:1-13                                                                                                                                    Rev. Kenneth Frey
Epiphany 1                                                                                                                                               1/13/19
1 Samuel 16:1-13 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. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town trembled when they met him. They asked, “Do you come in peace?”  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. When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.” 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 people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Then Jesse called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “The Lord has not chosen this one either.” 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?” “There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.” Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.” 12 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.” 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 powerfully upon David. Samuel then went to Ramah. 
Anointed with the Spirit
1.  Our fears can overwhelm us
2.  Our prejudices can blind us
3.  God marks us as his own
Look at yourself.  What do you see?  Do you feel like a failure?  Do you see someone who continues to fall into sin again and again?  Do you see someone who has struggled to live a Christian life, but too often comes up short?  Does it seem that your life has had little or no impact on the people around you?  When you look at yourself, do you see someone who is not very impressive?  Then you are seeing yourself like many people saw David.  And just like David, it’s not how impressive we may or may not be.  What’s important is that like David, we have been anointed with the Spirit.
God had rejected Saul.  “God gave Saul a clear command through the prophet and Saul disobeyed.  He subjected God’s command to his own reasoning, exalting human thinking above divine order.  Just because he had a pious, religious purpose does not excuse his behavior.”  (Dr. Jerry Morrissey at www.sermoncentral.com)
The Israelites wanted a king to fight their battles and Saul was just the one to do it.  When Saul was chosen king, it was noted that he was a head taller than all the other Israelites.  He was an impressive figure.  He was a powerful leader and a mighty warrior.  He had led many battles against their enemies.  But God rejected him.  It wasn’t because he was a poor general or a weak warrior that God rejected him.  It wasn’t because of a lack of leadership skills or a lack of vision that God rejected him.  Saul was rejected because he disobeyed God. 
Samuel struggled with that.  Samuel seemed to be unwilling to give up on Saul.  He seemed reluctant to appoint Saul’s successor because it would seem to be driving a nail in Saul’s political coffin.  God’s question was a mild rebuke of his prophet.  How long will Samuel grieve over the one whom God has rejected?  How long will Samuel have a different opinion than God?  God had rejected Saul and its time for Samuel to accept that. 
It wasn’t just reluctance; it was fear.   But Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears about it, he will kill me.”  Samuel was aware of Saul’s rage and jealousy.  He knew that he would be putting himself in danger on such a mission. 
What do you fear?  Do you fear the political divide in our country and our state?  Do you wonder how bad things are going to get?  Do you fear the next generation?  I mean, do you fear that they don’t seem to have the work ethic of generations past?  What will happen to our economy if most of the adult population wants to sit around and drink lattes all day?  Do you fear for your children and grandchildren as you see the decay in the culture around us?  Do you fear for your own spiritual life as you struggle with sin and find it hard to be regular in your devotional life? 
Samuel needed to get past his fear and move on with the Lord’s will.  He also needed to get over his prejudice.  Prejudice can blind us.
The Lord sent Samuel to Bethlehem, the town of Jesse.  There he was to anoint one of Jesse’s sons as the next king of Israel.  When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.” 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 people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  It seems Samuel was still judging by appearances.  The tall, oldest son has got to be the guy, he thought.  God said no.  In effect God said, “No more tall guys!”  Saul was the tallest man in Israel and that had not worked out so well.  Samuel’s prejudice for impressive looking men blinded him to God’s plan. 
God sees what we can’t see, so we need to be careful how we judge things and people.  For example, a baby may look pure and innocent, but God says that all people are sinful from birth.  We like to think that we are good, church-going people, but God says that there is no one righteous, not even one.  We who are older may see all millennials as “snowflakes” and lacking work ethic.  But such broad statements betray a prejudice against the younger generation.  And prejudice can blind us.
Take Jesus, for example.  Jesus was not physically impressive, either.  Isaiah prophesied about him, “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.”  Jesus had a poor birth.  He was the son of a carpenter.  He didn’t go to Yale or Harvard.  He didn’t have a talk show or hold political office.  He wasn’t making a good living off of his teachings.  His congregation grew for a while, but then many turned away.  In so many worldly ways, he was a failure. 
But God chose to save us through his lowly life and terrible death.  God doesn’t save us by the impressive works we do.  He doesn’t save us by how much we give to the church or how many people we share the gospel with.  He doesn’t save us because we are so impressive, because we’re not.  He saved us through the humiliation and suffering of Jesus. 
He was not visibly impressive, but he was God’s anointed.  “When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened 22and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased." (Luke 3:21-22)
David, too, was not very impressive.  David was the “runt of the litter” you might say.  He was the youngest of Jesse’s sons.  He wasn’t even included in the feast because he was just a boy.  But it wasn’t how he looked that mattered.  What mattered was his heart.  God saw a heart of deep faith and great courage that would stand up to Israel’s enemy, Goliath, because he trusted in God. 
But let’s not misunderstand God’s choice here.  God was choosing David for service, not for salvation.  It may sound like God chose David for salvation because he had a heart of faith.  God chose David to serve because of his heart.  He elects to salvation purely because of his grace.  If God were to choose to save those who had a pure heart, no one would be saved. 
Now, having chosen David, God anointed him.  Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the 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 powerfully upon David.  Through this anointing David received a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit. 
Some Christians look for some powerful, visible outpouring of the Holy Spirit today.  They are looking for something on the outside that can only be found in the heart.  Samuel didn’t say the Spirit coming on David showed in any outward fashion.  He just says it came on him powerfully. 
The Spirit comes on us powerfully, but invisibly, also.  Peter told the crowds at Pentecost, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)  What do you see when you watch a baptism or take the Lord’s Supper?    Are you looking for a halo to appear over a baby when the water is applied?  Often, the child cries more after the water hits him than before.  When you receive the Lord’s Supper you may not feel any different after than you did before.  But what are you looking at?  Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are not outwardly impressive, just a little water, wine and bread.  But with faith, look behind the outward appearance and see the heart of the sacraments, the powerful gospel of Jesus Christ. 
The Apostle Paul wrote to Titus,  “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.  He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” (Titus 3:4-6)  Through baptism, Paul says, the Holy Spirit saves us.  He plants trust of Jesus in our hearts.  A farmer doesn’t just wave his hand an have seeds fall into the ground.  He uses tools to plant and nurture the seeds.   So the Holy Spirit uses tools to plant and feed our faith.  Those tools are God’s Word and the sacraments.  They may not look impressive, but they are the power of God for salvation.
What about you?  What do you see?  Someone whose maybe not that impressive? Do you see someone who continues to fall into sin again and again?  Do you see someone who has struggled to live a Christian life but too often comes up short?  Does it seem that living a Christian life has had little or no impact on the people around you?  You may see someone who is not very impressive, but you are baptized.  You are anointed with the Spirit and that means you are precious to God, forgiven through the blood of Jesus and you have a new heart like David, a heart to serve the Lord.  May we use it to his glory.