By Lori Rodeheaver
At Christmastime, red and green usually make their way into every household. I don’t know the origin of these seasonal colors but I do know what they mean out on the road. Maybe it’s because Christmas is so busy…green means go as fast as you can and get everything done and red means stop and remember why you’re doing it all. Because we are all on the road…somewhere.
Well, what if God tells you to stop when you’re going? What if he tells you to go when you’re stopping? Either your gas pedals need a mechanic or your reflexes need a doctor. Let’s see what happens to Samuel when God stops his going and goes his stopping.
The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go. I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” ~1 Samuel 16:1
Saul has been wholly rejected by God. Samuel is through dealing with his rebellion, too, yet he continues grieving over the situation and the loss of his friend. But God reproves him saying, “How long will you grieve over Saul…”
God is like, “Get over it, Sam. This isn’t your world, it’s mine. I choose who will be accepted and who will be rejected. If I have no affections for this guy, neither should you. Forget him and go where I tell you to go. I have a new plan for you.”
See, God had chosen a new king for himself. The people had chosen Saul, whom God rejected. But God chose David. And if Samuel kept groveling over his rejected friend, he’d never get to the place where he could be used in the service of the new king – God’s king. Samuel needed to bury the past and put God’s and God’s people’s interests ahead of his own sadness. As difficult as it was for Samuel, God insisted that it was time to move on.
Samuel answers God’s reproof this way:
And Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears it, he will kill me.” And the Lord said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ 3 And invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do. And you shall anoint for me him whom I declare to you.” ~1 Samuel 16:2-3
Apparently, Saul had gotten even worse. How much more wicked and hardened to the things of God must he have been if Samuel himself – the one who had shown him the most kindness and mercy of all – felt the threat of murder if he dare usurp his kingship and inaugurate someone in his stead?!
Not only does Samuel’s response suggest Saul’s continued moral decline, it also implies weakness in his own faith in God’s protection and provision. One can hardly blame the old man, though.
It’s not that God hadn’t protected and provided for him all of his days. It’s just that, as the years went on, he became more and more unpopular. I mean, he’d lived his entire life in God’s service and always seemed to have to be the one to be the bearer of the bad news. He’d watched as God rejected Eli’s household, and, now, Saul’s. Every leader this guy dealt with went down! Think of them all: Hophni, Phinehas, Eli, Saul, Agag.
I can imagine that Samuel was tired of being the bad guy. He probably wonders if this new king will have to be impeached by him, too. How many enemies should one man have to have, right? And how many does it take before they form an alliance and destroy the trifling old truth-teller?
Samuel was faithful, but he was also fearful. He had been given great responsibility by God and little encouragement by people. (They replaced him with a donkey-chaser, remember?) In order to be who God had called him to be, Samuel had to trust greatly in God’s providence.
So God, in his grace, reassures Samuel. He leads him step by step toward the goal. And anyone who desire to do God’s work, God’s way, must trust and believe that he will patiently lead them one step at time – even when they are at a loss and it’s hard to know exactly which way to go or what to do next.
Samuel 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?” 5 And he said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Consecrate yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.~1 Samuel 16:4-5
Samuel never faltered. He obeyed God even when he was broken and scared. He brought a sacrifice and humbly approached those to whom he was called. And the people were scared of him! Little wonder, huh? This poor guy’s got a bad reputation for doing God’s dirty-work! And, doubtless, the ones he’s called to are no less sinful than the ones before. ”Guilt causes fear,” says Matthew Henry. No one wants Samuel coming around because no one wants to be accountable. Not only that, what if Saul hears of it? Who wants to make friends with the king’s enemies? People who fear people fear even more people of God.
Samuel reassures them, though. He asks them to sanctify themselves and prepare for the sacrifice. In this Christmas season, perhaps we ought to do the same.
If God says it’s time to stop grieving over an unrepentant friend, stop. If God says it’s time to go somewhere new, go. Let go of those whom God has clearly rejected and fear not their reprisals against you. There is a new king waiting for your sacrifice. Consecrate yourself and be ready for his revelation.