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.”
1 Samuel 16:1, full text 1 Samuel 15:34-16:16 and Psalm 23.
This is a familiar story, “The Anointing of David” as some versions might title it. Reading the chapter, we frequently discuss how God admonishes Samuel for judging a book by its cover, rather that looking more deeply as God does. We might talk about how God chose the youngest and not the oldest, God selected the most unlikely to be the new king. Another conversation centers around the background and training of David the shepherd to become David the warrior and leader. And we see a nod to Bethlehem, the birthplace of our Savior, Jesus Christ coming many years later. All these are worthwhile points of study, as God’s Word is so rich and layered in the wisdom available to us.
Yet today I was stopped in my tracks at the first verse. “How long will you grieve. . . . Fill your horn and set out.” God is saying that it’s time to move on, the mourning has gone on long enough. How long is enough? So I had to back up to the previous chapter, to see if there were clues as to how long this had been the case. As we typically find, there is no timeline. But there is another piece to the story, that God also was grieved. Our God feels pain, and also mourned the failure of Saul, the first anointed king.
Saul’s dismissal came because of disobeying God, and Samuel had to deliver the news. Both God and Samuel grieved. They both were heartbroken in this situation, the loss of hopes and plans for the nation of Israel. But then God says move on, “set out.” I have chosen a new king, and it’s time for you to stop mourning and go set things in motion. As God says in Isaiah 43:19, “See, I am doing a new thing.”
This is where I am today. The grieving of our current situation, our losses these last few months, has gone on for so long. I hear in this passage God calling me, and maybe us, to move on. To accept the losses, the changes, the new life we have for a time and move on. And God is doing a new thing! God is showing us new ways to do church, to connect with each other, to live our lives. God is encouraging our creativity and compassion, bolstering our wisdom and resilience. God always provides a way through, when things do not go as planned, and God is always present to lead.
Later on, we read what many believe are David’s words in the 23rd Psalm. The author acknowledges God as Shepherd, leading beside still waters of rest and even though dark valleys, without fear. God is always faithful, in pain and grief, in loss, and in the new journey. We will continue to have times of sadness when the feelings of loss come flooding back. And at the same time, we will “set out” as God says into a new plan, a new way, and a new day.
Betsy Hudson is the Minister of Grow at Arcola, working with teams to lead adult, youth, and children’s faith development. She recently graduated from Wesley Seminary, and is pursuing ordination as elder in the United Methodist Church. Currently, she is getting as much outdoor time as possible, including walking every day and enjoying deck, yard and drive-way visits!