The Lord sees what we do not see.
Samuel is grieving. King Saul has not turned out to be the great king the people of Israel had hoped he would be. The people of Israel had wanted a king to be like the other nations, one that might protect them from foreign invasions. Prior to Saul, the people of Israel had been ruled by a series of “judges”, or prophets who proclaimed the word of God and gave advice to people. Samuel was one in a long line of these “judges” who were not se much like “judges” as we know of them today as dynamic public figures who shape political opinion.
We read in Chapter 8 of 1 Samuel that the elders of Israel come to Samuel and request a king. By requesting a ruler, the people were looking for a human authority rather than relying on the authority of God. God tells Samuel to meet their request for a king, but to warn them of all the ways in which a king might abuse his authority. The people refuse to listen to the warnings. They see all the benefits of a strong, centralized government led by a powerful, dynamic ruler.
The Lord sees not as we see.
Though Saul enjoys a period of success, he disobeys the Lord by attempting to exercise more authority than he has been granted. In Chapter 15, verse 10, the word of the Lord comes to Samuel, saying, “I repent that I have made Saul king; for he has turned back from following me, and has not performed my commandments.” Saul refuses to step down. A conflict develops between Saul and Samuel, which lasts throughout their days. And Samuel grieves over Saul. He wondered why the Lord had allow the people to chose Saul in the first place.
Samuel has a crucial decision to make. God’s command is clear and it is only Samuel’s reluctance to carry out the task, to give up his grief over Saul and move ahead to anoint a new leader that creates his struggle. He wants to resist the change, the risk involved in carrying out the task, in making this crucial decision, but he can not. He goes the house of Jesse. There he must anoint the one God has chosen to be Saul’s succeeding king.
With some crucial decisions, we may have a clear sense of what we ought to do, of what God would have us do, and yet still find it difficult to take that decisive step. With many other decisions, God’s will may not be that clear.
The Lord sees what we do not see.
Even though Samuel is in communion with God, he still does not see things as God sees things. They bring to him Jesse’s oldest boy, Eli’ab. He looks at him and sees a strong, good looking young man. Surely, this is the one to lead Israel. No, says God. You don’t see things like I do. Samuel reviews all of Jesse’s sons save one and the message of the Lord is clear, “This is not the one.”
It is not the first of Jesse’s sons that will lead Israel, but the last. Samuel would have settled on Eli’ab, but God chose David. God sees things not as we see things.
It’s important when making a decision to allow ourselves time for prayer, to listen for God. Not just a quickie prayer, either, not something like, “God, I’m going to do this, I hope that’s okay with you.” Instead, listen carefully for God and struggle with your possibilities. Consult faithful friends. We know from the witness of Scripture that God often speaks through human beings, in accordance with the Scriptures. This, of course, is the best source to speak to us. Search the Scriptures, not to proof-text what you want, but to discern what God wants.
The Lord sees what we do not see. And what the Lord sees is best.