God’s Gracious Plan Revealed: 1) He Anoints the Unexpected

1 Samuel 16:1-13 ● 2022-01-09 ● Series “God’s Gracious Plan Revealed”Print ListenWatch

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Harrison Ford once shared how his first acting role led to a disappointing prediction. He played a minor role as a bellboy at a hotel. The executive director told him he would never make it in show business. Things, however, didn’t play out that way. Fifteen years later after Ford had become a world-famous actor, that man sent a note to him saying, “I guess I lost my bet.” God’s plans are often the opposite of what this world might expect or predict. He chooses people who many would reject. This Epiphany season we’ll spend eight weeks looking at God’s surprising and gracious plan for sinners. We’ll begin this week by looking at 1 Samuel 16. And we’ll see God’s gracious plan revealed: he anoints the unexpected.

Years earlier Samuel had taken a horn filled with oil and poured it over Saul’s head.  Anointing was common in ancient Israel. It often signified a special rite of selection and placement into a special role.  But Saul’s anointing had been the greatest yet.  Samuel had anointed him to be the first king of Israel.

Yet Samuel was mourning the loss of King Saul. It’s not that Saul had died. But Saul had turned aside from the Lord and his word. Spiritually speaking Saul was lost. Samuel told him, “You have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel.” (1 Sam 12:26) Saul pleaded to keep the throne, but Samuel said, “The Lord has taken the kingdom away from you and has given it to another.” Such high hopes. Such a loss!

The Lord moved on with his plans. He 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 go. I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem, for I see a king for myself among his sons.” Samuel needed to move on too. Even though moving on wasn’t so easy for Samuel; he was reluctant. And he was more than reluctant to move on. He was fearful. “How can I go? If Saul hears about it, he will kill me.”

You and I might look down upon Samuel’s reluctance and fear. But can we claim to be without reluctance and fear to move on with God’s plans?  I know there is a time to mercifully hold onto those who are sinning. Even though they have rejected the Lord we want to hold on in patience. It is never easy to let go.  As a pastor I know how difficult it is when you baptize someone, instruct them in the Word of the Lord, and then find out later they have rejected the Lord and his word. It is sad what happens to someone. Like Saul they had graciously been anointed and chosen by God. Like Saul they had received the gift and anointing of the Spirit. But they turn aside in hard-hearted unrepentance.

There comes a time when God instructs us to move on after someone persistently refuses to repent. It’s not easy. And I can see why Samuel grieved for Saul. How about you? I know of Christian congregations and families that have been torn apart because it is so hard to move on when someone has rejected the word of the Lord.  Congregations and families fall in ruin because they cannot move beyond the person who has rejected the Lord. Eventually a side must be chosen. Sometimes they end up joining with the hard-hearted in rejecting the Lord. Samuel had to stop grieving and move on.  Either he could continue to serve Saul, or he could continue to serve the Lord. God said he must move on. So must we when someone has persistently rejected the Lord and rejected the God who gave them his Spirit.

Samuel’s reluctance was also mixed with fear. He knew that if he moved on that King Saul would kill him. After all, Samuel knew how destructive and vindictive Saul could be. That is often the case when someone rejects the word of the Lord. They will do all they can to destroy those who serve the Lord -especially those who carry God’s word to them. Are we bold to carry out the Lord’s direction? Or are we sometimes afraid of the response of others?

God’s direction for us is clear. The Lord has told us, “Go and make disciples of all nations by baptizing them in the name of the father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and by teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” What fears might keep us from carrying out this direction? Do you have someone in your family who needs baptism and to be instructed and taught the Word of God? What fears do you have when it comes to doing that for those in your own family? Maybe some will reject you or lash out against you. Carrying out God’s commands come with a cross. Are you afraid? The fears we might cave in under are sometimes far less than Samuel’s fear of death.

God told Samuel to head to the house of Jesse in Bethlehem. The elders of Bethlehem were fearful of what Saul might do if he learned that Samuel was there. Saul’s rash behavior and vindictive violence had already gained a reputation.  

Finally, we see how Samuel is more than just reluctant and fearful. He is also confused. The Lord directed Samuel to prepare for a sacrifice and an anointing ceremony with the sons of Jesse. Then Samuel’s confusion comes to light. He saw the oldest of Jesse’s sons, Eliab, and thought, “This must be the Lord’s chosen one!” Eliab was tall and impressive. But the LORD said, “Do not look at his appearance or at how tall he is, because I have rejected him. For the LORD does not look at things the way man does. For man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

We often consider the strongest and most impressive to be the greatest. If you don’t believe that then just take a look at the playground or the popularity contest at any school. It is the best athlete or the person everyone must look up to as the most impressive who is usually the most popular. You seldom find the shortest or youngest person leading the cheer squad or serving as team captain. And our focus on the outward appearance doesn’t change as we get older.  The most popular stars and recording artists flaunt their looks and outward appearance. The world looks up to them.

But the Lord doesn’t care about the outward appearance. He looks deeper. He cares only about what is inside a person. The more literal Hebrew expression is interesting, “Man looks to the eyes, but the Lord looks to the heart.” God sees deep into our soul. He sees every thought, every sin, and we cannot hide what lies in our hearts. He sees the pride of our hearts. He sees whether there is repentance and faith or a proud rejection of his word. He looks for faith in the hearts of men. And he sees the rejection and unbelief in the hearts of men.

Samuel and the sons of Jesse grew in confusion over the Lord’s plans. One after another the Lord told Samuel he had rejected seven sons of Jesse. They all failed the test. Samuel was confused and asked, “Are these all of your sons?” There was one other. He had been so overlooked that he had to stay behind and watch the flock while all his brothers attended a dignified ceremony with a celebrity pastor. His father didn’t even mention him by name. He’s just called “the youngest.” Samuel demanded to see him at once. God was about to anoint the unexpected.

David had a red appearance, striking eyes, and was handsome. But God wasn’t swayed by any of that. With him, appearance is immaterial. God had chosen young David in grace and saw his heart of faith. Samuel anointed David right away. God anoints, he chooses, the unexpected.

And he anoints them for something extraordinary in his grace! It seems none of David’s brothers fully understood what role David had been anointed for that day. It doesn’t seem like David fully yet understood. But they all knew that God had chosen David in grace. They all knew David didn’t deserve it, but God had nonetheless selected him. They all were also surprised by it.  Imagine their surprise when the learned God had chosen to make David the next King of Israel! From that day on the Spirit of the Lord filled David. David would end up as one of the greatest kings to rule over Israel. His name echoes as the greatest king of ancient Israel. His writing inspired by the Holy Spirit would echo throughout time. And from his line would come the greatest man who ever lived!

That’s how God works. He anoints, he chooses, the unexpected. And he lifts them to heights beyond all our expectations. Those who first saw Jesus, the Son of David, walking around would have been reluctant to consider him the Chosen One, anointed by God to be the world’s Savior. They would have been reluctant because of how lowly Jesus appeared. But God anoints the unexpected. John the Baptist was in a way reluctant, fearful, and confused too. It was totally unexpected by him that he should baptize Jesus. He knew that Jesus was no ordinary man. He was the Son of God. John was reluctant and confused at Jesus’ baptism because he thought Jesus shouldn’t be baptized by him. He thought it should be the other way around. But Jesus gave the direction. “Let it be so now, because it is proper for us to fulfill all righteousness.”(Mat 3:15) John baptized Jesus. And at that time Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit who came upon him in a visible form. And God the Father spoke regarding his choosing, “This is my Son, whom I love. With him I am well pleased.

The outward appearance of the lowly man didn’t matter. God looked at the heart. Jesus was the perfect and holy Son of God. And he was anointed, chosen, to be the Savior and King of all. He was anointed to be the prophet who spoke the very Word. He was the Word in the flesh. He was anointed to be our great high priest. As God’s chosen priest Jesus offered up the sacrifice of himself for the sins of the whole world.  He was anointed to be our everlasting King. As our chosen King Jesus would defeat all our enemies and bring us safely into his kingdom. He’s the greatest king!

After his anointing at his baptism, Jesus began his work. He lived in perfect holiness all his life. The Father looked at his heart and it was unlike any other. He was without sin.  And he carried out his work of representing the people as a perfect priest with the only perfect sacrifice. And after our King died to rescue his people, he rose in victory from death. He is forever the anointed one, the Messiah (in Hebrew), or Christ (in Greek.) The world didn’t see it coming because God anoints the unexpected: his own Son who came in lowliness and in human flesh to be our Christ.

God also chose the unexpected when he anointed you with his Spirit. You have been chosen in grace. He sent someone to baptize you with water and the Word. In your baptism you received the gift of the Holy Spirit and a new heart of faith. The Lord looks at you who in repentance and faith trust in Jesus. In his grace he now sees you as his own child. In baptism he indicated you are chosen in grace to be his own and have his Holy Spirit. He gave you a new heart of faith. “God anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts.” (2 Co 1:21–22).

Like Saul, we can end up rejecting and despising God’s anointing. But with hearts of faith, we can serve the Lord in righteousness through his Son. And without reluctance, fear, or confusion we can share his unexpected anointing. We declare, “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. This promise is for you and for your children.” (Acts 2:38-39)

Brothers and sisters, chosen in grace by God:  you have an anointing, the gift of the Spirit given in baptism. God has chosen the anointed one, Jesus Christ, to be your Savior and King. And in grace he has chosen you to be his own. So we see in David and in David’s son, Jesus, God’s gracious plan revealed. God anoints the unexpected.