“And Samuel said, How can I go? if Saul hear it, he will kill me. And the LORD said, Take an heifer with thee, and say, I am come to sacrifice to the LORD. And call Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show thee what thou shalt do: and thou shalt anoint unto me him whom I name unto thee” (1 Samuel 16:2-3).
It is God who directs our steps when we walk according to His will. “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). When we do not know which way to turn, what to do for the best, or overcome our personal misgivings, the Lord has promised to be there with us to guide us through. “Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee” (Isaiah 43:1-2). This is what Samuel needed to understand since God had commissioned him to go and anoint the new king of Israel.
Scared of Saul
King Saul was ruthless, so Samuel’s fear about what he would do to him was not without foundation. As the story of David progresses we will see that Saul had a distrustful spirit and did not take too kindly to anything that appears to be intrigue. Samuel rushing to Bethlehem with a horn of anointing oil would have made him suspicious to say the least. If the prophet was right to assume that he would not reach his destination alive, then it seems that Saul had spies everywhere. For Samuel to be afraid means that he knew that the king was very capable of executing a man of God without a moment’s hesitation, and reveals just how wicked he had become.
In the hyper-faith movement of today few would admit fear as this man of God did. His fear was not as sign of a lack of faith, but instead showed that he understood the full consequences of what the Lord was asking him to do. He was opening his heart to God rather than hiding his true feelings behind false faith or positive confession. The fact that Samuel went as the Lord directed reveals that he indeed trusted in Him despite fears for his own safety. “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell. Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident” (Psalm 27:1-3).
When God purposes something for us, then we can be sure He has a perfect plan. All Samuel needed to do was to follow the Lord’s directions to the letter. Taking the heifer with him to Bethlehem for sacrifice would have been accepted as a normal thing for a prophet to do. To all outward appearances it would seem as though he was simply performing a religious duty for the sinners in the town. It may also have been Samuel’s custom to travel from village to village preaching and calling people to repentance. The calling of Jesse’s family to the sacrifice would not have gone unnoticed, but it would not have been seen as anything remarkable. Probably the special attention might have been an indication to onlookers that the family had committed some terrible sin that had come to the prophet’s attention. The sacrifice was a ‘peace offering’ to cover the sins of those who repent. Samuel was able to offer the sacrifice since he was a priest as well as a prophet. “And if his oblation be a sacrifice of peace offering, if he offer it of the herd; whether it be a male or female, he shall offer it without blemish before the LORD. And he shall lay his hand upon the head of his offering, and kill it at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation: and Aaron’s sons the priests shall sprinkle the blood upon the altar round about” (Leviticus 3:1-2) … “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).
Samuel went without any knowledge of who the next king would be. He must have realised it would be a member of Jesse’s family, but it is certain that he would have been surprised when God pointed him out. The Lord always knows what is best. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).
Fear is not as bad a thing as some modern-day preachers try to make us believe. It is fear that makes us cautious about involving ourselves in dangerous activities in which we might injure ourselves or others. Fear must not dominate us though, instead faith in God overcomes fear whenever it hinders us from carrying out God’s will. “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?” (Psalm 118:6). Samuel had to go in faith otherwise he would not accomplish what God had planned. The liberty and victory would never be gained if his fear ensnared him to Saul. “The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe” (Proverbs 29:25). Though the Lord would have appointed another prophet if Samuel’s fear had got the better of him, He wanted him to be the one to go down in history as the one who anointed David as king, from whose line King Jesus descended. What do we miss out on because we do not trust in God as we ought?