“And the LORD said unto Samuel, How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? fill thine horn with oil, and go, I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite: for I have provided me a king among his sons” (1 Samuel 16:1).
King Saul was the people’s choice, but as always, everything man is involved in soon turns to corruption. Saul failed God. He was disobedient, faithless and ruthless, therefore the Lord had to remove him from reigning over His people Israel. The prophet Samuel was saddened and disheartened at this turn of events. He was probably hoping that Saul would truly repent and that God would restore him to favour, but it was never going to happen. “But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another” (Psalm 75:7).
Samuel the listener
Despite his depression over Saul, Samuel continued to come before the Lord and was always ready to hear His voice. Sometimes what God has to say to His people is not always what they want to hear, but listening to His voice involves faithful obedience to His will. The Lord will always mightily bless those who listen and obey. “Speak; for thy servant heareth … And Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him, and did let none of his words fall to the ground” (1 Samuel 3:10, 19).
We need to be listeners too. For us, it is not expecting to receive audible guidance or visions of the night; instead we hear God’s voice through faithfully and prayerfully reading and studying God’s word. We allow too many things to distract us from this important part of the Christian life; it is no wonder then that there is such powerlessness in the church today. “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
Samuel had taken God’s plan to dethrone Saul to heart. We must remember that he had played a major role in choosing Saul to be king. He loved Saul despite all the negative things about him. He must have fervently prayed, even begged the Lord, that Saul would repent and find forgiveness in His sight. The Hebrew word ‘abal’ literally means to ‘bewail’ and ‘lament’, in other words, Samuel was broken-hearted. Regardless of how much faith the prophet had for Saul’s restoration, and no matter how much he prayed about it, God’s will must be done. “Hope deferred maketh the heart sick” (Proverbs 13:12).
Samuel’s personal grief and sadness must be laid aside for the glory and honour of the Lord. If he continued in his disappointment and depression, then he would be no use to God. God is merciful, but Saul had stepped over the mark and could not be used by God again. Was Samuel more merciful than God? “Signifying that we should not show ourselves more pitiful than God, nor to lament those whom he casts out” (Geneva Study Bible). Basically the prophet is commanded to put a stop to the tears and get on with what God had commissioned him to do. Maybe, though Samuel would obey, he did not fully understand why all this was happening. To him God’s will may have appeared to be illogical.
The end of Saul could have meant the end of Israel in the eyes of onlookers, but God’s ultimate plan cannot be thwarted by what appears to be a huge problem. The people had desired their own king who was “from his shoulders and upward he was higher than any of the people” (1 Samuel 9:2), but now God was going to choose a humble shepherd boy to reign over Israel. “Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I took thee from the sheepcote, even from following the sheep, that thou shouldest be ruler over my people Israel” (1 Chronicles 17:7). Samuel was ordered to go and anoint the son of Jesse with oil. “This phrase is very emphatical, and implies the difference between this and the former king. Saul was a king of the people’s providing, he was the product of their sinful desires: but this is a king of my own providing, to fulfil all my will, and to serve my glory” (John Wesley). God’s will had already been stated all the way back in Genesis 49:10, “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.” Therefore He was not departing from His preordained plan.
It is of great significance to note that God’s choice of king begins and ends in a little town called Bethlehem. “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2) … “Where is he that is born King of the Jews?” (Matthew 2:2) … “And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS” (Revelation 19:16).
We rarely have the big picture about the will, plans and purposes of God for our own lives, let alone the affairs of the world, but we can be confident that He knows what the absolute best for us all is. Even when He has to pour out judgement, it is always done with justice and mercy. We do not know it all, but we know someone who does. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).