1 Samuel 15:1; 16:1-4
Samuel also said to Saul, The LORD sent me to anoint you to be king over his people, over Israel…
Go, I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite.
1. The greatest and best of men experience seasons of sorrow, depression, and doubt, and sometimes fail in the fulfilment of duty. It was thus with Abraham, Moses, and Elijah, and with others in later ages. It was the same with Samuel, though to a less extent than almost any other. His grief for Saul was excessive. He surrendered himself to it without seeking the consolation and help by which it might be mitigated, and suffered it to interfere with the work which he might yet accomplish on behalf of Israel; and hence he was reproved by God. "The excellent prophet here displays something of human weakness. Samuel here looked on the vessel, made by the invisible hand of God himself, utterly broken and minished, and his emotion thereat shows his pious and holy affection; yet he is not without sin" (Calvin).
2. The failure of good men often appears in those things in which they are pre-eminently excellent. Samuel exhibited extraordinary sympathy with the purposes of God concerning his people, unquestioning obedience to every indication of his will, and strong faith, and hope, and dauntless courage in its fulfilment. Yet here we find him a prey to "the grief that saps the mind," apparently hopeless and desponding, and smitten with fear like Elijah when "he arose and went for his life" on hearing the threat of Jezebel. "Such things would seem designed by God to stain the pride of all flesh, and to check all dependence upon the most eminent or confirmed habits of godliness" (A. Fuller). The strongest are as dependent on God as the feeblest.
3. A higher voice than that of their own troubled and fearful hearts speaks to men of sincerity, and in communing with it they are led into a clearer perception of duty and to gird themselves afresh for its performance. The "spirit of faith" regains its ascendancy over them. And in going forth to active service they find new strength and hope at every step. The night gives place to the morning dawn, and
"They feel, although no tongue can prove,
That every cloud that spreads above
And velleth love, itself is love
(Tennyson, 'The Two Voices') Consider the way of duty, trodden by the good man, as -
I. PRESCRIBED BY GOD, whose will is the rule of human life, and is -
1. Indicated in many ways - the word of truth, providential circumstances, reason, and conscience, and "that awful interior light which the dying Saviour promised, and which the ascending Saviour bestowed - the Spirit of God."
2. Sometimes obscured by frustrated effort, grievous disappointment, immoderate grief, desponding and doubtful thoughts (Matthew 11:2, 3; Acts 18:9; Acts 23:11).
3. Never long hidden from those who are sincerely desirous of doing it, and seek for the knowledge of it with a view to that end (vers. 2, 3; 1 Kings 19:15).
II. BESET BY DANGER. "How can I go? If Saul hear of it, he will kill me." The question was not simply an inquiry for direction, but also an expression of fear; and it may possibly have arisen from indications of Saul's wilfulness such as afterwards appeared (ch. 19:22).
1. Danger is sometimes formidable, even to the bravest of men.
2. It is exaggerated by despondency, doubt, and fear.
"Thy soul is by vile fear assailed, which oft
So overcasts a man, that he recoils
From noblest resolution, like a beast
At some false semblance in the twilight gloom"
3. No danger in the way of duty is equal to that which will be certainly found in departing from it. "In the way of righteousness there is life, and in the pathway thereof there is no death."
III. PURSUED WITH FIDELITY. "And Samuel did that which the Lord spake" (ver. 4). His hesitation was only for a moment, and with further light his faith revived and was displayed in fearless devotion. Fidelity to duty -
1. Demands the renunciation of self and many cherished plans and purposes.
2. Appears in trustful, practical, and unreserved obedience. Samuel went in dependence upon the promise, "I will show thee what thou shalt do," etc.
3. Sometimes necessitates a prudent reserve. There was no deception in withholding a reason for the action directed, beyond that which lay on the surface of the action itself. To reveal it would be to defeat the end designed. And fidelity is sometimes best shown by silence.
IV. TERMINATING IN SAFETY AND HOPE.
1. Threatened danger is averted.
2. Promised guidance is obtained.
3. A brighter day dawns, and
"God's purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour." Samuel returns to Ramah in peace, and with renewed zeal devotes his remaining days to the work of training a body of younger prophets (ch. 19:20), whose influence, together with a change of dynasty, will save the nation and promote the establishment of the kingdom of God. "Let us ask ourselves whether the Jewish nation would have played any part as a 'main propelling agency of modern cultivation,' if its monarchy had been allowed to take the form which Saul would have given it, if he had made religion a creature of the kingly power, and war an instrument of rapine, and not of justice, and we shall see that Samuel's view of the matter was the true one, and in accordance with the proper vocation of a prophet" (Strachey, 'Jewish Hist. and Politics'). - D.
Parallel VersesKJV: Samuel also said unto Saul, The LORD sent me to anoint thee to be king over his people, over Israel: now therefore hearken thou unto the voice of the words of the LORD.