“Plate with David Anointed by Samuel” (629-630CE). This silver plate was manufactured to commemorate the end of a long, costly war between Byzantium and Persia by the Byzantine emperor Herakleios.
1 Samuel 16:1-13
Samuel is in a real pickle in today’s lesson. As Judge, Prophet, and Seer over Israel, he has a unique connection to the Divine. Previously he had anointed Saul as King over Israel, but Saul’s actions caused him to lose favor with God and with the people. So, while Saul is still king, Samuel is called to anoint a successor.
Of course, this is dangerous work, and Samuel fears for his life. To alleviate Samuel’s fears, God provides a way to go about his new mission undetected. He will go to Bethlehem under the guise of making a sacrifice. An animal will be butchered in this ritual. A portion of the meat will be burned on an altar, and the rest of the meat will be used to host a banquet for the community. Having the Judge Samuel come to your town was an honor – having him come to offer a sacrifice and host the banquet was an honor.
Samuel is really there, however, to anoint one of Jesse’s sons the new king of Israel. The tribal leader Jesse had many sons, and they all look kingly. But of those present, none were chosen. God directly counsels Samuel, saying, “the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” Samuel learns that there was still one other – the youngest brother who was out watching the sheep. Perhaps David was thought too young for such a ceremony or deemed too unimportant in his culture (being the youngest male in the family) to be invited to the banquet. And yet, he was the one chosen to be the next king.
Shepherd imagery is important in the Hebrew Bible. It is used to describe God’s providence and marks the characteristics of a good leader. Perhaps David was anointed because he was already a leader, tending a flock of sheep from an early age. Despite the appearance of youth, he understood the life and death responsibilities of caring for part of God's creation well.
The word pastor is Latin for “one that leads to pasture, sets to grazing, tends, guards and protects.” Sometimes churches call compassionate care like visiting the sick, checking in on the homebound, and regular checking in “Pastoral Care.” At its heart is the need to provide care, support, connection, and encouragement during times of good and times of difficulty. But this work is not reserved for the “Pastor” or appointed minister of a local congregation. The wider congregation has always practiced pastoral care.
We are all called to play the role of pastor given our present situation. From our homes, we are calling on folks to check-in, taking care of one another, and helping those in vulnerable situations as best we are able. Perhaps, like David, we aren’t the likely choice to play this role for others, but the time calls for it, and the need is real.
Have courage! Your kind words, outreach, and simple action may be just what another needs today.