Toorak Uniting Church

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Royal KPI's

1 Samuel 16:1 – 11
Rev. Anneke Oppewal
9am, 6 March, 2005

How would you feel if you were anointed King all of a sudden? Just imagine: One moment you are somewhere in a field, minding your sheep, skimming stones across the water of the creek, leaning on your staff with your eyes dreamily on something beyond the horizon, giving one of your sheep a friendly nudge to get it back to it’s friends and the next you have been anointed king in secret.
You, the youngest of seven very powerfully built and able brothers. You the one they didn’t even bother to invite to the special sacrificial service in honour of the prophet. You, too young, too small and too pretty to be taken seriously when it comes to adult business.

Samuel the prophet also needs some time to recover from the shock. This is not what he had expected. When he saw the tall and sturdy Eliab bend his head to fit through the doorway, he thought he had found the new King of Israel, Eliab looked as though he would be well able to stand up against Saul. Come to think of it: There was something royal about all the sons of Jesse once he’d all lined them up. Surely, one of them would be good enough to replace Saul?

But somehow there is this small quiet voice in his heart that keeps protesting: No Samuel, none of those is the one, they are too similar to Saul, we’ll end up in with the same trouble again, and then our experiment is doomed to fail…….. I am sure Samuel must have been close to despair when he asks Jesse if there are any other sons? One can just imagine what kind of thoughts were going around in his head by that time: Perhaps he’d been wrong, perhaps he’d not understood right, perhaps God did not want him to look for another King after all, perhaps he’d now also lost contact with God, like Saul, like the King….

My youngest son is not here says Jesse, he is looking after the sheep. Ears that are accustomed to listening to Bible stories will now automatically be pricked up: The youngest, tending sheep… Is it not the youngest that often comes first in Bible stories? And isn’t God himself portrayed as a shepherd, looking after his people like a shepherd after his sheep?
This must be what we are waiting for! A shepherd person, like God, no big muscleman but somebody that cares, that goes out to find food for his sheep and shelter. Somebody who protects his sheep from danger and puts his life on the line to save them. Somebody with the time and the ability to dream. Somebody close to God’s creation.
Yes, this could be him!

And there he comes, straight from the field. Reddish hair, clearly standing out in a country where 80% of the population is dark to very dark. Here is somebody different, a pretty boy, with beautiful eyes.
This is the one says Samuel’s heart and the old prophet must have felt joy and relief flooding him. Somebody different, somebody other, somebody not like Saul in any respect. A new start.
And now we get to know his name: David, which means the loved one, a name filled with promise but also a question mark. Will this boy live up to this name? Will he be able to show something of God in his ruling on earth. Or will he, like Saul, in the end bow to power, to riches and to fame?


It is a fairy tale: Shepherd boy anointed King. From rags to riches!
That however is not really the point. The point is not that a shepherd boy becomes KING. It is about a SHEPHERD BOY becoming King.

When God wants to show how he wants the world to be ruled, what he wants for his people, when he chooses somebody to represent him on earth, he does not chose the tall Eliab, nor one of the other six very able bodied brothers. He chooses David, the youngest, the smallest, the weakest, the outsider.
The one they didn’t even invite to the party.
When God wants to show who he is he does not come with a lot of noise and display of power, he comes as a child, as a man who is rejected and lives and dies with the weakest and most insignificant of people. It is in that way God shows what is important to him and who counts.

Not the eldest, not the tallest, not the most powerful of the brothers, but the smallest, the most insignificant becomes the future King of Israel.
Somebody that has learned to care and look after a herd. Somebody that will give his life to protect and is used to the peacefulness of an open field, and simplicity of life.

What are we looking for when we look for leaders in our community? Who is it we look up to and expect much from? Is shepherding high on our list of priorities when it comes to leadership or do we also tend, like Samuel, to look at what is big, powerful and strong?

God sees the heart and not the outward appearance. The heart in those days not so much the seat of emotion as the place where the decisions are made and direction is chosen. God wants a shepherds heart to look after his people. Somebody exceptional. Somebody we would probably not think off in the first place. God’s standards are different to ours. He crowns the youngest, the weakest, the smallest. That is where his heart is. With those who we might forget, like the small David was forgotten when it came to worship and adult matters.

That’s what we have to be careful about when we live our life. That the small, the young, the weak aren’t forgotten but we realise that it’s them more than those who are strong and powerful that God’s Kingdom resolves around. It’s people like you and me God entrusts with bringing about his Kingdom and looking after the smallest and weakest of his people. Not because we are strong and powerful, most of us are not, but because he trusts us to care, to be shepherds, for each other and for others. Nobody would have thought David would make King at the time Samuel goes out to anoint one, nevertheless he is chosen by God. Perhaps you don’t think of yourselves as leaders and guides of people. Don’t think too small of yourself though, God thinks differently. He calls all of us to live out the promise of his Kingdom in the here and now, give it shape, bring it further and help it to grow. Old, young and in the middle. Amen.

© Rev. Anneke Oppewal, 2005

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