Lent Fourth Sunday Morning Prayer/Mothering Sunday (14 March 2021) 1 Samuel 16:1, 2
We are celebrating Mothering Sunday today. We know that the early Christian churches did not celebrate any festivals. All the festivals that we celebrate today were adapted from other faiths. Every spring, the ancient Greeks celebrated Mother’s Day to honour the Mother of the Gods and Goddesses. Even before 250BC ancient Romans celebrated Mother’s Day to honour their mother goddesses every March. When Christianity became an official religion in Rome, they started celebrating Mother’s Day to honour Mother Mary. In the United States people celebrate Mother’s Day every second Sunday in May. Here in the UK, we celebrate Mother’s Day on the fourth Sunday in Lent. Historically, this Sunday was celebrated as Mothering Sunday. On this Sunday, it was a common practice to visit their ‘Mother Church’, the church where they were baptised or confirmed.
Today’s meditation is based on our Old Testament reading, 1 Samuel 16:1&2: “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. 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”.
I would like to start with briefing about what happened before this. After Moses and Aaron led the Israelites out of their bondage land to the promised land, judges ruled United Israel. The Israelites did not have a king; the LORD God was their king. The judges led the Israelites and saved them from their enemies. After Eli, Samuel became the Judge of United Israel. When Samuel was old, his two sons followed his footsteps to become judges. Joel and Abiah were the judges in Beersheba. But they were not righteous before God. In 1 Samuel 8:3 we read, “his sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment”. Seeing this, the elders of Israel said to Samuel “Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.” They asked for a king like other nations. But this thing the thing displeased Samuel and he prayed unto the Lord. The Lord replied “Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.” The LORD God told Samuel to anoint Saul as the first king of United Israel. In 1 Samuel chapter 9 verse 2 we read about Saul’s personality. The verse says Saul was “a choice young man, and a goodly: and there was not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he: from his shoulders and upward he was higher than any of the people”. Samuel consecrated Saul to be the king over United Israel. 1 Samuel 10:24 says there was no one like him among all the Israelites.
Saul slew the Ammonites and renewed his kingdom in Gilgal. We read this in 1 Samuel 11. During the second year of Saul’s reign, Philistines came to fight against Israel. The Israelites and Saul were waiting for Samuel to come and offer sacrifices to the LORD God at Gilgal. They waited for seven days. When Saul saw the people were getting scattered, he offered burnt offerings to the LORD God. Just as he finished, Samuel came and Saul justified his doings. Samuel said Saul had done foolishly because he did not keep the commandment of the Lord God. After this, “Saul had adjured the people, saying, Cursed be the man that eateth any food until evening, that I may be avenged on mine enemies. So none of the people tasted any food.” But his son Jonathan tasted honey because he heard not when his father charged the people. The people spoke for Jonathan and Saul listened to the people of Israel and did not kill Jonathan.
God asked Saul to smite Amalek and utterly destroy all that they had and not to spare anything. But the Bible says that Saul spared Agag and the best of the sheep, oxen, fatlings and lambs and all that was good. He utterly destroyed everything that was vile and refuse. God regretted for anointing him as king because Saul turned away from God and did not obey His commandments. This grieved Samuel and he cried unto the Lord all night. When Saul met Samuel, he said “I have performed the commandment of the Lord.” Samuel asked “What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?” Saul replied the people brought the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God. We read that as Saul rejected the word of the Lord, the Lord rejected Saul from being king. Samuel did not meet Saul after that but he mourned for Saul. We read this in 1 Samuel 15. After this, in chapter 16 we see God asked Samuel to go to Jesse’s house to anoint the new king. Samuel anointed the youngest son of Jess, the shepherd boy David, as the king of United Israel. In verse 13 we read “the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward.” We can learn from these three people in this passage: Saul, Samuel and David.
1) The one who lost his anointing
When Israelites wanted a king, the Lord God chose Saul to be king because of his obedience. When Saul’s father told him to look for his lost asses, he obeyed his father and went looking for them. His obedience to his father and his concern in searching for the asses pleased God. After Saul was anointed king, when he heard what Nahash the Ammonite had said against the people of Jabesh, his anger was greatly kindled. He fought for the people of Jabesh.
But on his second year, Saul started turning away from God. When Saul had to fight the Philistines, he offered burnt offering to the LORD God. He did this because the people were getting scattered. God was not pleased in Saul’s offering because he wanted to please men, not God. Samuel said Saul did foolishly as he did not keep the commandment of the Lord God. When Jonathan had to be killed, Saul again listened to the people and spared him. When God asked Saul to utterly destroy the Amalekites and all their possessions, he spared the best of the spoil, sheep and oxen. In both these situations, Saul did not accept responsibility. He passed the blame on to the people but he said he obeyed God’s commandment . Also, he said to Samuel that the best of the spoil was to sacrifice to “thy God”. This shows how far he had turned away from the LORD God because he saw Lord God as Samuel’s God, not his God.
When Samuel did not meet Saul, he looked for a woman with a familiar spirit to go and enquire of her. He did not call or wait upon the Lord God. 1 Samuel 31:6 says, “Saul died, and his three sons, and his armourbearer, and all his men, that same day together”. Saul, the first king of United Israel, lost his anointment and his call.
2) The one who did not pass on anointing to the next generation
When Hannah cried unto the LORD God in the temple, God answered her prayer. God gave her a boy child and she named him Samuel because she had asked him of God. Samuel grew up in the temple of God before Eli the high priest. The Lord told Samuel what was to happen to Eli and his sons. God chose Samuel to be high priest after Eli to fulfil His plans in Israel. Samuel was established to be a prophet of the Lord. God gave the leadership and authority to Samuel and he judged Israel. When Samuel was old, he made his sons judges over Israel. But his sons did not walk in his ways. Samuel witnessed to what happened to Eli’s family when his children did not follow God’s laws and commandments. Samuel knew that the leadership and authority were given to him from Aaron’s family. He was upright before God but his children’s lives were not upright before God. He failed to pass God’s anointment and blessing on to the next generation. He passed over God’s authority to the kings by consecrating the first and second kings of United Israel. Samuel did not pass over God’s anointment, authority and blessing to his sons.
3) The one who passed on the leadership and blessings to the next generation
When Saul disobeyed God and His commandments, God sought a man after His own heart to replace Saul. God asked prophet Samuel to anoint David as His chosen next king. The spirit of the LORD God came and dwelt upon David. After being anointed, David remained a shepherd boy for many years. While he waited for God’s time, he was sincere and saved sheep from the lion’s mouth. He was angry that Goliath, an uncircumcised Philistine, was defying the armies of the living God. David fought Goliath with God’s strength and killed him. He spent most of his life in the wilderness running to escape from his father-in-law and his own son. But he always sang praises to God and looked up to Him for guidance. He did not kill king Saul even when he had the opportunity. When David was convicted by the prophets, he immediately humbled himself before God in fasting and prayer. David passed the anointing and blessings to the next generation. Solomon succeeded David as king. He built the temple of God and is the wisest king.
Let us compare ourselves with these three famous Biblical personalities:
- Israelites turned away from God when they faced challenges and hardships or had doubts or confusion. Instead of seeking God’s guidance, they stood on their own desires, wisdom and strength. They did not mind Samuel’s warning about their lives with a king. They insisted on having a king like other nations. When we face challenging situations, are we looking to God for guidance or are we expecting God to fulfil our demands?
- When Saul went looking for his father’s asses, he wanted to go back even when he did not find them. David saved sheep from the lion’s mouth. In those days, asses were more valuable than sheep. David risked his life to save his sheep. We have friends, neighbours, family who have lost their way or need to be saved from Satan who is like a roaring lion. What are we doing about them?
- Saul wanted to please the people more than pleasing God. He offered the offerings instead of waiting for Samuel. He allowed the people to bring back the best of the spoil in the pretext of offering sacrifices to God. Are we pleasing man or God?
- Samuel anointed both Saul and David as king. Saul wanted Samuel to intercede to God. When Samuel did not come, Saul went looking for a woman with familiar spirit. David looked up to God whenever he needed guidance. He sang praises when he was in trouble. Are we looking to humans or God when we need help?
- When Samuel said Saul did wrong and didn’t follow God’s commandments, Saul justified what he did. When David was convicted, he humbled himself and repented. Are we listening to the Holy Spirit’s voice and repenting?
- When faced with a tough situation Samuel looked up to God for advise. He was displeased with the elders’ request, but he did as the Lord God commanded. He followed God’s guidance when anointing Saul and David. Today, we too are led by the Holy Spirit to do something out of our comfort zone. Do we turn a deaf ear or do what the Lord commands?
Traditionally, on Mothering Sunday, people came back to their Mother Church. Today, as we are celebrating Mothering Sunday, let us examine ourselves if we have to come back to our Lord Jesus who cares for us more than our mother. If we have done any of these that are not pleasing in God’s sight, Samuel’s calling in 1 Samuel 12:20 is for us. “Fear not: ye have done all this wickedness: yet turn not aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart”.
If we have received salvation through Jesus, as said in 1 Samuel 12:20, let us continue to fear the Lord, and serve him in truth with all our heart: for consider how great things he hath done for us.
If we choose to ignore the salvation and God’s anointing, there is a warning in verse 25: “if ye shall still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed”.