Monday, June 8, 2009

Youth Revolution

Sedition. Treason. Revolution. An unknown, unimportant, left-over of a boy.

By the beginning of the 16th chapter of 1 Samuel, God himself and Samuel both regret having made Saul king over Israel. Saul has failed as the shepherd of this people. But God speaks to Samuel, indicating to him that the time of morning for Saul is over because God is about to do something new. God tells Samuel to prepare to anoint one of the sons of Jesse the Bethlemite as Israel's next king. Samuel response to God's command (When Saul hears of it, he will kill me! v.2) takes seriously the dangerous political implications of what God is asking him to do. There is already a king in Israel; to anoint another one while Saul is still alive is nothing short of open rebellion against the powers that be. God doesn't discount this reality, recognizing the danger of what he is asking Samuel to do. But God does give Samuel an "out", telling Samuel to go to Bethlehem under the guise of offering a sacrifice. (Is God encouraging an act of deception here in order to bring about the revolution he desires?)

Samuel arrives in Bethlehem and the elders of the town know something is up. They ask Samuel if he comes in peace. They figure that the presence of a big shot like Samuel in a small town like theirs can only mean trouble; either he is there working for Saul or he is there in opposition to Saul. Either way, the elders figure it can't be good for Bethlehem. But Samuel reassures them by repeating the line God gave him about being there to offer sacrifice sees to it that Jesse and his family are in attendance. Immediately upon their entrance, Samuel sees Jesse's son Eliab and thinks that his work is done; surely this must be the next king of Israel. But God tells Samuel to pass over Eliab and Abinadab and Shammah and all seven of Jesse's sons who are present. Has Samuel got the wrong house? Did he misunderstand God's instructions? Are there no other sons?

It turns out there is one son remaining but he is the youngest, the runt of the litter. You could even translate Jesse's description of this son as a "left-over". His own father considered him so unimportant that he didn't even bother to bring him before Samuel the king-maker. Samuel instructs Jesse to go get his left-over boy and he says that they will all wait while he retrieves him. And so the mighty Samuel, the town elders, and the older brothers come to a stand still because of this young boy who has yet to even be named in the story. The power and influential are made to wait for the young, lowly shepherd to come in from the field. Such is the kingdom of God.

Upon this young boy's entrance into the story, it seems that even the narrator can not contain his excitment over his main character. He says that the boy had beautiful eyes and a handsome appearance, even though it has already been stated that this was not God's criteria for choosing his annointed. His good looks are only a sort of added bonus to the kind of heart that God desires which this boy also possesses. Immediately upon seeing the boy, God tells Samuel to get up and anoint him and he does so. Right there in front of all those who should be more powerful than he is, David is anointed as king of Israel and filled with the Holy Spirit and it is only then that he is finally named within the story.

In the life of an unknown, left-over, nearly nameless, young boy the seeds of God's revolution and a new kingdom are planted. There are none too young or unimportant for the kingdom of God. The Church today finds itself in a situation similar to Samuel's. We can mourn over the failures of past or current leaders. We can accept a dim future because seeking new leaders is too dangerous and risky. Or we can be obedient to God and begin looking for those that God has already chosen among the younger generations to lead the way into a new future.

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