The Lord said to Samuel, ‘How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.’ Samuel said, ‘How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.’ And the Lord said, ‘Take a heifer with you, and say, “I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.” Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.’ Samuel did what the Lord commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, ‘Do you come peaceably?’ He said, ‘Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.’ And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.
Abram and Moses had to put their faith in God before stepping out into unknown danger. Samuel, called by God as a young boy, also had to repeatedly trust that God would deliver him from harm, including retribution for the treasonous act of anointing a new King of Israel while Saul still lived. All of the examples of Biblical characters obeying God’s commands have been for the advancement of God’s future plan, and do not always bring blessings upon those who respond to the commands in the present. Abraham may have been blessed with a son, but his response to God’s will was for the establishment of the covenant among his descendants. Abraham still encountered hardship and pain throughout his entire life. Moses, who delivered God’s people from bondage, did not live long enough to enter the promised land where the nation of Israel would be renewed. Samuel, whose “whole life was given over to the Lord” (1 Samuel 1:27-28) died before the boy he anointed ever became King of a powerful nation.
We often imagine that we are the main characters of the story, and God will work his most important (or visible) plans through us. We are King David, or Daniel, or Peter. We expect our obedience and hard work to result in something big and powerful. It would be depressing to think that all of our sacrifices and martyrdom aren’t fully appreciated, or worse, not even credited to us!
Whom are we trying to glorify? God or ourselves? It may be that our obedience results in positive change 100 years later. Maybe our children are the ones who will free slaves or our students the ones to deliver a nation to the promised land. Perhaps the simple acts of love and grace we do without fanfare will lead to miracles in someone else’s life. The command to go and fulfill God’s will becomes harder when we realize that we are called to work in anonymity for His glory rather than our own.
Samuel Anointing David, Samuel Van Hoogstraten, 17th Century