4. So Samuel did as the LORD instructed. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town came trembling to meet him. “What’s wrong?” they asked. “Do you come in peace?”
5. “Yes,” Samuel replied. “I have come to sacrifice to the LORD. Purify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” Then Samuel performed the purification rite for Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice, too.
1 Samuel 16: 4–5 NLT
Today’s Passage is an interesting one to me for what it tells us without telling us, and it gives a perspective on the days of early Israel, unlike anything I can remember so far within The Story of Samuel.
As a writer, I’m always drawn to the moments in Scripture where the author lets slip a few emotional cues that inform our picture of the time, and Today’s Passage is one of those. Throughout The Story of Samuel, I’ve wondered at the emotional states of Samuel, Saul, Jonathan, and the Israelites.
What made them do what they did? Especially Saul. Why did King Saul make the decisions he did? He stated many of his choices were made out of Fear, and given the weight of his selections, who can blame him?
Saul was emotionally ill-equipped for The Post’s Responsibilities, and his inadequacy cost him and Israel dearly. But God is never lazy when it comes to His Promises. He’d Sworn to Israel He would Protect them, and even though He’s Rejected Saul as King, God still Intends to Make Good on His Pledge.
However, that means that some things have to change, which will cause internal issues within Israel’s hierarchy. Imagine if you were King, and a new King was coronated in the middle of your reign. And on top of all that, you have all the power at your disposal to ensure that the new King never comes to the Throne. What would you do?
Well, the answer to that question, as it comes to Saul’s reaction, is forthcoming. But before we get to that, let’s look at Bethlehem’s response to Samuel’s arrival to do God’s Will. What happened when Samuel arrived in Bethlehem unannounced?
He was there to do God’s bidding, as he’d always done, so why were the people of Bethlehem afraid? You cannot forget that Israel had just come out of a time when the Judge, not the King, was the facilitator of God’s Rule over His people.
The Judge was God’s Hands, Feet, and Voice for Israel. So anytime Samuel showed up, you could expect some form of drama, whether punitive or glorious. It is no wonder the Bethlehemites were afraid.
Now, I don’t know if all of Israel knew that God had rejected Saul. It seemed like a pretty public Rejection, and word of mouth back then traveled fast. It may be that Jesse and his neighbors knew precisely why Samuel was there, but I don’t think so. After all, had they known, they likely wouldn’t have asked the question of why Samuel was there.
They wanted to know whether he was there for Peace or other reasons. That means the people feared Samuel’s potential because he still carried every bit of God’s Authority, even though they had a King. In His Rejection of Saul, apparently, God temporarily granted Samuel Leadership over His people once more. I wonder if Saul knew that, and if he did, would he have killed Samuel?
It seems so, considering Samuel himself indicated his Fear of murder by Saul for coronating a new King. So all of Israel, including Samuel, feared what Saul might do after his Rejection from the Throne. But it seems Bethlehem’s Fear stemmed more from Samuel’s position with God than Fear of Saul.
Today’s Lesson is to Recognize God’s Power and understand implicitly the Fear it should elicit. God is a Being of Love…right now. But in times past, when His people turned from His Direction, His Attitude offered Another Side of His Personality: Wrath!
He is both Love and Justice, Creation and Destruction, and to forget that just because He is currently displaying only Love is a tragic mistake! God is showing His Love NOW, but that will change. And if you want to see what His Other Side looks like, just consult the Stories of The Old Testament.
God is not a weak chump who’s not paying attention. Just because He doesn’t act now doesn’t mean He’s not watching. God is literally storing up our Prayers for Liberty, and when His Answer comes, it will be devastating to those who defied Him.
But what about Samuel? Why were the people so afraid? They understood that he was God’s Hands, and as such, if any of them had offended Him, Samuel was there to reap the recompense. He was a man to be feared because he wielded God’s Authority, and God was not Jesus back then. He was not the Loving God who Sacrificed His Life for us.
There were other blood sacrifices made for sin, and Samuel was the one who enacted them. If he showed up unannounced, you had to know things were about to get interesting, for their good or for their detriment. And having no idea why he was there, I can understand their Fear.
God is a Being of Power, and we’d do well to remember that as we Pray to Him for our needs and His Blessings. Know that one day soon, He will remove the “kid gloves” He’s been using and Deliver the Wrath He’s been Holding Back for so long, and when that day comes, if you’re not already on His Side, you’ll understand the Fear Bethlehem felt when Samuel arrived. And trust me, when He shows up in your life, you want it to be for Peace!
Have a Marvelous Monday, And Understand That God Is Storing Up The Grievances Of His People, And When He Releases His Wrath On Their Behalf, There Will Be Hell To Pay!