Radical Change, Decisive Confirmation
Preparing for the Third Sunday after the Epiphany: Two Days before Sunday (Year A)
Psalter: Psalm 27:1-6
Old Testament: 1 Samuel 9:27—10:8
Epistle: Galatians 2:1-10
O God, you spoke your word and revealed your good news in Jesus, the Christ. Fill all creation with that word again, so that by proclaiming your joyful promises to all nations and singing of your glorious hope to all peoples, we may become one living body, your incarnate presence on the earth. Amen.
As they were going down to the outskirts of the town, Samuel said to Saul, ‘Tell the boy to go on before us, and when he has passed on, stop here yourself for a while, that I may make known to you the word of God.’ Samuel took a phial of oil and poured it on his head, and kissed him; he said, ‘The Lord has anointed you ruler over his people Israel. You shall reign over the people of the Lord and you will save them from the hand of their enemies all around. Now this shall be the sign to you that the Lord has anointed you ruler over his heritage: When you depart from me today you will meet two men by Rachel’s tomb in the territory of Benjamin at Zelzah; they will say to you, “The donkeys that you went to seek are found, and now your father has stopped worrying about them and is worrying about you, saying: What shall I do about my son?” Then you shall go on from there further and come to the oak of Tabor; three men going up to God at Bethel will meet you there, one carrying three kids, another carrying three loaves of bread, and another carrying a skin of wine. They will greet you and give you two loaves of bread, which you shall accept from them. After that you shall come to Gibeath-elohim, at the place where the Philistine garrison is; there, as you come to the town, you will meet a band of prophets coming down from the shrine with harp, tambourine, flute, and lyre playing in front of them; they will be in a prophetic frenzy. Then the spirit of the Lord will possess you, and you will be in a prophetic frenzy along with them and be turned into a different person. Now when these signs meet you, do whatever you see fit to do, for God is with you. And you shall go down to Gilgal ahead of me; then I will come down to you to present burnt-offerings and offer sacrifices of well-being. For seven days you shall wait, until I come to you and show you what you shall do’ (1 Samuel 9:27—10:8).
God is Israel’s king. For centuries, God’s people lived as a loose confederacy of tribes without a human king ruling them as one nation. It was difficult for God’s people to trust in an invisible deity without an earthly representative when the nations around them had a visible ruler on their throne. The people cried out to Samuel, “We want a king like all the other nations!” But Israel was not to be like the other nations. They were different. They were the people of the One True God of Creation. Yahweh was their king.
Nevertheless, they continued to clamor and God finally relents giving the people what they want. God speaks to Samuel commanding him to anoint a king of divine choosing telling the prophet, “They have not rejected you. They have rejected me.”
Saul is to be Israel’s first king. Saul is not sure of the call. His life is to be changed radically. How can Saul be sure that he is the one to reign over Israel? Radical change is about to take place and the only thing that will assuage Saul’s fears is decisive confirmation. Samuel gives to Saul, not one, but three signs. First, he will meet two men who will have found his donkeys that sent Saul away from home in the first place. Then, three men will give him bread. Finally, Saul will encounter a band of prophets in a worshiping frenzy that will come upon him too. If Saul had any doubts about his calling, these decisive confirmations will remove his questions.
It would be nice if God always gave us unmistakable signs as to what he desires of us. I tend to think of discerning the will of God as mostly happening as we pray, read and reflect upon Scripture, and converse with our fellow saints who offer wisdom. But, every now and then God gives us a momentous signal that hard to ignore.
The year 2003 was a year of receiving from God a decisive sign. Mission has always been of great importance to me. I had spent some time in Haiti and Puerto Rico in the years prior, but it had been a decade since I had been anywhere in service. I had become busy as a pastor as well as caring for my young family. It seemed as if there was not much time for anything else.
But in 2003, I began to have an itch, you might say, to renew my mission work. One autumn day, I was in my office at the church and the sense of urgency about this became almost overwhelming. I stopped what I was doing and went to prayer telling God he had my attention and I was ready for whatever he had in store for me. The next day as I was once again in my office, a man I did not know came though the church doors asking to see me and invited me to join him on a mission trip to Cuba. In 2004, I began a teaching mission there that continues to this day and it has radically changed my life. I have never doubted my call to travel to that island country over these twenty years because like Saul, I had a decisive confirmation.
God is still in the business of getting our attention. Most of the time it’s with a passage of Scripture or a piece of advice from a deeply spiritual friend; but be prepared. At some point, God may get your attention in a way that cannot be denied. He will probably be calling you to something big, but don’t hesitate to answer the call.
Divine appointments are not to be ignored.
PRAYER: God of every land and nation, you have created all people and you dwell among us in Jesus Christ. Listen to the cries of those who pray to you, and grant that, as we proclaim the greatness of your name, all people will know the power of love at work in the world. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
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