Practices are Preparation: 1 Samuel 16
A Lent Reflection for Thursday, March 30th
By Lauren Pattie
Lectionary reading: Psalm 31:9-16; 1 Samuel 16:11-13; Philippians 1:1-11
Selected passage: 1 Samuel 16:11-13
1 Samuel 16:11-13 NRSV
11 Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Are all your sons here?’ And he said, ‘There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.’ And Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.’ 12 He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said, ‘Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.’ 13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.
One of the first things that struck me about this passage was all the activity. A lot happens in these few short verses. Samuel tells Jesse to summon his youngest son; he does. David arrives. The Lord commands Samuel to anoint David; he does. The spirit of the Lord descends upon David. Samuel takes his leave. One action quickly follows another and this crucial event in the history of Israel is over in a flash.
David must have had so many questions, yet we hear none of them. His brothers might have done some grumbling about being overlooked for their young whelp of a brother, but we don’t hear that either. We don’t see into any of the characters’ hearts or minds. We simply hear what transpires.
Lent is a time for reflection. We consider our lives and think about how we can better serve God with them. We often give up things, decluttering to make space for the movement of the spirit in our hearts. All this is well and good. It’s important. But it is not the endgame.
Lent is a season we pass through. As Jesus passed through the desert in order to arrive prepared for his ministry, we pass through Lent so that we are better prepared to act–to do our little part in the grander story of God’s salvific work in the world.
This short passage in 1 Samuel reminds me that my time of reflection is toward something. This passage is not concerned with people’s inner monologues or motivations. Instead, it shows their faithful actions. Samuel, risking his life to anoint God’s chosen; Jesse, giving his son for God’s plan; David, receiving the Lord’s spirit and following it wherever it leads. We don’t see what prepared them to act. All we see is the action.
In this season, what do we do to prepare ourselves for faithful action? How do we draw closer to God? How do we develop our relationship with God–our trust, understanding, and love–so that when God asks something of us, we are ready to respond, ready to act? Perhaps we develop a habit of thankfulness, taking time to recognize all the good things God has put in our lives. Perhaps we make a list of all the things we’re worried about and, one by one, commit them to God. Maybe we try something new, a new sport or hobby that gets us out of our comfort zone and allows us to practice trusting God.
This is my hope for us: that whatever we do to mark this season of Lent, those practices will prepare us to respond to God’s voice. That even if we don’t understand God’s plan, the relationships we develop with God will enable us to hear the voice of the Lord, to trust it, and to act upon it.
How are your lenten practices preparing you to act? Is there something you can do to develop trust so that you are ready to respond to God’s call? Consider adding or subtracting something from your daily or weekly routine so that you have more space to connect with God.
Dear God, thank you that each of us gets to be part of your story. In this season of Lent, draw us closer to you. Show us your love. Encourage us so that we are better prepared to act for you. Even when we don’t understand your plan, help us to trust. Amen.
About the Author
Lauren is executive assistant to the president of The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology. She is also the managing editor of the theology and culture journal Christ & Cascadia and preaches at her church, First Covenant Church Seattle. Lauren has a Master of Arts in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary.