The Lord said to Samuel, ‘How long will your mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way’. 1 Samuel 16:1
The people of Israel had rejected God as their King having pined for what everyone else had—a human king who sat on a tangible throne. (What is it about ‘normal’ that we as humans tend to want so badly?) God listened to Israel and appointed Samuel to anoint Saul as king. Samuel poured a flask of oil over Saul’s head, kissed him and so their journey began. The storied history the two of them shared would be difficult for either of them to walk away from. Theirs was no casual friendship. It was spiritual, significant and impacted the lives of a nation. A coupling of a prophet and king had been bound together in God’s story—No one wants to be the one to ever sever something this divine.
Down the road Saul’s heart rebelled against the Lord. He spared the best of the Amalekite’s cattle for an offering even though the Lord had commanded him to destroy the whole lot of them. Saul’s version of sacrifice became more important to him than God’s definition of obedience. To obey is always better than sacrifice. As a result of Saul’s rebellion God rejected him as king over Israel.
And Samuel mourned.
Because we mourn for our broken relationships. We long for what could have been. What was supposed to be! We lament for the pain such tearing away will cause ourselves, and the way it will affect others. We wonder if God will be able to replace him or her or this utterly divine plan that seemed so perfect in the beginning. We ask what went wrong? A million times, what went wrong? And we can’t bear to say goodbye.
And then God says, How long, dear one, will you mourn?
Fill your horn with oil.
Be on your way.
I have something new for you to do.
This is not justification for abandoning ministries or marriages or motherhood, or for walking away from what is simply hard. Often obedience means sticking it out. But in this case God was moving Samuel on because He had already moved on. God would deal with Saul but this was no longer Samuel’s business. Even though Samuel had stopped visiting Saul we’re told he still mourned for him (1 Sam 15:35). Even though Samuel was no longer tied up with Saul in person, his emotions were. His thoughts and his energies were still mired in grief, binding him to a dream now done.
I remember the Lord delivering this passage to me during a time when I couldn’t let a relationship go. It was dead in the water. It bore no fruit. It brought the Lord no pleasure. It saddled me with misery. Still, it was getting the best of my heart and thoughts. And then God brought me to 1 Samuel 16:1. It was time for the new thing. Time to find a horn and some oil and get on with it. New relationships and opportunities lay ahead.
No sense in spending the precious present mourning for the past when God has already moved on.
For Samuel, God had a new king for him to anoint and he couldn’t do this while lamenting the old one. A shepherd boy was unwittingly waiting in the fields for Samuel to relinquish what had been so he could be part of what was to be. King David was part of Samuel’s future but he couldn’t have gotten there while still mourning Saul.
What new thing is the Lord asking of you? Is there anything old or cold you’re still giving your thoughts, emotions or energies to? Do you need to let go of something in the past so you can embrace the present? May you hear the beautiful and unwavering words of the Lord this morning, Be on your way… And any way in which the Lord is leading you promises to be a good way, indeed.