Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. -1 Samuel 16:11-12
What does a supervisor do when she suspects one of her staff members is looking for another job? Does she wait until the resignation arrives, knowing it will take a long time to fill the job and thereby putting extra pressure on the rest of the staff? Or, does she post the job before the resignation is in hand, to invite resumes and be more prepared, while risking the ire of the current (unsatisfied) employee?
The prophet Samuel felt a similar dilemma. The people of Israel had wanted a human king instead of continuing to have God be their sole ruler. God and Samuel acceded, and God chose and had Samuel anoint Saul. It went well, for a while, but after Saul disobeyed God, God sent Samuel to anoint the next king, while Saul maintained the throne! Risky business.
Samuel, though, had seen the results of disobeying God, so he paid attention when God sent him to Jesse of Bethlehem, and invited Jesse and his sons to a sacrifice (1 Sam 16:5). Samuel was surprised that the first-born son was not the one ordained to be king, nor the second through the seventh. It was the youngest, the one tending the sheep, who had to be retrieved out in the field while everyone waited, probably quite confused.
Samuel’s attention to God continued and when the youngest arrived, Samuel heard God tell him to anoint this one. We don’t even know his name yet!
While other Christians anoint people on a regular basis, anointing is not a popular ritual in the Presbyterian tradition. Often, it is a healing ritual, not one that sets apart a leader. One familiar anointing in our scriptures is from Psalm 23, “Thou anointest my head with oil.” We also may have heard that “Messiah” (Hebrew) and “Christ” (Greek) mean “anointed one. Jesus was anointed as a leader not only over Israel, but over us all. Christ is our sovereign leader. Today, let’s find a way to pay attention to our leader. It probably won’t be found on social media or the evening news. It may be found in a minute of silence when you’re faced with a choice. God may infuse you with joy when you hear the laughter of a child. Perhaps you can sense someone meaningful to you taking oil on their forefinger and making the shape of the cross on your forehead.
The one who was anointed was David, and this anointing changed history. Do you feel it, though? God, our shepherd (Psalm 23:1) anoints our heads with oil (Psalm 23:5) and our lives are rich and full of God’s presence and guidance. Take that feeling and that knowledge with you throughout the day.