Sermon: 1 Samuel 16:1-13
Epiphany 1 – January 13, 2019 – Rev. Steven J. Radunzel
Have you ever had an experience in life in which you just knew for sure that God was dealing with you personally, that God was doing something in your life, that God was blessing you, or maybe reprimanding you?
I’ve had those kinds of experiences. I’ve seen where God has answered one of my prayers or blessed me in some way that I knew it wasn’t just a coincidence of life or some random event. It was God blessing me personally. I also have to admit that there have been times when God was very clearly reprimanding me or changing some behavior in my life that needed changing. And once again the circumstances were not just coincidental or random events. They were God’s hand working in my life personally and individually.
And whether God is blessing us or reprimanding us it’s a wonderful sense of comfort to know that God is so personally and closely working in our lives. We always want to be watching for those occasions when we know that the hand of God is clearly working in our lives or in our families. Those occasions draw us closer to God and give us opportunities to praise, thank, and glorify God
Today is the 1st Sunday of Epiphany, a day on which we emphasize the baptism of Jesus. In the account of Jesus’ baptism we certainly see God the Father working very closely in Jesus’ life. We’re going to consider that our baptisms also are times when God is very close to us and dealing with each one of us very personally and individually.
But we’re going to begin in our text not by talking about baptism but about King David’s anointing as king of Israel. We’ll see many similarities between anointing and baptism, but in the end both teach us about God’s personal and loving involvement in our individual lives.
Today we’re going to consider what happens
WHEN GOD ANOINTS US . . .
In our text today, our Old Testament reading from the 1st book of Samuel, the prophet Samuel anoints David as the next king of Israel. We’ve very familiar with the word anoint. We often read about the anointing of kings and prophets in the Old Testament. But anointing is actually something that’s pretty foreign to us, something that sounds a little unusual or even messy to us.
When a king was anointed, for example, a prophet would take a horn of oil, literally the hollowed out horn of an animal, fill it with oil, like olive oil or some aromatic oil, and then pour that oil on the head of the new king. I mentioned that anointing sounds messy to us because the oil literally ran down the head and face of the person and onto their clothes.
But in the Old Testament being anointed with oil was a profound honor. God was saying about the person with oil running down his face and onto his clothes, “This is the person I have chosen. This is the person I have personally selected to be the next king [or the next prophet]. You need to listen to him and obey him.”
So in our text today we have the anointing of David as king of Israel. The LORD God had originally chosen Saul to be the first king of Israel. He was anointed too, but he didn’t remain very faithful to God. That’s why the LORD told Samuel to stop mourning for Saul and get up and go to the house of Jesse in Bethlehem to anoint the next king.
Seven sons of Jesse stood before Samuel but even though some of them looked like they might be a great king, the LORD told Samuel that none of those seven were. God wasn’t looking at the outward appearance or physical strength of the man, he was looking for one who had something inside, faith and love for God in his heart.
Samuel asked Jesse, “Are these all your sons?” It almost seems as if Jesse was going to answer yes when he happens to remember that David, his youngest, was out tending the sheep. “Certainly you wouldn’t be interested in him,” Jesse thought. But Samuel told Jesse to send for him. We read, “So he sent and had [David] brought in. He was ruddy, with a fine appearance and handsome features.” And God said to Samuel, “Rise and anoint him; he is the one.” So Samuel took the horn of oil, poured the oil on David, anointing him to be the next king of Israel.
So what does David’s anointing have to do with Jesus’ baptism? After all, Jesus baptism is the real emphasis of this 1st Sunday of Epiphany. There really is an important connection between David’s anointing and Jesus’ baptism. David’s anointing is almost a prophecy, a foreshadowing, of Jesus’ baptism. Isaiah prophecies these words of Jesus: “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.” When did the Spirit in a very special way come upon Jesus, when did the Spirit anoint Jesus? It was at his baptism. We read about this in our gospel today. The Spirit descended like a dove on Jesus.
The point here is that these two events, anointing and baptism, are so similar that they’re almost the same thing. They are two separate kinds of events, but also very much the same. They are so similar that we can say when Jesus was baptized he was anointed by the Holy Spirit. And, this is important, we can say when you and I were baptized, we were anointed by the Holy Spirit.
Anointing and baptism are first of all very similar in that they are very simple physical actions. In one oil is poured on someone’s head. In baptism water is poured on someone’s head or the person is immersed in water. You and I, if we wanted, could easily anoint someone with oil. And you and I have witnessed plenty of baptisms here in our church. I have performed many baptisms. It’s pretty easy. You pour water on someone.
Anointing and baptism are very simple physical actions, but they’re very profound spiritual events. And they’re profound spiritual events because God has commanded them in his word and grants special blessings in both. Samuel poured oil on David’s head, but he did because the LORD commanded him to do it. And after his anointing we’re told that the Spirit of the LORD came with power on David blessing and enabling him to be the king of Israel. When John the Baptist baptized Jesus it was a pretty simple matter of pouring water from the Jordan River on Jesus, but it was so profound because the Holy Spirit rested on Jesus empowering him to carry out his ministry and to be our Savior.
Anointing and baptism are also very similar because they involve one individual at a time. When Samuel anointed David, it was all about David, not his brothers, not his father, not anyone else. It was about David. God was blessing David. When John the Baptist baptized Jesus it was all about Jesus, not about John, not about anyone else. It was about Jesus. God the Father was blessing Jesus. Baptism strengthened him with the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ baptism also strengthened him through God the Father’s words and reassurance: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
When God anoints you and me in baptism it’s all about you and me. God’s attention is not at that moment on all the world and everyone in it. God’s attention is on you and me personally and individually, one person at a time. Our baptism is one of those events when we know for sure that God is dealing with us individually and personally.
And just imagine how God is blessing you in your baptism. He’s saying, as Paul told us today in Titus, our second reading, “This baptism is a washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. I’m focusing all my love, forgiveness, and blessing on you right now and only you. I’m forgiving all of your sins. I’m raising up a new and reborn nature in you. I’m adopting you as my child. I’m anointing you with the Holy Spirit. I’m promising to be with you and to be faithful to you. I’m giving you the hope of eternal life.”
Anointing and baptism are also intended to have ongoing results in a person’s life. When David was anointed to be king of Israel the Spirit rested on him. He grew stronger in his faith and as a leader. He ruled over Israel and united the nation as it had never been united before. He was a shepherd to the people of Israel. He wrote many psalms of praise to God.
When Jesus was baptized and anointed by the Holy Spirit he immediately was led into the wilderness where he withstood the temptations of the devil. He faithfully preached the word of God. He healed the sick. He raised the dead. He died for the sins of the world. He rose again from the dead victorious.
What about you and me? Does our baptism and anointing by the Holy Spirit really mean anything to us? I’m sure that David always remembered that day when Samuel poured that oil on his head, anointed him. It had to be a powerful reminder to him that God was with him especially on those days when being king of Israel was not so easy. I’m sure that Jesus remained a perfect and strong Savior even when he faced the cross by remembering his Father’s words at his baptism: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
Every day of our life our baptism reminds us that our sins are forgiven, that we are God’s children, that God has personally and individually entered our lives with his mercy and love and continues to be with us every day.
Martin Luther reminds us in his Small Catechism about the ongoing meaning of baptism: “Baptism means that the Old Adam in us should be drowned by daily contrition and repentance, and that all its evil deeds and desires be put to death. It also means that a new person should daily arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.” Luther can write those words in his catechism because the Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to write in his letter to the Romans, “We were . . . buried with [Christ] through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”
When God anointed you in baptism he said to just you that day: “You are my forgiven child. I love you. With you I am well pleased. Amen.