“The LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way.” (I Samuel 16:1a)
I saw this graphic on FB the other day and I couldn’t help but think about this verse that I’d been wrestling with for a few days.
Recently my devotion has had me knee-deep in the story of Samuel and Saul. And as I have been chewing on this verse for the last few days, I’m struck with God’s rebuke to Samuel.
It made me wonder if I am the only one who is like Samuel and hangs on to things a little too long? A little too much drama? Living in the land of regret and “what could have been”?
At first glance, I think I feel sad for Samuel and that maybe God’s response was rather harsh considering all Samuel had been through with Saul.
Don’t we all mourn certain situations or relationships that don’t work out?
But it wasn’t just that Samuel was mourning, it was that it went on too long. Notice how it starts out, “How long…”?
Mourning is just what you think it is – to grieve, mourn, and even lament. It’s the same word used to describe Abraham when he was weeping over the death of his wife Sarah and Mary’s response when Lazarus died.
I can’t help but think of the deep mourning that we have when we lose a loved one. Mourning is such a strong emotion that conjures up images of weeping, wailing, and such sorrow.
And while Abraham and Mary were in mourning because someone had physically died, Samuel was grieving that Saul was dead as the king of Israel.
God had rejected Saul as king (due to his disobedience) and the “what could have been” was gone.
One commentary I read pointed out that despite Saul’s flaws, he had the potential to be a great king. Samuel knew this, as did others like David and Jonathan.
But it is clear from the scripture that Samuel’s mourning had gone on way too long and God basically said, “Stop mourning. Enough is enough. I have a different plan.” (my paraphrase)
Additionally, scripture points out that Samuel had not only been mourning too long, but he had been mourning someone God had rejected.
Are there relationships in our lives or activities or careers that never manifested the way we wanted it to? Are we still wishing for what could have been?
Is it possible that we are desiring something that God has rejected?
Can we trust Him with the fact that He has something better planned and or are we so lost in our grief that we are missing it?
Thankfully, God didn’t just leave Samuel with a little scolding, He provided the next step for Samuel – expecting obedience.
“Fill your horn with oil and be on your way.”
God wasn’t going to leave his people without a king anymore than he would allow Saul to remain on the throne after his disobedience.
God had chosen a new king – a young shepherd boy named David. But this meant that Samuel had to accept that Saul had lost his throne forever and move forward with God’s divine plan to crown another king over Israel.
Things do not always turn out the way we want them to because we live in a world full of brokenness. But God always has a better plan.
While Saul had the potential for greatness, he couldn’t get past his own desires and his desire for approval of man. But God’s better plan was David. “A man after God’s own heart.”
All too often we have tunnel vision and can only see regret, and we miss out on the divine nature of God and His plan for our lives.
I think it is important to point out that I don’t believe God was upset that Samuel mourned Saul. In fact, in the previous chapter, it tells us that Samuel never saw Saul again and that the LORD was grieved that he had made Saul king over Israel.
Even the LORD grieved over the situation.
But God…He had another plan and he needed the prophet Samuel to get on with it by taking his anointing oil to Bethlehem to choose the new king. This king would have ties to Bethlehem and be part of the lineage of Jesus!
It’s a good reminder that while God gave us our emotions and ability to feel sorrow (thank goodness – I shudder to think of a world where no one felt sorrow), He doesn’t want us to live in a continual state of grief and mourning over the past and what could have been.
There are times we must say “enough is enough” and fill our horn with the oil of joy (Jesus) and say yes to what God has planned for our lives.
“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8:28 (NLT)
“For I know what I have planned for you,’ says the LORD. ‘I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NET)
See, He has a plan and is working all things out. It’s OK to mourn for how things could have been, but we can’t stay in that place too long.
There are comes a point where enough is enough and it is simply time to move on.
**I feel prompted to add a quick note to all of you who are mourning the loss of loved ones, please mourn. This post is geared more towards hanging onto regret and things that God doesn’t want for our lives. When I think of Mary mourning Lazarus, the scripture tells us he was “deeply moved in spirit and troubled” when he saw her weeping (John 11). He sees your weeping and is compassionate towards your journey of grief. Much love and prayers to so many of our friends/family who are dealing with loss.**