Psalm 107:23-32; 1 Samuel 10; John 1:14-28

Psalm 107:23-32: In one of the more famous lines in our culture–“Those who go down to the sea in ships,/ who do tasks in the mighty waters,” (23) the psalmist turns to the acts of God expressed in His creation. Those who have gone down to the sea are witness to God’s unfathomable power and examples of His marvelous creation: “it is they who have seen the deeds of the LORD, /and His wonders in the deep.” (24)

The poem’s language echoes the tossing of the waves with majestic force as they rise and fall: “it makes the waves loom high. / They go up to the heavens, come down to the depths,” (26) and mere men are mere specks amidst this power: “their life-breath in hardship grows faint. / They reel and sway like a drunkard,” (26)until they beg for mercy,”And they cry to the LORD from their straits / from their distress He brings them out.” (27)

This psalm is a stark reminder to us humans, who in our hubris, believe we can control so much of our lives and our environment. God, expressing himself through nature, is a far, far greater force than we can imagine. Just ask anyone who has survived a hurricane, flash floods in the desert, or a severe earthquake. And like the men who have gone down to the sea, and survived the storm, we should give thanks when “He turns the storm into silence, /and its waves are stilled, / and they rejoice that these have grown quiet.” (29, 30) We remember and rejoice that all creation is God’s; we ere merely its stewards and we respond in worship instead of attempt to control: “Let them acclaim to the LORD His kindness / and His wonders to humankind.” (31)

1 Samuel 10: Samuel anoints Saul and prophesies to him that as he brings the found donkeys home to his father he will have three unique encounters, and the third one will be meeting musicians and he will experience a “prophetic frenzy.” And “as he turned away to leave Samuel, God gave him another heart; and all these signs were fulfilled that day.” (9)

“God gave him another heart” is God’s own anointing for Saul’s role as Israel’s first king. God transformed Saul that day. The question is, have I allowed God to give me another heart. I think Oswald Chambers would take this phrase as meaning Saul has abandoned his won ways and his being has become wholly God’s.

Returning home, Saul’s uncle asks him about the donkeys, “but about the matter of the kingship, of which Samuel had spoken, he did not tell him anything.” (15) Instead Saul’s anointing as king remains secret . Samuel gathers all Israel and to demonstrate that God has anointed a king draws lots, which eventually fall to Saul himself, who cannot be found. They ask the Lord where he is and it is God himself who replies he is hiding in the baggage. They find Saul, who is “head and shoulders taller than any of them.  Samuel said to all the people, ‘Do you see the one whom theLord has chosen? There is no one like him among all the people.'” (24) Saul’s height becomes the sign of his kingship. 

But why was Saul hiding in the baggage? Was he afraid of the role being thrust on him? I don’t think so. Rather, I think it is a demonstration that God chooses whom he will, and they will not be the most visible among us. But like Saul, once they are revealed, we know immediately that they have been chosen by God.

John 1:14-28: In another of those “Moravian coincidences,” we read about the revealing of Jesus by John the Baptist on the same day we read about Samuel’s revealing of Saul. When asked by the Pharisees if he was the Messiah or a prophet, John denies both and replies, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” (26, 27)

John’s gospel has already given us a theological discourse about Jesus as the Word. And in his own version of the Nativity story, the gospel writer says, “the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” (14) and even more theologically, “No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.” (18) The gospel writer makes sure that we meet Jesus as God first. But like Saul, who has been anointed both by Samuel and by God, but is hiding in the baggage, we have not yet met Jesus the man. At this point, we only know that like Samuel, John the Baptist knows that a mighty king is coming to Isreal.


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